People all over the world reacted with alarm at the news that we’re approaching the point of no return for dealing with global warming and climate change. Issued on October 8, 2018, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Special Report on Global Warming of 1.5°C warns that our planet will warm by 1.5°C within 12 to 34 years (2030-2052) at the current emissions rate. Or it could happen even faster if the emissions rate increases.
These emissions are primarily due to people’s continued reliance on fossil fuel-burning to power industries and transportation and secondarily, due to land-use changes, especially deforestation. The dire consequences we face include poverty, malnutrition, famine, lack of shelter, and loss of life from the impact of extreme weather, flooding, droughts, wildfires, saltwater intrusion, and infrastructure damage as well as irreparable harm to natural ecosystems and marine biodiversity.
Set up in 1988, the IPCC is a scientific organization under the United Nations, with the mission to provide expert climate change assessments. Citing over 6,000 scientific studies, and prepared by 91 authors and review editors from 40 countries, the IPCC report demonstrates the need to immediately reduce greenhouse gas emissions. It also describes adaptation options, mitigation strategies, and associated scenarios with varying degrees of amelioration (or lack thereof).
Upon reviewing the IPCC report, Professor Petteri Taalas, World Meteorological Organization (WMO) Secretary-General, stated, “Climate change adaptation is no longer an option, it is a necessity. This report makes it clear that the longer we delay, the more difficult and costly it will be.”
Republicans in Denial
Predictably, Republicans’ response to the IPCC report was to pooh-pooh it. When asked about the devastation caused by Hurricane Michael in Florida, Senator Mark Rubio (R-FL) said, “I can’t tell you to what percentage of that is due to human activity.”
Similarly, Trump claimed ignorance as if it was a badge of honor in an interview with 60 Minutes CBS correspondent Lesley Stahl: “Something’s happening [with the climate] and it’ll change back again … I don’t know that it’s manmade.”
Besides denying that people are causing global warming, Republicans also chose short-term concern for the economy over the far more serious economic and humanitarian disasters looming ahead. Their lack of scientific knowledge and disinclination to seek understanding was only exceeded by their eagerness to pontificate.
Displaying an unbelievable level of hostility to any sort of action on climate change, Republicans voted against an amendment acknowledging that climate change is real and that man-made pollution is a significant contributor, voted to confirm climate change denialist Scott Pruitt to head the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), did their best to block the Clean Power Plan, and voted against establishing a climate change education grant program in U.S. schools.
Democrats Heeding the Global Warming Alert
After reading the report, former Vice President and presidential candidate Al Gore spoke bluntly: “We have a global emergency.” He added pithily that consequences are “going to get a lot worse still, until we stop using the Earth’s atmosphere as an open sewer.” A great analogy considering that just a few hundred years ago it was considered perfectly fine to dump your waste out the window of your abode.
Hillary Clinton, former U.S. Secretary of State and presidential candidate said, “We have barely 10 years to ward off catastrophic warming with destabilizing effects for all of us. Our children and grandchildren deserve action, and action now.”
United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres called the report “an ear-splitting wake-up call… It confirms that climate change is running faster than we are, and we are running out of time. … We must rise to the challenge of climate action and do what science demands before it is too late.”
French energy minister François de Rugy promised to present a new low-carbon strategy by the end of October. “Deployment of clean mobility, phasing out of fossil fuels, [decrease] our energy consumption and our waste production. We must not weaken now.”
Germany, Spain, the U.K., Finland, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Bulgaria, Poland, and Romania are considering building new nuclear power plants, a controversial option given the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster in Japan on March 11, 2011.
“Inaction would be criminal negligence. It is time to act to save humanity,” was the plea of the Climate Vulnerable Forum (CVF), an international cooperation group for developing countries that are highly vulnerable to climate change, comprising 48 member states from Africa, Asia, the Caribbean, Latin America, and the Pacific. Hopefully, when climate negotiators from almost 200 countries meet in Poland in December they’ll heed this plea.
As IPCC lead author Daniela Jacob stated, “Staying under 1.5 deg[rees] warming is possible, It is not limited by technology, physical or chemical laws. It is limited by political will.”
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