UNIFYING PLAN FOR MITIGATING GLOBAL WARMING By Michael T. Neuman ——————————————————————————————-A Unifying Plan for Mitigating Global Warming, Moderating Climate Change, Conserving Energy, Minimizing Species Extinctions, and Slowing Sea Level Rise: Use the Green New Deal’s Carbon Tax to FINANCIALLY REWARD Individuals, Families and Businesses Who Contribute THE LEAST TO GLOBAL WARMING by DRIVING FEWER THAN 12,500 VEHICLE MILES TRAVELLED (VMT) PER HOUSEHOLD, ANNUALLY, WHO DO NOT FLY ANYWHERE DURING THE YEAR (FLYING IS A HUGE CONTRIBUTOR TO THE CLIMATE CRISIS), AND WHO USE LESS THAN THE AVERAGE QUANTITY OF FOSSIL FUEL DERIVED ENERGY IN THEIR HOUSEHOLD. THOSE SUCCESSFUL AT ALL THREE CARBON REDUCTION ACTIONS WOULD QUALIFY FOR A $6,000 ANNUAL REBATE TO USE FOR ANY NEEDS THEY MIGHT HAVE.
Name of Photo: “OUR BALL OF LIFE”Background on Development of this Proposal: Based on comments received on the Conserve, NOW Plan, which I authored as one of my duties while employed by the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (DNR) 1974 – 2006 to coordinate the review of the Wisconsin Department of Transportation’s (DOT) Long range plan for expansion and improvement of Wisconsin’s highway system, and the comments I received from a member of theMadison Citizens Climate Lobby, I have decided to simplify the process . who can demonstrate that they drove fewer (or no) miles with their own Peterson all motor vehicle over a year than 8,000 miles, as registered on their vehicles odometer over the year of enrollment.
Presently, Wisconsin drivers record an average of 12,000 miles annually on motor vehicles they personally drive annually. The State of Wisconsin could offer financial incentives to Wisconsin residents to apply for and receive annual financial rewards $2,000 designed to reduce overall driving miles in the State of Wisconsin by Wisconsin residents.
The same could be offered to Wisconsin residents who choose NOT to fly anywhere in the world in a given year, with an equal amount of $2,000 per person. Finally, the household uses less fossil fuel derived energy (via coal, oil or methane burning), they would be entitled to $2,000 more in annual income supplements.
It’s as simple as that. There are laws in place that prohibit odometer reading tampering, and FAA records who flys out of each airport. The state’s utilities record annual energy usage by each household the supply with electricity and gas.
This program would ultimately save the state billions of dollar of environmentally destructive road and airport expansion, in addition to mitigating climate change costs and helping middle and lower annual income earners with sorely needed additional income. In the words of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., “the time is ripe to be right”.
Global Warming is a Local, State, National and International Emergency that Will Only Worsen in Time, Not Get Better
Unfortunately, as the volumes of greenhouse (heat-trapping) gases that are being released to the atmosphere on a daily basis as a result of human activity (mainly from burning coal, natural gas, oil and jet fuel) continue to accumulate there; and Earth’s remaining green space (forests, prairies and other carbon dioxide (CO2) consuming (sequestering) vegetation) is reduced; and Earth’s oceans, seas, the Great Lakes and numerous other water bodies become evermore warmer and saturated with carbon dioxide (CO2), making them more acidic; the prospect of Earth being as hospitable as for life as it has been in the recent millennia in which humans have inhabited this planet is getting slimmer and slimmer.
Scientific studies have been showing for decades, and now with more and more clarity, that modern day living – particularly by residents in the developed countries of the world, who rely so heavily on burning fossil fuels in their daily living – for energy warmth in winter, and electricity generation and transmission, year-round, for shipping goods and trading, and, moreover, for personal or work related travel, the construction, pavement and land alterations that are done which not only allow for that activity, but promote it, that that kind of living by so many millions and even billions of people, will ultimately lead to grave consequences for our planet.
And with our human population continuing to grow geometrically, coupled with the outright refusal of much of the population, their political leaders, and even the recently elected president of our United States of America, Donald J. Trump, continuing to advocate for the highly resource consumptive “business as usual” lifestyle — many human and other lives have already been lost, and people all over the world have suffered, and many more people and animals living in the future will suffer, or be lost, and many trillions of dollars will be lost as well as a result of climate change related “natural” disasters, and rising sea level, a situation which now is not only unprecedented but becoming increasingly dire and predictable.
