Scientists recently reported that the level of carbon in the atmosphere has passed 400 parts per million. Carbon pollution causes climate change, and many experts believe we need to bring this level down to 350 ppm in order to hold off the worst impacts of climate disruption. And yet we continue to march into the danger zone.
Already the signs are appearing in our communities. Climate change intensifies drought, storms, tidal surges, and heat waves, and these events have exacted a staggering price in the past few years.
Last June, a freak storm called a “derecho” left 22 dead and 5 million people without power from Illinois to Virginia. Another potent storm dumped up to 10 inches of rain in Minnesota and Wisconsin, causing $80 million to Duluth’s public infrastructure. July 2012 became the hottest month on record for the contiguous United States, and 123 deaths were directly tied to the high temperatures. The heat dried out soil across the nation and contributed to the worst drought in 50 years. More than 2,000 counties were declared drought disaster areas and U.S. farmers received $12 billion in insurance payments for crop damage. And all this occurred before Superstorm Sandy struck.
This is not the climate we were born into. Instead we have entered the era of extreme weather.
We have profoundly altered the planet’s chemistry, and if we do not heed the alarm sounded by 400 ppm, we will lock ourselves into more intense droughts, wildfires, and Superstorm Sandys.
The good news is we know how to arrest this problem and reduce carbon pollution.