In his latest commentary on WAMC Northeast Public Radio, Pace Energy & Climate Center Director Franz Litz looks at two new alarming reports on climate change, which find that, “We have not only failed to reduce our pollution, we are increasing it at a break-neck pace.”
According to Litz, a report out last week from the Global Carbon Project found that global warming pollution jumped nearly 6% last year worldwide–the largest year-on-year increase in history. In the US alone, pollution rose 4% from the previous year. Meanwhile, a report released last month from researchers at Columbia, Cornell and the City University of New York documented that average temperatures in NY have already risen 2.4 degrees Fahrenheit since 1970 (4.4 degrees Fahrenheit on average in the winter months). The report also confirms that the frequency of intense precipitation events has increased in recent decades, while sea levels along NY’s coastline have risen by 1 foot since the beginning of the last century.
Litz argues that these findings–and the expected continued rise in temperatures–prove that “if we are going to meet the dual challenges of reducing our greenhouse gas pollution and preparing for the climate change already ‘imbedded’ in the system, we need every level of government acting.”
The bad news is that a certain amount of additional warming is already included in the climate system because of pollution we’ve already released into the atmosphere. That means that state and local governments will need to prepare for bigger storms, floods and droughts and other changes in our environment. Some of the devastation we witnessed from Hurricane Irene could have been mitigated with better planning and we need to prepare.
The good news is that most scientists believe we can still drive positive change to stave off the worst impacts of climate change by changing the way we supply and consume energy in this country. We need to become more energy efficient, produce more renewable energy and consume less when possible. Those changes must be driven locally, regionally, and at the state, national and international levels.
As we head into another election year, we must make sure politicians know that climate change is on our minds and demands their attention, too. We can try to ignore the problem, but it won’t go away on its own.