Why Averting a Climate Catastrophe Must Be a Central Focus For Society Today
Here are ten reasons we all should be very concerned about climate change:
- Science academies worldwide, 97% of climate scientists, and 99.9% of peer-reviewed papers on the issue in respected scientific journals argue that climate change is real, is largely caused by human activities, and poses great threats to humanity. In December 2015, 195 nations at the Paris climate change conference all agreed that immediate action must be taken to avert a climate catastrophe.
- Every decade since the 1970s has been warmer than the previous decade and all of the 17 warmest years since temperature records were kept in 1880 have been since 1998. 2015 is the warmest year globally since 1880 when worldwide temperature records were first kept, breaking the record held before by 2014, and 2016 is on track to become the warmest year. The previous 15 months have all broken records for being the hottest month with its name (March, April, etc.). This means, for example, that April 2016 was the warmest April since 1880. July 2016 was the warmest month ever recorded.
- Polar icecaps and glaciers worldwide have been melting rapidly, faster than scientific projections. This is a factor behind projections that the oceans may rise as much as ten feet by mid-century.
- There has been an increase in the number and severity of droughts, wildfires, storms, and floods. There seem to be stories about this almost daily on TV news.
- California has been subjected to so many severe climate events (heat waves, droughts, wildfires, and mudslides when heavy rains occur) recently that its governor, Jerry Brown, stated that, “Humanity is on a collision course with nature.”
- Many climates experts believe that we are close to a tipping point when climate change will spiral out of control, with disastrous consequences, unless major positive changes soon occur.
- While climate scientists believe that 350 parts per million (ppm) of atmospheric CO2 is a threshold value for climate stability, the world reached 400 ppm in 2014, and the amount is increasing by 2 – 3 ppm per year.
- While climate scientists hope that temperature increases can be limited to two degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit), largely because that is the best that can be hoped for with current trends and momentum, the world is now on track for an average increase of 4 – 5 degrees Celsius, which would produce a world with almost unimaginably negative climate events.
- The Pentagon and other military groups believe that climate change will increase the potential for instability, terrorism, and war by reducing access to food and clean water and by causing tens of millions of desperate refuges fleeing from droughts, wildfires, floods, storms, and other effects of climate change.
- The conservative group ConservAmerica (www.ConservAmerica.org), formerly known as ‘Republicans for Environmental Protection,’ is very concerned about climate change threats. They are working to end the denial about climate threats and the urgency of working to avert them on the part of the vast majority of Republicans, but so far with very limited success.
As president emeritus of Jewish Veg (formerly Jewish Vegetarians of North America), I want to stress that animal agriculture is a major contributor to climate change, emitting more greenhouse gases (in CO2 equivalents) than all the cars and other means of transportation combined, according to a 2006 UN Food and Agriculture report, “Livestock’s Long Shadow.” And a 2009 cover story in World Watch magazine by two environmentalists associated with the World Bank concluded that the ‘livestock’ sector is responsible for at least 51% of all human-induced greenhouse gases.
Time to make averting a climate catastrophe a central organizing principle for society today and to stress that shifts to plant-based (vegan) diets are essential to avert such a result and to help shift our imperiled planet onto a sustainable path.