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Storming the Bastille at the Paris Climate Summit

ColumnOctober 29, 2015
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By Amy Goodman & Denis Moynihan

World leaders will gather in Paris in just one month to hammer out a treaty to confront the global threat of climate change. It’s real, growing and, based on increasing scientific consensus, clearly caused by human activity. Since the dawn of the industrial age, humans have been dumping pollutants into the sky as if the atmosphere is a bottomless pit, able to absorb an infinite amount of our smoke and exhaust. These greenhouse gasses have been forming a blanket around the planet, trapping the heat of the sun.

The signs of the crisis are everywhere: 2015 is on course to be the hottest in recorded history. Hurricane Patricia plowed into Mexico last week as the largest hurricane ever recorded in the Western Hemisphere. It wasn’t only the power of Patricia, but the speed with which the hurricane formed, almost overnight transforming from a tropical storm.

In the Persian Gulf, scientists reported this week that “certain population centers … are likely to experience temperature levels that are intolerable to humans owing to the consequences of increasing concentrations of anthropogenic greenhouse gases.” In other words, in cities like Doha in Qatar and Dubai in the United Arab Emirates, the daily high temperatures will simply be too hot for people to survive outside for more than a few hours at a time. In the polar regions, ice is melting at unprecedented rates, and the ocean is warming, causing the water to expand. Both phenomena are causing the sea level to rise, already impacting small island nations like Tuvalu, Kiribati and the Marshall Islands in the Pacific, and the Maldives in the Indian Ocean. Hundreds of millions of people will eventually have to flee the world’s coastal cities, scientists predict.

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