By Huck Fairman
The last week in New Jersey has seen beautiful, summer-like days with blue skies and temperatures in the 70s. Many have ventured outside to enjoy them. But others have worried that this unusual November weather is another warning that we are warming our planet.
Is there evidence to support those concerns? In May, carbon dioxide levels reached 417 parts per million, the highest level recorded in human history. And once those greenhouse gases are in our atmosphere, they trap heat for decades. The last two years have experienced record, or near record, temperatures in many parts of the globe, along with many of the accompanying destructive repercussions.
Scientists have long warned that if greenhouse gases in the atmosphere passed 400 parts per million, it would become much more difficult to avoid a warming of 2 degrees Celsius, and if that level is reached, as this year it has, it will result in the planet being locked into not only higher atmospheric temperatures but the accompanying sea level rise, more and stronger storms, widespread droughts and floods, wild fires, die-offs of coral reefs, and the extinction of insects, birds and animal species. In short, the results will be catastrophic.
Some nations, China, Japan and some European nations have set goals for reducing emissions, respectively by 2060 and 2050. Climate analysts have calculated that the world’s economies need to reduce emissions 45% by 2030. The 2015 Paris Climate Accord urged all signatory nations to likewise reduce their emissions. But unlike the vast majority of nations, the United States, under the current administration, has pulled out of that agreement. While it would benefit all of mankind if the new administration can rejoin the agreement, the time lost, with the planet experiencing record high emissions, will be dangerously destructive. And unfortunately several other nations, notably Brazil and Australia, have followed the current administration’s lead.
The president of the non-partisan Resources for the Future, an energy and environment research organization, has noted that over the last four years the world has lost valuable time needed to control climate change. The resulting damage has been “severe.”
What then does our future look like? Are the destructive trends that have been set in motion reversible? Many scientists are concerned that now they are not.
Some of the pollution of our air and water can be reduced and healthy levels restored by the new administration. A key factor will be the Supreme Court’s approach to governmental policies focused on environmental issues. It is to be hoped that the justices understand that the very survival of the world we have known is at stake. The same awareness, it is to be hoped, will be shared by Congress members. The situation, as evidenced by numerous environmental changes well underway, is critical. The vast majority of scientists worldwide are in agreement on that.
A number of states, including New Jersey, and municipalities are taking steps to reduce emission and pollution. But the question is: will those steps be sufficiently encompassing and timely to address the changes we already have set in motion?