This week in Katowice, Poland, the UN climate change conference is kicking off amid predictions of a global melt.
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The science tells us that anthropogenic warming will mean rising seas, increased typhoons, droughts, stronger storms, more crop damage, storms and flooding, and more extreme weather events – in short, more “extreme weather.” And people are starting to notice.
The New York Times estimates the cost of extreme weather events will rise from a $14.6 billion in 2004 to $125 billion by 2050, according to a study by Insurance Institute for Business & Home Safety (IBHS).
And, as Natalia Canosa, Associate Director of the Climate Science program at Sabin Center for Climate Change Law, recently wrote for America’s Climate Choices,
“[T]here have been a number of recent studies, both by experienced scientists and laypeople, that raise serious concerns about the impact of global warming on the health of the U.S. population and on our basic infrastructure. In these studies, climate experts fear that climate change will lead to more frequent severe storms, increased diseases in the tropics, more heatwaves, longer flooding seasons, heavier and more frequent droughts, an increase in pollution, crop failures and food shortages, and, most alarmingly, the risk of increased risk to humans.”
And now President Trump has again put a stop to deferrals of the Paris climate agreement. But let’s not forget that last week, the U.S. became a global laughingstock for deciding not to join the Montreal Protocol – an international agreement to eliminate harmful chemicals like CFCs, which release refrigerants that rapidly affect the ozone layer.
So, while the Canadian government embraces Trump’s commitment to the Paris agreement, the U.S. – and now a whole world of others – is following the path set by President Obama to slow greenhouse gas emissions.
The impact is visible in Alberta.
Within the last year, we’ve already seen the ground shake, and even tumbling water fill the streets due to the effect of the changing climate. Many lakes have shrunk, and that’s leading to a serious threat to the food supply for consumers. This is leading to alarmingly high water prices and leading to cuts in food production.
Some have predicted a drastic impact on Alberta oil production. But soon, other areas will be affected by the impacts of global warming, including the Great Lakes.
In recent weeks, the Oceans Coalition released a report that identifies new and worsening climate impacts to more than 70 freshwater marine ecosystems from Canada and around the world. And the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has proposed cutting hundreds of millions of dollars from its study of the Great Lakes Watershed.
While the Trump administration claims that the U.S. economy is improving and that jobs are growing, millions of Americans are being pushed out of the middle class, and many more are struggling in poverty. The work of the United Nations climate conference is absolutely necessary to continue our drive towards a clean energy future.
The world is not looking to a weaker U.S. administration in order to reduce global warming. Instead, the work of the UN conference and, in turn, the international community is looking to Washington.
President Trump and the American people must use this forum to make clear that they want a new beginning for American leadership on climate change.
Alvin Peiffer is the Director of Policy and Government Relations at the Natural Resources Defense Council. John Ogden is the Co-Director of Citizens’ Climate Lobby’s North America chapter.
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