Friday, November 30, 2018


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.

Cheers, Donna

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.


  1. Hokay. Soapbox time!

    Donna, I'm in total agreement that climate change should be our top priority, but it has to be applied to our planet as a whole and everyone needs to accept their share of the responsibility. It's a knee-jerk reaction to blame it on the policies of the current administration (which I agree, in some cases aren't helping to curb the catastrophe) but the crisis we're at now hasn't happened in the last two years, just as you pointed out.

    In fact, the last administration caused a major toxic spill in New Mexico that affected three other states, and then refused to accept any blame or responsibility, leaving farmers along the Animas River, including Native Americans, with toxic drinking and irrigation waters.

    When our past leaders talked the talk, but then didn't walk the walk, they also contributed in a big way to the point we've reached right now with our planet.

    The big picture is that this is a global problem that's been snowballing exponentially since WWII, and must be addressed aggressively on a global scale. (And should have been addressed, LONG before we reached this critical point.) Any steps that North America takes must also be taken by Asia, South America, Europe and other regions. Decimation of the rain forests, the huge carbon emissions in China (which are increasing), and pollution of our oceans are all compounding the problems.

    The California wildfires were beyond tragic, but climate change wasn't the only contributing factor. Lack of proper forest management also contributed, at both the state and federal level, and again, that neglect didn't happen in two years. It happened because the focus has been elsewhere.

    In order to reverse the trends of climate change, we can't let it be about politics and we can't waste our efforts pointing fingers. We must become good stewards of our environment at the city, local and state level, and that should always be our top priority over profits or political agendas, if we truly want to save the planet.

    Maybe each of us should ask ourselves what we are actually doing, personally, to help. Do we recycle on an individual basis? Do we try to limit our driving or carpool with others to reduce carbon emissions? Have we installed or are we planning to use renewable energy sources in our homes? First, let's do no harm. Let's not add to the problem. It really turns my stomach to see environmental protesters causing tremendous harm to the environment that they supposedly care about because they can't be bothered to clean up their waste or manage their activities.

    If we're going to talk the talk, we too, need to walk the walk, and get serious, not brush our personal commitments and contributions aside because they are an inconvenience to us. We, as individuals, have to take action household-by-household to add to the cumulative efforts at the local, city, state, national and global levels.

    Because we're at the point--as a species--where placing blame instead of taking action just isn't going to cut it anymore.

    1. Can’t say I really disagree with anything you say, Laurie, but our past actions (or the lack of them) have put us HERE and we must take big steps to avoid big problems. I would to see the U.S. be a leader in taking those steps, rather than refusing to acknowledge the problem at all.

    2. And I can't disagree with anything you've said, Donna, but whether it's by outright opposition or by just paying lip service to a global catastrophe by our past and present leaders, the environment is not--and never has been--their political priority.

      For decades, they've done our planet a disservice and now we're all at a turning point where we can no longer leave it up to them. We need to all start doing our part, and doing it to a much greater degree. We need to own the problem as citizens of the planet. If we expect our politicians to do it for us, we're all doomed.

      As the saying goes, "It is better to light one small candle than to curse the darkness." And if enough people start lighting those candles, it can change everything.

    3. For anyone interested in this discussion, you might want to read this article -- "Why the Global Environmental Movement is Failing" I'm sorry I can't include the actual link in this comment.


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