Historic Showing of Global Warming and Its Causes and Effects This Wednesday Night, May 25, 2016, in Madison at the Barrymore Theatre
Unless things change really greatly, AND FAST!, and we all together put the brakes on our fossil-fuel-burning-dependent world economy, NOTHING ELSE WILL MATTER! Doing so will not only be for the better now, in 2016, but it will be far better for the sustainable living of Earth’s future populations, other animals, and all other forms of life.
The film “This Changes Everything” is a MUST SEE for all who care about making the right decisions now, and in the future, for the good of humanity.
The new Avi Lewis film will be screened at 7 p.m. tonight in the Barrymore Theater, 2090 Atwood Avenue. The film delivers a powerful message on climate change through the language of floods, storms and droughts. Sponsored by the Madison Institute, 350 Madison, Physicians for Social Responsibility and the Sierra Club.
Sadly, we are all now witnesses to the realization of global climate change, predicted by many dedicated global warming scientists over a number of years, as well as by other strong minded and conscientious individuals (some who are no longer with us). Those who dared to voice their concern about society’s almost mindless burning of fossil fuels in virtually all the economic sectors, especially for electricity, heating, transportation, and frivolous recreational pursuits, were systematically ridiculed, demonized or simply (and purposely) ignored (especially by the commercial and “right” wing media sources).
This occurred despite the overwhelming evidence that the concentration levels of greenhouses gases had been building up in the atmosphere (and the oceans) to unprecedented and dangerous volumes, according to the claims of the world’s most renown climate scientists following those statistics. a direct result of humans burning fossil fuels in virtually all the economic sectors, the heavy energy use required to provide a meat-dominated consumer diet, plus the use of products made from distant locations, which require, therefore, require either very fossil fuel energy dependent (and heavily government subsidized) air travel, land (highway system also heavily subsidized and the building of upkeep of it is also a major greenhouse gas contributor as is its use, or sea travel.
Following the screening of the film, which will be beginning at 7:00 pm, there will be a discussion of local issues and planned action. Doors open at 6:30 pm for anyone interested in participating in per-screening discussions.
Hosted by a 350 Madison climate action team, for more information, visit http://www.350.org, contact the Barrymore Theatre, 2090 Atwood Avenue.
Also see April 20, 2016, blog post.
Naomi Klein shared her latest conclusions on how close Earth is to the “tipping point” on global warming and climate change in an April 7, 2016 opinion piece in The Guardian.com, and Presidential Candidate Hillary Clinton actions that have made things worse, not better.
Unfortunately, there are so many other federal and state politicians, virtually all so-called public and commercial-funded media sources, and others who have also “helped” us get where we are now –some have even shown they understood and were aware of the significance of the problem being created (oil industry, possibly auto, truck and airline industries, highway, bridge and airport building industries, coal mining industry, possibly others) yet, almost unbelievably, chose to continue selling the fuel despite knowing the the significance and potential for calamity for current and future generations.
The path to achieving sustainability on Earth for humans and most other species living on our planet is, unfortunately, rapidly narrowing. It could soon close, say the great many of IPCC climate scientists, and as a result jeopardizing the lives of children living today and in the future. Indeed, there are far too many people in the U.S. and most other developed countries who have not seen fit to overcome their dependence on fossil fuels for activities such as driving motor vehicles, flying jetliners, using products and services made more readily available because of subsidized fuel costs, conserving energy in their homes and mansions, and their choice of a lifestyle which is grossly overdependent on the burning fossil fuels in spite of the now widely accepted crisis which the president of the United States appropriately calls “urgent”.
In short, our continuing with our “business as usual” economy – one centered around the philosophy that we should “eat, drink and be merry” now, while throwing caution to the wind; a philosophy that we can eat our cake and still have it for tomorrow – is unfairly going to saddle the children of today and tomorrow with a planet that is, for all intents and purposes, dying, and thus less likely to sustain life in the not too distant future.
