By Dana Beach
Coastal Conservation League
June 27, 2015
The events of these last two weeks will undoubtedly be counted among the most important in decades. I suspect we will not fully understand their implications for years.
President Obama visited Charleston on Friday to deliver a eulogy for Senator Clementa Pinckney. Senator Pinckney and eight of his parishioners were murdered last week in the sanctuary of his church, the historic Mother Emanuel AME on Calhoun Street.
The president's theme was grace. There could be no more powerful lesson about grace and love than the reactions of the victims' family members. At the accused shooter's bond hearing last Friday, they spoke directly to the young man and one after another expressed their sorrow, and their forgiveness, for what seemed an unforgivable crime. In Senator Pinckney's own words from April 26 of this year, "We know that only love can conquer hate."
These graceful people have surely taught Charleston, our state and the nation more about love than has been conveyed in recent memory. And they have taught us about the power of religious belief to cope with and gain strength from tragedy. Senator Pinckney and his parishioners are true martyrs for the cause of love and kindness. And South Carolina seems, finally, to be paying attention. We will know more about this next week, when the Legislature votes on removing the Confederate flag from the statehouse grounds.
Across the Atlantic, another towering religious leader, Pope Francis, has released his much anticipated, and revolutionary, encyclical on the environment, Laudato Si, (Praise Be).
Like the Emanuel AME community, Francis emphasizes the central role love must play in our world, in this case, to stop catastrophic environmental degradation. From his extensive declaration, "A sense of deep communion with the rest of nature cannot be real if our hearts lack tenderness, compassion and concern for our fellow human beings."
Laudato Si coincides with the publication of a new EPA report on the staggering costs of failing to address climate change, as the Washington Post reports, and with NOAA's most recent status report (below) revealing that May 2015 was the warmest May on record, based on global temperatures. Bloomberg News provides an exceptionally clear illustration of rising global temperatures and its irrefutable attribution to human activities, in this article and series of graphs.
What's Really Warming the World? Climate deniers blame natural factors;
NASA data proves otherwise
Finally, among this dizzying array of historic events is one of particular note. President Obama ended his eulogy in the TD Arena by singing "Amazing Grace." You can watch, and hear, it on this CNN video.
And from the Post and Courier, you can read about the 33 year old church West Ashley organist, who felt called to "assist" the president deliver this part of the eulogy.
This strikes me as remarkable. I'm not aware of another example in modern Western history in which a world leader sang, not for entertainment, but to make a profoundly serious point. Could there ever be greater testimony of the power of music to convey the fundamental truths of the human heart?
By Joby Warrick June 22
A global agreement to curb greenhouse gas emissions would prevent nearly 70,000 premature American deaths annually by the end of the century while sparing the country hundreds of billions of dollars’ worth of economic losses, according to a major government study on the cost of climate change.
Slowing the carbon build-up in the atmosphere would also prevent severe damage to a wide range of critical ecosystems, from Hawaiian coral reefs that support tourism to shellfish beds off the East Coast, said the report released by the White House on Monday.
The report, a five-year, peer-reviewed analysis that assesses the benefits of alternative strategies for dealing with climate change, concludes that every region of the country could be spared severe economic disruptions that would result if greenhouse gas concentrations continue to soar.
“The results are quite startling and very clear,” said Environmental Protection Agency administrator Gina McCarthy, whose agency was the chief sponsor of the report. “Left unchecked, climate change affects our health, infrastructure and the outdoors we love. But more importantly the report shows that global action on climate change will save lives.”
The report, “Climate Change in the United States: Benefits of Global Action,” seeks to measure the potential gains for Americans under an international accord to keeps global temperatures from rising by more than 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) over historical averages. The study incorporates research from earlier peer-reviewed studies as well as modeling by scientists from the Energy Department’s Laboratory complex and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and other centers.
Researchers compared what would likely happen in a business-as-usual world, in which carbon-dioxide levels in the atmosphere soar to more than 800 parts per million by the year 2100, compared to levels of about 462 parts per million expected if aggressive action is taken over the coming decades to limit greenhouse-gas pollution.
The report concludes that the effort expended in combating climate change would yield a substantial dividend for Americans, with the benefits accumulating over time.
For example, improvements in air quality from reduced fossil-fuel emissions would lead to about 57,000 fewer premature deaths per year by 2100, the study said. Few extreme heat waves would result in 12,000 fewer deaths each year from heat-related illness, it said.
Local governments would avoid tens of billions of dollars in damage from floods and other severe-weather events, while farmers would save up to $11 billion a year in damage to crops from a combination of drought, flooding and destructive storms. Tens of millions of acres of forests would be preserved because of fewer wildfires, the report said.
“We not only have a moral obligation to act, but we also have an economic opportunity if we take smart but aggressive action to reduce gas emissions,” said Brian Deese, a special adviser to President Obama on environmental issues.
The report’s authors acknowledged that they did not attempt to factor in all of the costs related to cutting greenhouses gases, or consider potential impacts overseas. Moreover, the study does not specify a strategy for keeping global temperatures from rising by more than 2 degrees Celsius. Diplomats from 197 countries will meet in Paris in December to try to negotiate a treaty on reducing carbon emissions, but many climate experts say the pact will likely fall short of that goal.
But McCarthy pointed to the far greater costs of inaction, saying it was important start attacking the problem now.
“It is really not too late to avoid the worst impacts of climate change,” she said.
|NOAA: May 2015 was warmest May on record for globe
March-May and year-to-date also record warm
June 18, 2015
The globally averaged temperature over land and ocean surfaces for May 2015 was the highest for the month of May since record keeping began in 1880. March-May and the year-to-date (January-May) globally averaged temperature were also record warm.
With this report and data release, NOAA's National Centers for Environmental Information is transitioning to improved versions of its global land (GHCN-M version 3.3.0) and ocean (ERSST version 4.0.0) datasets. Please note that anomalies and ranks reflect the historical record according to these updated versions. Historical months and years may differ from what was reported in previous versions. For more information about these improvements, please see http://www.ncdc.noaa.gov/sotc/global/2015/5/supplemental/page-1/.
This monthly summary, developed by scientists at NOAA's National Centers for Environmental Information is part of the suite of climate services NOAA provides to government, the business sector, academia and the public to support informed decision-making.
March - May 2015
Year-to-date (January - May 2015)
A more complete summary of climate conditions and events can be found at: http://www.ncdc.noaa.gov/sotc/global/2015/5
NOAA's mission is to understand and predict changes in the Earth's environment, from the depths of the ocean to the surface of the sun, and to conserve and manage our coastal and marine resources. Join us on Twitter, Facebook and our other social media channels. Visit our news release archive.