Here are five common refrains you'll hear from climate naysayers... and why they're dead wrong.
Myth #1: It's only a few degrees
What the naysayers claim: “A few degrees of extra warming? How bad could that be? We shouldn’t bother with reducing greenhouse gas emissions.”
The reality: Even a global temperature rise of 2 degrees Celsius will disrupt our lives and threaten our economies.
Photo credit: Shutterstock
The world has warmed about 1.5 degrees Fahrenheit since 1880 (that's 0.8 degrees Celsius). That may not sound like much, but only a few degrees is all that has separated us from the unfavorably cold global conditions that the Earth experienced during the last ice age thousands of years ago. Now that we’re changing things in the opposite direction, we’re already starting to see what a warmer world could have in store for us, For example, California’s record drought, which is consistent with scientific studies showing increasingly drier and hotter conditions in the American Southwest, has cost the state’s agricultural sector about $1.5 billion and up to 17,100 jobs. And as the saying goes, “No farms, no food.” Struggling farmers have already begun adapting by switching production away from water-intensive crops like oranges and almonds, which means more costly and less available produce for the rest of us.
Around the world, intense rainstorms, severe droughts and heat waves are becoming more frequent. Rising seas are damaging homes near the water. Some populations of animals are starting to die out. And that’s just 1.5 degrees!
Now consider what could happen if we do nothing to limit the pollution that’s causing global warming. The best available estimates say the Earth will warm another 3 to 7 degrees Fahrenheit by 2100 (roughly 2 to 4 degrees Celsius). In other words, the more we pollute, the worse things will get.
Myth 2: It’s freaking cold today
What they say: “Did you hear about the record cold snap? It’s not even warm out, so let’s not waste time and resources on climate change.”
Reality: Even with climate change, it still gets cold sometimes. But hot days are happening more often, and the consequences are serious.
Since 1950, hot days have become more common and cold days have become less common around the world. In the U.S., we’re seeing record-high temperatures set more than twice as often as record-cold temperatures. But the bottom line is this: “Less cold” never means “never cold.” Cold days will happen less often as the world warms, but they won’t go away.
What naysayers claim: “Cutting carbon emissions will cut growth, cut the GDP and destroy our modern civilization.”
Reality: The worst thing we can do for our economy is sit back and do nothing about climate change.
If we don't do anything about climate change, we’ll have serious economic problems on our hands. Top economist, Nicolas Stern, estimated that each ton of carbon pollution we put in the air costs society at least $85. Seeing as humans put about 35 billion tons of carbon pollution into the atmosphere every year, the math is pretty simple—and it doesn’t look good.
Here's the good news: A shift to a low-carbon economy could add $2.5 trillion to the world economy annually. A recent study showed that in Australia, the solar industry was creating jobs while at the same time reducing electricity costs.
The world is already making the transition. That's why we need to stop with all the arguing, and start pressuring world leaders to make strong commitments to reducing carbon pollution and other greenhouse gas emissions.. The momentum’s already building—we just need to act before it’s too late.
Myth 4: It’s too late
What they say: "Even if we stopped burning coal and oil today, the world would continue to warm. It’s too late to do anything about it. Why bother?"
Reality: Climate change is already happening today. How much the climate warms in the future is up to us.
We’re already feeling the effects of climate change. But that’s precisely why we need to both prepare for the climate change impacts we can’t avoid and act quickly to curb the carbon pollution and other greenhouse gases that are causing the problem in the first place. It’s not an “either/or” decision—we need to do both. The longer we wait to make the transition to clean energy, the worse this problem will get for our children and future generations. It’s our choice.
If you’re a young adult today, this is a choice with real consequences for your future. Challenge world leaders to act at AskWhyWhyNot.org.
What they say: “Shifting over to clean energy would require changing our way of life and shutting down our economy, and it wouldn’t even solve the problem.”
Reality: Is it too hard to go to the moon, eradicate smallpox or end apartheid? Is it too hard to build a computer that fits in your pocket? No? Then it's not too hard to build a clean-energy future, either.
