The Akron Beacon Journal

The Paris climate agreement of 2015 pledges to hold the increase in the global average temperature to "well below 2 degrees (Celsius) above pre-industrial levels." It adds that even better would be "pursuing efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5 degrees." A sensible next step then asked scientists to examine and report on the difference for the planet and its inhabitants between the two objectives.

That evaluation from the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change arrived earlier this month. It is the work of some 90 scientists from 40 countries. They analyzed more than 6,000 peer-reviewed scientific studies. Among the words in response to the report were "shocking," ‘’extraordinary," ‘’alarming," ‘’grim," ‘’a collective scream." Actually, the conclusions follow from the scientific consensus of recent decades.

Every one-tenth of a degree matters when it comes to the warming planet, the mounting emissions of greenhouse gases trapping heat, as physics dictates they will.

Consider the differences in that one-half degree. The projected cost in damage from the smaller increase would be $54 trillion. The expense climbs to $69 trillion with an increase of 2 degrees. A sea-ice-free Arctic summer would go from once a century to once per decade. The Great Barrier Reef, around for 25 million years, would die, as opposed to shrinking 70 percent to 90 percent.

Marine fisheries would double their rate of decline. An additional 420 million people would be at risk of exposure to extreme heat. If the planet already is seeing the harm from climate change in rising seas (eight inches since 1880) and more episodes of extreme weather, the fallout will accelerate as the warming goes from the current 0.8 degrees to 1.5 and then 2.0.

As things stand, the planet is on a course to 3 degrees Celsius by the end of the century — even if every country meets its Paris commitment. Which puts a more realistic projection at 4 degrees.

Nathan Hultman of the Brookings Institution frames the trend in a way that should motivate action. In an essay last week, he noted the difference in the global average surface temperature between the last ice age and today — around 4 degrees to 7 degrees. He adds that is not that different from what the planet now faces.

Hultman also points out that to get on a path to no more than a 1.5-degree increase requires reducing current greenhouse emissions 60 percent by 2030 — or 12 years.

With that challenge in mind, the U.N. climate panel explained that the effort involves transforming the global economy at a speed and scale with "no documented historic precedent." The size of the task makes all the more distressing the stance of the Trump White House, including its withdrawal from the Paris agreement. It also makes plain the need for emphasizing what a proper response looks like, among other things, the leading economies seeking to organize a global carbon tax regime, mobilizing more resources for research and development of clean energy innovations and putting at the front the opportunities for prosperity in such big change.

This isn’t about just adapting to 1.5 degrees or 2 degrees warmer. As the climate panel makes clear, the upward trend won’t stop until greenhouse emissions are reduced drastically.

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The Toledo Blade

The Veterans Health Administration is moving the needle in the search for alternatives to pharmaceuticals for pain relief.

The single largest integrated health care system in the country, the VA has loosened restrictions involving acupuncture for patients with chronic pain.

While some VA hospitals have offered the ancient Chinese practice for decades, there were limited locations and providers. Now, the VA no longer requires that acupuncturists have a medical degree to practice the procedure (though board-certification by the Commission for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine is required). Evidence of the burgeoning acceptance of the practice and the practitioner came earlier this year when the VA Health Administration revised its standards to name "acupuncturist" as a recognized caregiver employment position. And the 2018 Standard Occupational Classification Manual, published by the U.S. Office of Management and Budget, gives "acupuncturist" its own federally recognized labor category.

These moves should help shift the alt-med treatment (which involves the use of sterilized ultra-thin needles at specific points in the body) into the mainstream. And that should help catalog its efficacy, which has been inconclusive in the U.S., though the treatment is widespread throughout the Eastern world and history.

There should be a sense of urgency in the search for alternatives to patches and pills. The opioid epidemic in the U.S. has reached crisis proportions. More than 49,000 people suffered fatal overdoses in 2017 and many of those overdoses involved medication prescribed by doctors for pain relief.

Options that once would have been considered fringe should be given fresh eyes. Acupuncture is one of those options.

There are on-site facilities at VA hospitals in Pittsburgh and Butler, Dayton and Cincinnati.

Society stands to benefit from the VA’s wisdom in helping to make acupuncture more available to patients.

Now, health insurers must be pressed to offer coverage for the procedure. Few health insurers do. This is reminiscent of mainstream medicine’s dubious regard for chiropractic treatment. What is now standard operating procedure for many patients, spinal manipulations by chiropractors is widely covered by health insurance plans though they had been viewed skeptically just 25 years ago.

The U.S. health care system — doctors and hospitals and insurers — must look for pain relief options that don’t come in a bottle.

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