Man-made climate

Man-made climate

For many scientists studying climate change (the vast majority, in fact), the role mankind plays in the warming of the Earth can no longer be denied.

The latest assessment of the Earth’s climate by the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) came out last week, and its findings are stark.

It squarely pins the cause of the Earth’s warming on human activity.

“Human influence has been detected in the warming of the atmosphere and the ocean, in changes in the global water cycle, in reductions in snow and ice, in global mean sea level rise, and in changes in some climate extremes,” the report states. “It is extremely likely that human influence has been the dominant cause of the observed warming since the mid-20th century.”

Specifically, the report puts the probability of man-made activity driving climate change at 95 percent, up from 90 percent in 2007 and 66 percent in 2001.

The ramifications of climate change, some of which are being felt right now, are potentially disastrous to life on Earth as we know it.

The IPCC is tasked with providing a clear scientific view on “the current state of knowledge in climate change and its potential environmental and socio-economic impacts.” To wit, it produces a comprehensive report every six years on the subject to which scientists from around the globe contribute.

The IPCC isn’t perfect. It has made mistakes, its best known being an error in the 2007 IPCC assessment that exaggerated the rate of melting of Himalayan glaciers. Still, the panel remains the most widely respected source on reliable information about climate change.

While experts on the subject encourage individuals to reduce their own carbon footprints, they insist the best way to manage climate change is to provide their leaders to take collective action.

Indeed, as our readers become more familiar with the effects of climate change, we hope they will demand our leaders become more serious about addressing it.

To that end, Jewish groups that monitor environmental issues solidly recognize the threat posed by climate change and support action by the United States to combat it.

Last week, the Jewish Council for Public Affairs (JCPA) and the Coalition on the Environment and Jewish Life (COEJL) both announced their support for the Environmental Protection Agency’s newly revised standard limiting carbon dioxide emissions from new power plants.

“Carbon dioxide emissions are the leading cause of climate change, which is one of the great moral challenges of our time,” the JCPA President Rabbi Steve Gutow was quoted by the Philadelphia Jewish Voice as saying. “This proposal takes an important step toward addressing the effects that our electricity generation can have on the Earth and human health.”

The Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism also pegs human activity for an ever-hotter planet. “The burning of fossil fuels, deforestation, and certain agricultural activities and industrial practices unleash billions of tons of carbon dioxide into the environment,” according to a RAC statement. “Since the industrial revolution, atmospheric levels of carbon dioxide have increased by more than 30 percent to levels unsurpassed in the past 160,000 years.”

We have published several editorials on climate change in the past. We don’t do it to be Pollyannaish, rather we believe it must be treated as one of the most serious issues facing mankind to day. Facing the challenge, rather than dismissing it in the face of overwhelming evidence, is perhaps the greatest expression of tikkun olam.