- 2,975 deaths from Hurricane Maria in September 2017 (but estimated to be about 4,500)
- 153,336 acres and 18,804 structures destroyed; 85 deaths in the November California wildfires – the state’s deadliest
- 8 million people in 32 districts affected, 103,855 houses destroyed by floods in Bangladesh in January 2018. 307,00 people forced to stay in emergency shelters
You don’t need a report to know that something is happening with the weather. Punishing storms such as Hurricanes Sandy and Maria. Intense droughts that have sparked wildfires in California and have ruined crops. Rising sea levels that have increased flooding in low lying areas such as the coast of Bangladesh. It is not a question of whether our climate is changing, but how fast. The verdict is: Get on it people, we are running out of time.
In early October, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, an intergovernmental body of the United Nations, released a report that the irreversible effects of climate change will come sooner than expected. Temperatures, the report says, are on track to rise 1.5 degrees Celsius by 2040. It is not out of the question for it to reach 2 degrees Celsius. That would lead to more extreme heat and cold, rising sea levels, severe storms, and droughts.
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Just after Thanksgiving, the U.S. government released the National Climate Assessment. That report outlined the impact and cost of climate change on the United States. It notes that the U.S. economy would shrink 10 percent by the end of the century if global warming continues, costing Americans about $500 billion a year in physical damages. In 2017, Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria cost the U.S. $265 billion.
There is a human cost to climate change as well. The Wall Street Journal notes that “1.5 million more people will die each year around the world because of increased heat. By comparison, 1.25 million people died in 2013 in all traffic accidents worldwide.”
What do we do? We can reduce emissions by taking public transportation. We can reuse bags, boxes, and anything else. (Our collective consumption habits is a subject for another time.) We can recycle. We can also get onto our elected officials to engage in global efforts to stem the tide, if not work to reverse the effects of global warming. That’s what the 2015 Paris Climate Agreement was about. (Yeah, the one that Trump pulled out of.) In that agreement, signatory nations agreed to cut their “greenhouse gases” – the gases, such as carbon dioxide and methane, that are causing global warming. It aims to keep the world’s temperatures from rising more than 2 degrees Celsius.
Cutting these gases are key. That’s something the companies causing them don’t want to hear. Switching to cleaner methods would cut into profits, much like taxes do. And, speaking of taxes… While taxing carbon emitters has worked in many countries, the U.S. government, at a federal level, has failed to implement a “carbon” tax – or even “cap and trade” – that’s a market-based solution that gives a profit incentive for companies to reduce pollution. (‘cause profit is a bigger motivator than actual life.🙄) (Note: California did enact cap and trade.)
What all of this comes down to is: It’s 911 Code Red. We’ve only got one planet Earth. Let’s take care of it today. That’s what many leaders did this week in Katowice, Poland at the U.N. conference on climate change – COP24.
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