On climate change, denial can be deadly
A report issued Monday by the United Nations science panel on climate change warns that unless the world stops burning fossil fuel, all of us, quite literally, are toast.
The UN report concludes that current efforts to reduce greenhouse gases emitted from burning coal and oil are far short of what is required to stop the increase of global temperatures. If greenhouse gas emissions are not contained, global temperatures will rise another 2.7 degrees Fahrenheit by 2040. If that happens, the UN report predicts radically altered global economies, societies and environments.
The report warns that if temperatures increase the world will experience exterminations of animal and insect species. Coral reefs will be destroyed, and marine life will die off. Coastal flooding, droughts, wildfires and heat waves will create severe food shortages that trigger population migrations affecting hundreds of millions of people.
All of this will be playing out in many of our lifetimes and certainly those of our children.
The report calls for an urgent “far-reaching and unprecedented” international effort to eliminate coal and oil burning fuels to be replaced by renewable energy sources like wind and solar. It calls for reforestation and reducing pollution from burning fossil fuels 45 percent by 2030. The report states that without aggressive measures to curb fossil fuel burning, the world will be experiencing these full and dire consequences within 22 years.
The UN report was commissioned at the Paris climate talks in 2016. The Paris Accord, signed by 195 nations, including the United States, set a voluntary goal to contain global warming. That would be the same Paris Accord President Donald Trump announced he planned to withdraw the United States.
Of course, the UN report was ignored by the White House and the “clean-coal”-loving president. The president and his Republican sycophants consistently cast doubt on the science of climate change.
Not content to simply save the dying coal industry, Trump has directed the Environmental Protection Agency to gut Obama-era reforms designed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from coal-fired power plants. Under Trump, more protected areas are being opened for oil and gas extraction.
The rest of the world, thankfully, is returning the gesture by ignoring Trump on the topic of global warming. The other 194 nations that signed on to the Paris Accord have vowed to continue to meet the emission reduction goals.
Equally encouraging, nine populous coastal states, including Connecticut, also are ignoring Trump’s ruinous and negligent climate-change policy path. Those states are coordinating their governments and industries to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in compliance with the Paris Accord.
Under Gov. Dannel P. Malloy, Connecticut has been a leader in this effort. In June, Malloy signed two bills he introduced designed to expand the state’s clean energy output, limit greenhouse gas emission and regulate development on the shoreline. The two bills:
• Target reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 45 percent by 2030, in line with the recent UN report recommendations.
• Require future shoreline development funded by state or federal dollars to anticipate sea level rise of two feet by 2050.
• Require that 40 percent of the energy sent to the state be supplied by renewable energy sources. This region is a big part of that movement with the development of an offshore wind farm that utilizes the Port of New London as a hub.
While these state and local initiatives are laudable, they are a weak substitute for the leadership of the United States in addressing a worldwide climate crisis. America is the second largest polluter of the planet behind China. China is taking an active and aggressive role in curbing its carbon fuel consumption. The government of the United States is isolated in its stubborn stupidity and climate change denial.
There is room to quibble about the precise dates and degrees of devastation global warming will cause on Earth. But there is no denying that climate change is a real and potent threat. The longer we avoid confronting the problem, the harder it will be to resolve.
Global warming is an extreme threat that requires a coordinated and sustained effort by international government leaders, media, corporations and citizens. The time is well past to confront the climate-change deniers.
The Day editorial board meets regularly with political, business and community leaders and convenes weekly to formulate editorial viewpoints. It is composed of President and Publisher Pat Richardson, Editorial Page Editor Paul Choiniere, retired Day editor Lisa McGinley, Managing Editor Tim Cotter and Staff Writer Julia Bergman. However, only the publisher and editorial page editor are responsible for developing the editorial opinions. The board operates independently from the Day newsroom.
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