Last month, 375 members of the National Academy of Scientists, including 30 Nobel laureates, published an open letter castigating Trump for denying climate change and threatening to tear up the Paris Climate Agreement and all US actions that address the urgency of the situation.
The threat of climate change, they say, is “real, serious, and immediate” and is a “physical reality.” Unlike what many misinformers say, there is no disagreement in the scientific community on this.
The only thing the scientists didn’t mention is that this attitude is not just Trump’s. It is embraced by almost the entire Republican party.
Previously, climate scientists have said these policies show “incredible ignorance” and constitute “an existential threat to this planet.”
2015 was hotter and 2016 will be the hottest year yet:
Human-caused climate change is not a belief, a hoax, or a conspiracy. It is a physical reality. Fossil fuels powered the Industrial Revolution. But the burning of oil, coal, and gas also caused most of the historical increase in atmospheric levels of heat-trapping greenhouse gases. This increase in greenhouse gases is changing Earth’s climate.
Our fingerprints on the climate system are visible everywhere. They are seen in warming of the oceans, the land surface, and the lower atmosphere. They are identifiable in sea level rise, altered rainfall patterns, retreat of Arctic sea ice, ocean acidification, and many other aspects of the climate system. Human-caused climate change is not something far removed from our day-to-day experience, affecting only the remote Arctic. It is present here and now, in our own country, in our own states, and in our own communities.
During the Presidential primary campaign, claims have been made that the Earth is not warming, or that warming is due to purely natural causes outside of human control. Such claims are inconsistent with reality.
Others argued that no action is warranted until we have absolute certainty about human impacts on climate. Absolute certainty is unattainable. We are certain beyond a reasonable doubt, however, that the problem of human-caused climate change is real, serious, and immediate, and that this problem poses significant risks: to our ability to thrive and build a better future, to national security, to human health and food production, and to the interconnected web of living systems.
The basic science of how greenhouse gases trap heat is clear, and has been for over a century. Ultimately, the strength of that basic science brought the governments of the world to Paris in December 2015. They went to Paris despite pronounced differences in systems of government, in national self-interest, in culpability for past emissions of greenhouse gases, and in vulnerability to future climate change. The leaders of over 190 countries recognized that the problem of human-caused climate change is a danger to present and future citizens of our planet. They made national commitments to address this problem. It was a small but historic and vital first step towards more enlightened stewardship of Earth’s climate system.
From studies of changes in temperature and sea level over the last million years, we know that the climate system has tipping points. Our proximity to these tipping points is uncertain. We know, however, that rapid warming of the planet increases the risk of crossing climatic points of no return, possibly setting in motion large-scale ocean circulation changes, the loss of major ice sheets, and species extinctions. The climatic consequences of exceeding such thresholds are not confined to the next one or two electoral cycles. They have lifetimes of many thousands of years.
The political system also has tipping points. Thus it is of great concern that the Republican nominee for President has advocated U.S. withdrawal from the Paris Accord. A “Parexit” would send a clear signal to the rest of the world: “The United States does not care about the global problem of human-caused climate change. You are on your own.” Such a decision would make it far more difficult to develop effective global strategies for mitigating and adapting to climate change. The consequences of opting out of the global community would be severe and long-lasting – for our planet’s climate and for the international credibility of the United States.
The United States can and must be a major player in developing innovative solutions to the problem of reducing emissions of greenhouse gases. Nations that find innovative ways of decarbonizing energy systems and sequestering CO2 will be the economic leaders of the 21st century. Walking away from Paris makes it less likely that the U.S. will have a global leadership role, politically, economically, or morally. We cannot afford to cross that tipping point.
We Must Do More, Not Less
Noted climate scientist James Hansen recently issued yet another dire warning in a paper to be published with 11 other scientists in Earth Systems Dynamics Journal.
The Earth is already about 1.3°C warmer than pre-industrial times, and the world is not doing anywhere near enough to stay below 1.5°. Humans are literally playing with fire – the last time Earth was this hot was during the Eemian era, when sea levels were 20-30 feet higher.
At this point, we must suck carbon pollution out of the atmosphere either through air capture or sequestering carbon in the soil, which means a revolution in agriculture.
In an article in New Republic, climate leader Bill McKibben says what many of us have long believed: that it’s time to treat climate change like being at war.
“With each passing week, another 22,000 square miles of Arctic ice disappears. In 30 years, the area has shrunk approximately by half … There doesn’t seem anything able to stop this.”
“In the past few months alone, our foes have used a firestorm to force total evacuation of a city of 90,000 in Canada, drought to ravage crops to the point where southern Africans are literally eating their seed corn, and floods to threaten the priceless repository of art in the Louvre. The enemy is even deploying biological weapons to spread psychological terror: the Zika virus, loaded like a bomb into a growing army of mosquitoes … And as in all conflicts, millions of refugees are fleeing the horrors of war, their numbers swelling daily as they’re forced to abandon their homes to escape famine and desolation and disease.”
McKibben was part of the group that wrote this election’s Democratic Platform, which says: “It would be a grave mistake for the United States to wait for another nation to take the lead in combating the global climate emergency. We are committed to a national mobilization, and to leading a global effort to mobilize nations to address this threat on a scale not seen since World War II.”
“Democrats share a deep commitment to tackling the climate challenge … and meeting the pledge President Obama put forward in the landmark Paris Agreement. We believe America must be running entirely on clean energy by mid-century. We will take bold steps to slash carbon pollution and protect clean air at home, lead the fight against climate change around the world, ensure no Americans are left out or left behind as we accelerate the transition to a clean energy economy, and be responsible stewards of our natural resources and our public lands and waters. Democrats reject the notion that we have to choose between protecting our planet and creating good-paying jobs. We can and we will do both. Read more.
What does the Republican Platform say? Climate change is “not proven science.” It calls for pulling the US out of the Paris Climate Agreement, putting an end to incentives for renewable energy, and even eliminating the EPA, leaving environmental protection to the states. Fossil fuels would be prioritized. “We will do away with the Clean Power Plan altogether. The Democratic arty does not understand
that coal is an abundant, clean, affordable, reliable domestic energy resource.” Read more.