It’s not like you can just turn the water faucet off and global warming will stop. As stated in Gavin Schmidt and Joshua Wolfe’s comprehensive textbook: “Climate Change – Picture the Science” (2008), it could take centuries and even millennia to reverse it. “even if we act to keep atmospheric concentrations at the same level they are now [atmospheric CO2 concentrations 400 parts per million], the global mean temperature will continue to increase for a few decades as a result of past greenhouse gas emissions [GHGs] and the thermal inertia of the oceans [Water holds heat and releases it much slower than hard surfaces such as cement and asphalt.]”
All we can do now is to slow the pace of global warming by conserving energy obtained either directly or indirectly from burning fossil fuels. Moreover, changing to energy alternatives that don’t add to the rising concentrations of GHGs takes more time and money [but creates more long term jobs], and finding ways to adapt to the changes in the climate and the effects brought about by those changes will also cost money and will hurt the poor and the very young and the more elderly individuals [very young have less body mass to buffer individuals to higher heat; older persons are more susceptible to heat stroke].
“In short, there are no shortcuts to addressing a challenge that is global, pervasive, profound, and long term. Global citizens must grasp the challenge, master its intricacies, and take responsibility, for our own generation, and those to come”.[Jeffrey D. Sachs, New York, 6/16/2008]
The following is from Lee Bergquist of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, January 22, 2017:
In a shift from the practice of two other state agencies, Wisconsin emergency management officials have released new information on climate change and its implications for the state.
In a report that it posted online last week, the state Division of Emergency Management devoted extensive attention to climate change and how a warming planet could spur natural disasters such as floods, drought and forest fires.
The report contrasts with the Department of Natural Resources and the state Public Service Commission, which scrubbed mentions of climate change and human-generated greenhouse gases from their websites.
As recently as December, DNR officials removed language from a web page devoted to the Great Lakes that had earlier acknowledged the role humans play in global warming. Officials inserted new wording saying climate change is a matter of scientific debate [Not – true! Truthful scientists will tell you the scientific debate ended years ago. MTN]
The PSC, which regulates electric utilities, eliminated its web page on climate change at some point before May 1, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel found recently. The scrubbed information included a link to former Gov. Jim Doyle’s task force report on global warming. The Democratic governor’s report in 2008 recommended that Wisconsin reduce the use of fossil fuels and rely more on renewable sources of power. The measures were never enacted.
In the cases of the DNR and the PSC, the information can still be found on the Wayback Machine, an online archive.
In a new five-year disaster preparedness plan, the Division of Emergency Management cites research such as from the Wisconsin Initiative on Climate Change Impacts. It shows global warming is likely to produce more extreme weather. Examples: more days of 90-degree-plus temperatures and more intense rain events.
Bursts of rainfall, the report said, could lead to natural calamities such as flooding, collapse of dams, sinkholes and lake bluff failures.
While other agencies have removed references to the role of human activities in global warming, officials at the Division of Emergency Management included such a statement.
“Although it is widely accepted by the scientific community that the observed changes in global temperatures are the result of human actions, there is considerable uncertainty about the impacts these changes will ultimately have,” the agency wrote.
The document also acknowledges “some debate about the cause of climate change,” but added that statewide temperatures have increased 1.1 degrees in the past 50 years and that more extreme weather events are likely.
The new planning document was approved in December by the Federal Emergency Management Agency, said Lori Getter, spokeswoman for the state Division of Emergency Management.
Wisconsin was one of the first states to complete a new plan. As part of the process, FEMA required states to consider potential climate effects, she said.
Upgraded and Expanded “Conservation Rewards” Proposal for Government, Individuals and Families to Reduce Wisconsin’s Fossil Fuel Burning Emissions Aired on WORT-FM, Madison, Radio’s “Public Access Hour” Show Monday, August 15th, on 89.9 FM, and Streamed on www.wortfm.org, from 7:00 PM – 8:00 PM CST
You can listen to this one-hour music and narrative on this proposal and by going to the wortfm.org achives for August 15, 2016, the “Access Hour” radio call-in show, to hear songs of hope and despair about climate change, global warming, and our country and the world’s progress in ensuring (or not ensuring) world sustainability for people, plants and animal.
People must stop their actions that promote living just only for today as if tomorrow doesn’t matter.
