Fighting climate change should be top priority both politically and financially

By John J. Berger, guest commentary © 2013 Bay Area News Group
Posted: 07/06/2013 12:01:00 PM PDT

President Barack Obama launched a long overdue national Climate Action Plan in his Georgetown University speech on June 26, but it did not fully come to grips with the climate emergency already upon us.

An emergency has two basic components: It presents a grave threat to life, liberty, property, or the environment, and the situation requires immediate action. Climate change is obviously already doing grave damage to the Earth, and it threatens to do even more harm, per numerous studies. Thus, it satisfies the first condition.

Because damage to the climate is essentially irreversible on time scales of interest to present generations, immediate action is necessary before further irrevocable harm is done. Thus, the second condition for an emergency is met.

Data from the World Health Organization indicates that in the past 35 years, more than 5 million people have already died from increases in disease and malnutrition brought on by climate change.
These climate casualties have occurred, even though the world has only warmed about 1.4 degrees Fahrenheit since the dawn of industrialization. The future is far more menacing.

If we continue heating the world at the current escalating rate, billions of people will neither have enough water nor sufficient reliable, affordable food supplies, and tens of millions of environmental refugees will be on the move, hungry, sick, and desperate. This is a recipe for increased conflict and chaos in many parts of the world.


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