Peter Parks/AFP/Getty Images
This photo taken on December 8, 2009 shows smoke belching from a coal powered power plant on the outskirts of Linfen, in China's Shanxi province, regarded as one of the cities with the worst air pollution in the world.
Despite the mounting scientific evidence and warnings about the effects of climate change, an extra half –billion tons of carbon dioxide was released into the atmosphere last year.
The Global Carbon Project, an international group of scientists, said that global emissions rose 5.9 percent in 2010, marking the largest single year increase since the Industrial Revolution. With surging economies in the developing world and powerful industrialized nations reluctant to take significant steps to curb emissions, experts worry that we are approaching a climate “tipping point” – the point at which human-influenced climate change will be irreversible. The International Energy Agency warns that if we don’t change course, the Earth’s temperature could climb 11 degrees Fahrenheit. If that happens, we could see catastrophic environmental hazards including massive water shortages around the world, significant extinction, harm to agriculture and food production, floods, lung disease, heat waves and malnutrition.
Is the scientific community sounding unnecessary alarms or does their data reflect a dire situation? Why, if the science is so strong, isn’t the U.S., China and the world doing more to halt the global impacts of climate change? Will the United Nations Climate Change conference in Durban, South Africa make a difference?
Senator Barbara Boxer (D-Ca) Chairman, Environment and Public Works Committee
Richard Baron, head of the climate change unit at the International Energy Agency
Angela Anderson, director of Climate and Energy program, Union of Concerned Scientists