DionRabouin.com (sort of)

Feel That Heat? It’s Called Climate Change

Posted in Opinion by dionrabouin on August 6, 2012

This summer in my home state of Colorado 34,500 people were forced to evacuate their homes. I watched helplessly as a dozen wild fires raged through the state with some contained in days or weeks, and others not yet fully extinguished. Despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary, there are people who will insist that this is normal. It’s not.

I’m sure you can’t help but notice the fires or the record-shattering hot temperatures. What you may not have noticed, and what national and local media around the country have neglected to point out, is that this extremely hot weather is part of a pattern that has been happening for more than a decade. In fact, the past 10 years have been unequivocally the hottest decade on record in the history of weather record keeping. None of this is a coincidence.

It is the result of a manmade pandemic that could very likely destroy the planet. It’s called climate change and it is very real and it is happening right now. Make no mistake, this is a black issue.

African Americans are at a higher risk for the short and long-term effects of global warming. Heat waves have stronger effects on urban populations, and especially the urban poor. This is because of what’s known as the “heat island” effect. Urban areas are covered in surfaces like asphalt and concrete that retain heat and as a result, temperatures in these areas are higher, especially during heat waves.

This isn’t just uncomfortable, it’s deadly. During the 2003 heat wave in Europe there were more than 70,000 deaths and more than 500 people died as a result of the 1995 Chicago heat wave. In the United States, communities of color, the elderly, low-income communities and children will suffer the most.

Non-Hispanic blacks were 50 percent more likely to die in the heat wave than non-Hispanic whites.

Heat waves have stronger effects on urban populations, and especially the urban poor. African Americans are nearly twice as likely as whites to live in poverty.

One reason urban areas are more prone to health related deaths is the “heat island” effect. Urban areas are typically covered in surfaces such as asphalt and concrete, which retain heat. As a result, temperatures in these areas are higher, especially during heat waves. African Americans are more than twice as likely as whites to live in the inner city. More than 70 percent of African Americans live in counties in violation of federal air pollution standards.

Higher temperatures caused by climate change are expected to degrade air quality through

increased ozone formation. In every major city in the US, blacks are more likely than whites to be exposed to higher air toxics concentrations. Climate change is expected to increase the incidence of asthma in the general population.

African Americans are nearly three times as likely to be hospitalized or killed by asthma as whites.

Martin Luther King, III, has said “…global warming is a form of violence upon the most vulnerable among us…” He made this bold statement in a Congressional hearing, where he was called to talk to leaders about the need for action. According to Rajendra Pachauri, chairman of the United

Nation’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), “It’s the poorest of the poor in the world, and this includes poor people even in prosperous societies, who are going to be the worst hit.” In the United States, communities of color, the elderly, low-income communities,and children will suffer the most.

Have your doubts?

That’s understandable. Despite the far-reaching and wide-ranging coverage of the wildfires in Colorado and the almost perpetual record-setting temperatures across the country and around the world, major news organizations have all but refused to finger climate change as the culprit. In fact, Media Matters, a progressive organization that monitors the media for misinformation, found that from April 1 to June 30, outlets like CNN, Reuters, ABC and others neglected to mention long-term climate change or global warming.

“The major television and print outlets largely ignored climate change in their coverage of wildfires in Colorado, New Mexico and other Western states,” the report found. “All together, only 3 percent of the reports mentioned climate change, including 1.6 percent of television segments and 6 percent of text articles.”

That translated to four out of 258 segments on TV that mentioned climate change and eight out of 135 articles in print.

The reason for this lack of coverage is that despite overwhelming evidence, somehow there is a debate about whether climate change is real and manmade. The simple truth is that the people who remain unconvinced are as foolhardy and misinformed as the people who remained unconvinced that cigarette smoking caused lung cancer in the 1990s. The science is in, the case is closed and the jury has left the building.

But it’s not about what I think. It’s about what scientists around the world who study the climate and environment for a living think. The Chicago Tribune reported last year that a survey of climate scientists who have published research in the field found that “97 to 98 percent agreed” not only that climate change was real, but that people are causing it.

“Every major scientific group concurs,” the article said. “The National Academy of Sciences published a report last year reaching a firm conclusion: ‘Climate change is occurring, is caused largely by human activities, and poses significant risks for — and in many cases is already affecting — a broad range of human and natural systems.’”

Groups including the American Geophysical Union, the American Meteorological Society and the American Association for the Advancement of Science agree too. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), which is one of the most well-respected scientific organizations on earth and is made up of scientists from around the world, has made some of the most explicit resolutions about climate change to date.

In January 2001 the organization stated:

“An increasing body of observations gives a collective picture of a warming world and other changes in the climate system…There is new and stronger evidence that most of the warming observed over the last 50 years is attributable to human activities.”

Six years later an IPCC synthesis report on observations of climate change went on to say:

“Warming of the climate system is unequivocal, as is now evident from observations of increases in global average air and ocean temperatures, widespread melting of snow and ice and rising global average sea level.”

And this is only going to get worse. Some of the changes that are expected or are already happening because of climate change include rising average global temperature, melting glaciers and sea ice, rising sea levels, changes in weather patterns, an increasing number of heat waves, increasing severity of hurricanes, changes in ocean currents, and a lot more. If we continue at the pace we’re on, experts expect that heat waves will become more frequent and intense, air pollution will increase and certain infectious diseases will spread.

People living in cities are also more at risk for the effects of climate change. Heat waves have stronger effects on urban populations, and especially the urban poor. This is because of what’s known as the “heat island” effect. Urban areas are covered in surfaces like asphalt and concrete that retain heat and as a result, temperatures in these areas are higher, especially during heat waves.

This isn’t just uncomfortable, it’s deadly. During the 2003 heat wave in Europe there were more than 70,000 deaths and more than 500 people died as a result of the 1995 Chicago heat wave. In the United States, communities of color, the elderly, low-income communities and children will suffer the most.

A large part of the problem has been a lack of education about what causes climate change and how it works. Without getting too technical, I’ll provide a brief explanation. Climate change is caused by releasing so-called greenhouse gasses, like carbon dioxide and methane, into the atmosphere. These gases come predominantly from burning fossil fuels like gasoline and coal, which are the primary energy sources of power factories, homes, automobiles and more.

Before the Industrial Revolution, the earth’s climate was relatively stable for 15,000 years. Since the onset of technology run on fossil fuels, the earth has been getting warmer and warmer because of what’s known as the greenhouse effect. Greenhouse gases prevent heat from leaving the atmosphere, so as they have increased and built up in our atmosphere, so has the heat. As the earth warms, it melts polar ice caps and alters the natural weather patterns of the planet.

Over the summer heat advisories and warnings have been issued from coast to coast and more than 4,500 record highs were set in just a 30-day period, according to the National Climatic Data Center.

This is how it starts.

It ends with seas and oceans rising to engulf entire cities, states and eventually countries. If this continues the way it has, it will disrupt the balance of the earth’s ecosystem and eventually wipe out life on the planet. These aren’t my predictions, but the predictions of esteemed scientists who have studied the climate their entire lives.

We are in the midst of a devastating global disaster and we’re seeing its first signs unfold before our eyes. If we don’t take action this will destroy us all and destroy our planet.

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