Climate change is no joke


Jakob Benedetti – Staff Writer

In 1988, the UN created the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change—or the IPCC— with the purpose of studying our understanding of climate change, how climate change itself has progressed and what the possible causes and impacts of climate change could be. This past fall, they released their most recent report, which provides a damning analysis of our current situation.

They believe that human activity has directly caused an increase of up to 1.2 and no less than 0.8 degrees Celsius in average global temperature compared to pre-industrial levels. This means that even if some climate change is natural, the vast majority can be directly attributed to human activity.  Furthermore, they outline how if the current rate of warming continues, human activity will cause a 1.5-degree Celsius increase in average temperature as early as 2030.

This might sound complicated and uncertain, and that’s because it is. No one is suggesting that we know everything about climate change or what its exact impact will be, but we can be reasonably certain of a few things: one, climate change is happening, two, human activity is primarily responsible for this and three, if we continue to neglect radical action on this issue, we will regret it.

The IPCC report outlines how temperatures rising over time caused the effects of climate change to become more apparent. They suggest that we should view the 1.5-degree mark as a tipping point, since after we reach this point, the impacts of climate change will begin to become much worse and much harder to reverse. Summers will be hotter, especially at the equator, and winters will be colder; storms like typhoons and hurricanes will become more common and much stronger; and the melting of polar ice caps will make sea levels much higher and colder.

I’m not saying all this to scare you, but to show just how ridiculous the debate over climate change in our country is. Facts don’t care about your feelings, and the fact of the matter is if we don’t get our act together and take radical action to eliminate fossil fuels as a primary energy source and reign in environmental devastation—which disproportionately impacts the poor—then our entire planet is going to suffer. This is where the conversation over climate change should begin, and it should end with a robust, good-faith debate about how best to accomplish the level of mobilization required to avoid catastrophe.

Unfortunately, the only plan released by any U.S. politician which would actually accomplish what needs to be done is the so-called Green New Deal introduced by Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Sen. Ed Markey.

What’s exciting about the GND is that it provides the opportunity to seriously address climate change and move away from fossil fuels, while also tackling systemic economic issues that have plagued the U.S. for decades. By making broad public investment in renewable energy research and implementation, as well as in repairing our existing infrastructure, cleaning up our environment in general and building new infrastructure to protect coastal cities and other vulnerable communities, we can create millions of good-paying jobs, in addition to moving the needle on climate change.

In fact, two key tenets of the GND are a federal jobs guarantee, which would virtually eliminate unemployment and provide massive stimulus to the economy, and a “just” transition, which basically means that anyone who has been disproportionately impacted by climate change or the Green New Deal itself would be given special attention to ensure that all benefit.

Obviously, the biggest problem is how to pay for it. First, we have to recognize that no one in the media or in Congress ever asks how to pay for increasing an already bloated military budget or tax cuts for the rich, but I digress. There are actually plenty of ways to raise revenue, such as reversing Republican tax cuts on the rich and corporations, which are responsible for most of the emissions anyway, or enacting a financial transaction tax on Wall Street speculators, you know, the kind that crashed the economy in 2008.

But at the end of the day, we also have to recognize that the costs of doing nothing on climate change will vastly outweigh the cost of the GND. We’re talking about the possibility of irreversible losses of key marine ecosystems, as well as sea-level rise that will wipe out dozens of coastal cities, and drought that will create millions of climate refugees. Frankly, we can’t afford not to do the Green New Deal, and until another plan comes out that addresses climate change to the degree we need to, it seems to me like it’s our only option.