By Shayna Lewis on November 30, 2018
In the last few days, we’ve received further evidence that the effects of climate change will be devastating to millions around the world and that we are losing ground in our efforts to combat its effects.
First, the Trump administration released the National Climate Assessment, which states, “Climate change creates new risks and exacerbates existing vulnerabilities in communities across the United States, presenting growing challenges to human health and safety, quality of life, and the rate of economic growth.” Thirteen federal agencies, including NASA, NOAA, and the Department of Defense endorsed these findings.
We could discuss the cynicism that compelled the White House to release a report of such national significance during the long Thanksgiving weekend when much of the country was unlikely to pay attention. We could also reflect on the intractable stance the President has taken on analysis from his agencies, stating, “I‘ve read some of it…I don’t believe it.” However, regardless of the administration’s motivation and agenda, one thing continues to be clear: The United States has lost its place as a leader on issues of global importance, particularly climate change.
The NCA states that climate change has already caused irreparable harm to communities across the United States and this damage is only likely to spread. This research also affirms what UUSC and our partners have long held: the effects of climate change will disproportionately affect vulnerable populations by widening existing socio-economic inequalities and threatening their fundamental human rights and dignities.
On the heels of the NCA came additional dire findings from the UN that countries are lagging on the commitments they agreed to under the Paris Agreement. Current emission targets for all countries would result in an estimated average global temperature rise of 3.2 degrees Celsius (5.8 degrees Fahrenheit) by 2100, well above the 2-degrees Celsius limit aimed for under Paris. Given that the original promises were insufficient to counter global warming to begin with, the news that we are so far off track is especially disheartening.
These reports loom large as UUSC staff prepare to head to the UN Conference of the Parties (COP24) symposium in Katowice, Poland next week. According to the UN, “unprecedented and urgent action is required by all nations.” Smaller nations and communities who are well into loss and displacement are already doing all they can to combat the effects of climate change – it is time for the international community, in particular, major emitting countries like the United States, China, India and Russia, to step up. We remain hopeful that there is still time and political will for such action.
Photo Credit: Thomas Hafeneth