Friday, February 19, 2016

The issue of climate change has risen to prominence in the past decade

The debate over climate change has gone from a back burner issue a decade ago to a major topic in this year's presidential race.

It's part four of our eight-part series on issues of the 2016 election.

The next President and Congress will be responsible for carrying out agreements made at last year's Paris summit. Depending on who wins, the U.S. may or may not live up to its commitments. Senator Bernie Sanders (D-Vermont) said at a rally he would make reducing the effects of climate change a top priority.

"We have a moral responsibility to make sure the planet we leave for all of our kids and grandchildren is habitable and healthy,” Sanders said.

University of Illinois-Springfield biology professor Jim Bonacum said more politicians are understanding the seriousness of the issue.

"People are responding much more to the urgency of this,” Bonacum said.

He said people can’t ignore the problem any longer.

"If the average global temperature goes beyond an increase of 2 degrees Celsius, that may be the tipping point,” Bonacum said. “If that happens, we're expecting truly catastrophic changes."

15 of the top 16 warmest years have occurred since 2000. 2015 was the warmest year on record. Bonacum said it’s only going to get warmer.

"Even if right now we completely stop using any and all fossil fuels, the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere has still not worked its way up to its full heat producing ability,” he said.

The story was featured on WCIA-TV on February 18, 2016