When you place a large kettle of cold water on a hot stove burner, one would not expect to see the water immediately come to a boil. It would take several minutes of heating for the water to reach the boiling point of 212 degrees F.. So it is with adding more greenhouse gases to the volumes of such gases already present in the atmosphere. At some point, scientists predicted the surface waters of Earth’s oceans would begin to show warming. Such warming has now been measured, along with the increase in sea level from thermal expansion and the melting of glaciers, worldwide. The warming of the oceans is increasing, ever so slowly because of the tremendous volume of water the Earth’s 5 oceans, but increasing at a faster rate with the continuing accumulation of more and more atmospheric greenhouse gases, which are cumulative over time
Clearly, our burning such vast quantities of fossil fuels in transportation and for electricity today, while paying nothing for the great harm being inflicted on future generations, is a monumental injustice. The damage being created by the present and recently passed generation’s fuel burning activities is undoubtedly huge and devastating to future societies and animal life – stronger and more deadly storms, worse flooding, longer droughts, hotter heat waves, and impairments to water and other life-sustaining resources and infrastructure. Calling this anything other than a crime against humanity seems too kind. The human and economic cost linked to people and animals who will be more exposed to degraded living conditions and more dangerous weather extremes is very real and predictable. Those of our society set on continuing to uphold the status quo of “business as usual”, as our earth continues to warm under the blanket of a thicker greenhouse gas laden atmosphere have chosen the wrong path.
Naomi Klein is an award-winning journalist, syndicated columnist and author of the international bestsellers, This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs The Climate (2014), The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism (2007) and No Logo (2000). Each book has been translated into over 25 languages worldwide. She is a contributing editor for Harper’s and reporter for Rolling Stone, and writes a regular column for The Nation and The Guardian that is syndicated internationally by The New York Times Syndicate. Additionally, her writing has appeared in The New York Times, The Washington Post, Newsweek, The Los Angeles Times, The Globe and Mail, El Pais, L’Espresso and The New Statesman, among many other publications.
Naomi is a member of the board of directors for 350.org, a global grassroots movement to solve the climate crisis. She is a Puffin Foundation Writing Fellow at The Nation Institute and a former Miliband Fellow at the London School of Economics. In 2004, her reporting from Iraq for Harper’s won the James Aronson Award for Social Justice Journalism. In 2014 she received the International Studies Association’s IPE Outstanding Activist-Scholar award and in 2015 she received The Izzy Award honoring outstanding achievement in independent journalism and media. She holds an honorary Doctor of Civil Laws from the University of King’s College, Nova Scotia. (Photo by Kourosh Keshiri.)
With a Forecast of Sea Level Rising 5-6 Feet Under “Business-as-Usual” Conditions, Media and Others Ought Ask Presidential Contenders What Steps the Country and Its People Ought Be Taking to Reduce this Major Threat to Humanity!
The latest study in the prestigious Journal Nature predicts the world’s oceans will rise 5 or 6 feet by the end of this century without major changes to end fossil fuel burning – NOW! We are causing irreparable harm to the earth’s climate and its physical and biological systems – including warming and acidification of the oceans as well as rising sea levels – processes that have already begun and will not be possible to reverse even if humans stop burning fossil fuels today.
So all we can do is slow the rate of change and help those most likely to be affected to prepare for the worst. It’s the least we can do.
The League of Conservation Voters has a continually updated report “In Own Words” on each remaining 2016 presidential candidates’ past statements on climate change . Non of the candidates statements reflect the study on sea level rise released last week.
Below is the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources’ (DNR) Outdoor Report summary for March 10, 2016. However, conspicuous by absence is any mention that Wisconsin’s unusually warm weather this month is at all related to human activities that cause climate change. Some of the many sources of fossil and other fuel combustion that emit greenhouse gases to the atmosphere in Wisconsin include: fossil fuel burning in highway motor vehicles (gasoline and diesel oil); jet aircraft (refined oil/jet fuel); electric power producing plants (primarily coal, and natural gas – methane); natural gas burning for heating homes, buildings, churches and other buildings, recreational utility vehicles; road construction vehicles; in cement and asphalt manufacturing; in snowmobiles, boats, motor vehicles used in tractors and other agricultural machinery, in lawn mowing, in logging, and in other miscellaneous motorized products that burn fuel. Other greenhouse gas emissions may come from mining operations including sand and gravel mining and mining for metals, and from animal livestock propagation for food sales.
