“Idiotic Environmental Predictions,” Oct. 14, contends that since overly ambitious historical forecasts have missed the mark relating to climate impacts, fighting global warming is a waste of time and money. Such illustrations of imperfect predictions are often used by skeptics to undermine abundant scientific evidence that our planet is at risk. In reality, this uncertainty is the actual biproduct of a climate that is rapidly changing. Not being able to predict the new weather normal is not a failure of climate science, it’s a warning about how dangerous climate disruption can be.
Carbon dioxide is the leading pollutant responsible for global warming. Since the natural world is essentially in balance with itself in terms of CO2 emissions and absorption, the world’s leading scientists have concluded humans are largely to blame for climate disruptions witnessed over the past 60 years.
Human activities such as burning fossil fuels, degrading soils through poor agricultural practices and cutting down forests increase CO2 in the atmosphere. Other greenhouse gasses (GHGs), including methane/natural gas (from mining, livestock), black carbon (diesel engines, wood for cooking), and halocarbons (refrigeration, A/C), contribute as well. GHGs cause the blanket of air surrounding the earth to retain more solar energy, heat up and become more energetic.
Emitting enough GHGs changes the atmosphere and weather patterns in a manner that is hard to accurately measure and predict. But science and daily experience are telling us that if we keep adding more GHG pollutants, we should expect more violent and extreme weather.
Climate is a linked system. For example, warmer air causes more water vapor to evaporate from the oceans which, in turn, can produce stronger hurricanes and massive rain downpours in a very short period of time. In September 2019, remnants of Tropical Storm Imelda dumped over 40 inches of rain in just three days in parts of southeastern Texas. Just two years before, Hurricane Hugo deluged the same Houston area with 2-feet of rain in the first 24 hours, ultimately flooding one-third of the city and causing $125 billion in damage.
The notion that we will be much poorer and less free if we try to address global warming is nonsensical. Every day the evening news reports on weather that is getting wilder, making living conditions less habitable and more expensive. Need actual proof? Just ask the communities who paid hundreds of billions to recover from super hurricanes like Sandy (2012) and Katrina (2005). Just ask the people living in “Dixie Alley” states like Alabama and Georgia who have experienced an increasing number of deadly tornadoes since 2000 (the March 2019 tornado had 170-mph winds and killed 23 people). Just ask those who have lost everything in California due to massive wildfires fueled by increasingly dry, windy conditions. Just ask the greater area residents of Phoenix, Ariz., where the 2018 summer average high temperature exceeded 105 degrees and led to 182 heat-related deaths.
Recent data from the U.S. EPA, NASA, NOAA, and others indicate: 1) The average number of high intensity storms has been increasing over the past two decades; 2) Oceans are storing more heat leading to stronger extreme weather events; 3) Sea levels are rising due to melting polar ice and glaciers. In Florida, the sea level has risen by as much as 8-inches since 1950, putting at least 120,000 properties at risk from frequent tidal flooding; 4) The United Nations reports climate change is among the leading causes of rising global hunger; 5) On Oct. 16, 2019, a powerful nor’easter hit the U.S. east coast with wind gusts up to 90 mph, bringing down trees and knocking out power to over 500,000. Record low pressures made this the strongest October storm ever in the Boston area.
Any suggestion that today’s Americans are more gullible than previous generations to believe in global warming is simply wrong. In truth, many Americans are confused about what to believe due to the overabundance of fake news that reigns unchecked on the internet, in social media and beyond. A primary reason for fighting global warming is not because of some predicted danger we face in the future, but the deadly reality of what we currently face. World Health Organization reports seven million people die prematurely annually from air pollution. Much is caused by the same fossil fuels (e.g., especially coal) that are warming the earth. Every step we can take to replace fossil fuels with renewable energy will save lives right now. Each day politicians and others spend distorting science to protect the interests of fossil fuel companies, people die.
No single solution will work to effectively combat climate change. Fortunately, there are many avenues to address it:
1) Carbon Neutral Communities: The United Nations Environment Programme reports there have been recent significant changes in the building, energy, agriculture, industry, transport, and forest sectors towards carbon neutrality (i.e., net zero emissions) and sustainability. For example, cities around the world (including Los Angeles, New York City, Washington D.C., and other U.S. cities) have committed to a net zero carbon standard for all new buildings by 2030.
2) Carbon Offset Market Programs: U.S. programs like the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative and California cap-and-trade require polluters to purchase permits (allowances) and/or offsets (credits), the revenue from which is invested in GHG reduction.
3) Sea Level Rise Response: In Florida, over $4 billion in solutions are planned, including seawalls, sewage systems protection, raising roads, and stormwater improvements. Every $1 spent on disaster prevention saves $6 in disaster relief.
4) Individual Efforts: We all have a role to play in fighting climate change. Choose organic and local foods; Compost; Reduce consumption; Reuse products; Recycle; Use light emitting diodes bulbs; Switch lights off; Unplug electronic devices; Drive less; Avoid unnecessary braking and acceleration; Use cruise control; Stop clogging up the left lane; Let your local, state, and federal representatives know you want them to take action to phase out fossil fuels use and decarbonize the country ASAP. Vote!
Jonathan Kiser lives in Rockingham.