Governments Can Ameliorate The Impact Of Climate Change... Or Make It Worse

The first thing I saw when I woke up this morning was news of a very ominous report from the UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), that congressional candidate and Climate activist Jason Call sent me. Key points:

  • Global surface temperature was 1.09C higher in the decade between 2011-2020 than between 1850-1900.

  • The past five years have been the hottest on record since 1850

  • The recent rate of sea level rise has nearly tripled compared with 1901-1971

  • Human influence is "very likely" (90%) the main driver of the global retreat of glaciers since the 1990s and the decrease in Arctic sea-ice

  • It is "virtually certain" that hot extremes including heatwaves have become more frequent and more intense since the 1950s, while cold events have become less frequent and less severe

The BBC summed it up in one "code red" sentence: "Human activity is changing the climate in unprecedented and sometimes irreversible ways." As we saw yesterday, conservatives reject the science. One day soon this will not be included in these kinds of stories: "[S]cientists say a catastrophe can be avoided if the world acts fast. There is hope that deep cuts in emissions of greenhouse gases could stabilise rising temperatures."

Despite the ideological blathering from Republicans in the U.S., the IPCC states that "it is unequivocal that human influence has warmed the atmosphere, oceans and land." That Republican politicians still muddy the water on behalf of their campaign donors should make them all absolutely unelectable. But that isn't the nature of American politics, is it?

The new report also makes clear that the warming we've experienced to date has made changes to many of our planetary support systems that are irreversible on timescales of centuries to millennia.
The oceans will continue to warm and become more acidic. Mountain and polar glaciers will continue melting for decades or centuries.
"The consequences will continue to get worse for every bit of warming," said Prof Hawkins.
"And for many of these consequences, there's no going back."
When it comes to sea level rise, the scientists have modelled a likely range for different levels of emissions.
However, a rise of around 2m by the end of this century cannot be ruled out-- and neither can a 5m rise by 2150.
Such outcomes, while unlikely, would threaten many millions more people in coastal areas with flooding by 2100.
One key aspect of the report is the expected rate of temperature rise and what it means for the safety of humanity.

The NY Times rushed out its own coverage of the report before dawn. "Nations," wrote Brad Plumer and Henry Fountain, "have delayed curbing their fossil-fuel emissions for so long that they can no longer stop global warming from intensifying over the next 30 years, though there is still a short window to prevent the most harrowing future, a major new United Nations scientific report has concluded. Humans have already heated the planet by roughly 1.1 degrees Celsius, or 2 degrees Fahrenheit, since the 19th century, largely by burning coal, oil and gas for energy. And the consequences can be felt across the globe: This summer alone, blistering heat waves have killed hundreds of people in the United States and Canada, floods have devastated Germany and China, and wildfires have raged out of control in Siberia, Turkey and Greece. But that’s only the beginning, according to the report, issued on Monday by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, a body of scientists convened by the United Nations. Even if nations started sharply cutting emissions today, total global warming is likely to rise around 1.5 degrees Celsius within the next two decades, a hotter future that is now essentially locked in. At 1.5 degrees of warming, scientists have found, the dangers grow considerably. Nearly 1 billion people worldwide could swelter in more frequent life-threatening heat waves. Hundreds of millions more would struggle for water because of severe droughts. Some animal and plant species alive today will be gone. Coral reefs, which sustain fisheries for large swaths of the globe, will suffer more frequent mass die-offs."

Just something to think about. One of the reasons the GOP gives-- to an appreciative base-- for opposing the infrastructure and reconciliation bills is because they address the Climate Crisis. That's an inexplicable muscle-memory no-no in right-wing ideology.

Writing for Rolling Stone two years ago, Jeff Goodell asked Can we survive extreme hear? "As the mercury rises, people die," he warned. "The homeless cook to death on hot sidewalks. Older folks, their bodies unable to cope with the metabolic stress of extreme heat, suffer heart attacks and strokes. Hikers collapse from dehydration. As the climate warms, heat waves are growing longer, hotter, and more frequent. Since the 1960s, the average number of annual heat waves in 50 major American cities has tripled. They are also becoming more deadly."