Despite the findings and recommendations from the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), which concludes the climate change problem is “urgent”, as does President Obama, Wisconsin’s Republican Governor Scott Walker and the state’s Republican lawmakers have refused to even hold a citizen hearing regarding the growing threat of climate change, not just to Wisconsin’s future economy, but also the quality of life future residents and visitor to Wisconsin will be provided, as well as the threats of a changing climate to animal and plant life in Wisconsin for generations to come.
Unseasonably warm weather melts snow cover, slows maple tapping efforts
Wisconsin has experienced some unseasonably warm weather in the last week with daytime temperatures in the 50s and 60s and even a low 70 reported in Milwaukee. The warm weather has melted most of the snow cover statewide, with just snow surviving in some forested areas of the Northwoods. Snowmobile and cross-country ski trails are now closed statewide and most will remain so even if the state does experience a late season snowfall.
State park and forest trails that were groomed for skiing are now open again to hiking, but most properties are reporting that rail-trail, mountain bike and horse trails are closed, as conditions are soft and muddy and use of trails in these conditions can cause significant damage to trail surfaces.
With the general inland game fish season now closed except on those waters open to game fishing year-round, only a few panfish anglers have been venturing out, but ice conditions are rapidly deteriorating and many shorelines in southern and central Wisconsin are opening up, making access difficult and dangerous.
Most anglers on Green Bay are removing fishing shelters prior to this Sunday’s deadline as waters are rapidly opening up. Anglers were out in high numbers around Sturgeon Bay last weekend with many limits for whitefish reported. Anglers were open water fishing the Fox River at Voyageur Park for walleye but success rates have been low, though with the warmer weather that is expect this to change.
Raccoon, skunk, muskrat, mink, and opossum activity has increased as temperatures have increased and snow has departed. Wild turkeys have been strutting and starting their spring courtship. Flocks are breaking up and the large groups of toms and jakes have already decreased in size as they establish their spring pecking order.
With the warm weather and south winds there has been a significant increase in spring migrants sighted this week, including red-winged blackbirds, killdeer, robins, song sparrows, swamp sparrows, bluebirds, turkey vultures and more. Other early migrants returning to breeding territories include American woodcock, great blue herons and eastern meadowlarks. There was a heavy waterfowl migration across the southern half of the state, including common goldeneyes, all three mergansers, green-winged teal, pintail, wood ducks, and many others. Greater white-fronted geese are moving through in numbers, as are large flocks of Canada geese and occasional cackling, snow, and Ross’s geese. Canada geese are staking out territory and will begin nesting soon. Sandhill cranes are courting and dancing. Bald eagles are incubating eggs and some great horned owls already have chicks.
Maple syrup season has gotten off to a very slow start due to mild temperatures, especially overnight lows staying above freezing. One producer placed out 670 taps late last week and harvested 370 gallons of sap on Monday. The 10-day forecast does not show any significant changes to overnight lows. The concern is that trees will bud out soon resulting in an early end of the season.
A number of observers reported seeing leopard frogs, spring peepers have been heard in the south and salamanders were active with the warm temperatures. Unfortunately the warm weather has also brought out reports from shed hunters and maple tappers finding the first ticks crawling around on them.
I could not allow this day – Feb. 29 – to pass without comment. Leap year – a year having an extra day in February – occurs only every four years.
So, is that good or bad?
It’s not good, in fact it’s DISASTROUS, because yet ANOTHER day, and year, and decade has gone by while our elected officials in the State of Wisconsin Legislature, and the U.S. Congress, and the population of our state and country, refuse to take the threat, and now reality, of global warming caused by too much fossil fuel burning – in cars, trucks, airplanes, electric power producing plants that burn fossil fuels, seriously, despite alarming increases in sea levels.
Too much fuel burning primarily coal, methane (natural gas), and oil products, have been burned by humans over the past decades and centuries for the energy that has been produced, resulting in the emission and accumulation of elevated concentrations of “greenhouse gases” in earth’s atmosphere, resulting in global warming, the rise in the elevation levels of earth’s oceans, due to the melting of the earth’s Arctic and Antarctic Circle’s land ice and snow, the shrinking of earth’s mountainous glaciers, a thawing of the earth’s permafrost region (one-fifth of the earth’s land surface), causing a warming, expansion, and acidification of earth’s oceans, leading to a dangerous rise in sea level.
