An Oct. 7 report issued by the IPCC (United Nations ‘International Panel on Climate Change’) dims the prospect of holding climate warming to the levels agreed upon in the ‘Paris Agreement’ on Dec. 15, 2015.
Climate Scientist Andrew Dessler stated in response to the IPCC report that "I see so little evidence that 1.5 degree Celsius (the agreed level of global temperature increase) is achievable that I think that the main impact of a focus on 1.5 degree Celsius will be to demoralize people." As a counterpoint, IPCC Chairperson Hoesung Lee stated ‘Climate change is already affecting people, livelihood(s) and ecosystems all around the world." He continued by saying "Every bit of warming matters."
On Nov. 23, a fourth U.S. Government National Climate Assessment also was issued, specific to the United States. It reaffirms the major conclusions of the IPCC report: that global warming/climate change is mainly being caused by humans (by production of greenhouse gases): and that reversing — or even slowing down — climate change is a very daunting task.
I live in the Midwest of the United States — why should I care?
Some of the major negatives from climate change/global warming are: life-threatening heat (especially to the poor who can’t afford air conditioning); larger and more severe fires (think California); drought (think agriculture in California’s central basin); precipitation (think of floods this year in the Midwest); sea level rise (think of coastal areas — with Florida being especially vulnerable); species extinction (think of tropical forest destruction); crop damage (think of increased heat and pest related damage to corn and soybean crops in the Midwest and around the world); increased spread of diseases (think of mosquito borne diseases traveling ever farther north, such as the Zika virus); and negative changes to oceans (think of increased coastal flooding, hurricanes, and destruction of coral reefs that are vital to tourism and fisheries).
It is easy to look at the above list of impacts and say "a lot of the changes don’t affect me in the Midwest; and regarding more heat in northern Illinois/southern Wisconsin in the winter — I’m all for it!"
However, the most seriously affected people are those living on marginal lands — such as nomadic herders or subsistent farmers. An example is a predicted 50 percent drop in corn yields by 2050 in tropical regions if there is a 2-degree Celsius rise in global temperature. Some of these people live on incomes/resources a tenth (or even much less) of what the average U.S. citizen has. Should we not "do unto others as we would have others do unto us?"
We in the Midwest may not currently be as adversely affected as some others. However, as global warming continues to progress — which it will without a massive effort to slow or stop it — we will eventually be as badly afflicted by the consequences as some of our less fortunate fellow humans are already suffering with elsewhere on the planet. For example, by 2050 corn yields in the Midwest will decline by at least 18 percent if a rise in global warming of 2 degrees Celsius occurs.
I realize that global warming is both real and dangerous to our collective well-being. What can we do improve our community’s efforts on climate change?
It is vital that we support our local efforts to promote population–based green energy initiatives. Some encouraging ‘green energy’ developments include:
• 480 gigawatts of wind energy produced worldwide versus a prediction of only 30 gigawatts. (Predicted in 2010 to occur by 2016).
•75 gigawatts of global solar energy installed per year by 2016. This is compared to 1 gigawatt per year predicted to be installed in 2001. It should be noted that the earth receives enough energy every hour from the sun to provide for all of earth’s energy needs for an entire year – if we build enough solar panels to collect that energy.
Larry Swacina is a retired Public Health Professional and a ‘Climate Reality Project’ volunteer.