Chances are, if you’ve heard of the Paris Climate Agreement, you know that nearly every nation in the world — except ours — has volunteered to cut carbon emissions enough to prevent an increase in Earth’s temperature of 2 degrees Celsius, or 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit, by the start of the 22nd century.
If that doesn’t happen, and the world goes above 2 °C, writes CNN’s Ashley Strickland, “life on our planet will change,” and “[r]ising seas, mass extinctions, super droughts, increased wildfires, intense hurricanes, decreased crops and fresh water and the melting of the Arctic are expected.”
Also expected are shifts in weather leading to reduced air quality, food and water contamination, more infections carried by mosquitoes and ticks and stress on mental health, Strickland writes, citing a recent report from the Medical Society Consortium on Climate and Health.
One of the goals of the Paris Agreement was to hold the increase in the global average temperature to below 2 °C above pre-industrial levels, ideally 1.5 °C. Unfortunately, according to “Less than 2 °C warming by 2100 unlikely,” a report written by Adrian E. Raftery, Alec Zimmer, Dargan M. W. Frierson, Richard Startz and Peiran Liu, and appearing Monday in the journal Nature Climate Change, there is a 95 percent chance of temperatures rising more than 2 °C by the turn of the next century, a 5 percent chance of hitting the goal and a 1 percent chance of coming in at 1.5 °C by 2100.
According to a “statistically based probabilistic forecast of CO2 emissions and temperature change” to 2100, “the likely range of global temperature increase is 2.0–4.9 °C, with median 3.2 °C,” write the five scientists. “Achieving the goal of less than 1.5 °C warming will require carbon intensity to decline much faster than in the recent past.”
Appearing in the same issue of Nature Climate Change on Monday was even more bad news for the environment, this time contained in the story “Committed warming inferred from observations,” by Thorsten Mauritsen and Robert Pincus. These scientists have concluded that “committed warming,” or lasting or residual effects of the poisons that got us into this mess, will linger for many more years. So, “even if fossil-fuel emissions were to suddenly cease, some level of committed warming is expected.” Mauritsen and Pincus found.
In their contribution to the discussion, these scientists write, “Due to the lifetime of CO2, the thermal inertia of the oceans, and the temporary impacts of short-lived aerosols and reactive greenhouse gases, the Earth’s climate is not equilibrated with anthropogenic forcing,” meaning attempts to change the situation would be futile. “As a result, even if fossil-fuel emissions were to suddenly cease, some level of committed warming is expected due to past emissions as studied previously using climate models.”
Of course, President Trump is unmoved by any of the predictions regarding climate change and global warming, even though we are already experiencing fiercer hurricanes, more intense rain storms, and some of the hottest temperatures on record. Not surprisingly, 2016 was the hottest year on record, preceded by 2015 and 2014 before that, and so on. No doubt 2017 will be remembered for being both very hot and the year Trump pulled the United States out of the Paris Agreement.
Rhea Suh, president of the National Resources Defense Council, called Trump’s withdrawal “a grave mistake.”
“Withdrawing the United States from the climate agreement will turn us into a global pariah and destroy our international credibility, threatening not just our environment but also our national security,” Suh wrote on the organization’s website. “At home, our economy also stands to take a hit: Trump’s decision puts more than a million clean energy jobs at risk. In signing the Paris climate agreement, the United States, the second-largest polluter on the planet, committed to reducing its carbon emissions by 26 percent to 28 percent in a decade. Our withdrawal from the agreement will undo years of progress made toward achieving that goal.”
The two-degree goal is considered the backbone of the agreement. Going beyond that temperature, writes Brian Resnick at vox.com, “We risk dramatically higher seas, changes in weather patterns, food and water crises, and an overall more hostile world.”
Predictions made by the Zillow real estate website indicate at least parts of many American cities will be under water by 2100. A map devised by Zillow shows that 10 American cities — Miami, New York and Long Beach included — will sustain more than $112 billion in home losses alone from a six-foot rise in sea level.
For a somewhat more hopeful illustration of where we stand now on the global warming front, check out “An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power,” with former Vice President Al Gore picking up where he left off with his Oscar-winning “Inconvenient Truth” of 2006, which also won him a Nobel Peace Prize in 2007. As Gore amply points out, the goal has been daunting, but much has been done to stem the tide of global warming through passion and ingenuity over the past decade.
Apparently, however, environmental zeal will not be enough, at least according to these latest studies.
“These studies are part of the emerging scientific understanding that we’re in even hotter water than we’d thought,” environmentalist Bill McKibben said to CNN’s Strickland. “We’re a long ways down the path to disastrous global warming, and the policy response — especially in the United States — has been pathetically underwhelming.”.
Editor’s Note: A dear friend who worked at the paper in the 1990s has died. Rochelle Ordaz, 55, served as a classified advertising rep when Jim Laris owned the paper, and briefly after the LA Times bought us in 1998. The cause of death is not yet known, according to her daughter, Adrianne. The family is destitute and asking for help in covering funeral costs. If you would like to contribute, please visit https://dm2.gofund.me/our-beloved-rochelle.