The warming is already wreaking of havoc on earth’s biological systems, including humans, most notably in poorer, tropical countries, many of which are already experiencing grave losses due to extreme weather events, such as drought, heat waves and severe storms, along with unprecedented flooding, all of which had been scientifically predicted well over a century ago!
The warming has been compounded by the increasing loss of vegetation, particularly the loss of the tropical rainforests, which had been naturally sequestering carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, but not anymore, by the ones which have been replaced by other forms of development or money producing mono-culture agriculture.
Global warming from human causes is not rocket science, despite what the flat earth believers may still be claiming. However, saying that human-caused global warming is not occurring, because it has not been “proven” to be happening – as of this February 29, 2016, is utterly preposterous, and those who claim human-caused global warming is not happening are either fools or worse yet – liars.
Governor Scott Walker’s 6th “State of the State” address was remarkable, not because of anything the governor said in the speech, but rather because of what the Wisconsin governor chose to exclude from the speech. Delivered in the historic State Capitol building to the Wisconsin State Legislature and a TV audience on Tuesday, January 21, 2016, the remarkable thing is that the governor continues to claim everything is rosy not just here and now but also for all of Wisconsin in the future. But such is far from the case.
Wisconsin’s economic and environmental future looks increasingly more dismal and bleak, because our governor, along with most of the Republican dominated Wisconsin Legislature, continue to ignore the greatest challenge of our lifetime – global warming and its accompanying changes to our climate. Despite alarm bells being sounded by scientists everywhere, including those at NASA and NOAA, the threats of our planet’s warming, including rising sea levels and more extreme weather occurrences, is irrefutable. Our president and the entire scientific community call the situation “urgent”.
It is unconscionable for Wisconsin’s governor and our state and federal office holders to continue to tell Wisconsinites nothing is wrong or, just as bad, to say nothing about the real truth behind the catastrophic rise in greenhouse gases in our atmosphere, the oceans, mostly from burning too much fossil fuels, including gasoline, aviation fuel, coal and natural gas (methane). The governor’s speech moreover did not acknowledge Wisconsin’s economy is already failing countless Wisconsin families, preventing them from enjoying a decent standard of living, and having a future not marred by an inhospitable climate. In fact, Governor Walker’s speech was devoid of saying anything negative about the state’s current and projected future, much less identifying any plans whatsoever for the state to address or adequately respond to the expected future conditions.
And not unlike what has happened in Flint Michigan, where the governor and city officials failed to inform the residents that their drinking water had been contaminated with lead, Governor Walker and Wisconsin officials are similarly not informing residents of Wisconsin of the growing perils which await future citizens of Wisconsin. Scientists everywhere are now saying the record high buildup of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere and oceans represent a “grave risk” for humanity and other species sharing earth as their home. The governor and all Wisconsin’s citizens should know that allowing such problems to continue to fester, unabated, will inevitably lead to disaster the longer we all wait to take action, just like what happened in Flint, Michigan.
Please somebody wake up Governor Scott Walker – BEFORE IT’S TOO LATE! And Governor Walker please be truthful in what you tell Wisconsin’s families and businesses what the real state of our once great state is, and will be, if we continue to do “business as usual”.
So what if the price of oil falls to its lowest point in 12 years! Our federal lawmakers in Washington already gave in to the oil industry by removing the 40-year old crude oil export ban, and now they are talking about expediting the process for exporting liquefied natural gas, subsidizing private infrastructure with U.S. taxpayer money including money for upgrading pipelines, transmission lines, rails and roads, to “help our industry compete” by allowing energy to get to market “more quickly and cheaply” by “loosening environmental and other regulations”.
Our governmental officials in Washington D.C. say they will work towards continuing and giving more U.S. taxpayer money to reward already wealthy companies like ExxonMobil and other highly profitable energy companies who have already profited greatly with the U.S. Government financial assistance over a number of decades with ill effects on millions of us already, and many more millions of us who will be so unfortunate as to succeed us on a planet rocked by ever increasing and ever more deadly extreme weather tragedies, that is, of course, if they manage to keep their heads above earth’s rising ocean levels, which have submerged some island countries already. Exxon’s own scientific studies predicted all these bad things would result if humans continued to recklessly burn more and more fossil fuels for energy, sending the concentrations of many greenhouse gases, such as carbon dioxide and methane to evermore dangerous levels in our Earth’s atmosphere, oceans and water bodies. Yet still they kept their research to themselves, hiding the many catastrophic consequences of global warming, and funded global warming denial campaigns, which allowed them to continue to enrich themselves at the world and future world’s expense!
