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For years, climate scientists have been warning the world that the heavy use of fossil fuels (coal, oil and natural gas) threatens the world with human-induced climate change. The rising atmospheric concentration of carbon dioxide, a byproduct of burning fossil fuels, would warm the planet and change rainfall and storm patterns and raise sea levels. Now those changes are hitting in every direction, even as powerful corporate lobbies and media propagandists like Rupert Murdoch try to deny the truth.
In recent weeks, the United States has entered its worst drought in modern times. The Midwest and the Plains states, the country’s breadbasket, are baking under a massive heat wave, with more than half of the country under a drought emergency and little relief in sight.
Halfway around the world, Beijing has been hit by the worst rains on record, with floods killing many people. Japan is similarly facing record-breaking torrential rains. Two of Africa’s impoverished drylands — the Horn of Africa in the East and the Sahel in the West — have experienced devastating droughts and famines in the past two years: the rains never came, causing many thousands to perish, while millions face life-threatening hunger.
Scientists have given a name to our era, the Anthropocene, a term built on ancient Greek roots to mean “the human-dominated epoch” — a new period of Earth’s history in which humanity has become the cause of global-scale environmental change. Humanity affects not only the Earth’s climate, but also ocean chemistry, the land and marine habitats of millions of species, and the quality of air and water.