The Science is clear on global warming – the time for action has come

Seth Kaplan

On June 29, 2010 the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) denied a series of petitions for reconsideration of the “Endangerment Finding”, the official determination that emissions of carbon dioxide and other types of global warming pollution are causing harm to the public health, the environment and the climate.

That EPA website provides good links to the very best science like the findings of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) , the U.S. National Academy of Sciences , and the U.S. Global Change Research Program.

And the science is telling us not just that humanity is causing a future change in our climate – but also that the change is already in progress – that the damage is already clear and before us.

As one news article put it:

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s just-released 2009 State of the Climate report bears few surprises for those who follow climate science–the past decade was the warmest on record, and the Earth has slowly been heating up for the past 50 years.

The difference between this and every other climate report, however, is that NOAA gathered research from 300 scientists in 48 countries to produce a compelling document that covers every aspect of our planet’s climate. The report is, according to NOAA, the first to bring together “multiple observational records from the top of the atmosphere to the depths of the ocean.”

The facts are just lying there in front of us.  June 2010 was the hottest June on record and the April-June and January June periods this year was the hottest such periods on record.

But what really matters is not what happens in any given month or any specific six month period.  It is all about the long term trends – kind of like this.

And while near term impacts, like more frequent heat waves, are visible just over the horizon and possibly unavoidable due to the damage we have already done to our climate.  But the real damage if we don’t take action like capping our greenhouse gas emissions and changing how we generated and use energy will be far more extreme.

Amazingly, the science showing that we now appear to be on a trajectory to make half the Earth uninhabitable by 2300 has received very little attention in the press.   Really, that is what respectable scientists are saying in the most rigorous of forums with peer review and everything.  Go ahead, look at it, I will wait here.   And bear in mind that this is not a conversation about the distant Year 2300 – it is about the painful journey into that future as we damn our children, grand-children and future generations to pain as the globe warms.

So lets go back to the beginning of this post.  Some folks petitioned the EPA to reconsider its determination that the pollution causing global warming is causing harm, or is in danger of causing harm, to the public health, the environment or the climate.   Are you really surprised that EPA stood with science and rejected those challenges?

The really incredible thing is that despite the science, despite the reality of what is starting to unfold around us that U.S. Senate and large swaths of our society indulge in the expensive luxury of denial and refuse to take action.

There is so much to be done as we fight to cap global warming pollution, to make our society, homes and buildings more energy efficient, to build walkable and livable communities with good transit where gasoline is not the lubricant of our lives, and make the move to renewable clean energy . . . and the hour is getting late.

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