Where is the justice in all of this? There isn’t any. Not here, there or anywhere. And certainly not in the chambers in Washington D.C.. Change has got to come, now, before it’s too late. And it has to be the RIGHT kind of change – the equitable kind. It has to be a change that will help all of us who currently and in the future call Earth our home. There is no other hospitable place we can go.
Our Representatives and Senators in Washington D.C. need to wake up to the scientific reality that confronts all of us – that we have already exceeded the safe level of heat trapping gases in the atmosphere. Not only must we stop adding more and more greenhouse gases to the atmosphere, but we must also accept the moral responsibility of helping those likely to be hurt the most by Earth’s rising seas and other adverse and compounding realities stemming from human-caused changes in the climate, especially those who can least afford appropriate adaption measures that will allow them to humanely live with the changes, particularly those who have contributed the least to the problem that now confronts us all.
Those presently in Washington D.C. who are continuing to act as though the threats and costs of global warming and climate change resulting from human activity are nonexistent should go do something else.
On December 8, 1941, the United States Congress declared war on the Empire of Japan in response to its surprise attack on Pearl Harbor, the United States naval base at Pearl Harbor in the U.S. Territory (soon to become state) of Hawaii the morning of December 7, 1941.
The Declaration of War was formulated an hour after President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s famous Infamy Speech at 12:30 pm on December 8, 1941. The declaration quickly passed the Senate and then the House at 1:10 p.m the same day. Roosevelt signed the declaration at 4:10 p.m., December 8, 1941. The power to declare war is assigned exclusively to Congress in the United States Constitution; however, the president’s signature was symbolically powerful and resolved any doubts.
In the Joint Resolutions declaring war against the Imperial Government of Japan, Germany and Italy, the Congress pledged “all the resources of the country of the United States” … “and the president is hereby authorized and directed to employ the entire naval and military forces of the United States and the resources of the government to carry on war … to bring the conflict to a successful termination.”
The magnitude of the threat of accelerating global warming and a rapidly changing climate that would undeniably accompany the continued and increasing accumulation of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, as a direct consequence of human actions, mainly from too much fossil fuel burning and continuing and increased deforestation, especially in the tropics, upon the United States of America and the rest of the world, both now and into the future, easily dwarfs the loss of life, injury and misery to humans and animals wrought by all known wars, and therefore justifies a declaration of war by all countries of the world to slow and ultimately halt global warming and climate change, worldwide. Such declarations should be made now, without delay, to ensure an hospitable and safe world for all Earth’s current and future generations.
It is morally essential that Government, businesses, individuals and families begin to meet this challenge of increasing global warming and climate change that has already begun to cause loss of human lives, other species living in the world, and brought pain and misery to so many. To ignore and campaign against actions that reduce this growing threat, which will unquestionably hurt the people of the world’s poorer countries and Earth’s millions and millions of species, is utterly and morally reprehensible and is a practice that ought stop immediately because it needlessly delays progress in attacking this major problem of untold negative consequences for centuries to come.
Obama and Nebraska Residents, Assisted by Neil Young and Willie Nelson, Reject Keystone Tar Sands Crude Oil Pipeline
Following a seven-year stint in political and regulatory purgatory, the Keystone XL project finally met its end last week when President Obama, eyeing the upcoming U.N. climate talks in Paris, formally rejected TransCanada’s request to build the cross-border oil pipeline. Climate activists [with help from two longtime progressive American artists/musicians who didn’t really need the exposure – Neil Young and Willie Nelson and who also opposed the plan] are celebrating their victory and already attempting to parlay the momentum into more wins. Proponents of the pipeline — a group that at this point consists mainly of Republicans and Republican presidential candidates, energy-industry lobbyists, and some labor unions who were looking forward to tens of thousands of temporary construction jobs — are decrying Obama’s decision and writing the whole thing off as a hallmark of irresponsible political capitulation….
