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5 Crucial New Findings About Climate Change

Environment  (tags: animals, climate-change, CO2emissions, conservation, destruction, ecosystems, endangered, environment, forests, globalwarming, government, greenhousegases, habitatdestruction, healthconditions, humans, nature, oceans, politics, pollution, water, weather )

- 2006 days ago -
Five new reports prove that if we don't take our heads out of the sand immediately, we'll be in really hot water.

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Kit B (276)
Sunday November 25, 2012, 9:51 am
(Photo Credit: © James Steidl/

This just in: The planet is screwed. Well, if you ask Bill McKibben (and you should) we still have a fighting chance. But that’s only if we actually start fighting. This week proved a holiday downer with multiple reports coming in about how quickly we're losing the battle to stave off the effects of catastrophic climate change. Here’s a quick recap:

1. UN Report: We’re Really Bad at Cutting Global Warming Emissions

It would be one things to say that we are working hard, but not quite hard enough to curb greenhouse gas emissions. But the sad fact is, we’re not really working on it at all in any meaningful way. Fiona Harvey reports at the Guardian:

The world is straying further away from commitments to combat climate change, bringing the prospect of catastrophic global warming a step closer, a UN report said on Wednesday. ...

The gap between what world governments have committed to by way of cuts in greenhouse gases and the cuts that scientists say are necessary has widened, but in order to stave off dangerous levels of global warming, it should have narrowed. There is now one-fifth more carbon in the atmosphere than there was in 2000, and there are few signs of global emissions falling, according to the new report from the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP).

This is incredibly troubling news and means our hope of staying near or below a global temperature rise of 2 degrees Celsius — which scientists have deemed the upper level of preserving life as we know it on this planet — is quickly slipping out of reach.

2. World Meteorological Organization: Here’s How Bad We Are at Cutting Emissions

Just a day before the UN report, the World Meteorological Organization calculated just how much greenhouse gases are actually in the atmosphere right now. Here’s what they found:

The amount of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere reached a new record high in 2011, according to the World Meteorological Organization. Between 1990 and 2011 there was a 30% increase in radiative forcing – the warming effect on our climate – because of carbon dioxide (CO2) and other heat-trapping long-lived gases.

This doesn’t measure greenhouse gas emissions — like how much CO2 is released from things like burning fossil fuels -- but indicates how much is left in the atmosphere after greenhouse gases are absorbed by sinks such as oceans and trees. Going forward, this is even more troubling as WMO Secretary-General Michel Jarraud explains:

Until now, carbon sinks have absorbed nearly half of the carbon dioxide humans emitted in the atmosphere, but this will not necessarily continue in the future. We have already seen that the oceans are becoming more acidic as a result of the carbon dioxide uptake, with potential repercussions for the underwater food chain and coral reefs.

3. World Bank: We’re Headed to a Really Bad Place

The Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research and Climate Analytics did a report on behalf of the World Bank and it concluded that if we hit 4 degree Celsius warming things are going to get really bad: “extreme heat-waves, declining global food stocks, loss of ecosystems and biodiversity, and life-threatening sea level rise.” They also found that we are headed there if we don’t drastically change course.

According to the World Bank, “The report says today’s climate could warm from the current global mean temperature of 0.8°C above pre-industrial levels, to as high as 4°C by 2100, even if countries fulfill current emissions-reduction pledges.”

As you remember from above, countries aren’t even hitting those pledges, so we’re woefully off-base.

4. Center for American Progress: We’re Especially Screwing Over the Poor and Middle-Class

The U.S. is getting hammered by extreme weather events. “Munich Re, the world’s largest reinsurance firm, found that North America is experiencing a tremendous rise in extreme weather disasters -- a nearly fivefold increase over the past three decades,” reported the Center for American Progress. And this is thanks to climate change.

