Letter: Climate action needed
Recent op-eds and articles in the PI discussed the problem of insufficient water in the Colorado River. The writers have correctly identified major problems: decreasing water resources, significant drought and growing population in the American Southwest. They have not connected this to similar problems in the Middle East, the Indian subcontinent, the Amazon Basin, Central Asia, or North Africa, indeed, in the entire world. Nor have they made the connection to climate change due to human activities.
Humans have problems addressing this long-term threat to our livable planet because of our local focus and tremendous information overload. The complexity of climate science and the non-linear advance of climate change in the lifetime of laypeople occupied with daily lives and burdened by faulty memories mean we need the rigor of long-term scientific study.
As documented in periodic IPCC reports, climate scientists around the world have identified the predominant cause of Earth’s increasingly unstable climate to be human activities, primarily the use of fossil fuels. Each report has shown the previous ones to be too conservative in assessing the rate of progression. When 99 percent of the experts in the incredibly complicated subject of world climate tell us the unacceptable range of outcomes of inaction is now or soon to be upon us, risk-management principles demand we act aggressively to prevent them.
Current estimates are that 80 percent of today’s known reserves of fossil fuels must remain in the ground to prevent disastrous changes in the coming decades. The vast majority scientists say the “agreements” of the recent Paris conference, even if they are met, will not accomplish this goal.
The disinformation and outright lies spread by fossil fuel interests offer us less unsettling alternatives (i.e., no personal sacrifice) to acting effectively to confront the clear and present danger of human-caused global climate change, (AGW). Internal papers from Exxon show their own scientists confirmed AGW in the 1980s. Even so, Exxon, while now acknowledging AGW, continues an active disinformation campaign in association with other fossil fuel interests.
Can humans reverse course? Experts in other fields are needed to properly advise decisionmakers. Most serious economists looking at climate change say a price on carbon is an essential element to reduce greenhouse gases. To this end, the local Citizen’s Climate Lobby of the Roaring Fork Valley recently presented the revenue-neutral “Carbon Tax and Dividend” plan to New Castle Town Council, asking members to pass a resolution endorsing it. (The economic impact analysis of that plan by a prestigious company, Regional Economic Models Inc., shows beneficial effects on GDP and job creation while decreasing greenhouse gas emissions.)
Unfortunately, the council voted “no” before examining the REMI study. Perhaps the newly reconfigured council will consider the issue in depth.
Some say we still have time to prevent catastrophe, others that we have passed tipping points. Whichever is true, each day of inaction is significant: David Archer, PhD., of the University of Chicago, a foremost expert in the carbon cycle of the Earth, (RealClimate.org, 2005) says that for simplified public discussion, we may consider that 75 percent of carbon dioxide released to the atmosphere stays for hundreds of years, the rest stays forever.
When traditional leaders, including politicians, pundits and the media fail us, grassroots efforts are needed. I recommend the Climate Change portions of the NOAA and NASA websites, as well as the Citizens Climate Lobby website, as reliable sources of information and/or opportunities for action.
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