Thursday, January 26, 2023
Jan. 26, 2023

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Other Papers Say: Where’s urgency on climate?

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The following editorial originally appeared in the Los Angeles Times:

You can’t say the 2022 climate data coming out is surprising. But it sure is alarming.

U.S. federal agencies have reported that 2022 was either the fifth- or sixth-hottest year on record, depending on the accounting method used. The 10 warmest years over the last 143 years have all occurred since 2010. Another study showed the amount of heat being taken up by Earth’s oceans reached another record high last year.

Meanwhile, the pollution that causes global warming just keeps rising. U.S. greenhouse gas emissions increased by about 1.3 percent in 2022 compared with the previous year, according to an analysis by the research firm Rhodium Group, marking the second year in a row that planet-warming pollution has gone up after declining earlier in the COVID-19 pandemic.

The data highlight the immense disconnect between the symptoms our overheating planet is showing and what we are doing about the problem. And it’s another stark reminder that despite some recent progress on climate policy, such as the passage of the Inflation Reduction Act, the country is still on a reckless path in the wrong direction.

These annual reports are indicators of the most important metrics of the health of our environment and should be far more distressing to Americans than the pace of inflation, interest rates or the price of gas. Yet they’re so painfully routine at this point that people seem to have grown numb to the implications.

The U.S. is in a much better position compared to even a year ago, when the federal government had yet to enact significant climate policy. President Joe Biden’s signing of the Inflation Reduction Act last year changed that.

But political realities have also changed. Republicans now hold a narrow majority in the House and spent some of their first several days in power trying to score points in the nation’s culture wars by going ballistic over a nonexistent ban on gas stoves. If that is any indication of what’s to come, House Republicans will try to obstruct climate action instead of acting to protect the American people from an existential threat. That means state and local efforts to cut emissions will be more important than ever.

Leaders at all levels of government will need to keep slashing pollution as quickly as possible, or the nation will have no chance of cutting climate-warming emissions in half by 2030, as Biden has pledged under the international Paris climate accord.

Just as the public should not simply accept increasing pollution and rising temperatures as unavoidable steps on a march toward calamity, politicians should not shrug and tolerate a slow shift to zero-emission technology.

Our leaders need to treat the climate crisis with the focus and urgency of a disaster endangering the lives of everyone on the planet. Because, after all, it is.

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