In the past few months, climate change has lost some attention.
Many distractions have caused the issue to be overlooked (ie. the healthcare debate). While healthcare has stolen climate change’s limelight, it is important to remind ourselves that these issues cannot be the “flavor of the week,” but are ongoing challenges that need continued attention and support in order to create real actions. Last week I read an article that I hope will serve as a reminder that climate change is happening today and actions need to be taken as soon as possible to address the problem.
On September 24, 2009, Msnbc.com ran the article Expect big jump in temperatures, U.N. warns. The article claims that, “Earth’s temperature is likely to jump six degrees between now and the end of the century even if every country cuts greenhouse gas emissions as proposed.” This data includes the assumption that the US and Europe will cut their emissions 80% by 2050, but even if the developing world also takes action and cuts their emissions in half by 2050, we are still looking at a 3 degree increase, according to Robert Corell, a U.S. climate scientist who helped oversee the update.
Ice sheets are melting faster than previously thought causing sea levels to rise twice as fast as projected, oceans are becoming more acidic and threatening the extinction of sea creatures, and long-term droughts are going to become the norm in the U.S. Southwest.
It may not sound like it, but there is hope on the horizon. This week, Governor Schwarzenegger along with five other U.S. Governors will be hosting the second Governors’ Global Climate Summit. This year’s summit is titled “On the Road to Copenhagen,” with the overarching goal: “Deepen and broaden cooperative efforts by sub national governments to implement strategies that can immediately grow a green economy, increase the use of sustainable clean energy, reduce dependence on oil and reduce greenhouse gas emissions in advance of, and in support of, the next global agreement on climate change.” It has been estimated that once federal governments do establish greenhouse gas emission reduction goals, up to 80% of mitigation and adaptation policies will happen at the sub national and local levels, making this summit important to convene premiers, governors, UN leaders, and representatives from the Obama administration into the same room to devise a plan to move forward and combat climate change.
Then in December 2009, world leaders will meet in Copenhagen, Denmark, to create the next world agreement to combat climate change. Right now, Corell believes “the most likely agreement out of the international climate negotiations in Copenhagen in December still translates into a nearly 5-degree increase in world temperature by the end of the century,” but it’s hopeful to know that “European leaders and the Obama White House have set a goal to limit warming to just a couple degrees.”
So I want to remind everyone that in the midst of the healthcare debate, we cannot forget about the climate change challenge. Now is the time we must address these issues in order to preserve our planet for future generations. Progress is being made, but continuous pressure needs to be put on our governments so they are reminded this is an important issue to the public. So next time you see a news story about a health care debate or protest, instead of getting angry at the opposing side, perhaps you can use it in a more positive way: it can serve as a reminder to ask yourself if there are any incandescent light bulbs you can replace with compact fluorescents, when was the last time you inflated your tires, and if there are any unused lights you can shut off in your apartment or house. Every little bit counts.