The first five months of 2016 were the hottest on record. Source: NASA GISS and NOAA.
In 2016, voters will choose between science or denial.
Scientists tell us the previous 12 months have been the hottest in recorded history. June 2016 was the hottest on record in the contiguous United States. Alaska’s average temperature for January to June of this year was 9 degrees Fahrenheit above the 1925-2000 average for that six-month timeframe.
Scientists tell us the polar ice caps are melting. “We’ve never seen anything like this before,” explained Mark Serreze, Director of the National Snow & Ice Date Center, of the record low amount of Arctic sea ice. Arctic ice levels are “way below the previous record, very far below it.”
Scientists tell us sea levels are rising. A recent NASA study concluded that “the rate of globally-averaged sea level rise during the 20th century was significantly higher than at any time in the past 2,800 years.” In response to this report, NASA scientist Dr. Josh Willis observed that “the sea level is rising like gangbusters.” Researchers concluded that without human interference, the sea level would have risen far more slowly, or even fallen slightly.
Scientists tell us it is no coincidence that all this is occurring alongside the highest ever recorded CO2 levels in the atmosphere. According to Dr. Pieter Tans of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, carbon dioxide levels are increasing faster than in hundreds of thousands of years and at rate he described as “explosive compared to natural processes.”
Scientists are united in their understanding that human activity is warming the atmosphere and changing the planet. According to NASA, 97 percent or more of actively publishing climate scientists agree with this understanding. Scientific organizations such as the American Scientific Societies, American Association for the Advancement of Science, and the American Meteorological Society, just to name a few, have issued public statements supporting this conclusion.
Presidential candidates are not listening.
“I don’t believe in Climate Change,” said Donald Trump in an interview on CNN. “This very expensive GLOBAL WARMING bullshit has got to stop” he tweeted in 2014. “The concept of global warming was created by and for the Chinese in order to make U.S. manufacturing non-competitive” he previously tweeted in 2012.
According to Trump, President Obama’s warning in 2015 that climate change poses one of the greatest threats to the United States, was “one of the dumbest statements I’ve ever heard in politics – in the history of politics.”
Trump has vowed to renegotiate the U.S.’s participation in the landmark 2015 Paris Climate Change Agreement in which 196 countries of the world agreed that “climate change represents an urgent and potentially irreversible threat to human societies and the planet.” Key to the U.S. commitment in the Paris Agreement was President Obama’s Clean Power Plan. As governor of Indiana, Trump’s running mate, Mike Pence, said Indiana would refuse to comply with the plan.
Governors Gary Johnson and Bill Weld, whom many Republicans are turning to as an alternative to Trump, are also not listening. Their campaign website suggests the climate is “probably” changing and that humans are “probably” causing it. On climate change, they suggest “The important question, however, is whether the government’s efforts to regulate, tax, and manipulate the marketplace in order to impact the change are cost-effective or effective at all.”
In light of the scientific consensus, “probably” doesn’t cut it in 2016. Nor does their dismissal of evidence gathered by social scientists that point to government’s efforts in the marketplace as the only way to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. An interesting case in point is the recent announcement by the Canadian government of a national price on carbon by the end of 2016. After meeting with leading Canadian business leaders, Environmental Minister Catherine McKenna said they “understand a price on carbon is the most impressive way to reduce emissions and foster innovation that we need.”
Hillary Clinton is listening and responding.
Secretary Clinton has called the Paris Climate Change Agreement a “testament to America’s ability to lead the world in building a clean energy future.” Her campaign website calls for installing “half a billion solar panels across the country” by the end of her first term and “generating enough renewable energy to power every home in America” within 10 years.
“The next decade of action is critical” acknowledges Clinton, “because if we do not press forward with driving clean energy growth and cutting carbon pollution across the economy, we will not be able to avoid catastrophic consequences. That’s why as President, I will make combating climate change a top priority.”
The choice in 2016 is clear.
American voters will either elect a candidate who dismisses and brushes aside science and vows to do nothing as temperatures soar, oceans advance into homes and communities, and as food systems are put at risk by increasingly extreme weather events.
Or, American voters will elect to embrace science and take responsibility for responding to the great and global problem of climate change.
The future of an inhabitable planet depends on our vote. God help us.