Friday, September 26, 2014

The Gathering Storm:  U.S. Must Lead Action on Climate Change - by Daniel Kammen of U.C. Berkeley and Dr. Michael Mann

Throngs at the People's Climate March Sunday in New York City. The march filled 80 blocks. (Credit: Climate Action Network International/Flickr)  Click to enlarge.
Winston Churchill saw the gathering storm long before the rest of the world.  Europe sacrificed millions of people before it openly acknowledged and then directly confronted the crisis.  Yet, even after the Allies responded, the outcome was uncertain.  Only when the U.S. entered the fray could the Allies see a clear path to end the threat.

While meeting that threat, the war mobilization also provided employment for millions and pulled the U.S. economy out of the Great Depression, leading to a half-century of prosperity.  Americans mostly look back fondly on that period, as the world became a better place in many ways for the changes that were made.

Today, we face another threat, this time from climate disruption.  Again, the U.S. must lead – this time to a clean energy future and a healthier world.  As we experience more intense and longer heat waves, prolonged drought, crop failures, rising seas, increasing wildfires and floods, and as natural systems begin to crash, we will see profoundly destabilizing effects. (Take quiz: What You Don’t Know About Climate Change Science.)

The scientific debate about whether human-caused global warming exists is long over. The remaining window of time for the needed transformation is short, and the only real issue is how we respond.  This is where U. S. leadership is most critical.

Global warming already directly impacts public health, our economy, food and water supplies, and national security.   What’s more, a recently leaked UN report details how global warming now most assuredly will lead to “severe, pervasive and irreversible impacts.”  In an attempt to alert the public to the danger, it was released by scientists prior to its being substantively amended by government representatives who might feel tempted to censor critical information.

In response to the scale and urgency of the threat, and in solidarity with our colleagues, we call on our fellow scientists to speak clearly to the nation and the world, and if so moved, to sign on to our Scientific Statement on Climate Stabilization.  To successfully combat global warming and stay below the 2-degree C heat ceiling, the statement calls for these actions:

First, carbon emissions should peak now.  Reducing our greenhouse gas emissions must begin at once in industrialized nations, and within a few years in developing nations.  Second, we must reduce emissions by several percent per year and quickly transition away from fossil fuels.  Third, the United States must lead.  The U.S. must embrace the Copenhagen Accord, shape the upcoming 2015 Paris accords, and lead this next great industrial transformation. Our capacity to innovate is unmatched, which means that U. S. industry will benefit from political clarity around climate stabilization.

The Gathering Storm:  U.S. Must Lead Action on Climate  Change - by Daniel Kammen of U.C. Berkeley and Dr. Michael Mann

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