Bearing Witness to Climate Change November 2019

It’s official, and tragic, the Trump administration has notified the international community that it will indeed withdraw the U.S. from the 2015 Paris Climate Agreement. It was the first day possible for a country to exit the agreement, but it won’t become official until one year later, which in this case is the day after the 2020 Presidential Election. After years of decreasing carbon emissions from the U.S. it is now estimated that they are going up due largely to Trump’s anti-environmental policies. Trump and his band of science deniers have claimed the agreement is a total disaster. But that is what awaits the planet for not acting. We will look back on this during a truth and reconciliation period as a crime against humanity?

Other countries are not standing still. Italy’s Minister of Education announced it plans to add Climate Change and environmental sustainability curriculum to all public school grades. The minister added that every country needed to do what it could to stop the Trump’s of the world.

New Zealand has committed to become carbon neutral by 2050 by lawmakers passing new legislation by a margin of 119 votes to only 1. The world’s biggest carbon emitters are no where close to making the same commitment. However, some U.S. states have including California, Washington, and New Mexico.

Nearby Australia is experiencing such catastrophic wildfires that a state of emergency has been declared. Over 100 fires have consumed nearly 2 million acres and claimed at least 4 lives and dozens of injuries. As the fires rage politicians start exchanging insults and blame with the Green Party asserting that the major parties who have let this happen and protected Australia’s coal industry, are no better than arsonists. In 2018 an Australian government report cited a long term increase in extreme fires and length of fire seasons across the country.

States and cities are growing more concerned about the impact of extreme weather events and climate change on aging infrastructure such as roads, sewers, and utilities. During recent near historic flooding earlier this year St. Louis saw its downtown underground steam loop failed due to the flood.

Whole industries are now dealing with the impact of climate change, such as the California wine industry, which has been buffeted by extreme weather events during recent years including droughts, floods, fires, and then record heat followed by unseasonable cold weather killing off grapes.

The European Union Investment Bank declares it will stop financing fossil fuel energy projects staring in 2022. Germany’s foreign minister went on to say that it was up to Europe to lead, since the United States is now missing in action.

Venice, a UNESCO World Heritage site, experienced it worse flooding in 50 years with a 6 foot tide causing hundreds of millions of dollars of damage. Climate scientists have found that exceptional tidal flooding like that in Venice has become more frequent in the past two decades.

Big destructive hurricanes are indeed hitting the U.S. more often according to a new study. It is reported that the worst ones are over 3 times more frequently. Higher temperatures in the air and oceans due to climate change is said to be a contributing factor.

Another international health report has projected that climate change will have a harsh effect on children who are more vulnerable than adults. However, it was said that then burden will not be distributed evenly across the globe, but those communities who are least capable of providing health care to the young or old will experience more harm.

Nearly all of the Democrat candidates have presented their vision or a plan for arresting climate change. Senator Bernie Sanders has proposed reducing emissions by 70% in a decade at a cost of over $15T. The number seems totally unrealistic, until you look at the damages already being done and start to put a value on the planet including all ecosystems and life forms.

Already facing the perils of climate change, cities in the State of California are considering a ban on new homes using natural gas stoves. The effort is intended to drive more to use electric appliances that will be powered by renewable energy sources which do not burn fuels either in their creation of consumption.

California was one of the first government entities to create a cap and trade system intended to reduce carbon emissions within the state.  However, the results have been mixed with some of the largest polluters, the oil and gas industry, actually increasing their carbon emissions.

With millions around the world this year protesting in the streets for more action against climate change, the Collins Dictionary has announced the words “Climate Strike” as 2019’s word of the year.

Areas of the northwest Pacific Ocean are experiencing an increase in temperatures at three times the rate of lower latitudes. The decrease in sea ice is affecting indigenous communities who depend on fishing with cascading economic consequences.

Anchorage Alaska experiences two records in one fall day this month; a record high temperature of 45 degrees and a record snowfall falling later that same day. Warmer temperatures which hold more moisture are predicted by global warming. These records follow a summer with the highest temperature ever recorded over much of Alaska.

Off the Alaskan coast the Bering Sea and then further east in the Chukchi Sea are reporting some of the lowest sea ice on record. Water temperatures from the surface to the bottom are too warm to support the formation of ice at the top.

The GAO reports that nearly 1,000 superfund sites are located in areas where they will be more vulnerable due to greater risk of flooding, drought fueled wildfires, storm surge, and major hurricanes all associated with climate change.  Mot surprising Trump’s EPA, headed by Andrew Wheeler a former coal industry lobbyist, rejected many of the findings of the GAO report,

New studies are reporting early predictions that the effects of climate change won’t be felt by humanity for a 100 years are proving to have been wrong and far too conservative. It is now thought that climate changes may not occur along a steady sloping 0line but may be abrupt and erratic as tipping points are reached. An example would be the thawing of permafrost above the arctic circle and the melting of land ice over Greenland and Antarctica.

According to a Pew report, about half of Americans say human activity contributes a great deal to climate change. More than 8 in 10 Democrats agree with that, but only 4 out of 10 Republicans.  Regardless of the cause, some two-thirds of Americans say the federal government isn’t doing enough to address climate change.

A National Wildlife Federation magazine article warns that more frequent “polar excursions” of bitterly cold arctic air into the United States is threatening North American wildlife. These intrusions of polar air are caused by the wobbles and weakening in the circulating air flow known as the polar vortex which is influenced by warming artic temperatures and changes to sea ice. Non-migratory birds, like wrens,  are most vulnerable.

The World Meteorological Organization announced that in 2018 carbon dioxide reached yet another record level of nearly 408 ppm up from 405.5 in 2017. The last time the Earth experienced the same concentration of carbon in the atmosphere was some 3-5 million years ago.

As global leaders prepare to meet in Madrid for the United Nations Climate Conference, hundreds of thousands of young protesters around the world staged rallies demanding government leaders take tougher action against climate change. In the latest distressing annual climate assessment from the U.N. officials have warned that the world has procrastinated too long and that we are facing a climate emergency. Greenhous gas emissions will need to fall by 7% each year to keep global temperatures from rising about the 2.7 degree threshold set with the Paris Climate Agreement. Overall, emissions will need to go down by 55% by 2030. Instead, greenhouse emissions have been rising by an average of 1.5% the last decade. The Union of Concerned Scientists has said that we are sleepwalking into a climate catastrophe with so many countries going in the wrong direction. The U.S. is participating by sending a small team of diplomats who want a say in how carbon pricing and trading markets might work.

In a Nature Journal article scientists are warning that the planet may be approaching a series of cascading tipping points that will create large-scale discontinuities in the global climate. that are irreversible. These include the melting of the Antarctica and Greenland ice sheets or deforestation of carbon sinks in rainforests like those of the Amazon or boreal forests in the subarctic which would unlock carbon and methane gases currently  sequestered into the frozen ground. New research indicates that the risk and probability of these events occurring is increasing faster than initially thought.

A rare weather event called a bomb cyclone strikes the U.S. with record winds and snowfalls that have ensnarled Thanksgiving holiday travel for millions across the country.