This editorial is based on two current journalistic pieces that relate to climate change.
A New York Times article is focused on the 10-year period from 1979 to 1989 when a small group of American scientists, activists and politicians tried to raise the alarm and stave off climate catastrophe. They were unsuccessful and the result will lead Earth’s civilizations into a deadly future as our planet becomes denuded, the story reports.
The narrative written by Nathaniel Rich is offered by the NY Times as a work of history.
The story, the Times said, will come as a revelation to many readers, an agonizing revelation, to understand how thoroughly the activists grasped the problem and how close they came to solving it.
“The world has warmed more than one degree Celsius since the Industrial Revolution,” Rich wrote. “The Paris climate agreement — the non-binding, unenforceable and already unheeded treaty signed on Earth Day in 2016 — hoped to restrict warming to two degrees. The odds of succeeding, according to a recent study based on current emissions trends, are one in 20.”
The climate scientist James Hansen has called two-degree warming “a prescription for long-term disaster.”
Three-degree warming is a prescription for short-term disaster: forests in the Arctic and the loss of most coastal cities.
If the warming rises four degrees, Europe will be in permanent drought, vast areas of China, India and Bangladesh claimed by desert; Polynesia swallowed by the sea, the Colorado River thinned to a trickle, the American Southwest largely uninhabitable.
The prospect of five-degree warming has prompted some of the world’s leading climate scientists to warn of the end of human civilization.
Rich wrote that in the 1979-1989 period, there was an excellent opportunity to solve the climate crisis. The world’s major powers came within several signatures of endorsing a binding, global framework to reduce carbon emissions — far closer than we’ve come since.
If the world had adopted the proposal widely endorsed by the end of the ’80s — a freezing of carbon emissions, with a reduction of 20% by 2005 — warming could have held to less than 1.5 degrees.
The second story is from the Associated Press, about the fact that Antarctica is losing ice six times faster today, than in the 1980s.
One scientist said that the melting could increase the risk of multiple meter (more than 10 feet) sea level rise over the next century or so.
These frightening reports predict a horrible future for our descendants. The Times story says that the problem could have been significantly slowed if the world’s leaders had joined together in the 1979 to 1989 period in taking strong action to prevent emissions problems.