Global warming is one of the most profound threats of our time. From dangerous heat waves, extreme storms, and shrinking snow-packs to extreme drought and increased wildfires, the dangers of global warming are cause for immediate action.
In an unprecedented summit on climate change, the United Nations Secretary-General says that “the time for doubt has passed” and a breakthrough is needed in global talks to sharply reduce emissions of global-warming gases. It’s felt by many that the U.N. climate process is the appropriate forum for negotiating global action.
Presidents and premiers from around the world met last month on this critically important issue. The U.N. chief also addressed a chief objection by the United States to negotiated limits on greenhouse-gas emissions. It’s believed that failure to address this matter will result in tremendous damage to the U.S. economy over time.
California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger appeared at the conference and told the international delegates states in the U.S. are taking action. While the Bush administration has resisted emissions caps, California’s Republican governor and Democrat-led legislature have approved a law requiring the state’s industries to reduce greenhouse gases by an estimated 25% by 2020. Other U.S. states, in various ways, are moving to follow California’s lead. While the federal government should be taking the lead, it’s good for the states to recognize the problem and take action.
The summit was organized to build political momentum toward launching negotiations later this year for deep cutbacks in emissions of carbon dioxide and other man made gases blamed for global warming.
As you may already know, the 1997 Kyoto pact, which the U.S. rejects, requires 36 industrial nations to reduce heat-trapping gases emitted by power plants and other industrial, agricultural and transportation sources by an average 5% below 1990 levels by 2012. Advocates say a breakthrough at the annual climate treaty conference in Bali, Indonesia, is needed – almost certainly requiring a change in the U.S. position – to ensure an uninterrupted transition from Kyoto to a new, deeper-cutting regime. To try to spur global negotiations, the European Union has committed to reduce emissions by at least an additional 20% by 2020.
The U.N. summit follows a series of reports by a U.N. scientific network that warned of temperatures rising by several degrees Fahrenheit by 2100 and of a drastically changed planet from rising seas, drought and other factors, unless nations rein in greenhouse gases.
The U.N.-sponsored scientists reported global average temperatures over the past 100 years rose 1.3 degrees, and the planet’s sea levels rose 6.6 inches, as oceans expanded from warmth and from the runoff of melting land ice. U.S. scientists have reported recently that warmer temperatures this summer had shrunk the Arctic Ocean’s ice cap to a record-low size.
Most governments realize global warming is a most serious problem and fortunately many are taking steps to address it. However, it’s being treated by the Bush Administration as just another environmental problem that is either just a minor annoyance or one that is serious but not so urgent as to require prompt governmental planning and action.
There are some concrete examples in the United States of how our world is changing. For example, it is being projected that sea-level rise due to global warming will create tremendous challenges for our coastal areas. We are facing an ecological crisis that could see wholesale loss of wildlife populations and profound changes in our outdoor way of life. Recent studies show that the global average sea level will rise as much as 2 to 56 inches by 2100. When you consider that even a relatively moderate scenario of sea level rise of just 2 feet by 2100 will have a significant impact on coastal habitats, this is a most serious issue.
The impact on the United States will be tremendous and the effects of global warming will cause us great problems in the not too distant future. How President Bush can allow the Exxons of the world to dictate policy on this crisis is beyond me. The effects of global warming reach much further than just how our coastal areas will be affected as the result of sea-level rise. In this country, we are already witnessing significant-changes in our weather patterns and that is cause for great concern. We owe it to future generations to force our political leaders to recognize the problem of global warming and do something about it.