NEW YORK – 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.
Jeffrey Sachs is a professor at Columbia University, Director of its Earth Institute, and a special adviser to United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon. His work focuses on economic development and international aid, was he was Director of the UN Millennium Project from 2002 to 2006. His books include The End of Poverty and Common Wealth.