Knowing this, CAP took a look at how climate-related disasters such as drought, wildfires, winter storms and tropical storms affected people living in the U.S. What they found was, “Most of these extreme weather events typically harmed counties with household incomes below the U.S. median annual household income of $51,914”:

Floods damaged households in affected counties with average household incomes of $44,547 annually -- 14 percent less than the U.S. median income
Drought and heat waves affected counties with households that earned an average of $49,340 annually -- roughly 5 percent less than the U.S. median income
Wildfires, tornadoes, and severe thunderstorms devastated areas with households that earned an average of $50,352 annually -- 3 percent less than the U.S. median income

As we know from Superstorm Sandy, the starkest contrasts between economic classes are often revealed in the aftereffects of disasters; those with fewer resources are often unable to flee areas ahead of coming disasters and poorer neighborhoods, including public housing complexes (as Steven Wishnia wrote for AlterNet), are among the last to have services restored. Nowhere is this disparity more clear than the story of Anthony Narh, a parking attendent at a posh TriBeCa building in New York City (in the evacuation zone), who was called to work during the storm and drowned when the garage filled with water.

5. World Resources Institute: Blame King Coal (and Ourselves)

Here’s a basic fact: the biggest contributors to climate change are coal-fired power plants. So if we’re staring down the barrel of the climate change gun, what makes the most sense? Cut down on our coal burning, of course. But what are we planning to do? According to a new report from the World Resources Institute, 1,199 new coal-burning power plants have been proposed across the world.

China ranks first in the world in coal production and consumption — by a great margin. The U.S. and India are second and third respectively, in both categories as well. When it comes to new capacity, India has the most number of proposed new projects at 455, while China is second in the number of projects (363) but tops the list in what the installed capacity would be. The U.S. is seventh in installed capacity with 36 new coal-burning power plants proposed.

Stephen Lacey writes for Climate Progress:

The report outlines virtually every coal plant announced around the world. That does not necessarily mean that every one will get built. In the U.S., for example, it is highly unlikely that many — if any — new coal plants will move forward as cheap natural gas, growing renewables, and legal pressure from environmental groups trips up the pipeline. (Also, as Justin Guay of the Sierra Club points out in a piece today, local resistance in communities around the world is also hindering many of these projects).

But the tally is still staggering. If all these plants were built, they would amount to generation capacity four times greater than the entire U.S. coal fleet.

Time to get our heads out of the sand and get to work.

Tara Lohan is a senior editor at AlterNet

This article was published in partnership with

***Editor's Note: If you're depressed by the conclusions from these new reports, read AlterNet's interview with Osha Gray Davidson, author of a new book on Germany's renewable energy revolution and what the U.S. can learn from it.

pam w (139)
Sunday November 25, 2012, 10:59 am
Remember how the conservatives RIDICULED Al Gore?


How many of them are still ridiculing him?

Barbara K (60)
Sunday November 25, 2012, 1:03 pm
Al Gore had it right back then, but some just wouldn't listen. The Climate Deniers are screwing the rest of us. We need to get them out of the way and listen to the scientists, and just take a look around to see what is happening to our weather. We'd better heed that sign, the weather is trying to tell us something. We need to change our ways, and now is a late start. If we continue to destroy our planet, where will we live?

Kit B (276)
Sunday November 25, 2012, 1:08 pm

It may well be an inconvenient, and uncomfortable truth, but truth it is.

SuSanne P (193)
Sunday November 25, 2012, 1:10 pm
Thank you Kit...It is beyond my comprehension that every man, woman and child hasn't been FIGHTING for decades. I learned of exactly what was inevitable regarding the outcome of the Planet (if we didn't change our ways) while in grade 10...that was 1972. My professor just happened to study WITH Al Gore BTW. Pam out of Stars. Forty years of information and technology later and people are still debating the issue. Just try to breathe, find anyone who isn't sick for a start. Errr!

Tamara Hayes (185)
Sunday November 25, 2012, 1:18 pm
Thank you Kit for posting this incredibly informative albeit frightening article. I have repeatedly tried to have discussions with people that I know about these warnings and statistics, and as the picture above shows, they have their heads buried so far in the sand that they probably won't even feel it when their asses start to burn. And the strange thing is, I, out of all of my friends, do not have children. I care more about the nightmarish legacy we are leaving for the next generation than they do. They laugh at me and call me foolish for donating my disability money to causes that are imperative to the health of our planet while they throw food away, lock their car doors if a street person comes near, waste vast amounts of water, or are too lazy to recycle. And they say I live in a dream world?

Kit B (276)
Sunday November 25, 2012, 1:51 pm

This Gravely Serious says Mm with the Polar Bear avatar, does that not speak volumes? How many generations will have the opportunity to know what a polar bear is, or will it be what was?

