Face facts: Climate change is unfolding as predicted
Published: Friday, September 03, 2010, 6:06 AMStar-Ledger Editorial Board
The wildfires in Russia, the floods in Pakistan and the record heat this summer in New Jersey have one thing in common: They are exactly the kind of symptoms scientists predicted we'd experience as global warming occurs.
No, we cannot say for sure that man-made pollutants are the cause. The science is not that precise. But we can measure the effects.
Glaciers that have been stable for centuries are now melting at an alarming rate. Hurricanes are becoming more severe as ocean temperatures rise. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration announced last month that 2010 is breaking all temperature records. And that is no fluke — the 10 hottest years on record have all occurred since 1990.
A rational person would look at this evidence and listen to the scientists who are warning of catastrophic impacts over the next few decades, such as coastal flooding and the collapse of rain-fed agriculture in many regions, especially Africa. If the scientists are right, a lot of people are going to die as a result of climate change. Pentagon planners are preparing for wars and instability that could result.
Republicans in Washington have killed any chance for climate change legislation, for now. Polls show that while most Americans believe climate change is occurring, most Republicans do not. And given the probability that Republicans will gain power in November, the prospects for a comprehensive answer to this appear grim.
For now, we can only chip away at the problem. The Environmental Protection Agency under Lisa Jackson is preparing to impose regulations on carbon emissions, as the Clean Air Act requires. Washington is also subsidizing clean energy sources such as wind and solar, as are states like New Jersey. On the east and west coasts, regional agreements to begin limiting emissions from power plants are getting off the ground.
None of this is nearly enough. And until the United States takes much bolder action, developing countries like China, now the world's largest emitter of greenhouse gases, won't make the needed changes either.
As the world dawdles, this problem will grow worse, and the solution will have to be more drastic, more expensive and disruptive. For that, we will have the climate-change skeptics to thank.