By State Representative, Leon D. Young
Last week was just another example of what has become an all too common occurrence: a chaotic news cycle week. However, the development that clearly captured the lion share of national news coverage was the impending onset and subsequent devastation associated with Hurricane Michael.
According to the National Weather Service, Hurricane Michael was the fiercest storm to hit Florida in a quarter-century and the third-most power to strike the U.S. mainland. The hurricane roared onto the Florida Panhandle with tree-snapping winds and towering waves. And when the mega-storm finally subsided, 35 people were left dead in its wake, and that number is projected to rise as hundreds are still unaccounted for.
Somewhat overlooked, in this extensive coverage of Hurricane Michael, was a newly released report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, a group of scientists convened by the United Nations to guide world leaders, describes a world of worsening food shortages and wildfires, and a mass die-off of coral reefs as soon as 2040, a period well within the lifetime of much of the global population. The report was the first to be commissioned by world leaders under the Paris agreement, the 2015 pact by nations to fight global warming.
The authors found that if greenhouse gas emissions continue at the current rate, the atmosphere will warm up by as much as 2.7 degrees Fahrenheit (1.5 degrees Celsius) above preindustrial levels by 2040, inundating coastlines and intensifying droughts and poverty. Long-term average global temperatures have moved in one direction in the past 115 years: upward. The rise of 1.8 degrees Fahrenheit since the start of the Industrial Revolution has already led to more intense wildfire seasons and the melting of Arctic sea ice. Last year, 2017, was one of the hottest years on record and that was without El Niño, a shift in tropical Pacific weather patterns that is usually linked to record-setting heat and that contributed to record highs the previous two years.
Not surprisingly, Donald Trump has literally been all over the map when it comes to the exceedingly important issue of climate change. For years, Trump has asserted his long-held claim that global warming is a hoax.
Trump has mocked the science of human-caused climate change, has vowed to increase the burning of coal; and it’s been a year since Trump withdrew from the Paris climate agreement. And on Sunday in Brazil, the world’s seventh-largest emitter of greenhouse gas, voters appeared on track to elect a new President, Jair Bolsonaro, who has said he also plans to withdraw from the accord.
In the final analysis, the United Nations report left no doubt as to responsibility for a warming climate: “It is extremely likely that human influence has been the dominant cause of the observed warming since the mid-20th century.” There are no convincing alternative explanations supported by the observational evidence, the report said. And regrettably, what’s not being stressed—or reported—as often as it should, is the causative connection between the frequency of intense storms, such as Hurricane Michael, and the rapid advance of climate change.
This is an issue that can no longer be ignored because it impacts the entire planet.