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For years, climate scientists have been warning the world that the
heavy use of fossil fuels (coal, oil and natural gas) threatens the
world with human-induced climate change. The rising atmospheric
concentration of carbon dioxide, a byproduct of burning fossil fuels,
would warm the planet and change rainfall and storm patterns and raise
sea levels. Now those changes are hitting in every direction, even as
powerful corporate lobbies and media propagandists like Rupert Murdoch
try to deny the truth.
In recent weeks, the United States has
entered its worst drought in modern times. The Midwest and the Plains
states, the country’s breadbasket, are baking under a massive heat wave,
with more than half of the country under a drought emergency and little
relief in sight.
Halfway around the world, Beijing has been hit
by the worst rains on record, with floods killing many people. Japan is
similarly facing record-breaking torrential rains. Two of Africa’s
impoverished drylands — the Horn of Africa in the East and the Sahel in
the West — have experienced devastating droughts and famines in the past
two years: the rains never came, causing many thousands to perish,
while millions face life-threatening hunger.
Scientists have given
a name to our era, the Anthropocene, a term built on ancient Greek
roots to mean “the human-dominated epoch” — a new period of Earth’s
history in which humanity has become the cause of global-scale
environmental change. Humanity affects not only the Earth’s climate, but
also ocean chemistry, the land and marine habitats of millions of
species, and the quality of air and water.