According to the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), this June was the warmest on record. The average global temperature for that month was 1.35 degrees Fahrenheit above the 20th-century average, 59.9.
The first half of the year was the fourth warmest globally.
The report, State of the Climate in 2017, released this summer, states carbon dioxide concentrations in Earth’s atmosphere climbed to the highest levels “in the modern atmospheric measurement record and in ice core records dating back as far as 800,000 years.”
The historic 2015 Paris Climate Accords (from which Donald Trump withdrew the United States last year) solidified among most major nations a commitment to limit this century’s global temperature increases to 1.5 degrees Celsius.
It’s an ambitious but not unrealistic goal.
Or at least it was.
According to Drew Shindell, a Duke University climate scientist and co-author of an Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report, “It’s extraordinarily challenging to get to the 1.5C target and we are nowhere near on track to doing that.”
To achieve it, Shindell admits there would need to be a significant drop in greenhouse emissions, requiring an immediate shift away from fossil fuels, specifically coal; widespread implementation of solar and wind technology; and the elimination of vehicle emissions.
Even if those steps occurred, we would still need carbon-capturing technology to stop emissions at their sources and bury them underground or scrub carbon from the atmosphere.
After reviewing a 500-page National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) environmental impact statement predicting the planet will warm seven devastating degrees by the end of this century, what do we think the response was from the White House?
The White House has decided there is no need to try to mitigate further climate change since the planet’s fate is already sealed.
And since its fate is sealed, the Trump administration has decided to go all out and freeze Obama-era federal fuel-efficiency standards for cars and light trucks manufactured after 2020.
Michael MacCracken, who from 1993 to 2002, served as a senior scientist at the U.S. Global Change Research Program, commented:
“The amazing thing they’re saying is human activities are going to lead to this rise of carbon dioxide that is disastrous for the environment and society. And then they’re saying they’re not going to do anything about it.”
Since the start of industrialization in 1880 to 1986, the global average temperature has risen more than 0.5 degrees Celsius.
According to findings from researchers at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography at the University of California San Diego, a temperature increase greater than 3°C could lead, according to the study, to “catastrophic” devastating effects. More than a 5°C increase, though, could result in “unknown” apocalyptic consequences.
The earth has not experienced warming beyond five degrees Celsius in at least 20 million years. Hitting this tipping point would likely pose an existential threat to humanity.
What would seven degrees mean?
We’re looking at acidic oceans dissolving coral reefs, cities like Manhattan and Miami inundated, extreme and persistent heat waves, millions of people displaced, food shortages, and threats to governments’ stability.
According to the latest data from the United Nations, man-made climate change already poses a serious threat to crops and global health. With a 4°C temperature increase, climate change could reduce nearly one third of global crop production.
Fortunately, this is not deterring countries committed to a more sustainable planet.
At the United Nations (UN) general assembly in New York last month, the Marshall Islands announced a plan to reach net zero emissions by 2050.
The island nation’s president, Hilda Heine, stated:
“Every country must increase the ambition of their existing targets. If we can do it, so can everyone else.”
Some still admit, though, the task is more formidable without the United States.
Norway’s environment minister, Ola Elvestuen, commented:
“It’s a lot more difficult without the U.S. as a leader in climate change negotiations. We have to find solutions even though the U.S. isn’t there.”
Elvestuen added countries, including his own, must transition away from fossil fuels, mass manufacture electric cars, and cease deforestation.
“We are moving way too slowly. We have to do more of everything, faster. We need to deliver on policies at every level. Governments normally move slowly but we don’t have the time. The 1.5C target is difficult, but it’s possible. The next four to 12 years are crucial ones, where we will set the path to how the world will develop in the decades ahead. The responsibility in doing this is impossible to overestimate. To reach the goals of the Paris agreement, we need large structural changes.”
But with a president of the United States who calls climate change a “Chinese hoax,” and former Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) head Scott Pruitt’s insidious reversals of the previous administration’s progressive climate policies, it looks as though we’re doomed, right?
Obviously the rest of the world recognizes the existential threat climate change poses to survival.
We can work at the state and local levels to enact progressive climate policies armed with the understanding that the rest of the world is behind us.
We can contact our lawmakers and demand they support renewable energy jobs instead of continuing to prop up the fossil fuel industry.
This is what New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo proposed in his annual State of the State Address on January 3, and what California Gov. Jerry Brown supported when he signed legislation last year to extend California’s cap-and-trade program.
Since November mid-term elections will be here before long, we can also commit to voting for candidates that take a firm pro-environment stances. Make sure you know what their positions are on climate change legislation by visiting their campaign websites or calling their campaign offices. If a staffer is unable to articulate a candidate’s position, ask him or her to inquire of the candidate and call you back.
We can also write letters to our local newspaper editors (LTE), in which we specifically call out incumbent officeholders’ records on climate policy, and urge them to either continue positive action or change course. Politicians care about publicity because it directly impacts their images which impact subsequent votes.
Image credit: news.stanford.edu