Death all around the world

By Woody Moses - Commentary

It's bad.

When it comes to climate change, basically that's the story.

Had you asked me before the presidential election what I thought our chances were of avoiding the catastrophic effects of climate change, I would have said, "It could be bad." Given the outcome of the election – Republicans controlling the White House, Congress, Senate and soon the Supreme Court – I'm changing my response to, "It is really bad." What would've happened had the Democrats maintained control of the White House and maybe even taken over the Senate? My response would've been, "It might not be that bad." But in the end no matter how you parse it, the bottom line is the same.

It's bad.

You might ask, "How do you come to this conclusion?" Without going too deep into the science – because honestly no one really cares (on either side of the issue) or they don't take the time to understand it – I'd like to us to consider the Paris Accord. This is the plan developed last year that would try to keep the planet from warming more than two degrees Celsius (about four degrees Fahrenheit) by 2100. At this time, the U.S. has not agreed to this plan, and with Republicans controlling the federal government (and most state governments as well) I seriously doubt we will agree to the plan in the next four years. And without the U.S. (the single largest economy in the world and second largest producer of carbon dioxide) no one else will follow. Why does four years matter? Basically, if we can't reduce carbon dioxide (or other greenhouse gases) in the next five years it doesn't matter what happens afterwards.

And two degrees Celsius is a dubious target to begin with. At a recent climate conference I had the opportunity to speak to one of the folks crunching the numbers on these climate models (which by the way are WAY better at forecasting climate than the models used to forecast the presidential election) and he said that if temperatures increase another 1.5 degrees Celsius "brown people start to die", meaning that major parts of the global south, where the bulk of the world's poor live, will become uninhabitable. He continued that if we do increase temperatures by 2.0 degrees Celsius then "white people start to die", meaning the wealthy northern portions of the world we be hosed as well. So even if the U.S. does accept the Paris Accord, which most people will tell you is now DOA, we are still sure to send millions of people to the grave and will probably irrevocably change the world as we know it.

So, is all hope lost? Not necessarily, if we – and by this I mean Americans – make climate change a priority and get our elected officials to change our energy and transportation systems, which need an overhaul anyway, we could reduce the damage of climate change, grow the economy and help us to lead healthier, happier lives. But it means that we – and by this I mean you, me and everyone we know – need to started now. Otherwise, yep, it's bad.

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