, pub-6663105814926378, DIRECT, f08c47fec0942fa0 Sounding the alarm on climate change 4289

Sounding the alarm on climate change

President Obama this week called on China to join the U.S. in leading a new worldwide effort to curb carbon-dioxide emissions, warning that the window for successfully combating global warming was closing fast and that the biggest emitters needed to set an example to the rest of the world. “Nobody gets a pass,” the president told other world leaders at a U.N. climate-change summit in New York City. “We will do our part, and we’ll help developing nations do theirs.” The summit, which was attended by 120 heads of state, was an attempt to galvanize support for a comprehensive climate-change agreement ahead of talks in Paris next year. But in a sign of how hard it will be to reach any sort of consensus on the issue, the leaders of many of the world’s largest emitters—including China, India, and Russia—pointedly did not attend the meeting, sending deputies in their place.

The summit came two days after U.N. Secretary-General Ban Kimoon joined an estimated 400,000 people on a march through Manhattan, in the largest climate-change rally in history. Smaller demonstrations took place in 166 other countries. The following day, the Rockefeller family announced that its $860 million philanthropic fund would be selling its investments in fossil fuels and reinvesting the money in clean energy. Valerie Rockefeller Wayne, a great-great-granddaughter of oil tycoon John Rockefeller, said there was a “moral imperative to preserve a healthy planet.”

“Is the world finally reaching a political tipping point about climate change?” asked the San Francisco Chronicle. “We certainly don’t have much time to spare.” To prevent a global  catastrophe, governments need to enact major carbon-policy changes within 15 years, according to the Global Commission on the Economy and Climate. “The evidence is all too clear,” said The Miami Herald. Carbon-dioxide levels are 42 percent higher than they were before the Industrial Revolution. This summer was “the hottest on record for the planet,” and 2014 is on course to be the warmest year ever. If governments fail to act, climatologists say, the consequences will “devastating.”

“One not-so-minor problem,” said The Wall Street Journal: The world’s largest emitters are never going to “sign agreements that impede economic progress.” And without drastic action from powerhouses like China, which is responsible for a quarter of all global emissions, and India, where 25 percent of the population still lacks electricity, the West’s “exertions to save the planet” will have only a negligible effect. All we’ll do is stymie our own economic growth.

“This just in,” said Paul Krugman in The New York Times: “Saving the planet would be cheap; it might even be free.” Two recent studies, one by the International Monetary Fund, concluded that strict carbon legislation would in fact have very little negative effect on the economy “and might actually lead to faster growth.” This is partly because of the benefits of investing in renewable-energy technology and partly because the “co-benefits” of burning less coal, such as the improvements to public health, would result in huge savings. We do not need to succumb to “climate despair.’’

The alarmists keep insisting “climate science is settled,” said Steven E. Koonin in The Wall Street Journal. It’s not. Yes, global temperatures are changing, but we have no idea how much of that is caused by human activity. And the computer models that climatologists use to make long-term projections have proven to be crude and inaccurate. No one can satisfactorily explain why the rate of warming has slowed in the past 16 years, even though human contribution to CO² levels has grown 25 percent.

Doing nothing means “taking a huge gamble on the world’s future,” said Eugene Robinson in The Washington Post. But even though chances for a landmark agreement between nations to cut emissions are still dim, the massive turnout for Sunday’s marches showed that ordinary citizens are no longer willing to ignore the alarm bells. “If governments are ever to tackle climate change, we the people will have to show them the way.”


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