A plan for all governments (state; federal, other entity who may wish to contribute) is proposed that would provide annual rewards (cash incomes) to individuals and families who take personal action to reduce their annual fossil fuel burning actions in transportation (cars; airplanes; household purchases) and in heating their homes and using electricity use from power plants that produce electricity derived from fossil fuel burning (coal; natural gas; diesel oil generators)
Tune in to 89.9 FM around Madison, or log into http://www.wortfm.org anytime and anywhere to hear and hopefully enjoy the show. Please join me and Bruce Springsteen in making “High Hopes” for all Wisconsinites and hopefully others a true reality in reducing the growing threats of climate change, rising income inequality and poverty, and excessive militarization of in the world by the United States of America.
“Love is always the answer.” – Mississippi Charles Bevel, written on cover of his excellent CD called “Not of Seasons” that he sent personally to your’s truly, recorded 2000. The beautiful cover song “Not Season” has a very poignant message – we ought not forget it. It reminds me of Elvis Presley’s song “In the Getto” written by Mac Davis.
Song: “GO“, CD: “COME ON NOW SOCIAL” [Inspirational]
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.
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”.
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.
The full text of his speech to the Glacier Conference on 1 September 2015 follows:
I want to thank the people of Alaska for hosting this conference. I look forward to visiting more of Alaska over the next couple of days. The United States is, of course, an Arctic nation. And even if this isn’t an official gathering of the Arctic Council, the United States is proud to chair the Arctic Council for the next two years. And to all the foreign dignitaries who are here, I want to be very clear — we are eager to work with your nations on the unique opportunities that the Arctic presents and the unique challenges that it faces. We are not going to — any of us — be able to solve these challenges by ourselves. We can only solve them together.
Of course, we’re here today to discuss a challenge that will define the contours of this century more dramatically than any other — and that’s the urgent and growing threat of a changing climate.
Our understanding of climate change advances each day. Human activity is disrupting the climate, in many ways faster than we previously thought. The science is stark. It is sharpening. It proves that this once-distant threat is now very much in the present.
In fact, the Arctic is the leading edge of climate change — our leading indicator of what the entire planet faces. Arctic temperatures are rising about twice as fast as the global average. Over the past 60 years, Alaska has warmed about twice as fast as the rest of the United States. Last year was Alaska’s warmest year on record — just as it was for the rest of the world. And the impacts here are very real.
Thawing permafrost destabilizes the earth on which 100,000 Alaskans live, threatening homes, damaging transportation and energy infrastructure, which could cost billions of dollars to fix.
Warmer, more acidic oceans and rivers, and the migration of entire species, threatens the livelihoods of indigenous peoples, and local economies dependent on fishing and tourism. Reduced sea levels leaves villages unprotected from floods and storm surges. Some are in imminent danger; some will have to relocate entirely. In fact, Alaska has some of the swiftest shoreline erosion rates in the world.
I recall what one Alaska Native told me at the White House a few years ago. He said, “Many of our villages are ready to slide off into the waters of Alaska, and in some cases, there will be absolutely no hope -– we will need to move many villages.”
Alaska’s fire season is now more than a month longer than it was in 1950. At one point this summer, more than 300 wildfires were burning at once. Southeast of here, in our Pacific Northwest, even the rainforest is on fire. More than 5 million acres in Alaska have already been scorched by fire this year — that’s an area about the size of Massachusetts. If you add the fires across Canada and Siberia, we’re talking 300  million acres -– an area about the size of New York.
This is a threat to many communities — but it’s also an immediate and ongoing threat to the men and women who put their lives on the line to protect ours. Less than two weeks ago, three highly trained firefighters lost their lives fighting a fire in Washington State. Another has been in critical condition. We are thankful to each and every firefighter for their heroism — including the Canadian firefighters who’ve helped fight the fires in this state.
But the point is that climate change is no longer some far-off problem. It is happening here. It is happening now. Climate change is already disrupting our agriculture and ecosystems, our water and food supplies, our energy, our infrastructure, human health, human safety — now. Today. And climate change is a trend that affects all trends — economic trends, security trends. Everything will be impacted. And it becomes more dramatic with each passing year.
Already it’s changing the way Alaskans live. And considering the Arctic’s unique role in influencing the global climate, it will accelerate changes to the way that we all live.
Since 1979, the summer sea ice in the Arctic has decreased by more than 40 percent — a decrease that has dramatically accelerated over the past two decades. One new study estimates that Alaska’s glaciers alone lose about 75 gigatons — that’s 75 billion tons — of ice each year.
