Sign of Extreme and Urgent Danger:
Earth’s Temperature Rise Breaks Record for Third Year in a Row
January 19, 2017 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
Two days before Donald Trump’s scheduled inauguration, scientists announced that the year 2016 was the hottest year on record. This is the third year in a row that the global temperature has shattered the previous all-time records—the first time that has happened. Of the 17 hottest years on record, 16 have now occurred since 2000.
An article in Bloomberg News spelled out just some of what global warming has meant already and what it portends for the future: “As climate change continues apace, unusual weather will become commonplace. In 2016, for example, wildfires dealt Canada its costliest natural disaster ever. Arctic sea ice was at its smallest winter maximum for the second year running. Temperatures in India climbed to 51 degrees Celsius (124 degrees Fahrenheit). In Southern Africa, a second year of weak rainy seasons led to serious drought, while an unusually active hurricane season in the Atlantic left more than 1,700 people dead, including 1,000 who perished in the wake of a catastrophic Category 5 storm.” (“No Hoax: 2016 Was the Hottest Year on Record.”)
The article also notes: “[A] quarter of the Great Barrier Reef [the world’s largest coral reef system, off the coast of Australia] has died. Warm waters and ocean acidification caused by carbon dioxide pollution have turned once colorful nurseries of sea life into ashen graveyards. As the belt of heat at the planet’s equator widens, the U.S. and Canada have revised northward their maps of so-called hardiness zones for growing crops. As Greenland’s ice streams flow ever faster to the sea and state-sized chunks of Antarctica destabilize, rising oceans are redrawing Louisiana’s coast and Miami streets now flood when the tide comes in, even on sunny days.”
In short, the ongoing destruction of the environment—leaving aside Trump’s potential use of nuclear weapons—is threatening the very existence of life on earth.
Almost all climate scientists around the world have come to the conclusion, based on scientific evidence, that global temperatures are rising due to human activity—especially the burning of fossil fuels that produce greenhouse gases—and that if the trend continues, there will be catastrophic consequences for human society and life on earth overall. In denial of this scientific fact, Trump has said, “The concept of global warming was created by and for the Chinese in order to make U.S. manufacturing noncompetitive.” He has appointed to his fascist regime other global warming deniers and environment destroyers—like Scott Pruitt, infamous for his role in Oklahoma fracking, to head the Environmental Protection Agency, and Exxon Mobil CEO Rex Tillerson as secretary of state.
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Michael Halpern, deputy director of the Center for Science and Democracy at the advocacy group Union of Concerned Scientists, pointed to the threat to climate science posed by Trump’s cabal: “They have been salivating at the possibility of dismantling federal climate research programs for years. It’s not unreasonable to think they would want to take down the very data that they dispute. There is a fine line between being paranoid and being prepared, and scientists are doing their best to be prepared.... Scientists are right to preserve data and archive websites before those who want to dismantle federal climate change research programs storm the castle.” (See Washington Post, “Scientists are frantically copying U.S. climate data, fearing it might vanish under Trump.”)
Trump has threatened to gut the Clean Air Act passed under Obama that put some controls on carbon emissions from power plants and to increase the production of coal—both of which would greatly increase greenhouse gas emissions. And he’s vowed to withdraw from the Paris international climate accord, which came nowhere near actually dealing seriously with climate change but did put on some limitations. And this doesn’t even take into account that the largest single institutional consumer of carbon fuels is the U.S. military, which Trump wants to expand greatly.
Trump has also stated that he will halt all research on climate change at NASA and has already tried to intimidate scientists whose work is on global warming. In just one instance of such intimidation, Trump’s transition team sent a lengthy questionnaire to people at the Department of Energy seeking “specific names of employees who studied climate issues for the government or who had accompanied Obama-era political appointees on trips to international climate meetings.” ("Are Climate Scientists Ready for Trump," The Atlantic, 12/27/16) This outrageous witch-hunt was rescinded by Trump in the face of resistance by scientists and the refusal of the Department of Energy to comply. (See “Trump’s Climate Change Witch Hunt.”)
Michael Mann, professor of atmospheric science and director of the Earth System Science Center at Penn State University, wrote in the Washington Post, “[W]ith the coming Trump administration, my colleagues and I are steeling ourselves for a renewed onslaught of intimidation, from inside and outside government. It would be bad for our work and bad for our planet.”
Scientists who fear Trump’s fascist government will go after crucial data on climate change are racing to archive their work as quickly as possible. They have formed an organization based in Toronto, Canada, the Environmental Data & Governance Initiative. This is described as “an international network of academics and non-profits that believes in evidence-based policy making and public interest science. Our network is leading the way by building online tools, events, and research networks to proactively archive public environmental data, as well as track and respond to the undermining of evidence-based environmental governance in the United States.”
As we have written recently, “Without Donald Trump in power, the world was already experiencing a growing environmental emergency that is relentlessly driven forward by the competitive predations of global capitalism. But now, Trump’s victory threatens to kick the destruction of the planet into overdrive. This is an extremely dangerous situation, and another important part of the overall need to stop this entire fascist program in its tracks before it can be fully implemented.” (See “Trump’s Victory—A Disaster for the Environment Requiring Massive Resistance.”)
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