Extreme heat is the most direct, tangible, and deadly consequence of our hellbent consumption of fossil fuels. Rising carbon-dioxide levels in the atmosphere trap heat, which is fundamentally changing our climate system. “Think of the Earth’s temperature as a bell curve,” says Penn State climate scientist Michael Mann. “Climate change is shifting the bell curve toward the hotter end of the temperature scale, making extreme-heat events more likely.” As the temperature rises, ice sheets are melting, seas are rising, hurricanes are getting more intense, rainfall patterns are changing (witness the recent flooding in the Midwest). Drought and flooding inflict tremendous economic damage and create political chaos, but extreme heat is much more likely to kill you directly. The World Health Organization predicts heat stress linked to the climate crisis will cause 38,000 extra deaths a year worldwide between 2030 and 2050. A recent study published in Nature Climate Change found that by 2100, if emissions continue to grow, 74 percent of the world’s population will be exposed to heat waves hot enough to kill. “The more warming you have, the more heat waves you have,” says Michael Wehner, a scientist at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. “The more heat waves you have, the more people die. It’s a pretty simple equation.”
...[T]he greatest risk to human health may be in areas that are already hot, where temperature increases will strain habitability. In the U.S., the fastest-warming cities are in the Southwest. Las Vegas, El Paso, Tucson, and Phoenix have warmed the most, each by at least 4.3°F since 1970. Globally, many of the hottest cities are in India. In May, a deadly heat wave sent temperatures above 120°F in the north. The desert city of Churu recorded a high of 123°F, nearly breaking India’s record of 123.8°F, set in 2016. There were warnings not to go outside after 11 a.m. Authorities poured water on roads to keep them from melting. A 33-year-old man was reportedly beaten to death in a fight over water. The preliminary death toll in India for this summer’s heat wave is already more than 200, and that number is likely to grow.
How hot will it get? That depends largely on how far and how fast carbon-dioxide levels rise, which depends on how much fossil fuel the world continues to burn. The Paris Climate Agreement (which President Trump pulled the U.S. out of) aims to limit the warming to 3.6°F (2°C). Given the current trajectory of carbon pollution, hitting that target is all but impossible. Unless nations of the world take dramatic action soon, we are headed for a warming of at least 5.4°F (3°C) by the end of the century, making the Earth roughly as warm as it was 3 million years ago during the Pliocene era, long before Homo sapiens came along. “Human beings have literally never lived on a planet as hot as it is today,” says Wehner. A 5.4°F-warmer world would be radically different from the one we know now, with cities swamped by rising seas and epic droughts turning rainforests into deserts. The increased heat alone would kill significant numbers of people. A recent report from the University of Bristol estimated that with 5.4°F of warming, about 5,800 people could die each year in New York due to the heat, 2,500 could die in Los Angeles, and 2,300 in Miami. “The relationship between heat and mortality is clear,” Eunice Lo, a climate scientist at the University of Bristol and the lead author of the report, tells me. “The warmer the world becomes, the more people die.”
...Heat is not an equal-opportunity killer. If you’re poor, sick, old, or homeless, you’re more likely to die during a heat wave. Recent immigrants, both legal and undocumented, are particularly at risk. A 2017 study published in the American Journal of Public Health found that immigrants are three times more likely than citizens to die from heat-related illnesses. More than 85 percent of non-U.S. citizens who died from heat-related causes were Hispanic. Researchers hypothesized that working outdoors and in agriculture increased vulnerability.

Crackpot Republicans and cowardly Democrats-- both motivated by short-sighted personal greed-- will be the death of us all. Think about that when you go to vote or support "moderate" candidates being pushed by the DCCC and DSCC. There is no moderate position on the Climate Crisis that's going to save anyone.

Virginia progressive Ally Dalsimer was, in great part, motivated to run for Congress because of the Climate Crisis. On her campaign website she notes that "We are already witnessing the effects of the climate crisis from devastating wildfires to destructive hurricanes all across America. In Virginia, rising temperatures and sea levels are threatening people’s health and potentially costing coastal areas billions of dollars. Meanwhile, Virginia’s infrastructure has an overall ranking of 21st in the nation. By implementing a Green New Deal, including the pillars laid out in the Virginia Green New Deal, we can address climate change impacts, promote environmental justice on a broad scale, and create millions of green jobs to strengthen Virginia’s economy and infrastructure. Summary:

  • Create millions of living wage jobs

  • Meet power demands through clean, renewable, and zero-emission energy sources

  • Invest in job training, an affordable green transit system, and environment-friendly agriculture

  • Protect clean air, water, natural resources, and food security for all Americans

  • Ensure just and equitable implementation so no community is left behind

Environmental Action goes beyond the Green New Deal, though. In addition, we must once again remember to choose people over profits. This means:

  • Ending fossil fuel subsidies

  • Ending both new and old fossil fuel leases on federal lands

  • Banning fracking

  • Expand methane control technologies

Now back to Jason Call, the northwest Washington congressional candidate who brought the IPCC report to my attention this morning. "This is the most alarming and patently clear message that we must alter course on fossil fuel policy," he told me. "The Paris Accords are the bare minimum, and we won’t see those to fruition while we have elected representatives like Rick Larsen in WA-02 gatekeeping for his pollution industry donors. It’s time to demand serious action. If this report isn’t enough to get climate progressives elected, I don’t know what is. Our grandchildren face an ever more grim prospect of an unlivable planet. We are stealing their futures."

I urge you to help support the candidacies of men and women like Ally Dalsimer and Jason Call. You can do it here. Every small contribution helps them get out their message.