Not so long ago, climate change for many Americans was like a distant bell. News of starving polar bears or melting glaciers was tragic and disturbing, but from another world.
Hundreds of people have died in unprecedented triple-digit heat in Oregon, Washington state and western Canada late last month when a “heat dome” of enormous proportions burst. settled in the area for days. Some victims taken on stretcher to crowded hospital wards had such a high body temperature that their nervous systems shut down. People collapsed trying to make their way to cooling shelters.
Greenhouse gases that trap heat
Scientists say the event was almost certainly made worse and more intransigent by man-made climate change. They attribute it to a combination of warming arctic temperatures and an increasing build-up of heat-trapping greenhouse gases caused by the burning of fossil fuels.
The consequences of what humanity has done to the atmosphere are now inevitable. Spells of extreme heat are expected to double in the lower 48 states by 2100. Heat deaths far exceed all other forms of weather killers by an average of 30 years. A persistent mega-drought in the American West continues to create drought conditions that augur another devastating wildfire season. And scientists say warming oceans are fueling increasingly powerful storms, as evidenced by Elsa and the early onset of hurricane season this year.
Increasingly severe weather conditions cause an estimated $ 100 billion in damage to the United States each year.
“It’s honestly surreal to see your projections manifest in real time, with all the pain that goes with them. It’s heartbreaking,” climatologist Katharine Hayhoe said.
Rising seas due to global warming
Investigators are still trying to determine what led to the collapse of a Miami-area condominium that left more than 100 people dead or missing. But a worrying factor is the corrosive effect on reinforced steel structures from the encroachment of salt water, compounded in Florida by a foot of rising seas due to global warming since the 1900s.
Time is running out for planet Earth.
The global temperature has risen by almost 2 degrees Fahrenheit since the pre-industrial era of the late 19th century. Scientists warn that within a decade it could exceed a 2.7 degree increase. This is enough warming to cause catastrophic climate change.
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After a brief drop in global greenhouse gas emissions during the pandemic, pollution is on the rise. Years that could have been spent resolving the crisis have been wasted during a period of senseless inaction by the Trump administration.
Congress must act
Joe Biden won the presidency by promising new broad policies to reduce US greenhouse gas emissions. But Congress must act on these ideas this year. Democrats can’t risk losing tight control of one or both houses of Congress in the 2022 election to a Republican party too long resisting meaningful climate action.
So what is it all about?
A $ 973 billion infrastructure bill negotiated between Biden and a group of centrist senators (including 10 Republicans) is a start. In addition to repairing bridges, roads and railroads, it would improve the country’s electrical infrastructure access to renewable energy sources, cover millions of abandoned oil and gas wells spewing out greenhouse gases. greenhouse and harden structures against climate change.
It also offers tax credits for the purchase of electric vehicles and finances the construction of charging stations. (The biggest source of climate pollution in the country are gasoline vehicles.)
Far more is needed if the nation is to meet Biden’s necessary goal of halving climate pollution in the United States from 2005 levels by 2030. His ideas for consideration include a federal clean electricity standard. for utilities, federal investments and tax credits to promote renewable energy and tens of billions of dollars in clean energy research and development, including ways to extract greenhouse gases of the sky.
Another idea to consider is a fully refundable carbon tax.
The vehicle for these additional proposals would be a second infrastructure bill. And if Republicans balk at the cost of such a vital investment, Biden rightly proposes to push this package through a process known as budget reconciliation, which allows bills to be approved by the Senate with a simple majority vote.
These are drastic legislative measures. But drastic times call for them.
And when Biden attends a United Nations climate conference in November, he can use America’s progress on climate change as a way to persuade others to follow our lead. Additional time is not an option.