First of all, happy bike to work day, everyone! DC was pretty ideal for a ride today – although, personally, I think that more or less every day is a great day to bike to work. It’s actually faster than getting around by car, saves a ton of money on gas, parking, and public transit fares, and best of all – no emissions. That last bit, while I don’t harp on it ALL the time – is a pretty key point in light of some news today. I don’t usually talk climate – our meteorologist and climate expert El Nino more often covers that – but today is an exception. Concentrations of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere have officially reached 400 ppm, the highest they have been since the Pliocene Epoch (which ended 2.588 million years ago) – an age where the Arctic had virtually no ice caps and Earth’s surface in sum was significantly warmer.
While much of the news media and public opinion portrays the causes of this as up for scientific debate, a study conducted by skepticalscience.com that reviewed over 12,000 scientific papers from 1991 – 2011 found that fully 97% of the worldwide scientific community considers this warming to be anthropogenic.
Let me repeat that: 97% of published, peer-reviewed scientific papers agree that global warming is caused by humans. This is such a big deal that even Barack Obama tweeted about it.
It gets better – or worse.
Remember during this past campaign year, when then-Presidential candidate Mitt Romney said the following?
“My view is that we don’t know what’s causing climate change on this planet,” he said, according to CBS. “And the idea of spending trillions and trillions of dollars to try to reduce CO2 emissions is not the right course for us.”
Well, Mitt – turns out there’s a saying about an ounce of prevention. A United Nations report today indicated that during the past decade, losses from natural disasters have exceeded $2.5 trillion dollars worldwide. Paying for the results of climate-related disasters cost the American taxpayer more in 2012 than any other non-defense, discretionary budget item – totaling around $100 billion. Just during the past two years (2011 – 2012) there were more than twenty five climate related disasters (storms, heat waves, drought, and other extreme events) that cost upwards of $1 billion each.
There’s a message in here, and it’s not that the world is ending. The truth is, we can’t afford climate change. Maybe not everyone is going to care about hundreds of species that may go extinct from the impacts of shifting temperatures and water patterns. Maybe not everyone cares about the destruction of coral reefs from climate related ocean acidification or the loss of tropical islands such as the Pearl Cays or Kiribati.
But $2.5 trillion is hard to argue with – especially when 97% of experts agree that it’s our fault. Maybe, just maybe, it’s finally time to do something about it.