4 degrees

Last week President Obama made a major speech which got very little attention. He spoke about climate change, its challenges to our way of life and to human life in general, what could be done to slow or reverse the unprecedented warming of the planet, and, finally, the actions which he plans to implement - things which don't require congressional approval - to begin rolling back the onrushing wave of global warming. In spite of the fact that it was not widely reported, it may turn out to be one of the most significant speeches he has made as president, the one which will have the greatest impact upon the future of the planet.

The United States has been a laggard in the battle against global warming because the Republican Party, backed by Big Oil, refuses to accept that it is happening, or, if it is happening, that it has a human cause. They have devoted themselves to gumming up the works of our government so that it cannot address this threat to human life on Earth. And no one is better at gumming up the works of government than Republicans.

Most other countries in the world are far ahead of us in addressing this problem. Even China, along with the United States one of the world's great polluters, has made significant strides to try to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions. Now that the president has finally recognized that he will never be able to get meaningful legislation on climate change through a hostile House of Representatives and has determined to take what actions are available to him through executive action, perhaps we will begin to see our country move ahead on this issue.

There is no time to waste. That is made clear by a new report issued by the United Nations this week. The report underlines the challenge the globe faces in containing temperature gains since industrialization to the 2-degree Celsius (3.6 Fahrenheit) ceiling set by UN climate-treaty negotiators. The planet is on course to warm by 4C degrees  by 2100 because emissions are still rising. That extent of warming would have a devastating effect on the planet as a whole but especially on the poor of our world.

The World Bank has produced a short video which dramatizes and summarizes the effects of such warming, but also gives some guidance as to what can be done to stop it.

This is a problem that is faced by the whole world and it must be addressed by the whole world. That includes the United States. We should be leading instead of sitting on the sidelines. Since our dysfunctional Congress refuses to act, it is a good thing that President Obama has finally chosen to.


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