Meanwhile, Bill McKibben, one of the central leaders of the anti-KXL fight, writes in The New Yorker that he now believes he and his allies, because of their new tactics, finally have fossil-fuel companies on the defensive:
[T]he Keystone rallying cry [has] quickly spread to protests against other fossil-fuel projects. One industry executive summed it up nicely this spring, when he told a conference of his peers that they had to figure out how to stop the “Keystone-ization” of all their plans. … [And] this fall, the governor of the Bank of England, Mark Carney, speaking to members of the insurance industry at Lloyds of London, used [“leave it in the ground“] language to tell them that they faced a “huge risk” from “unburnable carbon” that would become “stranded assets.” No one’s argued with the math, and that math indicates that the business plans of the fossil-fuel giants are no longer sane. Word is spreading: portfolios and endowments worth a total of $2.6 trillion in assets have begun to divest from fossil fuels. The smart money is heading elsewhere.
We won’t close that gap between politics and physics at the global climate talks next month in Paris. […] In many ways, the developments of the past two days are more important than any pledges and promises for the future, because they show the ways in which political and economic power has already started to shift. If we can accelerate that shift, we have a chance. It’s impossible, in the hottest year that humans have ever measured, to feel optimistic. But it’s also impossible to miss the real shift in this battle. [End of Danner text]
The nearly 1,200-mile (2,000-km) pipeline would carry 830,000 barrels a day of mostly Canadian oil sands crude to Nebraska en route to refineries and ports along the U.S. Gulf Coast.
Read more at Reutershttp://www.reuters.com/article/2015/11/05/us-transcanada-keystone-state-idUSKCN0ST2VX20151105#PXYjkPeuAjeDlY1G.99However, Enbridge Company pipeline projects permitted by Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker’s Department of Natural Resources, are planning on pumping 1.2 million barrels of tar sands crude across Wisconsin for processing into gasoline, diesel fuel and jet fuel, soon, and are planning on pumping another 600 million barrels of tar sands crude oil through a second parallel pipe from Alberta to Illinois in the not too distant future. Burning that much fuel will certainly add to the planet’s global warming troubles, probably sooner than most of us earthlings burning all those fossil fuels had anticipated.
Also see: Obama Urged to reject Keystone XL
Selected Remarks by National Security Adviser Susan E. Rice on Climate Change and National Security at Stanford University, October 12, 2015: [Full Text of Speech]
… In 1985—fall quarter of my senior year—scientists from around the world met to express concern that a buildup of greenhouse gasses, and specifically carbon dioxide, would result in “a rise of global mean temperature…greater than any in man’s history.” By 1990, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change issued its first report, detailing how a warming climate would affect our ecosystem. There have since been four more reports, each with more sophisticated science to support ever more dire warnings.
So, it’s not that we didn’t see climate change coming. It’s that for the better part of three decades we failed, repeatedly, to treat this challenge with the seriousness and the urgency it deserves. As an international community, we succumbed to divisive global politics that set developing countries against industrialized nations and stymied international consensus on climate change.
At home, we succumbed to divisive domestic politics that allowed entrenched interests to push a calculated agenda of doubt, denial, and delay. And, we focused, quite understandably, on other critical national security priorities—from coming to grips with globalization, halting proliferation, and above all, keeping the American people safe in a post-9/11 world….
We are seizing opportunities and meeting challenges head on. And, today, we face no greater long-term challenge than climate change, an advancing menace that imperils so many of the other things we hope to achieve. That’s why, under President Obama, we have put combating climate change at the very center of our national security agenda….
In the past 15 years, we’ve had 14 of the hottest years on record—which is exactly the kind of change those climate scientists back in 1985 suggested we could be seeing by now. Last year, 2014, was the hottest. And, scientists say there’s a 97 percent chance that we’ll set a new record again this year. The seas have risen about eight inches over the past 100 years, and they’re now rising at roughly double the rate they did in the 20th century. Arctic sea ice is shrinking. Permafrost is thawing. The Antarctic ice shelf is breaking up faster than anticipated. Storms are getting stronger. Extreme precipitation events are becoming more frequent. Heat waves are growing more intense. The bottom line is this: we’re on a collision course with climate impacts that have inescapable implications for our national security. Let me sketch out a few of them.
