Rising sea levels—resulting inundations. Extinctions—a serious blow to bio-diversity. Artic ice melting releasing more carbon dioxide. And on and on.
It is important to keep in mind that these are not ideological theories but scientific ones supported by the analysis and trajectory of past and current data. The next time a politician minimizes the risks of climate change ask him/her whether they favor de-funding the scientific work done by the National Space and Aeronautics Administrations (NASA) and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).
Climate change forecasts and consequences are not few in number. Yet, another kind of heat, political, often causes a quick thumbs up or down of a given study, chart or essay depending on the source. So here are readable summaries of key findings by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, from which we all get our weather forecasts. https://www.climate.gov/climate-and-energy-topics/climate-projections-0
Devastated forests, acidic oceans, tidal inundation and, and; well I don’t want to roll the dice for my children, grandchildren and beyond. Which, of course, brings me again to the question of probability.
With apologies to the forgotten source, this analogy makes sense to me. A doctor can diagnose an illness just as NOAA can accurately predict the weather for several days. A doctor can also predict troubles ahead if his/her patient is overweight and sedentary. Global choices of production, transportation, energy use and the like have altered atmospheric gasses in perilous ways. We, yes the global we, are overweight and sedentary.
Paris Climate Agreement
So, what should we do? Here again the literature is not sparse. There is no end of scientific journals, government agency studies and the like that point to ways we can mitigate the threat. And, of course, there is the Paris Climate Agreement that points to specific targets. There must be targets and initiatives that achieve their ends. The internationally agreed upon target of limiting global temperature increase to no more than a 2 degrees Celsius or 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit is the result of careful analysis. America should be an active member of the Convention which led to the Agreement and use its targets.
The United States knows the power of markets. There is a carbon credits market—we should be a part of it. At its simplest, carbon emitters (for simplicity sake companies) are assigned acceptable levels of greenhouse gas emissions. Companies that emit less receive credits that they can sell to companies that exceed the limit. The force of financial rewards or penalties works.
I am all in favor of alternative energy incentives, but to meet ambitious goals we will need to use zero-carbon emission nuclear energy. It has always been passing strange to me that America has a nuclear navy but now resists civilian nuclear power generation. Since the Navy is well organized to manage a widespread nuclear program, I would be happy to put them in charge of a civilian one, a Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) if you will. TVA is the nation’s largest government-owned power provider and among other things sells electricity to local power companies.
One thing to keep in mind, the worst power plant accidents in the United States were hydroelectric ones. Climate change threats, if taken seriously, need a comprehensive response.
Transportation is a major source of greenhouse gasses and increasingly we buy things that are brought to our houses by trucks. China is already using drones for rural delivery. We should be doing the same.
Plus, all fossil fuel subsidies should be phased out. It will need to be done over some period of time so as to not drive up fuel prices rapidly with the likelihood of severe political backlash.
These thoughts are in no way exhaustive. Progress is being made in greenhouse gas recycling and sequestration, for example. What I do know is that if incentives are created for technologies that reduce greenhouse gases, American ingenuity will find solutions and build companies that cannot be currently imagined. Related investment, business start-ups and jobs will provide a significant economic boost.
But here is my fear. We are in the middle of a political brawl. Too many Republicans dismiss science as somehow a part of the other side’s playlist. And, too many Democrats suffer from Three Mile Island syndrome, notwithstanding minimal health effects and noted precautionary improvements since the accident.
A friend of mine recently used the word Staycation. I asked that it be repeated. I learned that it means a stay at home vacation. Maybe we need to think more about the wonders of our own backyards and the power of we.
We is a powerful pronoun, The power of we or if you prefer, concerted action, can move mountains. We have spent much of our energy seeking to dominate nature. We need a campaign to live with it.
Al Sikes is the former Chair of the Federal Communications Commission under George H.W. Bush. Al recently published Culture Leads Leaders Follow published by Koehler Books.