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Editorial Clock is ticking on slowing climate change

October 12, 2018

We inhabit the same planet. Therefore we all must pay attention — regardless of party affiliation or country — to the grim message in the report released Monday by the United Nation’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

The conclusion: We have about 12 years to limit global warming and avoid widespread catastrophic changes.

A dozen years. No longer can the complex problem be left for future generations to handle. Action must be taken now.

The scientific basis for the conclusion cannot be dismissed. The report, written by 91 scientists from 40 countries who examined more than 6,000 peer-reviewed research articles, took nearly two years.

The study followed the Paris Agreement of 2015 in which 195 countries pledged to limit greenhouse gases to keep increases in global warming to 2 degrees C, which is 3.6 degrees F above preindustrial levels. That is not low enough, the new report concluded. A lower threshold of 1.5 degrees C — 2.7 degrees F — is necessary to avoid the worst effects.

Considering that global temperatures are already 1 degree C higher, the situation grows even more urgent.

Deniers might point to cold winters as a sign climate change is not real. But that is false hope. The numbers derived by the world’s scientists are based on 30-year averages and measured against the preindustrial span of 1850 to 1900.

The risks of higher global temperatures include extreme droughts, wildfires, flooding and food shortages for millions. Coastal ecosystems will be disrupted. Human health will be affected.

“Climate-related risks to health, livelihoods, food security, water supply, human security, and economic growth are projected to increase with global warming” of 1.5 degrees C, the report states.

The 12-year time frame is based on present levels of greenhouse gas emissions. It will take immediate and drastic actions to reduce global emissions by 45 percent to reach this target.

It requires phasing out the use of coal, reducing reliance on other fossil fuels, and substantially increasing renewable energy sources.

President Donald Trump, who shamefully announced earlier he would withdraw our country from the multinational Paris agreement and has rolled back environmental protections, said he would “absolutely” look at the report. But his remarks do not encourage optimism.

“It was given to me. And I want to look at who drew it. You know, which group drew it. I can give you reports that are fabulous and I can give you reports that aren’t so good,” Trump told reporters Tuesday.

We cannot ignore or minimize the scientists’ warnings. Ask federal and state candidates how they intend to respond, and vote accordingly. Take an active role in improving the health of the planet.

The conclusion “comes with some wishful thinking that the messages that this report conveys are being taken up by the public, by the policymakers, by the governments, and that the urgency of the issue is being seen,” said one of the scientific authors Monday, “because climate change is shaping the future of our civilization.”

We need more than wishful thinking.

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