Schwarzenegger warns of “looming” climate disaster

By Ed King

Arnold Schwarzenegger says the USA is heading towards “disaster” unless it takes urgent action to address climate change.

Writing in the LA Times, the former Governor of California and Terminator actor says he is increasingly concerned about the consequences of ignoring warnings from climate scientists.

“Today, there’s a new disaster looming, and although it’s not as riveting or dramatic as walls of flames and billowing black smoke, it needs our immediate attention,” he says.

“The draft National Climate Assessment, now being circulated for comment and scheduled for release this year by the U.S. Global Change Research Program, presents a sobering vision of the world that awaits us if we don’t act.

“The last decade was the hottest the Southwestern US has experienced — on average 2 degrees warmer than it had been historically. The scientists project a further increase over the next 50 years of 6 to 9 degrees if we do nothing.”

Since leaving his post as Governor of California Schwarzenegger has focused heavily on pushing climate issues (UN Photos)

The draft Assessment is a Federal initiative and was released on January 14 this year – the window for public comment closes on April 12.

It says there is “strong evidence” to indicate that human influence on the climate has already roughly doubled the probability of extreme heat events like the record-breaking summer of 2011 in Texas and Oklahoma.

The higher scenario Schwarzenegger refers to assumes continued increases in emissions.

Last year around 80% of the USA suffered the worst drought since the 1950s, hitting corn and soya production. The Federal government warns that prices of beef, pork, poultry, and dairy products are likely to rise as a result this year.

Rains in the MidWest regions of Alabama and North Carolina have eased the situation, but Nebraska is still suffering what the national drought monitor describes as ‘exceptional’ conditions.

Schwarzenegger’s home state California is classed as ‘abnormally dry’, a situation he says is untenable given its reliance on farming for employment and exports.

“The state produces more than half of the fruits, nuts and vegetables grown in the U.S., with an output of $43.5 billion last year,” he says.

“Californians don’t rely just on the food produced by the state’s farms; they rely on the revenue and the jobs too. Agriculture employs more than 1.5 million people in California.

“Now, we are facing another rise in sea level of 1 to 4 feet. A rise of just 16 inches would be enough to endanger roads, highways and airports in San Francisco and Oakland. It could contaminate crucial groundwater in Los Angeles.”

White House ambition

The US has an opportunity to demonstrate climate leadership when the State Department hosts a high-level climate finance meeting in Washington DC over the next two days.

Ministers from developed countries are expected to attend to discuss ways of increasing funding to developing nations to help them mitigate and adapt to climate change.

Funding pledges dried up at the last climate conference in Doha, with only a few EU states making firm commitments over the next few years.

President Barack Obama’s appetite to address the climate issue will be judged shortly when he decides whether to allow the construction of the Keystone XL pipeline.

The pipe is set to carry oil from the carbon intensive tar sands in Canada to the gulf coast.

The State Department is set to hold a public hearing on an environmental impact statement, on April 18 in Nebraska.

The New York Times reports Obama is leaning towards granting his approval, largely due to the short term economic benefits the construction could bring.

“You may be concerned about the temperature of the planet, but it’s probably not rising to your No. 1 concern,” it reported he said. “And if people think, well, that’s shortsighted, that’s what happens when you’re struggling to get by.”

Read more on: Climate politics | | |