First, climate change is a direct threat to the prosperity and safety of the American people. We’re losing billions of dollars in failed crops due to extreme drought. Millions of acres of forest have been lost to fire. In addition to longer fire seasons and drier summers here in the West, on the East Coast we’re seeing record rain events. Last week in the Carolinas, unprecedented amounts of rain fell—enough in just five days to put a serious dent in California’s multi-year drought. And, while we can’t say that climate change is the direct cause of any specific weather event, these are exactly the trends that we expect to see more of, if climate trends continue on their current trajectory.
Along our coasts, we’ve got thousands of miles of roads and railways, 100 energy facilities, communities of millions—all of which are vulnerable to sea-level rise. Remember Super Storm Sandy—how it hobbled America’s largest city and plunged everyone south of 34th Street into darkness for days? We saw a cascading failure of infrastructure. Water flooded an electrical substation, and backup power was either flooded or insufficient. Over 6,000 patients had to be evacuated from powerless hospitals down stairwells. Transportation broke down, because you can’t pump gas without electricity. Wastewater treatment plants shut down. One critical sector pulled down other vital systems. And, with warmer oceans and higher seas, New York City will have to be prepared for Sandy-level flooding to happen every 25 years.
When I visited Alaska with President Obama last month, we saw rapidly disappearing glaciers and a native community whose island home is already being washed away. The question for them is not if they will have to abandon their traditional homes and way of life, but when. These are real threats to our homeland security, and they’re happening now.
Second, climate change will impact our national defense. We’ve got military installations that are imperiled by the same rising seas as our civilian infrastructure. Here in the western United States, ranges where our troops train are jeopardized by heat and drought. In fact, this summer we had to cancel some training exercises, because it got too hot.
Climate change means operating in more severe weather conditions, increasing the wear on both service members and their equipment. There will also be new demands on our military. A thawing Arctic means 1,000 miles of Arctic coastline and new sea lanes to secure. Around the world, more intense storms—like the massive typhoon that decimated part of the Philippines two years ago—will mean more frequent humanitarian relief missions. And, our military will have to deal with increased instability and conflict around the world.
That’s a third major national security concern, because climate change is what the Department of Defense calls a “threat multiplier”—which means, even if climate change isn’t the spark that directly ignites conflict, it increases the size of the powder keg. A changing climate makes it harder for farmers to grow crops, fishermen to catch enough fish, herders to tend their livestock—it makes it harder for countries to feed their people. And humans, like every other species on this planet, scatter when their environment can no longer sustain them. As the Earth heats up, many countries will experience growing competition for reduced food and water resources. Rather than stay and starve, people will fight for their survival.
All of these consequences are exacerbated in fragile, developing states that are least equipped to handle strains on their resources. In Nigeria, prolonged drought contributed to the instability and dissatisfaction that Boko Haram exploits. The genocide in Darfur began, in part, as a drought-driven conflict. In the years prior to civil war breaking out in Syria, that country also experienced its worst drought on record. Farming families moved en masse into urban centers, increasing political unrest and further priming the country for conflict. In fact, last year, a Stanford research group determined that a rise in temperature is linked with a statistically significant increase in the frequency of conflict. There is already an unholy nexus between human insecurity, humanitarian crises, and state failure—climate change makes it that much worse.
Around the world, more than 100 million people now live less than one meter above sea level—including entire island countries in the Caribbean, the Pacific and the Indian Oceans. Consider the impacts—to the global economy and to our shared security—when rising seas begin to swallow nations whole.
Fourth, we face spreading diseases and mounting threats to global health. Already, more mosquito-borne diseases are spreading from the tropics to temperate zones as climates warm. Viruses like West Nile and Chikungunya are growing more prevalent in the United States. India is currently in the grip of the worst dengue fever outbreak in years. Livestock diseases are expanding northward into Europe. These advancing diseases cost billions of dollars a year to treat and contain, not to mention the immeasurable cost in human lives and suffering.
Finally, we cannot dismiss the worst-case predictions of catastrophic, irreparable damage to our environment. If the Greenland ice sheet melts, seas could rise not just the one to four feet many scientists predict, but eventually as much as 20 feet. If the oceans continue to acidify, it will devastate the marine coral reefs, compromising the food chain, and imperiling a major source of protein for 3 billion people worldwide.
These aren’t marginal threats. They put at risk the health and safety of people on every continent.