Clock is tick­ing on slow­ing climate change

Connecticut Post - - OPINION -

We in­habit the same planet. There­fore we all must pay at­ten­tion — re­gard­less of party af­fil­i­a­tion or coun­try — to the grim mes­sage in the re­port re­leased Mon­day by the United Na­tion’s In­ter­gov­ern­men­tal Panel on Climate Change. The con­clu­sion: We have about 12 years to limit global warm­ing and avoid wide­spread cat­a­strophic changes.

Adozen years. No longer can the com­plex prob­lem be left for fu­ture gen­er­a­tions to han­dle. Action must be taken now.

The sci­en­tific ba­sis for the con­clu­sion can­not be dis­missed. The re­port, writ­ten by 91 sci­en­tists from 40 coun­tries who ex­am­ined more than 6,000 peer-re­viewed re­search ar­ti­cles, took nearly two years.

The study fol­lowed the Paris Agree­ment of 2015 in which 195 coun­tries pledged to limit green­house gases to keep in­creases in global warm­ing to 2 de­grees C, which is 3.6 de­grees F above prein­dus­trial lev­els. That is not low enough, the new re­port con­cluded. A lower thresh­old of 1.5 de­grees C — 2.7 de­grees F — is nec­es­sary to avoid the worst ef­fects.

Con­sid­er­ing that global tem­per­a­tures are al­ready 1 de­gree C higher, the sit­u­a­tion grows even more ur­gent.

De­niers might point to cold win­ters as a sign climate change is not real. But that is false hope. The num­bers de­rived by the world’s sci­en­tists are based on 30-year av­er­ages and mea­sured against the prein­dus­trial span of 1850 to 1900.

The risks of higher global tem­per­a­tures in­clude ex­treme droughts, wild­fires, flood­ing and food short­ages for mil­lions. Coastal ecosys­tems will be dis­rupted. Hu­man health will be af­fected.

“Climate-re­lated risks to health, liveli­hoods, food se­cu­rity, wa­ter sup­ply, hu­man se­cu­rity, and eco­nomic growth are pro­jected to in­crease with global warm­ing” of 1.5 de­grees C, the re­port states.

The 12-year time frame is based on present lev­els of green­house gas emis­sions. It will take im­me­di­ate and dras­tic ac­tions to re­duce global emis­sions by 45 per­cent to reach this tar­get.

It re­quires phas­ing out the use of coal, re­duc­ing reliance on other fos­sil fu­els, and sub­stan­tially in­creas­ing re­new­able en­ergy sources.

Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump, who shame­fully an- nounced ear­lier he would with­draw our coun­try from the multi­na­tional Paris agree­ment and has rolled back en­vi­ron­men­tal pro­tec­tions, said he would “ab­so­lutely” look at the re­port. But his re­marks do not en­cour­age op­ti­mism.

“It was given to me. And I want to look at who drew it. You know, which group drew it. I can give you re­ports that are fab­u­lous and I can give you re­ports that aren’t so good,” Trump told re­porters Tues­day.

We can­not ignore or min­i­mize the sci­en­tists’ warn­ings. Ask fed­eral and state can­di­dates how they in­tend to re­spond, and vote ac­cord­ingly. Take an ac­tive role in im­prov­ing the health of the planet.

The con­clu­sion “comes with some wish­ful think­ing that the mes­sages that this re­port con­veys are be­ing taken up by the pub­lic, by the pol­i­cy­mak­ers, by the gov­ern­ments, and that the ur­gency of the is­sue is be­ing seen,” said one of the sci­en­tific au­thors Mon­day, “be­cause climate change is shap­ing the fu­ture of our civ­i­liza­tion.”

We need more than wish­ful think­ing.

No longer can the com­plex prob­lem be left for fu­ture gen­er­a­tions to han­dle. Action must be taken now.

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