A Failure to Act Against Climate Change Now Risks Lives

By: Shannon Bugos, Communications and Writing Manager at Truman National Security Project and the editor-in-chief of the Doctrine Blog. Views expressed here are her own.

Released the day following Thanksgiving, a report by 13 federal agencies declared that if steps to combat climate change are not taken immediately, the American economy will suffer severely by the end of the century. This report stands in direct contradiction to the Trump Administration’s claims that their overthrow of environmental regulations and treaties will foster economic growth, as well as highlights the stark consequences the world will — and in some cases already do — face in our economy, health, and home if we fail to act now.


The science behind climate change has long been conclusive. As more greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide become released into and then trap heat within the atmosphere, the earth steadily warms, causing ice to melt and ocean temperatures to rise. These oceanic changes result in rising sea levels, withering coral reefs, and more frequent and extreme hurricanes; meanwhile, on land, greater swings in temperature produce more severe droughts, wildfires, flooding, and winter storms. All of these changes in climate, in turn, spur actions by or consequences that affect humans, including mass migration, rapid urbanization, resource shortages, and increased poverty, famine, or disease — most of which contribute to greater instability around the world.

A report released in October by the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) underscored the fact that these devastating consequences of climate change have worsened and will only continue to do so in the absence of worldwide action. Essentially, the IPCC report states that if greenhouse gas emissions continue at the current rate, the atmosphere will warm by 2.7 degrees Fahrenheit above pre-industrial levels by 2040; this rise in temperature will only accelerate downrange consequences. To prevent this rise, greenhouse pollution must drop 45 percent from 2010 levels by 2030, and 100 percent by 2050; plus, use of coal must drop from the about 40 percent today to between 1 and 7 percent. Instead of taking any steps to at least mitigate the rise in temperature, President Trump instead expressed heavy skepticism about the report, going so far as to insinuate that it was politically motivated: “It was given to me. And I want to look at who drew it. You know, which group drew it. I can give you reports that are fabulous, and I can give you reports that aren’t so good.”

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