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Time to "Pay it Forward"

Mon, Jul 7th, 2014
Posted in All Commentary

Our life span is a mere moment in time in comparison to the age of the planet we live on. It is our responsibility to pass on this gift of a life sustaining planet to those that come after us. We disrespect the rights of future generations by not protecting our planet. Efforts to slow climate change is an investment in the future. It is a fact that natural climate change has always been happening. However, the level of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere has increased dramatically over the last 50 years and most experts attribute the increases to human activities.

Climate Change, according to polls, is not very high on the list of concerns of many Americans. I can’t help but be astonished by comments made by serious, intelligent people who refuse to recognize the negative effect humans have on the acceleration of climate change. I try to respect other people’s opinions and enjoy discussing ideas and philosophies differing from my own. But, on this issue the evidence is massive that there is man made climate change.

In February, the United States and British scientific academies maintained that there is a consensus that climate change is real. “It is now more certain than ever, based on many lines of evidence, that humans are changing the Earth’s climate.”

The United States Supreme Court recently validated the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) authority to regulate gas emissions that contribute to climate change, within limits.

The EPA released a proposal from the Obama Administration on June 2 to cut carbon emissions from existing power plants 30 percent by 2030 from 2005 levels. Power plants produce 39 percent of emissions in the United States. These emission reductions are expected to be achieved through upgrades, increasing efficiency, technology to capture carbon dioxide gases, and the use of cleaner fuels like natural gas and renewables. Individual states are expected to develop their own plans to meet these targets. This proposal may also be challenged in the courts.

The EPA claims the emission reductions will add $90 billion to the economy by slowing climate change, causing a reduction in health costs related to asthma and heart attacks, and by producing an overall cleaner energy supply. They estimate the rules to reduce carbon emissions will cost power plants $8.8 billion. The new guidelines to cut carbon pollution envision a mix of energy producing resources, including coal.

On May 6 the third update or National Climate Change Assessment was released by the United States Global Change Research Program. The report maintains that climate change is already affecting agriculture, infrastructure, human health, and the availability of water. Many are feeling the effects of flooding, rising sea levels, more intense storms, severe droughts, longer or non ending fire seasons, and heat waves.

In this part of the country we had a long, cold winter and a late, cool spring. Global Warming is a higher average global temperature. Regions will experience extremes, some cooler, some much warmer. The report predicted that with a continued increase in emissions, today’s children will see the average global temperature rise 10 to 15 degrees in their life time.

The steadfast refusal of many people and some political leaders to recognize the difficult life style and economic impacts that accelerated climate change will have on all of us is hard for me to understand. They refuse to believe the science, the conclusions reached by people that study effects all across the globe; they are the experts on this issue. Some people choose to wear blinders insisting that rules to reduce emissions will cost jobs and increase the price of energy, which is likely. But, these costs will be relatively small compared to the cost of doing nothing.

Again, climate change is always happening, but it is the man made acceleration of climate change that will be most costly to both our life style and our pocketbooks. Sure some jobs in coal producing regions would likely be lost in an effort to use cleaner fuels, but other jobs in the field of renewable energy will be created. Energy costs will probably increase. But, the higher costs of cleaner energy will be more than offset by costs specifically produced by climate change.

The dollar cost of climate change may already be at a tipping point where damage from floods, fire, drought, and extreme weather events will have more of a negative economic impact than the predicted higher cost of cleaner energy sources. A bi-partisan group chaired by former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg and former Secretary of Treasury Henry Paulson released a report on June 24 which estimated that climate change will cost the United States billions of dollars due to property losses, crop losses, and heat driven increased consumption of electricity. Crop losses, droughts, flooding, and unusual weather events lead to higher food costs, for example, coffee and beef.

The Center for Naval Analyses Military Advisory Board is a group of 16 retired ‘three or four star’ generals and admirals. They warn that events made more severe by climate change will be “catalysts for instability and conflict.” These military leaders are not environmentalists, but they recognize the threat, turmoil, and instability that the displacement of peoples due to flooding, drought, rising sea levels, and food insecurities will cause.

The Secretary of Defense and the Joint Chiefs of Staff identified climate change as one of our most significant security problems. It adds to the accumulating stresses that lead to displacement, conflict and war.

President Obama, during an interview conducted by Tom Friedman aired on Showtime early in June, insisted that national security is being impacted by climate change, not just weather related events in the United States but the displacement of people and the inability of large numbers of people to feed themselves leading to political conflict.

Water shortages are becoming more common. Wichita Falls, Texas, population of 104,000 has been experiencing drought and a severe water shortage. They are working on Wastewater Recycling to provide potable water for their residents. This innovative recycling of wastewater may seem distasteful, but may become widely necessary.

The majority of us seem to be asleep at the wheel or just find the effort to reduce emissions inconvenient. Many are focused only on today and the near future. Our political leaders are elected and paid to take the longer view. Everyone with children and grand children or that has plans for a family should seriously consider what that young child or unborn child’s life could be like in 50 years.

We all need to take responsibility for our own contribution to emissions and accelerated climate change. It is ironic that the political groups that preach personal responsibility are often the same groups that are unable or unwilling to take the responsibility to protect our planet. We can all do some things in our everyday lives to reduce energy usage. This is a worldwide problem, but since we are among the highest energy consumers in the world, we should lead.

Both the public and politicians have become more cemented in their opinions and more polarized. This is an issue that should transcend politics. Politicians should talk to each other instead of past each other. Innovative and creative ways to become more energy efficient should be encouraged. All of us should look honestly at the facts.

To achieve widespread reductions in emissions, there must first be agreement that man made climate change is real. It is time to Pay it Forward.


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3:51:12, Jul 4th 2014

Doc Climate says:
Great op-ed! But the Citizens Climate Lobby website has a better plan than the EPA regulations to fight climate change:
A revenue-neutral carbon pollution fee oaid by fossil fuels directly to consumers, amonthlu check in the mail. The fee increases annually, makng carbon fuels increasingly more expensive than clean energy. It's a market solution backed by most economists, including eight Nobel winners. The new REMI report shows it would add 2.8 million jobs and $75-80 billion annually to GDP.

Studio A Photography