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December 2016 Newsletter: More Evidence of the Dangers Posed by Climate Change

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    American linguist, philosopher, cognitive scientist, and social critic Noam Chomsky recently said the most important news of Nov. 8, 2016 (Election Day) was actually “barely noted.” Chomsky went on to say that on November 8, 2016, the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) delivered a report at the international conference on climate change in Morocco at the 22nd UN conference on climate change. The WMO reported that the past five years were the hottest on record.

    “Another year. Another record,” said WMO secretary-general, Petteri Taalas. “The extra heat from the powerful El Niño event has disappeared. The heat from global warming will continue because of climate change, the occurrence and impact of extreme events has risen. ‘Once in a generation’ heatwaves and flooding are becoming more regular.”

    Why Should We Care?

    The WMO said human-induced global warming had contributed to at least half the extreme weather events studied in recent years, with the risk of extreme heat increasing by 10 times in some cases. 

    Chomsky also noted that two researchers have discovered a linear relationship between atmospheric carbon and summer Arctic sea ice. This discovery allows them to definitively say for every ton of CO2 emitted, three square meters of summer Arctic sea ice disappears. This means that the average American is personally responsible for 645 square feet of melted summer Arctic sea ice every year.

    The current warming trend is of significance because most of it is very likely human-induced and proceeding at a rate that is unprecedented in the past 1,300 years according to the IPCC Fourth Assessment Report. All three major global surface temperature reconstructions show that Earth has warmed since 1880.  Most of the warming occurred in the past 35 years, with 15 of the 16 warmest years on record occurring since 2001. The year 2015 was the first time the global average temperatures were 1 degree Celsius or more above the 1880-1899 average.

    What’s Next for Climate Change Policy?

    Regulations to fight climate change likely will be casualties of the incoming Trump administration, but environmental experts taking stock of the changing American political landscape said that work in the field will continue elsewhere and that a broad-based rollback of the U.S. environmental protection will prove easier said than done. 

    Though President-elect Donald Trump hasn’t yet announced an environmental agenda, his campaign claim that climate change is an expensive hoax, his blanket support for the fossil fuel industry, and his criticism of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) have environmentalists worried.

    “Trump could unilaterally withdraw from the Paris Agreement, renouncing U.S. leadership on international climate negotiations. And he could try to rescind or weaken some important regulations, like the Clean Power Plan,” said Jody Freeman, the Archibald Cox Professor of Law and director of Harvard Law School’s Environmental Law Program. “But any effort to fully unravel the substantial and meaningful regulatory initiatives of the last eight years will be long, complicated, and difficult, and in the end likely only partial because of the significant legal, political, and practical barriers to doing so.”

    Experts warn the refugee crisis may also worsen due to the impacts of global warming. NASA released data showing 2016 is on pace to be by far the hottest year ever, breaking the 2015 record. 

    Gov. Brown of California was sharply critical of Trump during the presidential campaign season on the issue of climate change, taking aim at statements in which the businessman said he’s not a big believer in the phenomenon.

    On December 14, 2016, California Governor Jerry Brown told an audience of scientists at the American Geophysical Union that the state would launch its own “damn satellite” and continue climate research if the Trump administration shut down federal research. California state has set one of the nation’s most ambitious climate targets—to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions to 40 percent below 1990 levels by 2030. Hawaii is planning to use 100 percent renewable energy by 2045.

    Mayors and governors, many of them in states that supported President-elect Donald J. Trump, say they are equally determined to continue the policies and plans they have already adopted to address climate change and related environmental damage, regardless of what they see from Washington. “With a federal government that’s hostile to climate action, more and faster climate action work from cities, states and businesses will be required to stay anywhere near on track with our carbon pollution goals,” said Sam Adams, the former mayor of Portland, Ore., and current director of the World Resources Institute United States.

    Quote of the Month

    “Those who talk, don’t know. Those who know, don’t talk. I don’t talk.” ~ Tim Grover (Michael Jordan’s personal trainer)

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