Well, it’s official.
The year 2016 was the hottest on record (and we’ve been keeping records since the 1880s).
For all you global warming naysayers, that was the third year in a row that the global heat record was broken, according to the World Meteorological Organization (WMO).
And just for “the record,” it should be noted that the WMO comes up with its figures based on a combination of combined global temperature records from a combination of sources, including the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association (NOAA), the U.S. National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), the UK Met Office and the European Center for Medium Range Weather Forecasting (ECMWF), so any misgivings about it being a single biased source of information are pretty ungrounded.
The WMO announced last week that temperatures over the earth’s continents and oceans in 2016 were 1.1 degrees Celsius higher than the pre-industrial average.
Moreover, 16 of the 17 hottest years on record have occurred since 2000, and the last time there was a record cold was in 1911.
All that global heating translates into desertification and the displacement of tens of millions people by flooding and drought, particularly in the world’s poorest nations.
This leads to mass migrations, economic disruptions, social unrest and political turbulence, a global scenario we are already experiencing.
Global warming can also have other consequences.
Left unchecked, it can produce icecap melting (which leads to higher sea levels), stronger and more frequent tornadoes and hurricanes and massive and uncontainable wildfires, for starters.
And whether the climate change atheists want to accept it or not, the dramatic disturbances we are witnessing in weather around the globe are the direct result of the use of coal, oil and other hydrocarbon fuels.
When these petroleum-based fuels are burned, they release carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases into the atmosphere which trap solar radiant heat on the planet, thus increasing the earth’s surface temperature.
And that’s what global warming boils down to, plain and simple. (Are you listening, Donald Trump?)
So how can global warming and its negative effects on the plant be curbed in today’s energy-hungry society?
The same way most objectives are achieved: through economic incentives.
All major carbon-producing nations (and we are talking the United States, China, India, most major European nations and, yes, Mexico) must agree to establish a universal carbon fee and dividend scheme.
What that means is that we discourage greenhouse gas emissions by making the source of those emissions increasingly expensive through a series of levies and the reward the use of alternative (non-carbon-based energy) sources through financial incentives.
This carrot-and-stick approach will inveigle energy investors into switching from fossil fuels to clean, renewable and less-expensive options.
A lot of energy companies are already exploring alternatives, but the cost of inexpensive oil (thank you Saudi Arabia) and lack of adequate inducements have kept the clean-energy movement from catching hold.
Meanwhile, humanity and Mother Earth are being ravaged by accelerating climate change.
Solutions aren’t going to come cheap.
Initially, the energy companies will have to absorb much of the cost by investing in new technology and equipment, but ultimately, consumers, will see higher electricity and heating bills and steeper costs for manufactured goods, especially those goods that require high energy for their production.
That means you may end up paying more for that Volkswagen Jetta or even a can of Coca-Cola. (It’s called trickle down, folks.)
But on the upside, everyone will ultimately be rewarded by lower costs once the energy providers recover their initial expenditures for switching to cleaner options and start benefiting financially from more stable, renewable sources, benefits they will (ideally) pass on to consumers.
In other words, in the beginning, we are all going to feel a financial pinch for the changeover, but in the long run, costs of energy — and just about everything else — will come down … eventually.
But the real advantage will be a reduction in greenhouse gases and less global warming.
And that is a prize worth paying for, even if it means a heavier layout of cash in the short term.
Thérèse Margolis can be reached at [email protected]