When was the last time we accepted “It’s too hard” as an excuse? Is that what they said in the U.S. when President John Kennedy wanted to go to the moon? Is that what they said before the Iron Curtain fell in Eastern Europe? Or before smallpox was eradicated from the face of the earth?
In just the same way, we can’t accept “it’s too hard” as a reason not to tackle the climate crisis. And the fact is, the solutions are here, right in front of our eyes. Between 2007—2012, electricity generation from both wind and solar grew by over 300 percent in the U.S, and are set to continue growing rapidly over the next two decades. China is already the world’s biggest investor in low-carbon energy, already has the most renewable energy installed capacity in the world and is expected to invest an additional $294 billion through 2015, to counter climate change. Further, the country recently announced it will ban coal use in the dense, smoggy capital of Beijing by 2020.
The transition to clean energy won’t happen overnight, but it will happen sooner than we think.
If you’re in the U.S., you can help accelerate this transition, right here in America the Beautiful. Send the U.S. EPA a message to show your support for its Clean Power Plan.
Look, there will always be naysayers. But we can’t let them force the rest of us to give up hope. Doing so would prevent the entire world from making progress.
We’re on the right track, and if we act soon, we can still achieve a sustainable future where our prosperity is powered by clean energy.
What we do today matters more than ever, so it’s your choice: will you give up on solving the most pressing issue of our time? Or will you help us create a better tomorrow for generations to come.
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EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
By Mark Hertsgaard
What follows are not candidate endorsements. Rather, this nonpartisan guide aims to inform voters' choices, help journalists decide what races to follow, and explore what the 2020 elections could portend for climate action in the United States in 2021 and beyond.
Will the White House Turn Green?<p>Whether the White House changes hands is the most important climate question of the 2020 elections. President Donald Trump rejects climate science, is withdrawing the United States from the Paris Agreement, and has accelerated fossil fuel development. His climate policy seems to be, as he tweeted in January when rejecting a U.S. Army Corps of Engineers proposal to protect New York City from storm surges, "Get your mops and buckets ready."</p><p>Joe Biden, who started the 2020 campaign with a climate position so weak that activists gave it an "F," called Trump a "climate arsonist" during California's recent wildfires. Biden backs a $2 trillion plan to create millions of jobs while slashing emissions—a Green New Deal in all but name. Equally striking, his running mate, California Senator Kamala Harris, has endorsed phasing out fossil fuel production—a politically explosive scientific imperative.</p><p>The race will be decided in a handful of battleground states, five of which already face grave climate dangers: Florida (hurricanes and sea-level rise), North Carolina (ditto), Texas (storms and drought), Michigan (floods), and Arizona (heat waves and drought). <a href="https://climatecommunication.yale.edu/visualizations-data/ycom-us/" target="_blank">Public concern is rising</a> in these states, but will that concern translate into votes?</p>
Will Democrats Flip the Senate, and by Enough to Pass a Green New Deal?<p>With Democrats all but certain to maintain their majority in the U.S. House of Representatives, the Senate will determine whether a potential Biden administration can actually deliver climate progress. Democrats need to pick up three seats to flip the Senate if Biden wins, four if he doesn't. But since aggressive climate policy is shunned by some Democrats, notably Joe Manchin of coal-dependent West Virginia, Democrats probably need to gain five or six Senate seats to pass a Green New Deal.</p><p>Environmentalists, including the League of Conservation Voters, are targeting six Republicans who polls suggest are vulnerable.</p><ul><li>Steve Daines of Montana, who denies climate science</li><li>Martha McSally of Arizona</li><li>Thom Tillis of North Carolina</li><li>Susan Collins of Maine</li><li>Joni Ernst of Iowa (bankrolled by Charles Koch)</li><li>John James of Michigan (also a Koch beneficiary)</li></ul><p>Republican Senators are even at risk in conservative Kansas and Alaska. In both states, the Democratic candidates are physicians—not a bad credential amid a pandemic—who support climate action. In Kansas, Barbara Bollier faces an incumbent funded by Charles Koch. In Alaska, Al Gross urges a transition away from oil, though his openness to limited drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Preserve dims his appeal to green groups. He faces incumbent Republican Dan Sullivan, who receives an 8 percent lifetime voting record from the League of Conservation Voters.</p>
