A stark UN report on how humanity has brought about unprecedented, and in some cases “irreversible” changes to the global climate, has put further pressure on Joe Biden to comply with what may be his only chance to pass legislation. important to address the climate crisis and break a decade of American political inertia.
The US president said Monday’s release of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report showed that “we are eager to address the climate crisis. The signs are unmistakable. The science is undeniable. And the cost of inaction continues to mount. “
The IPCC report, developed over the past eight years by scientists who analyzed more than 14,000 studies, shows that the US, like the rest of the world, is running out of time to avoid disastrous climate impacts, with a critical global warming threshold of 1, 5 ° C to be violated much earlier than expected, potentially within a decade.
“This is not a future problem, it is a problem now. I’m literally looking at climate change out my window, climate change is in my lungs, ”said Linda Mearns, a co-author of the IPCC report based in Boulder, Colorado, who has baked in extreme heat and wildfire smoke in recent weeks. .
Mearns, who has been involved in IPCC reporting since 1990, said the latest version was “very comprehensive and disturbing” and demanded a strong response. “I’m not sure what it will take for people to get it, but I hope it will push everyone in Glasgow to abide by their agreements,” she added, referring to the UN climate talks between world leaders in October.
Much of that global action will depend on the response of the United States, the world’s second largest carbon emitter. Biden’s narrow window of opportunity to slash emissions hinges on the content of a $ 3.5 trillion bill that Democrats hope to pass before next year’s midterm elections, when the party could lose control. congressional.
“Congress did not pass a climate bill in 2009 and it took us more than a decade to get back to serious climate legislation,” said Leah Stokes, a climate policy expert at the University of California, Santa Barbara. “This summer is the best opportunity we’ve had to pass a great climate law. That’s it. President Biden is poised to become the climate president we need. But there are no more decades to lose. “
Stokes said he was “very optimistic” that the reconciliation bill would include two critical climate measures to help the United States reduce its emissions in the middle of this decade: a plan to help utilities phase out the fossil fuels from the power grid and tax credits to encourage renewable energy. and electric cars.
The measures will need the support of all Senate Democrats, including Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema, who have expressed doubts about the bill’s scope. Republicans, who have long teamed with the fossil fuel industry to oppose any meaningful action to prevent the climate emergency, are uniformly opposed to the bill.
‘No one is safe’: UN warns climate crisis poses immediate threat – video
“If senators really followed the science in this report, we would have 100 votes for climate action,” said Ed Markey, a Democratic senator who helped craft the Green New Deal proposal with Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. Markey said the IPCC report “must be the last warning to the world that time has run out to save the planet from dangerous and irreversible climate change.”
Climate activists have urged Biden to do more to match his rhetoric, noting that the IPCC report highlights the sharp rise in methane, a potent greenhouse gas produced by drilling for oil and gas, as well as animal agriculture. The federal government is considering new restrictions on methane, although new drilling leases are still being issued.
“This latest IPCC report should be a wake-up call to Biden and Congress that the half-measures they have proposed are not enough to end the climate crisis,” said Varshini Prakash, executive director of Sunrise Movement, who said that he had woken up. “Enraged” by the IPCC’s findings. “Our politicians shouldn’t need a report to tell them how bad things are. We are already living it. “
Scientists have also called for their repeated warnings about the climate crisis, so often overshadowed by political intransigence or falsehoods spread by the fossil fuel industry, be finally heard by US lawmakers. “There really is a key message coming out of this report: We are out of time,” said Kim Cobb, a climate scientist at Georgia Tech.
Various climate impacts are now locked in even if global warming emissions are drastically reduced, including global sea-level rise of at least a foot and a half by the end of the century, endangering American coastal cities already battling the climate. increased flooding. The rise could even rise to 7 feet if the Antarctic ice sheet collapses faster than expected.
The western US is now ravaged by a prolonged drought, extraordinary record heat and huge wildfires and the IPCC report warns that all these phenomena will get worse, with dangerous heat waves that would have occurred once every 50 years and are already becoming more common and expected once every five years at 1.5 ° C. heating.
“The continued hesitation is no longer due to a lack of scientific evidence, but is directly related to a lack of political will and the overwhelming influence of the fossil fuel industry,” said Kristina Dahl, senior climate scientist at the Union of Concerned Scientists. “Scientists keep popping up over and over again. Now is the time for lawmakers to do the same. “