U.S. carbon emissions are second only to those of China. Historically, the U.S. is the world’s largest carbon emitter. To date, the U.S. has no federal legislation to reduce its carbon emissions. Click image to enlarge.
In Obama’s second inauguration speech today, the newly re-elected president of the U.S. reaffirmed his commitment to taking action on climate during his second term. Noting that ignoring climate change would “betray our children and future generations,” Obama argued whole-heartedly for a transition to clean energy.
“We, the people, still believe that our obligations as Americans are not just to ourselves, but to all posterity,” Obama said echoing a line from the Declaration of Independence. “We will respond to the threat of climate change, knowing that the failure to do so would betray our children and future generations. Some may still deny the overwhelming judgment of science, but none can avoid the devastating impact of raging fires and crippling drought and more powerful storms.”
This last year alone, the U.S. was struck by several record wildfires, an ongoing and punishing drought across much of the Southwest, and the monstrous Hurricane Sandy which left 131 Americans dead and may cost taxpayers upwards of $80 billion. Scientists say that climate change is likely exacerbating and increasing the frequency of such record extreme weather events. At the same time, the contiguous U.S. had its warmest year on record in 2012.
“The path towards sustainable energy sources will be long and sometimes difficult. But America cannot resist this transition, we must lead it,” Obama continued. “We cannot cede to other nations the technology that will power new jobs and new industries, we must claim its promise. That’s how we will maintain our economic vitality and our national treasure—our forests and waterways, our crop lands and snow-capped peaks. That is how we will preserve our planet, commanded to our care by God. That’s what will lend meaning to the creed our fathers once declared.”
This is arguably Barack Obama’s most forceful call for greater action on climate change since he first took office in 2008. While the Obama Administration has done more than any other to move the U.S. toward a greener economy—including raising auto fuel efficiency standards, increasing regulations on coal plants, and supporting renewable energy companies—it has generally been seen as too little and too late to adequately deal with climate change. Internationally the U.S. has also been viewed as climate laggard even as warnings from scientists, the International Energy Agency (IEA), and the World Bank, among others have become deafening.
Since winning re-election Obama has consistently said that climate change is a priority for his next term. However, the issue still appears in danger of falling behind others, such as the economy, debt, immigration, and a rekindled fight over gun regulations.
However, Obama wasn’t the only one in the administration who was saying climate change would not fall behind. Last night, Vice President Joe Biden told attendees to the inaugural green ball—hosted by environmental groups—to “keep the faith,” according to Politico. Biden noted that his “green dream” was that “we finally face up to climate change.”
Activists say that the first big test for the Obama Administration on the Keystone XL Pipeline, which would carry tar sands from Canada to an international market. According to experts the pipeline would allow the expansion of the Alberta tar sands, which carry a larger carbon footprint than conventional oil. Insiders expect the Obama Administration to approve the project, however a massive grassroots movement has grown up against the project.
Warnings regarding climate change are only growing louder and more urgent. A report last year by the World Bank reads like apocalyptic fiction, warning that allowing temperature to rise 4 degrees Celsius would mean repeated coastal flooding, dissolving coral reefs, faltering agricultural, mass extinction, and tumbling economies. In addition, a recent draft report by the U.S government noted that climate change was already hurting Americans across the country, including through extreme weather, rising sea levels, and ocean acidification.
(01/15/2013) 2012 was the ninth warmest year since annual record-keeping began in 1880 say NASA scientists who cited rising greenhouse gas emissions as the chief culprit.
(01/15/2013) Soot is the second largest man-made contributor to global warming, according to a comprehensive new study published in the Journal of Geophysical Research: Atmospheres.
(01/14/2013) Climate change is on the march across the U.S. according to a new draft report written by U.S. government scientists with input from 240 experts. It documents increasing and worsening extreme weather, rising sea levels, and ocean acidification among other impacts. Released Friday for public review, the report will be officially launched later this year or early in 2014.
(01/10/2013) Global strategist, trained educator, and international lecturer Daniel Rirdan set out to create a plan addressing the future of our planet. His book The Blueprint: Averting Global Collapse, published this year, does just that. “It has been a sixty hour a week routine,” Rirdan told mongabay.com in a recent interview. “Basically, I would wake up with the burden of the world on my shoulders and go to sleep with it. It went on like this for eighteen months.” It becomes apparent when reading The Blueprint that it was indeed a monumental undertaking.
(01/09/2013) Yesterday Australia recorded its highest average temperature yet: 40.33 degrees Celsius (104.59 Fahrenheit). The nation has been sweltering under an unprecedented summer heatwave that has spawned wildfires across the nation, including on the island of Tasmania where over 100 houses were engulfed over the weekend. Temperatures are finally falling slightly today, providing a short reprieve before they are expected to rise again this weekend.
(01/08/2013) 2012 was the warmest year on record for the contiguous U.S. according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).
(12/09/2012) Ahead of the 18th United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) in Doha, Qatar a variety of reports warned that the world was running out of time to avoid dangerous climate change, and that there was a widening gap between what nations have pledged to do and what the science demanded. A landmark report by the World Bank painted an almost apocalyptic picture of a world in which global temperatures have risen 4 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels, including unprecedented heatwaves and droughts, rising sea levels, global agriculture crises, and a stunning loss of species. In addition, scientific studies released near the two week conference found that sea levels were rising 60 percent faster than predicted, forests around the world were imperiled by increasing drought, marine snails were dissolving in the Southern Ocean due to ocean acidification, and ice melt in Greenland and Antarctica was on the rise.
(12/03/2012) Marine snails, also known as sea butterflies, are dissolving in the Southern Seas due to anthropogenic carbon emissions, according to a new study in Nature GeoScience. Scientists have discovered that the snail’s shells are being corroded away as pH levels in the ocean drop due to carbon emissions, a phenomenon known as ocean acidification. The snails in question, Limacina helicina antarctica, play a vital role in the food chain, as prey for plankton, fish, birds, and even whales.
(12/03/2012) Global carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions from industrial sources are set to hit a new record high this year according to a new analysis by Global Carbon Project. The analysis in Nature Climate Changes predicts that CO2 emissions will rise another 2.6 percent, hitting 35.6 billion tonnes. The scientists warn that such steep climbs in global emissions year-after-year means that the door is rapidly closing on a global agreement to keep temperatures from rising 2 degree Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) above pre-industrial levels.