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Op-Ed: Climate Change — The great disruptor of life as we know it

How bad is Climate change becoming? Within the past two weeks, we have learned that massive glaciers are tearing loose from the Antarctic and Greenland ice sheets, driven by increasingly high temperatures at the poles, and, in turn, accelerating sea-level rise and posing enormous threats to the millions of people living in coastal areas.

On the West Coast of the United States, over 6 million acres have been burned in what is being described as the worst wildfire season ever, with thousands of people left homeless, dozens dead or missing, even as the smoke from the fires has encircled the globe.

The U.S. has also seen one of its busiest hurricane seasons on record, spurred by warm sea surface temperatures. The 2020 Atlantic hurricane season used up its entire names list and has begun using the Greek alphabet for the rest of the season’s named storms for only the second time ever.

Droughts are getting worse in the Midwest, and just recently, water rights became a hot-potato issue in several states. Nearly three-quarters of the West is now in drought, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor.

Santiam Fire on September 9  2020.

Santiam Fire on September 9, 2020.
Oregon State Fire Marshall (OSFM)

Scientists say the West is in about the 20th year of what they call a “megadrought,” the only one since Europeans came to North America.

I could go on, adding sea level rise, decreased snow cover, declining Arctic sea ice, global temperature rise, and more, however, scientific evidence for warming of the climate system is unequivocal. And sadly, most of it is extremely likely (greater than 95 percent probability) to be the result of human activity since the mid-20th century. The changes are proceeding at a rate that is unprecedented over decades to millennia.

Triple disasters are ongoing in the U.S.
Not only are we coping with extreme wildfires and a record-breaking Atlantic hurricane season, but the country is also in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic. To date, the U.S. has 6,740,400 confirmed COVID-19 cases with 198,841 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University.

GOES-East - Sector view: Tropical Atlantic at 12:46 p.m. September 15  2020. You can clearly see Hur...

GOES-East – Sector view: Tropical Atlantic at 12:46 p.m. September 15, 2020. You can clearly see Hurricane Sally in the upper left corner. But did you notice how all five hurricanes in this image are maintaining social-distancing?
GOES 16 satellite imagery

It is interesting to note that during the global lockdowns at the start of the pandemic, greenhouse gas emissions have declined quite markedly. And overall, even today, GHG emissions are lower than they have been in years. But this is only temporary.

“And why is that? It’s because these emissions reductions were the result of changing or reducing our activities, but not the cause of any structural change of how our society actually works,” says Imperial College London climate scientist Joeri Rogelj.

However, lockdowns are not a sustainable solution to curbing climate change, especially when looking at the economic, societal and social costs they’ve inflicted.

This Texas couple wore face masks while sunbathing in Miami Beach

This Texas couple wore face masks while sunbathing in Miami Beach

Pennsylvania State University climate scientist Michael Mann said that La Nina — a temporary natural cooling of parts of the equatorial Pacific that changes weather worldwide — is partly responsible for some of the drought and hurricane issues this summer. But that’s on top of climate change, so together they make for “dual disasters playing out in the U.S.,” Mann said.

And if we add the coronavirus pandemic to the list – we have triple disasters ongoing, and they will be with us for a very long time unless we do something to mitigate the impacts.

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We are deeply saddened to announce the passing of our dear friend Karen Graham, who served as Editor-at-Large at Digital Journal. She was 78 years old. Karen's view of what is happening in our world was colored by her love of history and how the past influences events taking place today. Her belief in humankind's part in the care of the planet and our environment has led her to focus on the need for action in dealing with climate change. It was said by Geoffrey C. Ward, "Journalism is merely history's first draft." Everyone who writes about what is happening today is indeed, writing a small part of our history.

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