Now here is the example that people should follow, Marilyn and I may not always agree on politics but on animal welfare and the security of this very unstable environment we are on the same page.

Angelika R (143)
Sunday November 25, 2012, 2:36 pm
Remember, remember.. a word the world will be saying soon in regard of a lot of things we used to have...
Remember also that Obama said after his victory (while we all were overjoyed about his victory we still heard this though) that currently he is more concerned with job creation than with climate change. Those jobs better come real quick so that the true main issue can be tackled.

Angelika R (143)
Sunday November 25, 2012, 2:57 pm
You guys need a carbon tax asap, there has to be more pushing for it. If Europe can do it, you should be able to as well. Obama just needs to address this more seriously and call for national action rather than just for "national conversation" about climate change.

Carmen S (611)
Sunday November 25, 2012, 4:43 pm
Thanks Kit, this is a serious issue and people need to pay attention before it's too late.

John C (75)
Sunday November 25, 2012, 4:52 pm
Loved the photo, but the last three republicans I know that saw it just wanted to know; "where did he go?"

Terry V (30)
Sunday November 25, 2012, 4:55 pm
Planet Earth is Dying

Eve of Destruction

Earth Cry

Mother Nature Needs Us

MmAway M (505)
Sunday November 25, 2012, 6:59 pm
Kit...Yes you are correct...Mankind has made a HUGE MUCK throwing things into the Ocean, putting things into the air ~ when people tell me there is no damage to the Climate I get furious! What about all of the disasters that are taking place now. For anyone to hide their head in the sand and ignore it and continue to throw waste into the Earth is CRAZY. Sadly, IMHO the yuppies ran rapid and careless...Diapers WT?????? Wash don't toss! So many ways to help, but even though California is a leader in Climate issues, there are so many trash dumps and what do they do???? Build freeways over top of them...The land is not stable and it is like driving on a frigging rollercoaster! My shocks are SHOT!

Yes sweet Kit, sadly we don't agree on politics, but you are dang correct...I am with you on this one! Hugs

Kit B (276)
Sunday November 25, 2012, 7:09 pm

Excuse me for being out of step, but what is wrong with washing a diaper instead of more trash? They can not be recycled, well that's obvious. I was lucky I had a diaper service. Many times they are no longer available.

Some of us have speculated that the best thing to do with our mountain of trash is to build a ski village on the top. Not that we get snow any more.

MmAway M (505)
Sunday November 25, 2012, 7:26 pm
Kit...Let me clarify what I was trying to say. When I grew up it was cloth for diapers. Now there are Men's Diapers/Women's Diapers and OMG over the tons of years what about a ton of Pampers????? This is clogging up land like crazy! This plastic as well as cotten is crazy to me. I sadly see what is going on since I live with an elder person, granted let's all take the easy way out and go to wall mart buy the diapers, and thus clog up Mother earth. This riles me up since no one actually really wants to do what my parents did when I grew up. Get the Poop into the sink clean it and reuse it. Now it is Toss it and buy another? No wonder we are in a GRAVE STATE OF AFFAIRS here. Easy living...Spend the money, don't worry about what happens...How long can this Earth take care of this MESS????? The Pacific Ocean already has so much Junk floating around MILES AND MILES. Then people wonder why are the whales/dolphins are beaching themselves. WHAT THE ??? I would jump out of that #!#! Ocean creature deserves to be treated this way, but Mankind is so careless in his rush for $$$$. They have to have RULES PUT INTO PLACE (SHOULD OF BEEN DONE 30 Plus years ago) sadly, don't think some people give a Rats arsh! Sorry. I have fought for this since I was 29 and see the filth that is here and no once seems to really give a #!#!.

MmAway M (505)
Sunday November 25, 2012, 7:27 pm
BTW...Terry V...Thank you so very much for posting those links for a video. I did take a peek and while I was looking I found one that was so outstanding I will post it when I can! WOW...

Suzanne L (99)
Sunday November 25, 2012, 9:00 pm
Sadly, It's probably gonna get worse before it gets better.

Frans Badenhorst (582)
Monday November 26, 2012, 2:09 am
I think we are in the hot water already...and it is starting to boil.....