Will Local and State Races Advance Climate Progress?<h4>THE CLIMATE HAWKS</h4><p>Under Democratic and Republican leadership alike, Washington has long been a graveyard for strong climate action. But governors can boost or block renewable energy; the Vermont and New Hampshire races are worth watching. Attorneys general can sue fossil fuel companies for lying about climate change; climate hawks are running for the top law enforcement seats in Montana and North Carolina. State legislatures can accelerate or delay climate progress, as the new Democratic majorities in Virginia have shown. Here, races to watch include Pennsylvania, North Carolina, and Colorado.</p><h4>THE CLIMATE POLICY MAKERS</h4><p>Perhaps the most powerful, and most overlooked, climate policy makers are public utility commissions. They control whether pipelines and other energy infrastructure gets built; they regulate whether electric utilities expand solar and energy efficiency or stick with the carbon-heavy status quo. Regulatory capture and outright corruption are not uncommon.</p><p>A prime example is Arizona, where a former two-term commissioner known as the godfather of solar in the state is seeking a comeback. Bill Mundell argues that since Arizona law permits utilities to contribute to commissioners' electoral campaigns, the companies can buy their own regulators. Which may explain why super-sunny Arizona has so little installed solar capacity.</p><p>In South Dakota, Remi Bald Eagle, a Native American U.S. Army veteran, seeks a seat on the South Dakota Public Utilities Commission, which rules on the Standing Rock oil pipeline. And in what <em>HuffPost</em> called "the most important environmental race in the country," Democrat Chrysta Castaneda, who favors phasing out oil production, is running for the Texas Railroad Commission, which despite its name decides what oil, gas, and electric companies in America's leading petro-state can build.</p>
Will the Influencers Usher in a Green New Era?<h4>THE UNCOUNTED</h4><p>The story that goes largely under-reported in every U.S. election is how few Americans vote. In 2016, some 90 million, <a href="https://www.pewresearch.org/politics/2018/08/09/an-examination-of-the-2016-electorate-based-on-validated-voters/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">roughly four out of every 10 eligible voters</a>, did not cast a ballot. Attorney Nathaniel Stinnett claims that 10 million of these nonvoters nevertheless identify as environmentalists: They support green policies, even donate to activist groups; they just don't vote. Stinnett's <a href="https://www.environmentalvoter.org/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Environmental Voter Project</a> works to awaken this sleeping giant.</p><h4>THE SUNRISE MOVEMENT</h4><p>Meanwhile, the young climate activists of the <a href="http://www.sunrisemovement.org/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Sunrise Movement</a> are already winning elections with an unabashedly Green New Deal message. More than any other group, Sunrise pushed the Green New Deal into the national political conversation, helping Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Senator Ed Markey draft the eponymous congressional resolution. In 2020, Sunrise has helped Green New Deal champions defeat centrists in Democratic primaries, with Markey dealing Representative Joe Kennedy Jr. the first defeat a Kennedy has ever suffered in a Massachusetts election. But can Sunrise also be successful against Republicans in the general elections this fall?</p><h4>THE STARPOWER</h4><p>And an intriguing wild card: celebrity firepower, grassroots activism, and big-bucks marketing have converged behind a campaign to get Latina mothers to vote climate in 2020. Latinos have long been the U.S. demographic most concerned about climate change. Now, <a href="https://votelikeamadre.com/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Vote Like A Madre</a> aims to get 5 million Latina mothers in Florida, Texas, and Arizona to the polls. Jennifer Lopez, Salma Hayak, and Lin-Manuel Miranda are urging mothers to make a "pinky promise" to vote for their kids' climate future in November. Turning out even a quarter of those 5 million voters, though no easy task, could swing the results in three states Trump must win to remain president, which brings us back to the first category, "Will the White House Turn Green?"</p>
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By Tony Carnie
South Africa is home to around 1,300 of the world's roughly 7,100 remaining cheetahs. It's also the only country in the world with significant cheetah population growth, thanks largely to a nongovernmental conservation project that depends on careful and intensive human management of small, fenced-in cheetah populations. Because most of the reserves are privately funded and properly fenced, the animals benefit from higher levels of security than in the increasingly thinly funded state reserves.
