On Friday, four days before Election Day, the Paris global climate accord takes effect, setting the United States, China and more than 185 other countries on track to shift away from the fossil fuels driving climate change and toward cleaner, smarter ways to power our future.
Last month, in Kigali, officials from more than 170 countries agreed to cut the use of climate-disrupting coolants called hydrofluorocarbons, a move expected to avert nearly one degree Fahrenheit of global warming.
And the week before that, in Montreal, more than 190 countries signed on to a plan to reduce the climate harm from jet travel, by improving airline fuel efficiency and investing in clean energy, forest restoration and other projects to offset carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gas emissions.
Consolidating years of concerted diplomacy, the nations of the world have rallied in these weeks around the urgent need to protect future generations from climate calamity by taking strong action to fight the pollution that’s causing it. It’s a historic victory for the kind of global cooperation required to leave our children a brighter, more hopeful tomorrow.
The question before us, as Americans, is whether we’ll build on that promise with further progress, or walk away from these global gains in isolated retreat.
The case for action becomes more urgent each day.
We just wrapped up the hottest summer since global record-keeping began in 1880. A key indicator of long-term climate change, Arctic sea ice in September fell to 28 percent below the 40-year average, tying 2007 figures for the lowest levels in the 47-year satellite record.
Last year was the hottest year ever recorded, and the first nine months of this year have been even hotter, a record 1.6 degrees Fahrenheit above the 20th Century average. Nineteen of the hottest years on record have all occurred in the past 20 years.
Anyone paying attention sees the problem all around us: in sea level rise that threatens hundreds of billions of dollars worth of property, roads and other coastal infrastructure, from New Orleans to Boston; storms that have brought the kind of rains experts expect just once every several centuries to South Carolina, Oklahoma, Louisiana, Maryland, Texas and elsewhere, over just the past year; widening desertification that has forced more than 1.1 million Chinese from their homes.
If the threat is clear, so too is our choice on Election Day.
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