The Top 3 Climate Change Stories of 2014

December 22, 2014

Environmental journalist Dahr Jamail recaps the three biggest climate events of 2014 that should be red flags for the world

Environmental journalist Dahr Jamail recaps the three biggest climate events of 2014 that should be red flags for the world



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Story Transcript

JESSICA DESVARIEUX, TRNN PRODUCER: Welcome to The Real News Network. I’m Jessica Desvarieux in Baltimore.

Twenty-fourteen has been quite the year for climate issues. If you remember, the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change reported that emissions of greenhouse gases are the highest in history, and that could lead to, quote, serious and pervasive effects to our environment.

With us to discuss the top three climate red flags that people should be aware of is our guest Dahr Jamail. Dahr is a staff writer, reporter for Truthout, and he currently focuses on the environment and climate change. He joins us now from Washington State.

Thanks so much for joining us, Dahr.

DAHR JAMAIL, INVESTIGATIVE JOURNALIST AND AUTHOR: Good to be here.

DESVARIEUX: So, Dahr, here on The Real News we’re not going to do a countdown. We’re just going to get right to it and talk about the number-one story, in your opinion, for 2014. And that has to be the hottest year in recorded history. That’s 2014. That’s according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. So, Dahr, what’s the significance of that?

JAMAIL: Well, it is significant, because it shows that we are clearly on a very, very steep trend, as far as every year getting hotter, I mean, 2014 being the hottest year ever recorded (that’s according to NOAA and several other major agencies) and also considering the fact that the ten hottest years ever recorded have all occurred in the last 16 years. And so when we look into the future projections, this doesn’t bode well, because clearly we’re on a very dramatically upwardly escalating trend, but also because even the worst case IPCC future temperature projections show that by 2100, worst-case is around 5 degrees C, which, of course, is astronomically high, considering that humans have never even lived on a planet a 3.5 C above baseline temperatures or higher. But that’s even now being–the IPCC prediction is now even being eclipsed by a recent Smithsonian Institute documentary that predicted between a 9 and 11 Fahrenheit increase by 2100, which is even significantly more than the IPCC worst-case.

DESVARIEUX: And so what are we talking about here when we’re talking about temperatures? Are we talking about just oceans? Land? What are we talking about?

JAMAIL: Well, everything, because right now the temperatures on land haven’t increased as much. I mean, already, clearly they’ve increased dramatically, but they’ve been somewhat tempered because oceans have absorbed about 90 percent of the CO2 and a lot of the temperature. And that’s going to start–basically, the land’s going to start picking up more of the slack, for a lack–for a very general way to put it, as we move into the future. So we’re going to see a lot more dramatic increase, both on land and the oceans, rather than the majority of it being in the ocean so far.

DESVARIEUX: Okay. Let’s continue and talk about the oceans, ’cause we’re melting polar ice caps and the rise in sea level. So that brings us to our number-two story, polar ice caps melting. Can we talk about some specifics here? Where are we seeing this happen? And what kind of effect is it having on human and animal populations?

JAMAIL: Well, 90 percent of the global human population lives in relatively close proximity to the coast. So this is going to have direct impact on the vast majority of the people on the planet. And the most obvious places to look are what people would think of first, places like the entire state of Florida. But then we can move into the major cities right on the coast, places like Miami. We can look overseas, the entire delta, you know, Bangladesh. We can look at largely coastal countries like Japan and Southeastern Asia, other coastal cities up like where I am, Seattle, by way of example, go down the West Coast, you know, L.A., San Francisco, huge population centers right on the coast.

And this is a very important aspect of the story, because the worst-case IPCC prediction is one meter sea level rise by 2100, and yet the chief scientist of NASA, at a recent lecture at University College of London, said that that IPCC worst-case prediction doesn’t even take into account the Western Antarctic ice sheet, which is now melting far faster than anyone suspected it would, and that would add yet another one meter C [sic] in addition to the IPCC one C prediction. So already we’ve just literally seen in the last few weeks, because of that addition by NASA’s chief scientist, literally a doubling of the worst-case prediction. So we’re looking at worst-case scenario of two degrees C by 2100 of sea level rise across the globe.

DESVARIEUX: Alright. Last but not least, Dahr, of course, we could talk about the rise in natural disasters, specifically extreme drought, as well as extreme weather events happening all over the world. I mean, in the past, climate scientists have really been sort of hesitant, Dahr, to make his connection with weather and climate change. What’s actually changed in the science?

JAMAIL: Well, science has basically been able to catch up, get a lot closer with real-time events. And so the direct correlation between extreme weather events, whether it be storms, droughts, etc., directly to climate change, that they’ve just become a lot more adept at it. And so it’s clear that, for example, if we talk about some evidence of this closer to home, the California drought, NASA, for example, just released a study that even despite the recent rains in the state, that the groundwater reserves are still depleted to the point where they would require 11 trillion gallons of water to be–get them back up to normal levels. And if we look at extreme weather events while they’re–you know, we can look at droughts; there’s been several other cases across the U.S., record-setting temperatures of hot and cold both; we didn’t really see any big hurricanes hit the U.S. this season, but if we look overseas at Asia, the Philippines, Japan, other areas of Asia have been hit by some of the biggest record-breaking storms in history, with a lot of casualties. And so these are ongoing and clearly continuing to increase across the world, in addition to places like Kiribati, one of the South Pacific islands that it came out this year that their government announced that, hey, we’re not going to exist before long, and they’re starting to look at where to move their people to, and literally an entire country is going to not exist within the next couple of decades.

DESVARIEUX: Oh my goodness. Wow. Dahr Jamail, thank you so very much for giving us an update on what stories that we should be thinking about that happened this year, but also things to be keeping track of in the year to come. Thank you so much.

JAMAIL: Thank you.

DESVARIEUX: And thank you for joining us on The Real News Network.

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