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3/21/15

Climate Change: Why we can’t avert our eyes from climate change - by Jeffrey D Sachs

North Carolina’s coastlands, like coastal areas around the world, are threatened by rising sea levels caused by human-induced climate change. Yet in 2012, land developers convinced the state legislature to bar the use of scientific evidence on rising sea levels in the state’s coastal management policies, at least until 2016.

The issue is equally flagrant at the federal level: US Congress members, on the take from Big Oil, simply deny the reality of climate change.

The bad news about mega-droughts and freshwater scarcity stretches from Brazil to California to conflict-ridden countries in the Middle East.

Sao Paulo’s metropolitan region of 20 million people is now on the verge of water rationing, an unprecedented threat for one of the world’s leading cities. In California, this winter has been another dry season in a bitter four-year drought, one of the most severe in the region’s history. In Iran, the Hamoun wetlands bordering Afghanistan are disappearing, posing a grave threat to the local population.

The global message is clear: the world’s growing population (now at 7.3 billion, but likely to reach eight billion by 2024 and nine billion by around 2040), human-induced climate change, and the overuse of freshwater for irrigation and urban needs (especially when cities are built up in dry regions) are all fueling the potential for catastrophe.

Recent research indicates that these trends are likely to intensify. Almost all studies of human-induced climate change show that the Mediterranean region is likely to experience a further significant decline in rainfall, compounding the drying trend that has occurred during the past quarter-century.

Likewise, a recent study by my colleagues at Columbia University’s Earth Institute has shown that human-induced climate change is likely to cause increasingly frequent mega-droughts in the American southwest and Great Plains states in the second half of this century.

In September of this year, world leaders will gather at the United Nations to adopt a set of Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) to address these rising threats. The SDGs will not ensure global action, but, as US President John F. Kennedy once said about UN agreements, they can serve as a lever to help move the world toward action. That is why it is so important to start planning for the SDGs now.

Read more:  Why we can’t avert our eyes from climate change | Shanghai Daily

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