Posted by: ericgrimsrud | June 6, 2019

Arresting the advance of global warming in 2020

The sorry state of our planet today with respect to its continuous heating by man-made atmospheric greenhouse gases can be attributed to the lack of attention given this problem by all administrations of the USA since 1988 when the scientific case for troubles ahead was clearly spelled out to the administration of George H. W. Bush by America’s leading climate scientist, James Hansen.  If action against climate had been begun then, we would have been able to avoid the worst consequences of warming. Most unfortunately for all of us and our decedents, that did not happen.

While professing concern about global warming in 1988, the first Bush administration decided to take no action at that time – that is, to “wait and see” seemed to be the prudent thing to do to George H.W.  It is also true that John Sununu, Bush’s Chief of Staff had inappropriately assumed the role of in-house science expert and believed that Hansen’s view was fraught with error (which time has shown not to be the case).  Unfortunately, the President tended to defer to Sununu’s view in this matter.

It was also most unfortunate that at that time the major oil companies, who up until then had provided some of the best research concerning greenhouse gas warming, decided to stop doing that research because it was suggesting troubles ahead for the use of their products. So, instead, they decided to use their resources for spreading doubt concerning the science being undertaken on this topic by others.  As a result of these events in that critical year of 1988, the world lost its best chance to take effective and timely action.

The following Clinton administration also expressed some concern but provided little, if any, action – in spite of the fact that Al Gore was the Vice President at that time.  The next President, George W. Bush got elected by claiming to be just as concerned as his competitor, Al Gore, but then pulled the rug from under his progressive new head of the EPA, Christine Todd Whitman, as soon as the fossil fuel industries pushed back on the initial actions of Ms. Whitman.

Thus, during the first critical decade of the 21st Century, essentially nothing was done to arrest the alarming increase in atmospheric carbon dioxide. Sad to say that during the following administration of the Democrat, Barack Obama, very little, other than talk, also occurred. Obama’s first priority was to institute a national health care system and the Republican’s opposition to that issue seemed to consume almost all national attention during Obama’s two terms.

And now we presently have a president, Donald Trump, who is probably the most ill-focused and least progressive US president of all times. One of the few things we know for sure about this man is that he is one of the world’s strongest deniers of the science behind global warming and is one of the fossil fuels industry’s greatest supporters, strongly advocating more oil and gas exploration and extraction.

Because of the above, the concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere has now risen to about 410 part per millions – which is about 50% higher than it was prior to the fossil-fuel-driven Industrial Age.  Life as we know it today cannot be sustained with that level of atmospheric CO2 and still, we are adding an additional 2-3 ppm CO2 to it ever year. While the best science tells us that we need to reduce the atmospheric CO2 level to about 350 ppm within the next few decades, we haven’t even managed to level off man-caused annual emissions yet, much less reduce them.

So, what should be the greatest priority of a new democratic administration should we manage to get one after the upcoming elections of 2020. In my opinion, it is obvious that it has to include very strong action against the further advance of global warming. If we are not successful in that endeavor, which now has indeed become a very formidable task, no other issues of humanity will matter within a very few decades.

Some good news is that, finally, the issue has become one of highest priorities for one of our political parties – the Democrats. Most of their candidates for the 2020 presidency appear to be of that opinion.  As usual, however, the Republicans will not be supportive and are sure to hammer the democrats for supporting the great system changes that will be required.  It is true that success in the battle against climate change will require major changes to the fossil-fuel-drenched business- as-usual system that we have become so addicted to.

So, even though this battle is sure to be very difficult, it appears, at least, that the issue will now finally be put to the electorate in the primary and national elections of 2020.  Note that in the present year, the issue of climate change will be front and center, as opposed to it not even being mentioned in the candidate debates prior to 2016. Thus, what we do about this all-important issue will finally be up to the voting public.  Hopefully, they will prove to be more responsible than their elected officials have been for the last 30 years.


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