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Menopausal Mother Nature

News about Climate Change and our Planet


The future is grim: Plan accordingly | My View | – Santa Fe New Mexican

For decades many in the scientific community have labeled climate change as the world’s No. 1 threat. The most recent report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change warned that the global consequences are existential to our planet and to our species’ global civilization unless we can reduce emissions of greenhouse gases sufficient to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit).

Likely negative consequences if we fail include sea-level rise, flooding, erratic weather, food shortages, species extinctions, wildfires, human migrations and so on. Of course, the predominant greenhouse gas is CO2, produced by burning fossil fuels.

Professor Vaclav Smil, a respected Canadian authority on environmental matters, lays out a remarkably realistic analysis of the prospects for gaining prompt control of climate change in his latest book, How the World Really Works. His data persuasively shows that our global economy depends so deeply upon fossil fuels that significant global reduction of greenhouse gas emissions amounts to no more than wishful thinking, a pipe dream, extremely unlikely to be timely achieved, and the dangerous 1.5 degree Celsius level of warming will almost inevitably be exceeded. He references a study that states the globe has already reached 1.3 degrees Celsius of warming, and another that contends existing emissions have inextricably committed the globe to 2.3 degrees Celsius of warming.

Smil observes, moreover, that once emitted, CO2 lasts in the atmosphere for decades, and that even if the world could achieve significant CO2 emission reductions now, and the major emitting countries could somehow rapidly approach net-zero carbon emissions, the mitigation of global warming consequences would not become apparent until about 2080. Reminding us that humans regularly discount the future, he acknowledges it will be an uphill battle to convince the generation alive today to take the costly and life-disrupting measures necessary to reduce emissions, especially given that the benefits will be deferred for half a century.

Smil points out that to significantly reduce emissions will require an enforceable international agreement that conclusively binds, at a minimum, the five major emitting countries that are responsible for 80 percent of global emissions. This, obviously, would require that each such country has the legal ability and the political will to implement such an agreement at home.

The United States is one of the five, responsible for 20 percent of global emissions but with only 5 percent of global population. Of course, our U.S. Supreme Court has just declared unconstitutional the Environmental Protection Agency’s authority to control CO2. Whether out of ignorance, or indifference, or just the tunnel-vision atavistic anti-government ideology of the six ultra-conservative justices, this decision was a true disaster for our country. Did the justices have a clue as to what is at stake? And our Congress has neither the capability nor the will (are you listening, Sen. Joe Manchin?) to address the problem effectively.

Would it seem prudent, then, to consider the adverse consequences of climate change to be more or less inevitable and to make our plans accordingly? For New Mexicans, this would mean accepting droughts, water shortages, excessive temperatures, increased immigration pressure and wildfires as the norm.

Considering the unlikely prospects for meaningful reform of the Supreme Court so as to enable the formidable yet crucial long-term fight to reduce emissions, the future seems grim indeed.


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