Tucked away in a draft environmental statement issued in July is a projection that without a drastic cutback in greenhouse gas emissions, Earth’s temperatures will rise nearly 4 degrees Celsius by 2100. That’s 7 degrees Fahrenheit. The average tally of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere by then would have soared to 789 parts per million compared with the current level of 410 ppm. To put it mildly, the impacts would be catastrophic.
Officials of the Trump regime effectively shrugged this off. Or rather, in their bottomless perversity, they claimed the disastrous temperature rise and all its accompanying effects are already baked into future climate change to bolster their rationale for freezing Obama-era fuel-efficiency standards. Quite the twist for a federal government brim full of climate science deniers to admit climate change is real.
The numbers are not something new from climate scientists. For the past six or seven years, a 3- to 4-degree rise or even worse is what many of them have viewed as likely if nothing is done to curb emissions. The Paris climate agreement is meant to do exactly that, holding the temperature rise to 2 degrees C (3.6 degrees F). But everyone agrees that existing pledges of emissions cutbacks under the agreement aren’t enough to meet that goal, much less the aspirational goal of 1.5 degrees C.
Juliet Eilperin , Brady Dennis and Chris Mooney scrutinized the draft statement in The Washington Post Friday:
But the administration did not offer this dire forecast, premised on the idea that the world will fail to cut its greenhouse gas emissions, as part of an argument to combat climate change. Just the opposite: The analysis assumes the planet’s fate is already sealed. […]
“The amazing thing they’re saying is human activities are going to lead to this rise of carbon dioxide that is disastrous for the environment and society. And then they’re saying they’re not going to do anything about it,” said Michael MacCracken, who served as a senior scientist at the U.S. Global Change Research Program from 1993 to 2002.
The Obama standards were finalized in 2012 after long negotiations with automakers. These mandated that by 2020, cars would have to average 41.7 miles per gallon and 54.5 mpg by 2025.
The 500-page environmental statement was written by researchers at the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). Its authors concede that a decision by the Trump regime to freeze the fuel-efficiency standards set by the Obama administration for cars and light trucks will definitely add to greenhouse gas emissions. But they assert the increase would be small compared to other sources of emissions and not worth doing because this small change would add too much to the cost consumers pay for vehicles.
Cutting back emissions far enough to have a big impact, they say, “would require substantial increases in technology innovation and adoption compared to today’s levels and would require the economy and the vehicle fleet to move away from the use of fossil fuels, which is not currently technologically feasible or economically feasible.”
The draft statement is especially galling because of this assumption that the 7-degree warming is inevitable. Using the worse-case scenario associated with a business-as-usual approach to make its comparisons is another twisted methodology in a world where efforts are being made to reduce emissions even if those efforts are so far inadequate to the task. But this meshes perfectly with the objectives of a regime determined to hold Americans hostage to fossil fuels for as long as profits can be squeezed out.
A new United Nations report shows that getting to that 1.5 degree goal is almost certainly out of reach, but that it’s still possible to hit the 2-degree target.
“It’s a lot more difficult without the US as a leader in climate change negotiations,” Ola Elvestuen, Norway’s environment minister, told the Guardian. “We have to find solutions even though the US isn’t there.”
Elvestuen said countries, including Norway, which is one of the world’s largest oil and gas producers, need to transition away from fossil fuels, embrace electric cars and halt deforestation. […]
“We are moving way too slowly,” Elvestuen said. “We have to do more of everything, faster. We need to deliver on policies at every level. Governments normally move slowly but we don’t have the time.”
Yes. More of everything faster.
Under our current federal leadership, we have to depend on the increasing number of cities and states that have been setting emissions-curbing policies. However, this fragmented approach, welcome and important as it is, cannot achieve what a serious national policy addressing climate change can. That being so, every Democrat who runs for the White House and Congress between now and 2021 needs to be a climate hawk. Lip service won’t cut it.
This is a Creative Commons article. The original version of this article appeared here.