We’re at the beginning of a make-or-break period to confront global warming. A combination of forces, from dire scientific reports to extreme weather events, have crystallized the need for bold steps, Axios' Andrew Freedman reports.
The big picture: It's a rare convergence of science that reveals the urgency of the problem, extreme events that highlight threats almost nationwide, and shifting public views that are fueling support for stronger policies, scientists and polling experts say.
In the past 2 years, a spate of dire scientific reports have hammered home the urgency of acting.
- The UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) in October found that the effects of global warming are already evident worldwide. They said to avoid more severe impacts, greenhouse gas emissions should be cut by about 45% by 2030, relative to 2010 levels — a Herculean task.
- The Trump administration released another report on Black Friday that tied trends in wildfires, sea level rise, and other extreme events to human-caused emissions.
The collective message from these studies is that the actions we take in the next 10 to 20 years will be crucial to determining the climate for centuries.
Public polling shows evidence that these reports, plus extreme weather events like the deadly California wildfires, are changing some minds.
- One survey, a December poll by the Yale Program on Climate Change and George Mason University, found that the "alarmed" segment of the American public is at an all-time high of 29% — double the size in a 2013 survey.
- The percentage of conservative Republicans who are worried about climate change has also reached an all-time high, according to Yale's Anthony Leiserowitz.
In a sign of climate science's influence, the Democrats' Green New Deal resolution championed by Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez cites both the UN report and the Black Friday report.
A new grassroots movement has also started to develop, like the recent school walkouts in Europe led by Swedish teenager Greta Thunberg that are expected to reach the U.S. and other countries on March 15.
But, but, but: There are other reasons for some of these changes, such as having a climate change denier in the White House and the galvanizing effect that's having on the left.
- Also, there remains a stark partisan divide in public views, with many Republicans remaining skeptical of the science.
The bottom line: The next few years will show us whether that means there's a window for action, or whether we'll just be more aware of our fate.