The Norman Transcript

October 27, 2013

New report says global warming is ‘unequivocal’

By Catherine Hobbs
The Norman Transcript

NORMAN — The just-released report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (Sept. 30) only confirms that the direction our climate-denier leaders are taking us remains dangerously wrongheaded. 

The report shows, for example, that not only does global warming exist, but scientists now say it is “extremely likely” that it is caused by human activity.

While the report underlines — as climate-deniers such as Sens. Inhofe and Coburn maintain — that we still have much to learn about earth’s climate, the report makes it clear that greenhouse gases must be curbed to maintain weather and climate hospitable to humans on earth for the near and long-term future.

Thomas Stocker, co-chair of the scientists who produced the report, said,  “Continued emissions of greenhouse gases will cause further warming and changes in all components of the climate system. Limiting climate change will require substantial and sustained reductions of greenhouse gas emissions.” 

Other findings include:

· Sea levels are likely to rise three feet by the end of the century if greenhouse gas emissions continue at current rates.

· The past three decades stand as the hottest since the 1850s.

· Over the past two decades, the Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets have steadily lost mass, and glaciers across the world are rapidly shrinking.

· The concentration of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere has increased to levels unprecedented in the last 800,000 years.

· The rate of warming has slowed in the past 15 years, which scientists see as only a temporary reprieve caused by oceans absorbing heat. 

The report compiled these and other points from millions of observations, from 2 million gigabytes of numerical data from climate modeling and from 9,200 scientific publications, most of which have been published since the last report in 2007.

By now, except for our state’s political leaders, most of us now think the scientists are getting it right on global warming.

So what’s stopping us from acting on what we know? Climate change is a complicated problem, and most of us can only get our heads around the major points we hear repeated again and again.

Psychologists tell us it is not unusual for people to be in denial of such global problems; we also have a tendency to wait to see if maybe things aren’t really so bad or to see what those around us are going to do about dire situations.

Reducing our personal carbon footprints is actually significant, but we may feel it is ineffective in the face of such global climate change. 

Taking the path to a clean-energy economy is a larger-scale action we can take as a society. One market-based approach to such a path is a gradually increasing tax on carbon.

A carbon-tax plan with all the revenues returned to U.S. households can help us transition to a clean-energy economy. This policy would protect consumers by giving them additional income to deal with price increases on petroleum products.

Such a plan could also make it possible to encourage carbon taxes internationally through agreements on border tariffs.

Legislation to place a price on carbon has come before Congress each year for several years now and is gaining ground with both liberals and conservatives.

By placing a predictable, revenue-neutral tax on carbon, we can stop putting our heads in the sand and actually take positive action to maintain a world where humans can comfortably live and flourish.

Catherine Hobbs is a member of the Citizens Climate Lobby-Norman.