Climate change. It’s everywhere. In newspaper headlines, that is. But also in everyday neighbor-to-neighbor talk. It’s as though, suddenly, everybody finally grasped Al Gore’s “Inconvenient Truth,” and joined a consensus that we humans need to do something to avoid disaster. Note that Gore’s global warming slide show presentation, launched on a lecture circuit in 2000, was released as a blockbuster movie in 2006. That was 15 years ago. What if people had acted decisively back then? Was that too much to expect? Humans don’t respond that quickly? Gore’s first book on the subject, Earth in the Balance, went on the New York Times bestseller list in 1992, 29 years ago. Will short-sightedness always prevail?
His book An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power, came out July 28, 2017, four years ago. By then, some people around the globe had begun to act decisively on already-unfolding climate change. Corrales Comment offered on-the-scene news reporting from the crucial United Nations climate change conference in Paris in December 2015. This was the only New Mexican news medium to provide that first-hand coverage, which can be read at our website http://www.corralescomment.com. Corrales Comment will report from the UN climate conference in Scotland this coming November, assuming pandemic restrictions allow. The crux of the UN’s 26th Conference of the Parties (COP-26) convening in Glasgow will be to “increase ambition” by every nation on earth to implement steps to dramatically reduce planet-warming greenhouse gas emissions.
In 2019, as COP-25 got underway in Madrid, the executive secretary for the UN’s climate change programs, Patricia Espinosa, explained, “This year, we have seen accelerating climate change impacts, including increased droughts, storms and heat waves, with dire consequences for poverty eradication, human health, migration and inequality. “The world’s small window of opportunity to address climate change is closing rapidly.” That was 2019. Since then scientists have recorded temperatures of 118 degrees F in the Arctic region, unprecedented heatwaves in the Pacific Northwest, a mega-drought in the Southwest, extraordinary flooding in Germany, accelerating disappearance of glacial ice in high mountains around the globe and crop failures resulting in mass migrations, among other climate crises.
Readers of the Albuquerque Journal learned July 19 that birds are dying of excessive heat in the United States, Australia and South Africa. On the same day, The New York Times reported that huge wildfires in Russian’s normally frozen north “have been made possible by the extraordinary summer heat in recent years in northern Siberia, which has been warming faster than just about any other part of the world.” These days, The New York Times publishes several climate change-related articles in nearly every issue, often at the top of the front-page. Other major papers do the same. The Times’ lead story July 15, for example, was headlined “Europe Lays Out Stringent Plan in Climate Fight. Challenging the World: Curbing Fossil Fuel Use With Penalties for Noncompliance.”
The next day, it published an op-ed article titled “We Can’t Afford to Be Cheap in Fighting Climate Change.” The conservatively liberal newspaper’s lead article in the Sunday Times, July 18 carried the headline “Climate Change Comes For the Wealthy Nations. Brutal Heat and Deadly Floods Show World Unprepared to Cope with Extreme Weather.” Inside the same edition, a banner headline reads “Floods Thrust Climate Policy Onto Center Stage of German Politics.” It’s not just East Coast newspapers. The Albuquerque Journal headlined “Heat Wave in US, Canada Devastates Crops, Livestock” above a sentence in the second paragraph explaining “What’s happening in parts of the U.S. and Canada shows the damage climate change is wreaking on agriculture.”
The same week, the Journal carried a front-page article warning that “New Mexico Is Grappling With a Mega-Drought” and pointing out that “Rising global temperatures, a consequence of greenhouse gas-induced climate change, make drought worse by affecting regional snowpack.” The journalistic trend has even made its way onto lifestyle pages. In the July 17, New York Times, the headline “You Can Live To Fight Climate Change” was followed by a sub-head that “Individual Choices in Lifestyle and Investing Can Have a Positive Effect on the Environment, Experts Say.”
For some time now, the topic has invaded advertising space as well. Bayer, maker of aspirin and other drugs, enticed newspaper readers this summer with the question in a large ad that read “Can biology reverse disease and slow climate change?” It touted the “bio revolution, one of the megatrends we’re investing in to help treat chronic human conditions, like a warming planet. To us, there’s nothing more valuable.” These intensifying messages across many, if not most, platforms, are not meant to appeal to tree-huggers. Compared to a few years ago, Americans of all persuasions are concerned that, as reported in the Albuquerque Journal June 28, “Earth is now trapping nearly twice as much heat due to mounting greenhouse gases in the atmosphere from carbon emissions than it did in 2005, according to the National Aeronautics and Space Administration and the U.S. environment agency National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.”
Captains of industry have heeded the shift in public attention to threats posed by global warming. Earlier this month, the world’s largest investment firm, BlackRock, demanded that the major multinational corporations make firm commitments to bring down global greenhouse gas emissions. BlackRock’s CEO, Laurence Fink, spoke at the “Group of 20” economic summit that governments and corporations need to do more to combat global warming. He called for a shift that would “fundamentally change the function of the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund, as well as re-shape the role of governments in combatting climate change,” it was reported.
In June, Europe’s biggest oil company, Royal Dutch Shell, said it would step up its reduction in carbon emissions worldwide. The corporation’s leader, Ben van Beurde, said a court decision in the Hague in May would spur faster reductions. The court ruled that Shell has to cut net carbon emissions by 45 percent by 2030 compared to 2019. It may not be an accurate gauge of the extent to which corporate executives have committed to joining the fight against climate change, but perhaps a paradigm shift may be seen in the publication of a book later this summer by Yale University Press: Prosperity in the Fossil-Free Economy: Cooperatives and the Design of Sustainable Businesses by Melissa Scanlan.
Citizens groups are also mobilizing to capitalize on the growing awareness of climate crises already occurring. On July 19, elected officials from around the world announced formation of a Global Alliance for a Green New Deal to press for binding commitments to reduce carbon releases. Emission target reductions, the coalition stressed, “although important, don’t change things: policy does.” The new group’s leadership urged policy setters around the world to “not wait for November’s critical COP-26 summit, but to embark on bold transformative action to make the world fairer and greener now.” One of the 21 founders, U.S. Congresswoman Ilhan Omar, said “Climate change is here, and it is an existential threat to humanity. We have already seen the horrifying repercussions of failing to act: wildfires ranging across the West Coast, extreme hurricanes, heatwaves in Australia and massive flooding around the world. natural disasters like these will only get worse unless we act as a global community to counteract this devastation.”
A member of the British parliament, Caroline Lucas, added, “Pledges and targets will not avert catastrophic climate change. Ambitious action will, but it’s been perilously absent. The world is running out of time and out of excuses.” And in the U.S. Senate, Martin Heinrich introduced his Zero-Emission Homes Act that would reimburse Americans for buying and installing household electric appliances, presumably replacing those burning natural gas. “Electrifying America’s homes is a sure fire way to cut down on fossil fuels and take bold action on climate,” the senator said.
“We’ve got to act boldly on climate right now. It’s the only way to preserve our planet for future generations. From heating and cooling to cooking and transportation, our households make up about 42 percent of our country’s energy-related emissions.” In 1979, President Jimmy Carter installed solar hot water heating panels on the White House roof; President Ronald Reagan removed them in 1986. President George W. Bush installed the first photovoltaic panels on the White House grounds in 2003. In 2013, Barack Obama ordered solar water heating panels back on the presidential household roof.