The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has recently issued summaries of two reports that merit the attention of every voter in New York’s 23rd.
The IPCC was set up in 1988 to advise the United Nations on climate change issues. In 2007, the IPCC and Al Gore shared the Nobel Peace for their work in bringing the dangers of climate change to the world’s attention.
Specifically, the IPCC advises on how to limit the increase in the average global surface temperature to 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees F) over pre-industrial levels. Beyond a 2 degree increase, scientists foresee disastrous consequences, such as the collapse of the Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets. Some believe that even a 2 degree increase is dangerous. At any rate, the problem today is that at current rates of greenhouse gas emissions, temperatures are expected to rise between 2 and 2.2 degrees Celsius by the middle of this century.
On March 31, the IPCC issued the summary of a report, Climate Change 2014: Impacts, Adaptation, and Vulnerability, laying out the risks of continuing on our current course. These include storm surges causing death, destruction, and disrupted livelihoods in low-lying coastal areas; extreme weather events leading to the breakdown of infrastructure networks and critical services such as electricity, water supply, and health and emergency services; and “the breakdown of food systems linked to warming, drought, flooding, and precipitation variability and extremes ….” The report finds that “Throughout the 21st century, climate-change impacts are projected to slow down economic growth, make poverty reduction more difficult, further erode food security, and prolong existing and create new poverty traps, the latter particularly in urban areas and emerging hot spots of hunger.”
On April 13, the IPCC issued the summary of a second report, focused on mitigating climate change. The report states that despite efforts made so far, the rise in greenhouse gas emissions is continuing, driven by population growth and economic activities. Without additional measures, the mean global surface temperature will increase by 3.7 to 4.8 degrees Celsius by 2100. But the summary contained some good news — technologies for reducing carbon emissions are becoming more effective and renewable energy alternatives are growing ever more affordable. As Paul Krugman notes in today’s column, the price of solar energy panels has fallen by 75 per cent just since 2008.
What we desperately need here in the United States is a carbon tax or a carbon cap and trade system to put a price on carbon emissions and create an economic incentive for reducing them. The chances of that happening while the Republicans control the House of Representatives, however, are nil.
Our congressman, Rep. Tom Reed, has a very discouraging record on climate change. According to the League of Conservation Voters, he has voted against legislation to reduce emissions of methane, one of the worst of the greenhouse gases, during oil and gas drilling operations on public land. He voted for a provision that would prevent the Environmental Protection Agency from taking into consideration the social costs of carbon, such as the effects of climate change on human health and agriculture, and the property damage extreme weather events cause. Reed voted to defund a federal prohibition on government purchases of dirty fuels, such as oil from tar sands. The list goes on.
Rep. Reed in his votes on climate change is risking our future. He is risking the future of the earth.
Clean energy and the environment are at the top of Martha Robertson’s priorities. She is an advocate for wind, solar, and other smart solutions. On climate change as on the other issues, a vote for Martha represents the safe and responsible choice for protecting our future.