Climate change is real. Welcome to the new normal.

By Edd Doerr | 18 September 2018
Comment, The Washington Post

Dead and dying animals at the Dambas, Arbajahan, Kenya, which has dried up due to successive years of very little rain. Africa’s climates have always been erratic but there is evidence that global warming is increasing droughts, floods and climate uncertainty and unpredictability. (Photo: Oxfam International / Flickr / CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

Comment for the Washington Post (see article below).

Eugene Robinson (column, Sept. 18) and others have done a good job of reporting on elements of the accelerating climate change crisis. But what we really need are more reports on a wider range of the concomitants of the problem, such as deforestation, desertification, soil nutrient loss, toxic waste accumulation, overuse of renewable and nonrenewable resources, use of fossil fuels to power AC and refridgeration units which while cooling buildings add to atmospheric heat trapping gases, increasing meat and dairy use that wastes land and water that would be better used for plant based diets, Antarctic and Greenland and tundra ice melting, increasing sociopolitical instability and violence, etc., etc.

And what is unconscionably ignored is the human overpopulation that largely fuels climate change. Ignored is the 1975 Ford administration’s National Security Study Memorandum 200 report that recommended universal access to contraception and safe, legal abortion. Over the past 50 years there have been two billion abortions worldwide, many of them illegal and unsafe, causing many thousands of deaths of women. Without those abortions and the many millions of births prevented by contraception world population would greatly exceed an unsustainable ten billion. Yet GOP administrations, especially, the irresponsible Trump administration, have thumbed their noses at common sense solutions for our serious worldwide crisis. It’s time for all of us to wake up.

Edd Doerr

Climate change is real. Welcome to the new normal.

By Eugene Robinson | 17 September 2018
The Washington Post

Hurricane Florence has drenched eastern North Carolina with more than 30 inches of rain, an all-time record for the state. Last year, Hurricane Harvey stalled over Houston and dumped more than 60 inches of rain, an all-time record for the whole country. Also last year, Hurricane Maria ravaged the island of Puerto Rico and caused, according to an independent study, nearly 3,000 deaths.

Welcome to the new normal.

Tropical cyclones are nothing new, of course. But climate scientists say that global warming should make such storms wetter, slower and more intense — which is exactly what seems to be happening. And if we fail to act, these kinds of devastating weather events will likely become even more frequent and more severe.

Climate change is a global phenomenon. Authorities in the Philippines are still trying to assess the damage and death toll from Typhoon Mangkhut, a rare Category 5-equivalent storm that struck the archipelago Saturday with sustained winds of 165 mph. Mangkhut went on to batter Hong Kong and now, as it weakens, is plowing across southern China.

Every human being on the planet has a stake in what governments do to limit and adapt to climate change, including leaders who, like President Trump, prefer to believe global warming is some kind of hoax. I doubt the citizens of Wilmington, N.C. — a lovely resort town that was turned into an island by widespread flooding from Florence — feel there is anything illusory about the hardship they’re going through.

As I noted last month, scientists are now cautiously making the first serious attempts to gauge the impact of climate change on specific weather events such as storms, monsoons, droughts and heat waves.

The most ambitious attempt to quantify the link between climate and weather — a blue-chip international consortium called World Weather Attribution — has not yet made an attempt to estimate any possible effect that global warming may have had on Florence or Mangkhut. But another group of researchers, the Climate Extremes Modeling Group at the Stony Brook University School of Marine and Atmospheric Sciences, estimated Sept. 12 that Florence would produce 50 percent more rainfall than if human-induced global warming had not occurred.

You don’t have to be a scientist to understand why that makes sense. We know from direct measurement that the concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere has increased by more than 40 percent since the beginning of the Industrial Revolution, when humans started burning fossil fuels on a large scale. We know from direct observation that carbon dioxide traps heat. We know from direct measurement that both atmospheric and ocean temperatures have been rising sharply. We know from direct measurement that warmer water takes up more space than cooler water, which is the main reason ocean levels are rising.

We know that warmer water is more easily evaporated, which means there is more moisture available to fuel a storm such as Florence or Harvey — and to be released by such storms as rainfall.

If humankind suddenly stopped burning fossil fuels tomorrow, we would still have to adapt to the climatic changes we have already set in motion. The excess carbon dioxide we have pumped into the atmosphere will remain there for thousands of years. We will be coping with massive tropical storms, tragic coastal and riverine flooding, deadly heat waves and unprecedented wildfires for the rest of our lives.

At the very least, we should be trying to reduce carbon emissions and keep global warming to a manageable level. With the landmark Paris agreement, the nations of the world agreed to try. But Trump foolishly decided to pull the United States — the world’s second-biggest emitter of carbon dioxide, behind only China — out of the deal.

The administration has already proposed weakening restrictions on carbon emissions from automobiles and coal-fired power plants. And last week, there were reports that the administration also wants to loosen rules governing the release of methane, which traps even more heat than carbon dioxide.

Another news item from earlier this month should be instructive: A cargo ship is presently making the journey from Vladivostok, on Russia’s Pacific coast, to the German port of Bremerhaven via the Arctic Ocean, rather than taking the usual southern route through the Suez Canal and the Strait of Gibraltar. Until now, the northern route has always been impassible because it was blocked by polar ice. But because of climate change, a lot of the ice has melted.

Climate change is no longer theoretical. It is real, it is all around us, and it is going to get much worse.

Edd Doerr was president of the American Humanist Association from 1995 to 2003, serving previously as vice-president and board chair under Isaac Asimov from 1985 to 1991. He has been executive director and then president of Americans for Religious Liberty since 1982. A former teacher of history and Spanish, he is the author, co-author, editor, or translator of twenty books, mostly on religious liberty and reproductive rights. He served on the governing body of the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice from 1973 until 2004 and on the boards of NARAL, the ACLU of Maryland, and the National Committee for Public Education and Religious Liberty. More than 3,000 of his articles, columns, reviews, and letters have been published in The Humanist and many other publications. For over ten years he has been writing a column in the journal Free Inquiry from the Council for Secular Humanism.

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