We had a chance to save the world from the ravages of global warming, but we blew it, and “long-term disaster is now the best-case scenario,” according to a new feature article in the New York Times.
The Times’ story – told in two parts – chronicles how climate change alarmists largely had convinced policymakers to end or severely curb the use of fossil fuels to save the planet only to be thwarted by the dark forces of the energy industry and other bought-off scientists.
The goal of limiting temperature growth to 2 degrees Celsius was imposing, and if we could meet it, “we will only have to negotiate the extinction of the world’s tropical reefs, sea-level rise of several meters and the abandonment of the Persian Gulf,” the Times wrote in its prologue to the project.
If an increase of 2 degrees is a prescription for long-term disaster, 3 degrees “is a prescription for short-term disaster: forests in the Arctic and loss of most coastal cities.”
At 4 degrees, you get “Europe 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.”
At 5 degrees, “the world’s climate scientists … warn of the end of human civilization.”
If only the world’s leaders had signed onto a “binding, global framework to reduce carbon emissions” in the late 1980s. The conditions for such an agreement then “could not have been more favorable. The obstacles we blame for our current inaction had yet to emerge. Almost nothing stood in our way – nothing except ourselves.”
The science was settled; we should have acted, the Times wrote.
“Nearly everything we understand about global warming was understood in 1979,” it wrote. “By that year, data collected since 1957 confirmed what had been known since before the turn of the 20thcentury: Human beings have altered Earth’s atmosphere through the indiscriminate use of fossil fuels.
“The main scientific questions were settled beyond debate, and as the 1980s began, attention turned from diagnosis of the problem to refinement of the predicted consequences. … It could be reduced to a simple axiom: The more carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, the warmer the planet. And every year, by burning coal, oil and gas, humankind belched increasingly obscene quantities of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.”
The science is not so settled. The question of how much impact carbon has on temperatures remains a subject of hot debate, in large part because climate models based on this assumption have not held up well.
Roy Spencer, a Ph.D. climate researcher at the University of Alabama at Huntsville, compared the rise in sea levels before 1950, when little carbon went into the atmosphere, with since 1950. Before, global sea levels were rising about a half-inch per decade – or about five inches per century. Since, they have risen about 0.8 inches per decade, meaning the impact of global warming on sea level change – a key talking point for environmentalists – amounts to a rounding error.
As for the temperature aspect, new research shows the Earth is cooling slightly, Arctic sea ice remains at normal levels, Antarctic sea ice is increasing and the troposphere – the area five to seven miles above the earth’s surface that forms the actual greenhouse into which greenhouse gases are said to be trapped – is cooling.
We can’t wholly blame the fossil-fuel industry, the Times wrote, even though “in recent decades” it has “committed to playing the role of villain with comic-book bravado,” because at one time the largest oil companies “made good-faith efforts to understand the scope of the crisis and grapple with possible solutions.”
We can’t blame Republicans because “only 42 percent” know that “‘most scientists believe global warming is occurring.’”
The blame goes to Americans for wanting the prosperity that has lifted more people across the world out of extreme poverty than ever before.
“There can be no understanding of our current and future predicament without understanding why we failed to solve this problem when we had the chance,” The Times wrote.