To put that in perspective, one scientist described a gigaton of ice as a block the size of the National Mall in Washington — from Congress all the way to the Lincoln Memorial, four times as tall as the Washington Monument. Now imagine 75 of those ice blocks. That’s what Alaska’s glaciers alone lose each year. The pace of melting is only getting faster. It’s now twice what it was between 1950 and 2000 — twice as fast as it was just a little over a decade ago. And it’s one of the reasons why sea levels rose by about eight inches over the last century, and why they’re projected to rise another one to four feet this century.
Consider, as well, that many of the fires burning today are actually burning through the permafrost in the Arctic. So this permafrost stores massive amounts of carbon. When the permafrost is no longer permanent, when it thaws or burns, these gases are released into our atmosphere over time, and that could mean that the Arctic may become a new source of emissions that further accelerates global warming.
So if we do nothing, temperatures in Alaska are projected to rise between six and 12 degrees by the end of the century, triggering more melting, more fires, more thawing of the permafrost, a negative feedback loop, a cycle — warming leading to more warming — that we do not want to be a part of.
And the fact is that climate is changing faster than our efforts to address it. That, ladies and gentlemen, must change. We’re not acting fast enough.
I’ve come here today, as the leader of the world’s largest economy and its second largest emitter, to say that the United States recognizes our role in creating this problem, and we embrace our responsibility to help solve it. And I believe we can solve it. That’s the good news. Even if we cannot reverse the damage that we’ve already caused, we have the means — the scientific imagination and technological innovation — to avoid irreparable harm.
We know this because last year, for the first time in our history, the global economy grew and global carbon emissions stayed flat. So we’re making progress; we’re just not making it fast enough.
Here in the United States, we’re trying to do our part. Since I took office six and a half years ago, the United States has made ambitious investments in clean energy, and ambitious reductions in our carbon emissions. We now harness three times as much electricity from wind and 20 times as much from the sun. Alaskans now lead the world in the development of hybrid wind energy systems from remote grids, and it’s expanding its solar and biomass resources.
We’ve invested in energy efficiency in every imaginable way — in our buildings, our cars, our trucks, our homes, even the appliances inside them. We’re saving consumers billions of dollars along the way. Here in Alaska, more than 15,000 homeowners have cut their energy bills by 30 percent on average. That collectively saves Alaskans more than $50 million each year. We’ve helped communities build climate-resilient infrastructure to prepare for the impacts of climate change that we can no longer prevent.
Earlier this month, I announced the first set of nationwide standards to end the limitless dumping of carbon pollution from our power plants. It’s the single most important step America has ever taken on climate change. And over the course of the coming days, I intend to speak more about the particular challenges facing Alaska and the United States as an Arctic power, and I intend to announce new measures to address them.
So we are working hard to do our part to meet this challenge. And in doing so, we’re proving that there doesn’t have to be a conflict between a sound environment and strong economic growth. But we’re not moving fast enough. None of the nations represented here are moving fast enough.
And let’s be honest — there’s always been an argument against taking action. The notion is somehow this will curb our economic growth. And at a time when people are anxious about the economy, that’s an argument oftentimes for inaction. We don’t want our lifestyles disrupted. In countries where there remains significant poverty, including here in the United States, the notion is, can we really afford to prioritize this issue. The irony, of course, is, is that few things will disrupt our lives as profoundly as climate change. Few things can have as negative an impact on our economy as climate change.
On the other hand, technology has now advanced to the point where any economic disruption from transitioning to a cleaner, more efficient economy is shrinking by the day. Clean energy and energy efficiency aren’t just proving cost-effective, but also cost-saving. The unit costs of things like solar are coming down rapidly. But we’re still underinvesting in it.
Many of America’s biggest businesses recognize the opportunities and are seizing them. They’re choosing a new route. And a growing number of American homeowners are choosing to go solar every day. It works. All told, America’s economy has grown more than 60 percent over the last 20 years, but our carbon emissions are roughly back to where they were 20 years ago. So we know how to use less dirty fuel and grow our economy at the same time. But we’re not moving fast enough.
More Americans every day are doing their part, though. Thanks to their efforts, America will reach the emission target that I set six years ago. We’re going to reduce our carbon emissions in the range of 17 percent below 2005 levels by 2020. And that’s why, last year, I set a new target: America is going to reduce our emissions 26 to 28 percent below 2005 levels by 10 years from now.
And that was part of a historic joint announcement we made last year in Beijing. The United States will double the pace at which we cut our emissions, and China committed, for the first time, to limiting its emissions. Because the world’s two largest economies and two largest emitters came together, we’re now seeing other nations stepping up aggressively as well. And I’m determined to make sure American leadership continues to drive international action — because we can’t do this alone. Even America and China together cannot do this alone. Even all the countries represented around here cannot do this alone. We have to do it together.
