/ Opinions / Climate change is no party

Climate change is no party

August 20, 2019 by By Pam McVety

Mr. Moore got it both right and wrong in his column “Partying like there’s no tomorrow.”

He got it right, that a lot of rich people hastening to hold a meeting on an island in their private jets and yachts appears hypocritical when their mode of transportation burns so much more fossil fuel than do average people’s cars. However, he got his “alternative facts” wrong on climate change. I think those who value science and are interested in knowing the facts about our changing climate will appreciate knowing the following.

First of all, there is a 99% consensus amongst the world’s climate scientists that the present trend of climate change is real and is caused by our burning of fossil fuels — coal, oil, and natural gas. There has never in the history of mankind been such a strong consensus on any other scientific topic — and this is a world-wide consensus. We are warming the planet to record levels because so much carbon dioxide (CO2) and other greenhouse gases are being emitted from our burning of fossil fuels. 

If you believe your thermometer when you have a fever, then you must believe the thermometers that climate scientists use because they are the same instrument. These thermometers show through long-term measurements that the world is getting hotter, dangerously hotter. We have recently seen jaw-dropping visuals of Greenland melting: this is because the Arctic is getting hotter. July was Earth’s hottest month ever recorded. Triple-digit temperatures were experienced this year before summer even began. It is now dangerous in many areas for people to work or for children to play outdoors during most of the summer. 

A favorite response of deniers about climate change is that “the climate is always changing,” as though this explains the dramatic and dangerous changes we are now experiencing. It does not. Yes, the climate has changed in the past, but the changes have not been so extreme or so rapid as those now being caused by humans. They have occurred over long, long periods of time, and even at their slow rate, they have led to extinctions of many species, population migrations and pronounced changes in the land surface from sea level rise, and dramatic changes in ocean circulation. 

The current change is occurring faster than most of the past events, making it difficult for humans and the natural world to adapt. Scientists are alarmed not because the climate is changing, but because of the rate of change. The climate during the last 11,000 years (while civilization was developing) was actually stable. Now, however, we are rapidly destabilizing the climate due to all the additional heat accumulating in the atmosphere due to the burning of fossil fuels. 

The scientists who study climate change are not getting rich from their research. They were not the ones in their private jets and yachts going to the Google Summit Camp on climate change. They are certainly not in a position to gain more power and control because of their research, and they are not trying to make the world a poorer place. In fact, the exact opposite is true. These men and women have been persecuted for trying to share their research with the world, but the truth is that they are concerned for you and for your family and theirs. 

It is also not true that we will cripple the economy if we switch to renewable energy. We will not become poor if we move away from fossil fuels. In fact, there is much to be gained economically and socially. A clear argument in favor of this assertion appears in the article, “Renewable Energy has More Economic Benefits than You Know” by Jake Richardson in Clean Technica, March 10, 2018, which asserts that renewable energy is cheaper than other energy options in most of the world and offers societal benefits as well. 

Already, a multitude of people, around 10 million, is employed in renewable energy jobs globally. Moreover, renewable energy can help the more than one billion people who currently have no access to electricity. Another huge benefit will be the reduction in air pollution and the lives saved as a result, for one thing, of our not burning fossil fuels, and for another, because we won’t have to fight wars to safeguard our oil interests around the world. 

Renewable energy also stimulates the economy. The Union of Concerned Scientists reports that implementing a national “25% by 2025” renewable electric standard would result in $263.4 billion in new capital investments for renewable energy technologies, $13.5 billion in new landowner income from biomass production and/or wind land lease payments, and $11.5 billion in new property tax revenue for local communities.

The costs of continuing along our current path of burning fossil fuels for energy will bankrupt many countries, states and families and are a threat multiplier for all the other problems the world is struggling with, such as poverty and hunger. Heat fueled hurricane Harvey alone produced estimated costs of $125 billion. Sixteen distinct weather events in 2017 cost a total of $306 billion. The wildfires in California in 2017 are amounting to around $9 billion. 

Still more alarming is that cost estimates are still to come on the losses of all of the major coastal cities around the world due to sea level rise, which will disrupt major economies and put a billion migrants on the move.  

Finally, it is not fair to say that we will not comply until the hypocrisy of the rich jetting to a climate meeting stops. In fact, it is suicidal. Last October the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change reported that if we are to avoid a temperature rise of more than 1.5 degrees centigrade, we have to cut our carbon emissions by nearly 50% by 2030.  That is a mere 11 years from now.

Responding to the climate crisis has absolutely nothing to do with hypocrisy. We have more to lose than you can imagine if we don’t take seriously the scientists’ calls to dramatically cut our carbon emissions by switching to renewable energy as rapidly as we can, beginning now.  

McVety worked for the State of Florida for 30 years for the Trustees of the Internal Improvement Trust Fund, Department of Environmental Regulation (DER), Department of Natural Resources (DNR) and the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP). She lives in the Rhinelander area.


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