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Global Warming continues to unfold with serious repercusions to our health.
Global Warming continues to unfold with serious repercusions to our health.

Climate Problems Come into Focus

Weather as a Major Concern for Human Health

Nov 17, 2018

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As the fires and hurricanes keep coming, it becomes increasingly difficult to deny weather as a major concern when planning for human health. Fires, floods, extreme heat, poor air quality, and problems with water access all make us more vulnerable as “Global Warming” continues to unfold. Some individuals may do reasonably well in the coming era, if they are lucky or well-resourced (and able to buffer from the worst impacts). For the rest of us, though, and for the planet as a whole, some massive changes are in store.

The UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) in October reported that “urgent and unprecedented changes” are needed in order to prevent the most devastating environmental and population effects. The report stated that climate goals are “affordable and feasible” although it will be a significant stretch to keep the temperature rise between 1.5C and 2C, as intended by the Paris Climate agreement.

Who will Lead Us Out of this Mess?

Our political leaders are very compromised in how they approach this issue. Let us not spend much time lamenting the Trump administration’s cynical attempts to squeeze the remaining profits out of fossil fuels without any regard for the consequences. Even a recognized progressive leader such as Jerry Brown has continued to approve oil and gas leases at a rapid rate, which is clearly the opposite of what is needed.

If the leaders aren’t able to take the right path, how about the grassroots? This article was written following the midterm elections, and the results clearly do not signal a significant shift in our culture’s response to the crisis facing us.

An anti-fracking bill was defeated in Colorado, even though the only hope for a reasonably gentle future is to keep almost all of the fossil fuels in the ground. Washington State voters defeated a carbon tax bill, even though one viable strategy to decrease greenhouse gas emissions is to try to harness market forces and force polluting industries to pay for the emissions.

The United Nations’ chief of biodiversity issued a report at the end of October warning that the global community has approximately two years to reach a broad global agreement to protect animal and plant species, or humanity will watch whole ecosystems collapse as species become extinct, yet there is scant public effort on this front.

Give Us Some Hope!

It is extremely confusing to try to sort through the conflicting advice about how to respond but clearly radical shifts in thought and action are needed.

  1. US, that asserts that the government’s actions that led to climate change have violated the youngest generation’s constitutional rights to life, liberty, and property. The case was initially brought against the US government in Oregon in 2015 and is winding its way through the system. This could have a big impact.
  • Protesters against the Dakota Access Pipeline and Keystone XL Pipeline hold a sit-in in the street next to the San Francisco Federal Building - Wikimedia Commons, the free media repository.Indigenous people are leading many initiatives that seek to protect sacred land and prevent extractive practices. On November 8, a Federal Judge ruled in favor of the Indigenous Environmental Network and other groups to temporarily halt construction of the Keystone XL Pipeline. This pipeline which was developed to transport oil extracted from the Tar Sands in Northern Canada across Indigenous territory to refineries in the Gulf Coast for markets in Asia has now been blocked. This battle is far from over.
  •  An example of a map to getting to a sustainable future is One Earth, from the Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation, which concisely explains the three goals humanity needs to achieve by
    •  Transform our energy systems to 100% clean, renewable energy. We are actually making real progress on this
    •  Protect, connect and restore 50% of our lands and seas to a wilderness This will require a significant change in our approach to development and protecting natural lands, especially in the Amazon;
    •  Shift to regenerative, carbon-negative agriculture We have a lot of the technology available for this, but it will require major changes in diet and in agricultural practices.

Can we pull all of this off? Our health and our children’s future depends on it.

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