DemDaily: Status of The Planet

April 25, 2022

The 52nd anniversary of Earth Day was on Saturday, shining a light on the status of the planet. Mother Earth is pleading with us to listen.

First held in 1970, Earth Day is considered the launch of the modern environmental movement. The concept of honoring the Earth was originally proposed by peace activist John McConnell at a 1969 United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) meeting, and later sanctioned by the UN.

Status of the Planet
While the pandemic provided an initial reprieve from the daily pollution and environmental impact of mass transportation, manufacturing and energy consumption, the climate catastrophes of the last few years are a stark reminder of the damage already caused to the planet.

Climate change is a human-caused, global phenomena created predominantly by burning fossil fuels, such as oil, coal and gas, which release carbon dioxide (CO2), methane and other gases into the Earth's atmosphere and oceans.

The resulting increased temperature trends cause sea level rise and ice mass loss worldwide, as well as shifts in plant bloom and extreme weather events.

Global Warming: The last decade has witnessed the warmest temperatures on record since global records began in 1880. Since then, the planet's average surface temperature has risen about 2 degrees Fahrenheit (1 degrees Celsius), a change driven largely by increased carbon dioxide emissions.

"Human activity is responsible for almost all of the increase in greenhouse gases in the atmosphere over the last 150 years." - Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)

Greenhouse gases: The largest source of greenhouse gas emissions, which trap heat and make the planet warmer, come from burning fossil fuels for electricity, heat, and transportation. In 2020, according to the EPA, that broke down to: transportation (27%), electricity production (25%), industry (24%), commercial and residential (13%), agriculture (11%) and land use and forestry (13%).

Sea Levels: A consequence of higher temperatures is the melting of the polar ice caps, which is causing sea levels to rise. The Earth's antarctic glaciers have been losing up to 390 billion tons of ice and snow per year, fueling projections that the global mean sea level could rise by 4.3 feet by 2068. The rate in the last two decades alone is nearly double that of the last century and accelerating slightly every year.

Extreme Weather Events: Climate change disasters have tripled in the last 30 years, including extreme weather events like droughts, heatwaves, forest fires, hurricanes and floods.

Since 1950, the number of record-high temperature events in the US has been increasing, causing a shift in the seasons, with falls, winters, and springs growing shorter, while summer extends into the traditionally cooler months.

Upon taking office, President Biden pledged "a whole of government approach to put climate change at the center of our domestic, national security, and foreign policy. It's advancing conservation, revitalizing communities and cities and farmlands and securing environmental justice.” (January 27, 2021)

The Status of the US
On January 20, 2021, day one of his administration, President Joe Biden signed an executive order reinstating the United States into the Paris Agreement and reversed several of Trump's actions that had weakened environmental protections.

He also established the White House Environmental Justice Advisory Council (WHEJAC) and the country's first US Climate Envoy, former Secretary of State John Kerry.

Biden also established the historic Justice40 initiative to commit at least 40% of the overall benefits from federal investments in climate and clean energy to overburdened communities.

In April of 2021, Biden hosted the Leaders Summit on Climate, attended by 40 world leaders, to underscore the urgency of climate action and to restore the United States' credibility on the international stage.

The President's Bipartisan Infrastructure Bill, signed into law last November, dedicates billions of dollars to climate investments, including clean energy jobs, infrastructure, transportation, clean water, technology, research and development.

In November of 2021, President Biden was among 120 heads of state who attended COP26 in Glasgow, Scotland. It was the 26th meeting of the Conference of Parties (COP), or signatories, to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and the third meeting of the parties to the Paris Agreement (CMA3).

The objective of COP26 was to bring parties together to accelerate action towards the goals of the Paris Agreement and the UNFCCC, to reach global net-zero carbon emissions targets by mid-century, and to mobilize public and private finance to support those on the frontline of the climate crisis.

According to a January 10-17, 2022 Pew Research Survey, four-in-ten U.S. adults (42%) say that dealing with climate change should be a top priority for President Joe Biden and Congress to address this year.

Congress, meanwhile, has largely failed to pass climate legislation. Negotiations continue to develop a slimmed-down version of Biden's climate and economic Build Back Better Act, which failed to get through the US Senate.

In the interim, the White House has said that while the President is intent on getting legislation through Congress, the administration will continue to roll out its own "robust executive actions" on environmental justice.

RelatedDemDaily: COP 26: The Final Outcome 11/15/21

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Sources: NASA, National Centers for Environmental Information, EPA, Axios, USAToday, CNN, White House

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