|CA wildfires: global warming at its worst. (ABC News)|
Wildfires in California, Greece, Sweden. Floods in Pennsylvania, India, England. Hurricanes in Florida and North Carolina; typhoons in Japan and the Philippines. Droughts in Australia, South America, Africa. Extremes of temperature, well, everywhere. Ocean temperatures rising. Ice caps melting. Islands disappearing.
A plot for a dystopian novel of the future? No. Just a status report on the world’s climate. Something you could read in detail in the just-released Fourth National Climate Assessment, just released from, of all places, the U.S. White House. (The report is required by Congress every four years.) This year’s report was released the day after Thanksgiving (Black Friday), but its conclusions were so startling it made news even in the midst of the post-holiday shopping frenzy.
If you needed support for those conclusions you could find them in the latest State of the Climate 2018 report from the World Meteorological Organization. The WMO report declares the last four years have been the hottest on record for the planet.
The National Climate Assessment is based on the work of scientists and analysts across 13 agencies throughout the U.S. government and focuses on the impact of climate on the U.S. alone. The WMO collects data from countries and remote locations around the world to provide a global perspective. Both scientific reports describe the devastation, in both financial and human terms, of the many climate-related events that are already occurring. Both reports lay the blame for the global rise in temperatures on the activity of humans—the generation of greenhouse gases, deforestation, pollution. And both warn of dire consequences if nothing is done to change that human behavior.
Because the World Meteorological Organization has more freedom to speak, its conclusions are blunter. Action must be taken now to reduce greenhouse gases (ie. to reduce the dependence on fossil fuels that produce them) or the planet faces possibly irreversible damage—inundation of vulnerable coastlines, famines, disruption of world economics and displacement of human populations.
“Every bit matters,” said Elena Manaenkova, the WMO deputy secretary general. “Every fraction of a degree of warming makes a difference to human health and access to food and fresh water, to the extinction of animals and plants, to the survival of coral reefs and marine life.”
The WMO report says we have no more than 12 years to make major changes before it will be too late to avoid disaster. Consider: it has taken us since the dawn of the Industrial Age to reach this point of no return, some 250 years. As Petteri Taalas, the secretary general of the WMO, a leading authority on climate change, says: “We are the first generation to fully understand climate change and the last generation to be able to do something about it.”
Reversing direction on our excesses will take time, even if we all agree and start now with the best of will. That, however, is saying a lot.
*Warning: Political Opinion Ahead*
It is less a political statement than an observable fact to say that our current governmental leadership in the U.S. is willfully blind to scientific fact on the subject of climate change. The President has no scientists of note in his Cabinet to advise him in this area; instead, he relies on businessmen from fossil-fuel energy industries to set our environmental policies and long-term climate change strategies. He admits that he has only read “some” of the Climate Assessment Report and disbelieves its conclusions.
|Sacrifice now or pay the consequences later.|
You could say that’s a natural optimist talking. I have another word for it. But when I was a youngster, my mama told me the story of a lazy grasshopper and a bunch of industrious ants with winter coming. I don’t think that story applies just to a change of seasons. It might just apply to a change of climate, too. I’m thinking the ants have the right idea--prepare for the snow even while the sun shines.
Information for this post provided from:
“Past four years hottest on record, data shows,” by Fiona Harvey, The Guardian, November 29, 2018.
“New U.S. Climate Assessment Forecasts Dire Effects On Economy, Health,” by Jennifer Ludden and Christopher Joyce, NPR, November 26, 2018.