The dangers of climate change are heating up like never before.
Any hope that further scientific study might come to the comforting conclusion that the effects of carbon emissions are not as bad as advertised — that they might come more slowly and less severely — have been dashed.
A new landmark study by top scientists has concluded that climate change disaster is approaching more quickly than we thought and that only an unprecedented global effort can prevent its worst effects. As a global community, we simply must change course.
The U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the leading scientific organization examining the phenomenon and its impact, said in a report issued Monday that food shortages and wildfires will get worse, coral reefs will die off and sea levels will rise by feet rather than inches in our lifetimes if too little is done.
It’s the epic battle of our age. Every nation, every major corporation — all of us — must work to win it.
We are slowed to action by corporations and wealthy individuals who, along with their sycophants, profit from the status quo. We are burdened by a president who attacks climate-protection measures, including the Paris Climate Accord, as the planet lurches toward catastrophe. They are like firefighters who shrug off 911 calls.
Moreover, we can’t dodge this looming crisis just by adjusting our thermostats. We need to scale up programs that don’t yet exist and rely on technologies that aren’t yet invented. And we have a very short time to do so. To prevent a global temperature rise of 2.7 degrees Fahrenheit over pre-industrial levels, greenhouse gases must be cut by 45 percent from 2010 levels by 2030 and by 100 percent in 2050.
The report holds a glimmer of hope: If we can limit the rise in the heat, then heat waves, powerful storms and droughts will be far less common; smog, heat and infectious diseases will cause far fewer deaths; the sea level will rise four fewer inches; far fewer plants and animals will lose most of their habitats; half as many people will lack sufficient water, and irreversible melting might not begin on the West Antarctic ice sheet.
The question is whether we can summon the political will for such an enormous undertaking.
The time to do so is now.
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