Gloria p (304)
Monday November 26, 2012, 3:23 am
Is it too late?

Past Member (0)
Monday November 26, 2012, 4:44 am

Theodore Shayne (56)
Monday November 26, 2012, 6:15 am
Noted & tweeted

Jo S (0)
Monday November 26, 2012, 6:45 am

David C (131)
Monday November 26, 2012, 8:00 am
20 years ago would have been the best time to make changes, but NOW IS THE TIME....there is no other planet for life...............we must do what we can for all life, especially the young of today....

Past Member (0)
Monday November 26, 2012, 8:57 am
Grim reading indeed.

Gene J (290)
Monday November 26, 2012, 12:34 pm
The problemm with this article is, well, there isn't any apart from its preaching to the choir. The people who NEED to read and understand this irrefutable science simply aren't listening. I've said it before but it is still true, watching an An Inconvenient Truth should be mandatory for every politician and businessperson on the planet. I'd like to see the tables and graphs updated for the 7 years since it was produced. The ice core drillings going back as far as 640,000 years to the last "great" ice age, a snowball earth wherein the entire planet was encased in ice a mile thick did NOT have at any point carbon in the atmosphere as high as 4 ppm, we have been over that level now for nearly a decade. And still no one is talking about reversing this course. The "limits" the politicians talk about are far too little and according to most climatologists already too late. What this means in practical terms is that things are going to get ever wilder weather wise over the next 200 to 400 years when the ocean vectoring system will shut down and another ice age, man made this time, will begin. It isn't going to be much fun living on earth during the run up to that event nor during the inexorable advance of the ice. It will be the largest mass extinction event in the planet's history. No oxygen based life form will survive another snowball earth. Nor will governments be able to sustain the cleanup efforts megastorm after megastorm. Already insurers are talking about huge increases in homeowner's insurance rates to pay for Sandy. What do we do when there are many Sandy's every year, all over the planet? And in those places that mega storms do not make landfall, mega drought does? This requires the immediate and absolute attention of every soul on this planet but those who could begin to do something, or at least try to are arguing about women's reproductive rights or whose deity is best. The virus that is humanity fiddles while the only home we will ever have prepares to cleanse itself of our presence. This is what will be recorded in the fossil history next, the extraordinary hubris of homo sapiens, they who could not tend their own garden and disappeared without ever understanding they should have been.

Craig Pittman (52)
Monday November 26, 2012, 1:31 pm
There are scientists now that are saying it really is too late to stop climate change and that yes human activity is largely to blame for it. Governments and corporations are still dragging their heals with some still in denial. Of course industry is poised to make big bucks from the soon to be necessary - adapting to climate change. Disaster economics will be a boom business.
Here is a link to an article related to scientists who have given up trying to convince the deniers.

Thanks Kit for another timely and fascinating article.

Past Member (0)
Monday November 26, 2012, 5:48 pm
Sorry, but we have passed the tipping point. Greedy governments will do nothing bt push for more and more coal burning, nuclear power, subsidization of animals as food, importing cattle, pigs, sheep from England, USA, Australia, and refusing to develop GREEN ENERGY. The cost of R&D for green energy is so far less than the rebuilding of coastal structures after hurricanes, and other areas after floods, fires, tornadoes, drought. And, of course, the thing that EVERY SINGLE HUMAN ON EARTH CAN DO TO ALER THE COURSE TO DOOM IS TO IMMEDIATELY ADOPT THE SPIRITUAL, ETHICAL, CLEAN, GREEN, EARTH-SAVING ORGANIC VEG'N DIET. The massive amounts of rancid, destructive factors in raising animals as people food corrupts every aspect of LIFE.

Stella Gamboni (17)
Monday November 26, 2012, 7:34 pm
Future historians will look back on this age as a time when we realized there was a problem but were too lazy, too cheap or too stupid to do anything about it.

Tamara Mendelson (1)
Monday November 26, 2012, 8:40 pm

James Merit (144)
Monday November 26, 2012, 9:14 pm
Thank you for this article, this is a serious issue, hope its not to late.

Wim Zunnebeld (144)
Tuesday November 27, 2012, 4:33 am

Past Member (0)
Tuesday November 27, 2012, 5:05 am
Noted. Thanks.
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