This year, in Paris, has to be the year that the world finally reaches an agreement to protect the one planet that we’ve got while we still can.
So let me sum up. We know that human activity is changing the climate. That is beyond dispute. Everything else is politics if people are denying the facts of climate change. We can have a legitimate debate about how we are going to address this problem; we cannot deny the science. We also know the devastating consequences if the current trend lines continue. That is not deniable. And we are going to have to do some adaptation, and we are going to have to help communities be resilient, because of these trend lines we are not going to be able to stop on a dime. We’re not going to be able to stop tomorrow.
But if those trend lines continue the way they are, there’s not going to be a nation on this Earth that’s not impacted negatively. People will suffer. Economies will suffer. Entire nations will find themselves under severe, severe problems. More drought; more floods; rising sea levels; greater migration; more refugees; more scarcity; more conflict.
That’s one path we can take. The other path is to embrace the human ingenuity that can do something about it. This is within our power. This is a solvable problem if we start now.
And we’re starting to see that enough consensus is being built internationally and within each of our own body politics that we may have the political will — finally — to get moving.
So the time to heed the critics and the cynics and the deniers is past. The time to plead ignorance is surely past. Those who want to ignore the science, they are increasingly alone. They’re on their own shrinking island. (Applause.)
And let’s remember, even beyond the climate benefits of pursuing cleaner energy sources and more resilient, energy-efficient ways of living, the byproduct of it is, is that we also make our air cleaner and safer for our children to breathe. We’re also making our economies more resilient to energy shocks on global markets. We’re also making our countries less reliant on unstable parts of the world. We are gradually powering a planet on its way to 9 billion humans in a more sustainable way.
These are good things. This is not simply a danger to be avoided; this is an opportunity to be seized. But we have to keep going. We’re making a difference, but we have to keep going. We are not moving fast enough.
If we were to abandon our course of action, if we stop trying to build a clean-energy economy and reduce carbon pollution, if we do nothing to keep the glaciers from melting faster, and oceans from rising faster, and forests from burning faster, and storms from growing stronger, we will condemn our children to a planet beyond their capacity to repair: Submerged countries. Abandoned cities. Fields no longer growing. Indigenous peoples who can’t carry out traditions that stretch back millennia. Entire industries of people who can’t practice their livelihoods. Desperate refugees seeking the sanctuary of nations not their own. Political disruptions that could trigger multiple conflicts around the globe.
That’s not a future of strong economic growth. That is not a future where freedom and human rights are on the move. Any leader willing to take a gamble on a future like that — any
so-called leader who does not take this issue seriously or treats it like a joke — is not fit to lead.
On this issue, of all issues, there is such a thing as being too late. That moment is almost upon us. That’s why we’re here today. That’s what we have to convey to our people — tomorrow, and the next day, and the day after that. And that’s what we have to do when we meet in Paris later this year. It will not be easy. There are hard questions to answer. I am not trying to suggest that there are not going to be difficult transitions that we all have to make. But if we unite our highest aspirations, if we make our best efforts to protect this planet for future generations, we can solve this problem.
And when you leave this conference center, I hope you look around. I hope you have the chance to visit a glacier. Or just look out your airplane window as you depart, and take in the God-given majesty of this place. For those of you flying to other parts of the world, do it again when you’re flying over your home countries. Remind yourself that there will come a time when your grandkids — and mine, if I’m lucky enough to have some — they’ll want to see this. They’ll want to experience it, just as we’ve gotten to do in our own lives. They deserve to live lives free from fear, and want, and peril. And ask yourself, are you doing everything you can to protect it. Are we doing everything we can to make their lives safer, and more secure, and more prosperous?
Let’s prove that we care about them and their long-term futures, not just short-term political expediency.
I had a chance to meet with some Native peoples before I came in here, and they described for me villages that are slipping into the sea, and the changes that are taking place — changing migratory patterns; the changing fauna so that what used to feed the animals that they, in turn, would hunt or fish beginning to vanish. It’s urgent for them today. But that is the future for all of us if we don’t take care.
Your presence here today indicates your recognition of that. But it’s not enough just to have conferences. It’s not enough just to talk the talk. We’ve got to walk the walk. We’ve got work to do, and we’ve got to do it together.
So, thank you. And may God bless all of you, and your countries. And thank you, Alaska, for your wonderful hospitality. Thank you. (Applause.)