Editorial: We're screwed on climate change

Editorial: We're screwed on climate change

Glens Falls Post-Star: October 14, 2018

“We need a World War II scale mobilization,” Green Party gubernatorial candidate Howie Hawkins told us this past week.


We apologize right up front if you find our headline offensive and inappropriate for a family newspaper.

But desperate times call for desperate measures, and when it comes to the health of the planet Earth, these are desperate times.

Last weekend, the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change released a report, saying we are already seeing the consequences of global warming and the only way to avoid catastrophe is to transform the world economy like we have never done before to reduce carbon emissions and slow the rise in Earth’s temperature.

We are talking about a world that will no longer be a pleasant place to live.

Far too much skepticism remains among the general public, but more specifically our political leadership is ignoring the problem.

President Trump’s response to the dire warnings from the IPCC was to say he would “definitely look at it.”

We also believe the national media shares some blame with inconsistent coverage and its inability to explain the consequences if the world does not act.

But ultimately, our crude headline is to grab your attention and hope it makes an impact.

The IPCC estimates we have 12 years to make drastic changes to reduce carbon emissions and slow the rise in Earth’s temperature.

The IPCC is considered the leading authority on climate science. Its report combines the expertise of 91 scientists and government agents from 40 countries around the world and references 6,000 studies and reports. This year’s report was its most dire yet and painted a picture that significantly worsens the risks of drought, floods, extreme heat and poverty for hundreds of millions of people.

Yet many argue its findings are political in nature and they are telling only one side of the story. This is untrue.

The IPCC findings are a consensus of the 91 scientists who are experts in the field of climate change; the report is a middle ground they all can agree upon. Ultimately, their view is a conservative view and not a worst-case scenario. We should find that frightening.

The best-case scenario is a world where the quality of life is dramatically reduced for millions — our children and grandchildren — while governments across the globe battle economic and environmental calamities.

Considering the skepticism by so many American politicians and President Trump’s decision to pull out of the Paris climate deal, the United States is not prepared to address the issue in the coming years.

The Trump administration has taken an industry-friendly stance, weakening greenhouse gas rules and vehicle fuel efficiency as well as promoting the use of more coal, instead of less.

This is the opposite of what the IPCC says we should be doing.

“It’s a line in the sand and what it says to our species is that this is the moment and we must act now,” said Debra Roberts, a co-chair of the working group on impacts. “This is the largest clarion bell from the science community and I hope it mobilizes people and dents the mood of complacency.”

The rise in global temperatures means more erratic weather patterns, droughts, heat waves, hurricanes and flooding that will become more ferocious with time. We are already seeing that.

Scientists predict as warming continues we will see more wildfires, shifts in growing areas for crops, more flooding, rising sea levels, ice melt, death of the coral reefs, more acidic oceans and thawing permafrost in the Arctic.

This will cost us trillions of dollars to address as our world becomes a less inviting habitat.

While the IPCC report holds out hope that we can still stop the warming, the changes we need to make are dramatic and would need to happen sooner rather than later.

Considering we can’t settle on a viable health care system, solving this problem seems impossible.

Scientists have estimated that warming cannot be more than 1.5 degrees C. We are currently on a track toward 3 degrees Centigrade by the end of the century, while reaching 1.5 degrees somewhere between 2030 and 2052.

That is just 12 years away.

“We need a World War II scale mobilization,” Green Party gubernatorial candidate Howie Hawkins told us this past week.

The IPCC says it is technically possible to avoid the most serious damage to the environment, but estimated it would cost $54 trillion. It also conceded it is politically unlikely, at least in this country.

We not only need the United States on board 100 percent, but every country in the world.

Consider what Popular Science said we would need to do.

“We would have to stop adding carbon dioxide to the atmosphere completely by 2050. To do this, governments need to change land use practices, make buildings more efficient, switch to clean energy sources, revolutionize manufacturing practice and change the way we get around.”

But even if we could do all that in the next few years, it would not be enough.

Popular Science says, “We also have to physically remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. In the climate models in the new report, every scenario that keeps global warming below 1.5 degrees C involved carbon capture strategies, which are currently largely theoretical or possible only on a small scale. To keep us from exceeding a 1.5 degree C increase, humans need to remove 1,000 gigatons of CO2 from the atmosphere by 2100.”

And we need to invent a way to do it.

You want more bad news — global greenhouse emissions are expected to rise this year, not fall, and most countries are not on track to meet their Paris climate change goals.

The United States no longer has any goals.

Our children are looking at a future where the world will be a significantly worse place to live. It’s time to accept that fact and demand action.

Consider the ramifications if we don’t.

And we refer you back to our headline at the top of the page.

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