‘It’s happening, it’s now,’ says U.S. government report on climate change - Lake Harding Association

‘It’s happening, it’s now,’ says U.S. government report on climate change

‘It’s happening, it’s now,’ says U.S. government report on climate change

By Micah Moen 0 Comment October 7, 2019


JOHN YANG: The government issued its most
dramatic report yet about climate change today, and it came with a dire warning. Scientists said the country is already reeling
— feeling major effects of climate change and it has already cost the United States
hundreds of billions of dollars. The report, which was issued by 13 federal
agencies, also highlights how climate change is expected to have a significant impact on
the future of the economy. The report links extreme events like Hurricanes
Maria and Harvey and longer, more intense, more frequent wildfire seasons. And scientists say there’s more to come. The continental United States is already 1.8
degrees warmer than it was a century ago, and the temperature may rise by another 2.3
degrees by 2050. Unless more is done, the risks and impact
of climate change are expected to shrink the U.S. economy 10 percent by century’s end. David Easterling of NOAA, which released the
report, suggested in a media call that climate change would damage the country’s infrastructure,
economy, and human health. DAVID EASTERLING, ®MD-BO¯National Oceanic
and Atmospheric Administration: The global average temperature is much higher and is
rising more rapidly than anything modern civilization has experienced, and this warming trend can
only be explained by human activities. JOHN YANG: While almost no one will escape
the effects of climate change, scientists say under-served and lower-income Americans
as well as coastal communities will feel the brunt most immediately. DAVID EASTERLING: Future generations can expect
to experience and interact with natural systems in ways that are much different than today. Without significant reductions in greenhouse
gas emissions, extinctions and transformative impacts on some ecosystems cannot be avoided. JOHN YANG: The assessment is a stark contrast
with the views and policies of President Trump, who often denies or dismisses the role of
climate change. Today, scientists wouldn’t say whether the
White House pushed to have the report released on the afternoon after Thanksgiving. With us now, Michael Oppenheimer of Princeton
University. He’s a professor of geosciences and international
affairs at Princeton’s Woodrow Wilson School. He was a lead author of separate international
climate reports issued by the United Nations. Mr. Oppenheimer, thanks so much for joining
us. MICHAEL OPPENHEIMER, Professor of Geosciences
and International Affairs, Princeton University: Happy to be here. JOHN YANG: What struck you? What’s the most significant thing to you about
this report? MICHAEL OPPENHEIMER: Well, the blaring headline
message is that climate change is here, it’s happening, it’s now. Americans are already paying for it. They’re already suffering from it. It’s not an abstract problem that may come
on us at some time decades into the future. The second point about that is, well, you
can look on your TV screen and see it almost every day, California burning up due the wildfires,
over the last couple of months hurricanes wreaking havoc on the Gulf and Atlantic coasts. Those were problems made worse by climate
change already, and it’s only going to intensify as we go into the coming decades, unless we
get emissions of the greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide under control. Another clear message is that the world is
interconnected. If the U.S. suffers from crop yield declines
due to too much warming, then people go malnourished in Africa. If an electronic component supplier in Thailand
is disrupted due to flooding, then our electronics industry that has to assemble the parts into
a commercial product suffers and money is lost. The third message, which is really the most
important one, is that we are way behind the eight ball, we’re not doing enough to cut
these emissions and bring the problem under control, and we’re not doing enough to build
our resilience to the inevitable impacts of climate change. In other words, we’re doing little to adapt
to the risk. This is a big problem. There’s a big gap between what governments
promised to do, for instance, in the Paris agreement, and what they’re implementing. And even what they promised to do in the Paris
agreement, well, there’s a gap between that and what we — the countries would have to
do to really bring the problem under control. So we’re way behind the eight ball on all
fronts right now. JOHN YANG: And, of course, the current president
has pulled out of the Paris agreement. This is a president who has been skeptical,
to say the least, about climate change. He tweeted earlier this week talking about
the cold snap that a lot of the country is going through right now, saying: “Whatever
happened to global warming?” You talked about the stark language in this
report. Was there in any way a message, you think,
a shot across the bow, a warning shot at skeptics of climate change? MICHAEL OPPENHEIMER: I think the skeptics
really aren’t the factor anymore. The science is so compelling and the consequences
have been so vivid that in a way this has liberated to allow scientists doing these
kinds of assessments to really say I think what’s been on their minds for the whole time. I think the scientific community, while it’s
done yeoman’s service, has also to a certain degree been a little timid. And, in this report, in the report of the
Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change a couple of weeks ago, you see the clear messages
coming through, unvarnished, unhidden by fancy scientific language. They’re calling it like it is, for a change. JOHN YANG: You talked about the promises of
the Paris accord. Some states, notably California and other
states, are trying to go it alone, even though, in the United States, the federal government
has pulled out. They’re going to try to go on their own. Is that enough, for individual states to have
efforts? MICHAEL OPPENHEIMER: This report goes out
of its way to note the very strong efforts that some states and cities and other localities
are making, both on the emissions reduction front and in trying to adapt to the risks. But it’s not enough. An uncoordinated response taking place in
hundreds or even thousands of states and localities just will never get us to where we need to
go. This is a problem which needs national leadership. And that’s exactly what’s missing in the Trump
administration response, which is basically a yawn at this point. But it’s also true that other countries really
have to step up, do all they can on the emissions reduction front and on the adaptation front
to make their populations safe. Very few countries are doing as much as needs
to be done right now. JOHN YANG: The report also seems to take special
note or a special warning that the effects are uneven, that the poorer communities are
going to be affected more, according to the report, and coastal communities will be adversely
affected more, according to the report. MICHAEL OPPENHEIMER: Well, for the poor, it’s
really a double whammy, unfortunately. First of all, they don’t have the resources
to build the resilience and combat the possible impacts of climate change. And second of — secondly, a lot of the poorest
communities are where the impacts of climate change, where climate change is going to really
hit the worst. So they’re going to get the worst effects,
and they can’t defend themselves against it. So, for instance, the Southeastern part of
the United States, where incomes lag really compared to the whole country, is going to
suffer some of the biggest effects in terms of extreme heat and humidity, reductions in
labor productivity, and consequences along the coast. Even in relatively wealthy areas of the Southeast
— let’s take Miami, a well-built up area — you’re seeing coastal flooding happening
not just in big storms like hurricanes, but on the daily tidal cycle in many areas. So, they’re getting flooding in the streets
all the time. This kind of flooding, called nuisance flooding,
used to happen maybe five, 10 times a year. Now it’s happening maybe 30 or 40 times a
year. That’s due to sea level rise. What causes sea level rise? Global warming. JOHN YANG: Michael Oppenheimer of Princeton
University, thank you very much. MICHAEL OPPENHEIMER: Thank you.

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