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Natural Perspectives: Dire consequences if we don't curb emissions

November 16, 2011|By Vic Leipzig and Lou Murray
  • The Edison power plant in Huntington Beach.
The Edison power plant in Huntington Beach. (HB Independent )

Britain's Guardian newspaper reported recently that the construction of many new fossil fuel-burning power plants may prevent the world from keeping global temperature increases at a safe level.

A manageable temperature rise is thought by many scientists to be an increase of 2 degrees Celsius, or about 7 degrees Fahrenheit.

According to the Guardian article, the International Energy Agency (IEA) warned that if new international climate action isn't taken by 2017, people won't be able to keep future temperature increases at that so-called safe level. That means we have only five years left to act on a global scale to curb greenhouse gas emissions.

Building new fossil fuel-burning power plants and factories, and constructing energy inefficient buildings, will lock in production of greenhouse gas emissions throughout that structure's lifetime. In five years, we'll have so many new plants online that we will have committed ourselves to a temperature rise of more than 2 degrees Celsius. Any warming above that mark would cause even more devastating climate change than what is now occurring.

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The article quoted Fatih Birol, chief economist at the IEA, as saying "The door is closing. If we don't change direction now on how we use energy, we will end up beyond what scientists tell us is the minimum (safe level). The door will be closed forever."

That is a powerful prediction of dire consequences if we don't act immediately on a global scale to curb emissions. And yet many people still don't believe that global warming is real. They deny climate change.

Vic and I recently read that 70% of Republicans don't believe that man-made climate change is occurring. Only 30% of Democrats hold that opinion. But those are just opinions of non-scientists. Climate change isn't political and it isn't an opinion. It is scientific fact.

I'm going to have to read a book coming out this spring by author Chris Mooney, "The Republican Brain: The Science of Why They Don't Believe in Science."

A different article in The Guardian discussed a published report from the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism at Oxford University.

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