Obama Should Fulfill His Promise to Address Global Warming

Today is Tuesday, January 28, 2014.

As we await the State of the Union Address, I have been thinking about Obama’s campaign promises and whether or not he has been able to fulfill them. Global Warming was on his campaign agenda and so far I haven’t seen the government address the problem with any commitment. Yes, there is resistance in Congress to deal with global warming because of the perceived impact on economic growth and development. It is disappointing that we have the science and yet we don’t have the political will to do anything about it. Obama is aware of and understands the science and thus far he also hasn’t really committed himself to take reasonable action. I want him to do that before the end of this presidential term, even if it takes executive order to by-pass the Know Nothings in Congress.

I realize that we have just experienced something called the arctic vortex and, even today, the freezing cold has descended as far south as the panhandle of Florida and it is snowing in Georgia and the Carolinas. This event isn’t related to the ‘vortex’ but somehow it seems to be its doppelganger. But it IS winter in the northern hemisphere and I don’t think global warming eliminates winter weather.  For those who are geographically challenged, it is summer in the southern hemisphere and places like Australia and Africa are experiencing record-breaking heat waves. 2013 was the hottest summer on record for Australia.

The reality is, the nine warmest years on record have occurred since 2002. 2013 was either the 4th warmest or the 7th warmest year on record, depending on the source: NASA or NOAA. They use slightly different metrics and extrapolations therefore vary. But they both agree that the global climate is warming. Since the advent of the Industrial Revolution and the use of fossil fuels there has been a 40% increase in the amount of carbon dioxide emitted into the atmosphere. Conventional science says that if current levels continue, we can expect an increase of 1.5-5 degrees Celsius by the end of the century, if I understand it correctly. Until recently, scientists couldn’t explain the discrepancy between 1.5-5 degrees in the forty three models they study. A recent study published in Nature on January 2, 2014, suggests the degree differential in climate sensitivity is due to atmospheric convective mixing and that the global temperature averages could, in fact, be 3 degrees at the low end, not 1.5. http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v505/n7481/full/nature12829.html.

This is rather unsettling news. In this study, the spread is between 3-7 degrees indicating global temperatures could rise 7 degrees Celsius by the end of the century. It doesn’t take a lot of imagination to figure out the impact–equatorial regions will be unlivable because of the heat; droughts will occur in many places; wild fires will increase; there will be more violent and extreme weather; sea levels will rise threatening coastal areas; the entire global economic and political system will be disrupted.

The U.S. needs to take the lead in making the leap to a more sustainable energy policy and fewer carbon emissions. Russia and China will not ‘mess’ with their economic growth, so there is no expectation that they will develop a rational policy regarding global warming. Someone has to start somewhere and any historical efforts have been too little too late. I am afraid that in the last quarter of the 21st century, the world will wake up to the reality of global warming and everyone will be scrambling to develop programs to counter the effects, but it just might be too late. Someone needs to start now in a serious way. Obama should be that someone. The United States should take the lead in hopes the rest of the world will see the wisdom of it and follow suit.

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