The climate crisis deepens

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

The global climate is in trouble, worsening faster than experts believed only two years ago, and ambitious international steps to address the problem have been insufficient thus far. In December 2015, nearly every nation on earth committed themselves to the Paris agreement to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, a concerted effort to limit the rise in global temperature to no more than 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels. But scientists now say that threshold is too high - the line must be held at 1.5 degrees to prevent the climate change that’s already underway from becoming catastrophic.

While the U.S. government’s policy is to move backward — Trump wants to burn more fossil fuel, not less — state and local governments, other countries around the world and international corporations are all moving forward.

But the plans on the table are not enough. The UN’s own Emissions Gap Report released in 2017 found that “the gap between the reductions needed and the national pledges made in Paris is alarmingly high,” and that emissions must be throttled back even further. Nations also could help by pursuing reforestation programs, developing carbon storage technologies and adopting smarter agricultural and wetlands-management policies. Given the UN’s latest findings, attendees at the Bonn convention must come up with a strategy for accelerating global efforts to reduce emissions and ensure that the world reaches net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.

Even that may not suffice. A new report by the World Meteorological Organization concluded that carbon dioxide increased in the atmosphere at record speed last year and has reached a level not seen in more than 3 million years. At that time, the average atmospheric temperature was 3 degrees Celsius warmer than today, which melted glaciers in Greenland and the Antarctic and pushed sea levels at least 30 feet higher than they are now.

Currently, scientists are predicting sea-level rise in terms of feet, not inches, which would inundate coastlines, destroy infrastructure worldwide and displace millions of people. We’re already seeing increased storm strength, more frequent flooding and deeper droughts, all ascribed to global warming.

A guest Editorial