Vincent van der Merwe at a cheetah translocation. Endangered Wildlife Trust
Under Pressure<p>Cheetah populations elsewhere in Southern Africa have not prospered over the past 50 years. In Zimbabwe, cheetah numbers have crashed from 1,500 in 1975, to just 170 today. Botswana's cheetah population has held steady at around 1,500 over the same period, but illegal capture for captive breeding and conflicts with farmers and the growing human population are increasing. In Namibia, there were an estimated 3,000 cheetah in in 1975; roughly 1,400 remain today.</p><p>In contrast, South Africa's cheetah numbers have grown from about 500 in 1975 to nearly 1,300 today. Van der Merwe, who is also a Ph.D. student at the University of Cape Town's Institute for Communities and Wildlife in Africa (iCWild), says he's confident that South Africa will soon overtake Namibia and Botswana, largely because the majority of South African cheetahs are protected and managed behind fences, whereas most of the animals in the neighboring countries remain more vulnerable on mainly unfenced lands.</p><p>Wildlife researchers Florian Weise and colleagues have reported that private stock owners in Namibia still trap cheetahs mainly for translocation, but there are few public or private reserves large enough to contain them. Weise says that conservation efforts need to focus on improving tolerance toward cheetahs in commercial livestock and game farming areas to reduce indiscriminate trapping.</p><p>Van der Merwe says fences can be both a blessing and a curse. While these barriers prevent cheetahs and other wild animals from migrating naturally to breed and feed, they also protect cheetahs from the growing tide of threats from humanity and agriculture.</p><p>To simulate natural dispersion patterns that guard against inbreeding, the trust helps landowners swap their animals with other cheetah reserves elsewhere in the country. The South African metapopulation project has been so successful in boosting numbers that the trust is having to look beyond national boundaries to secure new translocation areas in Malawi, Zambia and Mozambique.</p><p>Cheetah translocations have been going on in South Africa since the mid-1960s, when the first unsuccessful attempts were made to move scores of these animals from Namibia. These relocations were mostly unsuccessful.</p>
Charli de Vos uses a VHF antenna to locate cheetahs in Phinda Game Reserve. Tony Carnie for Mongabay
Swinging for the Fences<p>But other wildlife conservation leaders have a different perspective on cheetah conservation strategy.</p><p>Gus Mills, a senior carnivore researcher retired in 2006 from SANParks, the agency that manages South Africa's national parks, after a career of more than 30 years in Kalahari and Kruger national parks. He says the focus should be on quality of living spaces rather than the quantity of cheetahs.</p><p>Mills, who was the founder of the Endangered Wildlife Trust's Carnivore Conservation Group in 1995, and who also spent six years after retirement studying cheetahs in the Kalahari, says it's more important to properly protect and, where possible, expand the size of existing protected areas.</p><p>He also advocates a triage approach to cheetah conservation, in which scarce funds and resources are focused on protecting cheetahs in formally protected areas, rather than diluting scarce resources in an attempt to try and save every single remaining cheetah population.</p><p>"People have an obsession with numbers. But I believe that it is more important to protect large landscape and habitats properly," Mills said.</p><p>He suggests that cheetahs enclosed within small reserves live in artificial conditions: "It's almost like glorified farming."</p><p>"In the long run we have to focus on consolidating formally protected areas," he added. "Africa's human population will double by 2050, so cheetah populations in unfenced areas will become unsustainable if they are eating people's livestock."</p>
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