“We are going to lose everything, and we aren’t kidding, and we aren’t lying, and we aren’t exaggerating.” That is what a NASA climate
expert recently told demonstrators who were demanding more government action to address global warming. It was a condensed version of
the most recent report from the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.
The report was a blunt warning. Reduce world emissions of CO2 within the next 8 years to less than half what they were 12 years ago, or “preventing earth from warming more than 1.5 degrees C since the beginning of the Industrial Revolution will become irrevocably out of reach.”
It has already warmed one degree. What is half a degree more? The heat required to raise the liquid in a wall thermometer half a degree is trivial.
Heating the mass of earth (6,000,000,000,000 tons) 0.5 degrees is beyond comprehension by the human brain.
If we fail to achieve this limit, earth probably will continue to heat as much as 2 degrees by 2050 and 4 degrees by 2100. The world is already experiencing consequences of warming 1 degree. Even the most knowledgeable scientists cannot foresee with certainty the havoc that temperatures
in that range would do to the planet’s ecosystem. They could devastate civilization.
We would be prudent to heed this report. It is the consensus of 270 scientists from countries all over the world, each an expert in some field of research relating to climate. Their combined knowledge is the best understanding humans have of how climate behaves under stress. The accuracy of their predictions about what we can expect from increasing instability of that system confirms that they know what they are talking about. Furthermore, we can be confident that their report was not influenced by entities with vested interests in continuing to use fossil fuels. They were motivated to study climate by
curiosity about how nature works, not by monetary reward.
Americans have accomplished the first steps toward addressing the warming of the earth that is driving climate change. Nearly 3/4 of Americans think that
climate change is happening and approximately 2/3 of them are “extremely or very concerned” about how it will affect future generations. (Associated Press poll)
Doing something to stop it is going to be much more challenging because polls indicate that Americans are more concerned about inflation than global warming.
Inflation is temporary. Continued warming threatens the ecosystem on which all life depends. Further loss of species diversity is permanent.
The situation is dire and we made it more so. Thirty years ago a climate scientist from NASA warned Congress that the earth was warming dangerously because of greenhouse gases released from burning fossil fuels. We largely ignored the problem until the end of the last decade. The situation is not hopeless.
Humans have the resources to prevent continued warming – and a responsibility to future generations to do so – if we have the will.
We can do this. So long as America remains a democracy, we the people have a way to fulfill this responsibility. We can vote for representatives who pledge to make the climate their paramount legislative priority. One person’s vote is powerless, but hundreds of millions of votes for the same actions can change the course of the nation. It did in the late 60’s when massive protests across the nation helped end the war in Vietnam.
Voters in Missouri have an opportunity to replace retiring Senator Blunt with a person who: (1) recognizes that limiting future consequences of an unstable climate is the only problem humans face that could devastate civilization; and (2) she will have the courage and determination to address the problem. We can hope that voters across the country will elect members to Congress who agree on the urgency of tackling the climate problem – before it’s too late.
Daniel Leary, Moody, MO