Cli­mate in cri­sis

Sunday News - - WORLD -

WASH­ING­TON The rapid pace of global cli­mate change is al­most cer­tainly driven by hu­man ac­tiv­ity, like burn­ing fos­sil fu­els, ac­cord­ing to a United States gov­ern­ment re­port that con­tra­dicts as­ser­tions by US Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump and mem­bers of his ad­min­is­tra­tion.

‘‘For the warm­ing over the last cen­tury, there is no con­vinc­ing al­ter­na­tive ex­pla­na­tion sup­ported by the ex­tent of the ob­ser­va­tional ev­i­dence,’’ says the re­port by a group of more than 50 US gov­ern­ment sci­en­tists, re­leased yes­ter­day.

The re­port, which is re­quired by Congress ev­ery four years, was writ­ten by sci­en­tists from gov­ern­ment bod­ies such as the En­vi­ron­men­tal Pro­tec­tion Agency (EPA) and the Na­tional Oceanic and At­mo­spheric Ad­min­is­tra­tion (NOAA).

It re­in­forces the con­clu­sions drawn by an over­whelm­ing ma­jor­ity of sci­en­tists around the world in re­cent years that emis­sions from burn­ing fos­sil fu­els are the pri­mary driver of global warm­ing, lead­ing to sea level rise, flood­ing, droughts, and more fre­quent pow­er­ful storms.

Trump has re­peat­edly called cli­mate change a hoax, and in June he an­nounced that he would with­draw the US from a global pact to com­bat it, call­ing the deal’s de­mands for emis­sions cuts too costly for his coun­try’s econ­omy. War-torn Syria is the only other coun­try out­side the pact.

The US with­drawal from the Paris Cli­mate Deal was part of a broader White House ef­fort to roll back what it sees as un­needed en­vi­ron­men­tal pro­tec­tions to boost do­mes­tic oil and gas drilling and coal min­ing.

EPA Ad­min­is­tra­tor Scott Pruitt has also ex­pressed doubts about the causes of cli­mate change, at one point say­ing he did not be­lieve car­bon diox­ide from hu­man ac­tiv­ity was the pri­mary driver, and call­ing for fur­ther de­bate on the is­sue.

White House spokesman Raj Shah said: ‘‘The ad­min­is­tra­tion sup­ports rig­or­ous sci­en­tific anal­y­sis and de­bate and en­cour­ages public com­ment on the draft doc­u­ments be­ing re­leased to­day.’’

Of­fi­cials at the EPA de­clined to com­ment.

Ac­cord­ing to the re­port, global tem­per­a­tures have in­creased by about 1 de­gree C over the last 115 years, while global av­er­age sea lev­els have risen about 17.78cm over the same pe­riod.

Sea lev­els were ex­pected to rise ‘‘at least sev­eral inches in the next 15 years’’ due to ris­ing tem­per­a­tures, it added. Heat­waves, down­pours and wild­fires have be­come more fre­quent.

De­spite fears by some sci­en­tists, David Fa­hey of the NOAA and sev­eral au­thors said there was no po­lit­i­cal in­ter­fer­ence or cen­sor­ing of the 477-page re­port.

‘‘A lot of what we’ve been learn­ing over the last four years sug­gests the pos­si­bil­ity that things may have been more se­ri­ous than we think,’’ said Robert Kopp of Rut­gers Univer­sity, one of dozens of sci­en­tists in­side and out­side the gov­ern­ment who con­trib­uted to the re­port.

It was ‘‘ex­tremely likely’’ – mean­ing with 95 to 100 per cent cer­tainty – that global warm­ing was man-made, mostly from the spew­ing of car­bon diox­ide into the at­mos­phere from the burn­ing of coal, oil and nat­u­ral gas, the sci­en­tists con­cluded.

The sci­en­tists cal­cu­lated that the hu­man con­tri­bu­tion to warm­ing since 1950 had been be­tween 92 and 123 per cent. It was more than 100 per cent at one end, be­cause some nat­u­ral forces – such as vol­ca­noes and the or­bital cy­cle – were work­ing to cool Earth, but they were be­ing over­whelmed by the ef­fects of green­house gases, said study co- au­thor Katharine Hay­hoe of Texas Tech.

‘‘This pe­riod is now the warm­est in the his­tory of mod­ern civil­i­sa­tion,’’ she said.

For the first time, sci­en­tists high­lighted a dozen ‘‘tip­ping points’’ of po­ten­tial dan­gers that could hap­pen from warm­ing.

They in­clude the slow­ing down of the gi­ant At­lantic Ocean cir­cu­la­tion sys­tem, which could dra­mat­i­cally warp weather world­wide; much stronger El Nino weather pat­terns; ma­jor de­creases in ice sheets in Green­land and Antarc­tica, which would spike sea level rise; and mas­sive re­lease of meth­ane and car­bon diox­ide from thaw­ing per­mafrost, which could tur­bocharge warm­ing.

The re­searchers did not pro­vide an es­ti­mate of how likely tip­ping points would oc­cur, but ‘‘there is cer­tainly some chance of some of these things hap­pen­ing’’, Fa­hey said.

The re­port also doc­u­mented how dif­fer­ent cli­mate change­caused events can in­ter­act in a com­plex way to make life worse, such as the Cal­i­for­nia wild­fires and Su­per­storm Sandy five years ago.

The world’s oceans were un­der a ‘‘triple threat’’ – the wa­ter was get­ting warmer and more acidic and see­ing a drop in oxy­gen lev­els, Hay­hoe said.

The sci­en­tists de­tailed dozens of ways global warm­ing is al­ready af­fect­ing parts of the US. They said changes to weather, food, air, wa­ter and dis­eases were sick­en­ing, in­jur­ing and killing Amer­i­cans, and the sit­u­a­tion was ex­pected to get worse, hurt­ing the econ­omy, wildlife and en­ergy sup­ply. Reuters, AP

PHOTO: GETTY IM­AGES

In­done­sian cou­ple Nasikin, 55, and War­si­pah, 45, pose in front of their house at Sri­wu­lan vil­lage in De­mak, which was in­un­dated by ris­ing sea lev­els in June. In­done­sia has been fac­ing in­creas­ing floods and se­vere storms due to ris­ing tem­per­a­tures and cli­mate change.

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