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National Climate Study: We're Up Shit Creek, But We Have A Paddle. So Paddle, Damn It! PADDLE!
Sorry, Wonkette readers: Not that kind of paddling.
On Tuesday, the government released the Fifth National Climate Assessment, a massive, every-four-years check-in on the state of the US’s efforts to control greenhouse emissions, and of how climate change is affecting every region of the country.
As you’d expect in what’s shaping up to be the hottest year on record, there’s no end of dire news in the report: Every aspect of American life from food to health to the economy is either already being affected by climate change, or at increasing risk. And because we’ve wasted 30 years since scientists started pointing at the problem and saying “this is a problem,” it’s too late to prevent some of the damage that we’ve already locked in by pumping carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases into the atmosphere.
But this is also where we get to tell you that the report very emphatically does not say “it’s too late, we’re doomed, let’s just watch On The Beach on endless loop until the last bird chirps and keels over.”
Rather, the report leads off with this sober overview: We’ve let this go too long, but we also have the ability to keep it from getting much, much worse.
Most important to keep in mind is that US greenhouse emissions, mostly CO2, peaked in 2007 and have been falling ever since, mostly because it became much cheaper to generate electricity with gas instead of coal, but also because we’re making deliberate efforts to cut emissions and transition, finally, to renewable energy.
Did you have a feeling a “however” was on the way? Smart reader.
However, without deeper cuts in global net greenhouse gas emissions and accelerated adaptation efforts, severe climate risks to the United States will continue to grow.
The report emphasizes that with every increment of additional warming, the situation will get even worse — but the flip side is that with every incremental bit of warming we prevent, we reduce that harm. In short, it’s on us, right now, to determine the future of the planet’s climate:
While there are still uncertainties about how the planet will react to rapid warming and catastrophic future scenarios that cannot be ruled out, the future is largely in human hands.
I really want to underline the bit I boldfaced right there, even if our silly platform doesn’t do underlining, because I’m starting to be convinced that nihilism or despair is at this point a far greater danger to making progress than outright denial is. You can’t persuade a conspiracy theorist to accept the science, but I’d like to think that folks who are ready to give up can still be convinced by the evidence that we need them in this fight. The nation’s top climate experts haven’t thrown in the towel, so hey, you shouldn’t either.
Also too, for the first time in one of these reports, the Climate Assessment includes a chapter on the economic effects of climate change — hello, we’ve had 25 climate disasters just this year that have caused more than a billion dollars each in damages — and sums up the math quite simply, noting that “the benefits of deep emissions cuts for current and future generations are expected to far outweigh the costs.”
Hell, the report also points out that slashing greenhouse gases and the accompanying pollution from fossil fuels will “result in widespread health benefits and avoided death or illness that far outweigh the costs of mitigation.” The energy transition won’t harm the economy, it’ll make America and the world healthier and more economically secure. Unless you run a coal mine or oil company, which is why there are so many lies claiming we “can’t afford” this.
President Joe Biden — whose administration has taken America’s most serious action ever to tackle climate change — said Tuesday that climate change is “the ultimate threat to humanity,” prompting blue-check dipshits on Xitter to say “No it’s Muslins!”
Here’s that video, in case you missed it Tuesday.
In a huge contrast to Donald Trump, who tried to hide the Fourth National Climate Assessment by releasing it the day after Thanksgiving in 2018, Biden said he wanted Americans to pay attention to this one, please. He noted that “the previous administration” — that’s Joe in Polite Mode — “tried to bury this report,” and added, “We’re sharing this report in detail with the American people so they know exactly what they’re facing and what we’re going to have to do.”
We remember that Thanksgiving weekend, and how the boneheaded attempt to hide the report backfired, Streisand Effect-style, because it was so transparently evil that everyone reported on it. As the New York Times notes (gift link), while Trump didn’t actually interfere with the report’s publication beyond that, he “later disbanded a federal advisory committee that was charged with translating the report into guidance for local governments and private companies.” The bastard.
And we also remember that Trump followed up the report by saying in an interview the next week that he “didn’t believe it” because maybe things would cool down, no one really knows.
Here’s something Joe Biden would never say about climate, although honestly, we can’t say for certain that Trump knew what he was talking about either:
“And when you're talking about an atmosphere, oceans are very small. And it blows over and it sails over. I mean, we take thousands of tons of garbage off our beaches all the time that comes over from Asia. It just flows right down the Pacific, it flows, and we say where does this come from. And it takes many people to start off with.”
Very big, very small, huge, many people. Guess we know where Herschel Walker got his climate talking points.
If you needed another reminder, there it is: The most important thing we can do to fight climate change is to make sure Donald Trump and his science-denying cronies never hold office again.
Biden also announced that the administration is releasing some $6 billion in funding to upgrade the US electric grid, to help areas prone to flooding to mitigate future risk, and to support clean energy and climate resilience programs in community partnerships, among other things.
There’s a hell of a lot to think about in the Climate Assessment, and we will probably spend a good chunk of our Thanksgiving long weekend delving into it. For a really good summary, here’s a paywall-free gift link to the excellent overview in the Times, because look at us blathering on.
There’s a lot for us to do. Go into the holiday week remembering that we’re finally doing it, so by Crom, let’s do it right.
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