We Have to Crack Down on Carbon Pollutants

If anyone still harbored doubts that carbon dioxide was a pollutant that impacts human welfare after the Supreme Court's ruling on Monday, the second IPCC report of the year released today should put any doubt to rest. In their February report, the world's top scientists provided a scientific smoking gun that human activities were unequivocally responsible for global warming. Now they are telling us what happens when the bullet hits. Their latest report chronicles the already mounting evidence of global warming impacts and forecasts dire consequences for an increasingly hotter world. Just a few examples include:

A warmer world will push the global water cycle to extremes - dry areas, like the southwestern United States, will get drier while wet areas will get wetter, increasing their risk for floods and associated impacts. Within 13 years, 75 to 250 million people in Africa are projected to experience an increased risk of water scarcity due to global warming. In Asia where receding Himalayan glaciers are crucial to freshwater supplies, climate change could adversely affect more than a billion people by mid-century.

Food production on land and in the water will also suffer. Even small local temperature increases are predicted to impact the crop productivity of lower latitude countries while higher latitude countries might see some benefits initially but would suffer under increasing temperatures. Fish - which provide more protein worldwide than any other animal - will suffer as water temperatures rise and water quality declines.

Likewise health impacts are predicted to rise with increasing temperatures and the associated impacts on water and food. More deaths are expected as heat waves, droughts and floods increase. But malnutrition and degraded air quality will also increase the burden of chronic disease, like asthma.

Today's report also highlights our moral obligation to take immediate action to limit the impact of global warming. If temperature changes accelerate at a pace unprecedented in our history, the ability of the world to adapt will be sorely tested and those who lack wealth and technology may perish in very large numbers. The poorest people in the world, and our children and grandchildren, are the least responsible for global warming but they will suffer the greatest consequences. This Congress must rise to the challenge of transitioning from energy sources that threaten the planet and preparing for the damage we can no longer avoid. Our economic, environmental and national security depends on it.