It's Official! 'Climate Change is Real,' Says Senate
In an equally pleasant and surprising move, the US Senate went on record Wednesday officially saying that "climate change is real," finally laying to rest any lingering doubt among naysayers.
As part of the long debate on the Keystone XL pipeline, Democrats and Republicans alike voted in favor of the resolution 98-1, after Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.), seen as the top climate change denier in Congress, announced he was supporting the legislation.
This breakthrough was achieved simply with a 16-word measure: "It is the sense of the Senate that climate change is real and not a hoax," the Agence France-Presse (AFP) reported.
Unfortunately, a near unanimous vote was not reached when the notion of human-made climate change - including the burning of fossil fuels - was brought to the table.
"This is a small victory but an important one," Senator Barbara Boxer, top Democrat on the Senate's environmental panel, told reporters.
"It means that there's a softening of the attitude of the deniers. They're losing ground in the face of public opinion," she added.
But this overwhelming public opinion in support of the idea of climate change is, more importantly, likely based on the wealth of scientific evidence saying as much. Its existence is seemingly undeniable, as well as its impact on both the environment and wildlife across the world.
Life in a Warming World
With the Senate finally bridging the gap when it comes to climate change, it hopefully will pave the way for US lawmakers to start taking action. An IPCC report released earlier this month even said climate change will cause irreversible impacts on both the environment and world economies if drastic efforts are not made immediately.
"It is technically feasible to transition to a low-carbon economy," Youba Sokona, Co-Chair of IPCC Working Group III, said in a statement. "But what is lacking are appropriate policies and institutions. The longer we wait to take action, the more it will cost to adapt and mitigate climate change."
The effects of climate change have already been felt over recent decades around the world and across oceans. (Scroll to read on...)
Just last week, NASA and the NOAA confirmed that 2014 was the hottest year on record, with the net average temperature between land and water surface temperatures nearly a third of a degree Celsius (+0.27) higher than the 1981-2010 average.
"The observed long-term warming trend and the ranking of 2014 as the warmest year on record reinforces the importance for NASA to study Earth as a complete system, and particularly to understand the role and impacts of human activity," John Grunsfeld, the associate administrator for the Science Mission Directorate at NASA Headquarters in Washington, said in a news release.
Due to warming temperatures, ocean acidification is destroying the world's corals, which are to face the worst bleaching in decades. Not to mention Arctic ice is rapidly disappearing, extreme weather like heatwaves is becoming more common, and even Americans' health is at risk.
And with global environments changing, it's no surprise that it's wreaking havoc on the Earth's wildlife.
If climate change rates don't let up soon, the Arctic's iconic polar bears will be gone before 2100, experts say. Populations have already plummeted 40 percent in the last decade alone due to severe ice loss, forcing these animals to take matters into their own hands, no thanks to humans.
But climate change affects all walks of life, from the massive polar bear to the tiniest bee. According to one study, the spread of an exotic parasite (Nosema ceranae) threatening the UK's honeybee population could be sped up by climate change.
Are Humans to Blame?
So while the Senate has officially ruled climate change a reality (in accordance with the aforementioned plethora of evidence), whether or not it is the result of human activities is still debated.
"Climate always changed," Inhofe said, according to the AFP. "The hoax is, that there are some people who think they are so arrogant to think that they are so powerful that they can change the climate. Man can't change climate," he added.
After the new legislation was passed, two other measures blaming climate change on humans, such as the burning of fossil fuels, were put to a vote. However, it fell 10 votes short of the 60 needed for passage. In the eyes of some, that still doesn't diminish the success achieved on Wednesday.
"There is an emerging bipartisan group of people who believe that climate change is real and caused by humans and solvable," said Sen. Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii), who introduced the failed measure.
For example, President Barack Obama announced back in June 2014 his plan to slash coal pollution from power plants 30 percent by the year 2030. Soon China, another political powerhouse, followed close behind. In August, China's capital Beijing revealed its goal of abandoning coal power by 2020 to severely cap the country's greenhouse gas emissions. (Scroll to read on...)
During his State of the Union address Tuesday, Obama even chastised Republicans for refusing to acknowledge scientific conclusions that human activity is impacting the climate.
"I've heard some folks try to dodge the evidence by saying they're not scientists; that we don't have enough information to act," Obama said.
"Well, I'm not a scientist, either. But you know what," he continued, "I know a lot of really good scientists at NASA, and NOAA, and at our major universities. The best scientists in the world are all telling us that our activities are changing the climate, and if we do not act forcefully, we'll continue to see rising oceans, longer, hotter heat waves, dangerous droughts and floods, and massive disruptions that can trigger greater migration, conflict, and hunger around the globe."
So while opponents have been adamant that climate change isn't real - especially considering the global warming "pause" or hiatus that occurred from 1998-2013 - the US Senate has finally put their doubts to rest. Whether or not the world decides to take more drastic action to mitigate its negative effects, however, remains to be seen.
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