The ten warmest years on record have all occurred since 1990, and 2005 is likely to be the warmest ever. This year, we’ve gotten a taste of the many kinds of dangers that lie ahead: more extreme hurricanes, massive droughts, forest fires, spreading infectious diseases, and floods. The climate is changing, and more is yet to come.
The world’s governments will meet in Montreal at the end of November to plot the next steps, including specific measures that the world could adopt if the Bush administration abandoned its willful neglect of this critical issue.
Climate change is equated with “global warming,” but much more than warming is involved. The rising concentration of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases is leading to more extreme storms, higher-intensity hurricanes, rising ocean levels, melting glaciers and ice sheets, droughts, floods and other climate changes. Even the chemistry of the land and ocean is changing, with the ocean becoming more acidic – thus threatening coral reefs – as a result of higher carbon dioxide.
The specific patterns of change are not known precisely, but the risks of continuing on our current global course are widely appreciated. Yet the United States has refused to sign the Kyoto Protocol, which does little to change the long-term course of events on the planet, since it calls for only small steps up to the year 2012.