December 6, 2019

Time Growing Shorter

Spectator
By Stephen Tuttle | Aug. 3, 2019

Some cities and states have accepted, and are responding to, climate change realities, while the federal government continues to ignore them. Or worse. 
 
Traverse City is making a significant commitment to solar power. Berkeley, California, is moving away from natural gas, prohibiting its use in new commercial buildings and multi-unit housing developments. Other cities are following similar paths.
 
The federal government is heading in the opposite direction, and that's a problem.
 
A new study published in Nature traces temperature data, from a wide variety of sources, from the year zero to 2000. The last half of the 20th century saw bigger, more consistent, and more steadily increasing temperatures than at any time in the previous 1,950 years.
 
The study also discovered climatic events often cited by climate change deniers, like the mini-Ice Age or the Medieval Warming, were actually regional anomalies that did not last long. But the temperature increases cited in the study impact 98 percent of the planet and have been accelerating for more than half a century. And they're picking up speed in the 21st century. That's neither regional nor brief. 
 
Along with these temperature increases, including warming oceans, comes a host of problems we've been warned about for years and years.
 
Greenland's ice sheets keep calving at record rates, and the world's glaciers continue their retreat. Western Europe just experienced multiple days of record-setting heat, often exceeding old standards by several degrees. Hurricanes, fed by warmer ocean water, now include Biblical rain and companion flooding. Normal high tides cause regular street flooding in some Florida coastal cities. That saltwater is now seeping into their freshwater aquifers through porous limestone. 
 
Rain and flooding events not associated with hurricanes, which are now commonplace in the United States and elsewhere, set their own records that keep getting broken by even more rain and flooding. In the Midwest, crops couldn't be planted in the spring, some couldn't be planted at all, and crop yield will be down. Again. 
 
Record precipitation spurs plant growth that turns to tinder in subsequent record heat, creating perfect wildfire conditions. We now have twice as many wildfires burning four times the area at five times the cost of just 25 years ago. Our hazy days here this summer have largely been caused by smoke from fires in Alaska and western Canada.
 
Unwanted critters, including disease-carrying bugs and human-biting sharks that once stayed in the tropics are finding homes farther north.
 
The climate change warnings have become the climate change reality, and still the federal government, led by an impotent Congress and a president who doesn't believe science, does virtually nothing. And in many cases, far worse than nothing. 
 
We know fossil fuels create greenhouse gases, and that's changing the global climate. That isn't a theory perpetrated by the Chinese; it's science-driven fact. We know it's going to get worse — in some places, intolerably worse — if we don't make changes.
 
So what have the feds done? They've gone all in on fossil fuels.
 
Presidential executive orders have weakened emission standards for coal-burning power plants, reduced restrictions on where and how mines can dump their waste material, reduced some safety standards, and attempted to permit coal mining on public lands. No matter how it's measured, coal is still the dirtiest fossil fuel.   
 
We've ramped up both oil and natural gas production and even tried to allow oil exploration in the Great Lakes. We're now the world's largest oil producer, though it's debatable if that's deserving of much boasting.
 
We withdrew from the Paris Climate Agreements signed by more than 100 other countries. The Agreements would have required us to at least make the effort to reduce our carbon footprint along with most of the rest of the world, but President Trump said it was a “terrible” agreement. 
 
Additional executive orders have removed a whopping 13.5 million acres of federal land from national monument status and protection, thereby opening the door to more drilling and mining. 
 
Last year we produced nearly two percent more carbon dioxide than the year before, and this year is likely to be worse. New Orleans, Venice, London, and New York are all considering multi-billion dollar gates to try and protect themselves from rising sea levels — as if we can keep out the ocean.
 
The changing climate is not a myth, and it's not going to abate absent changes by the humans causing it. Many cities and some states are making good faith efforts to contribute to a solution.
 
But the current regime in Washington, oblivious to science, pretends to solve the problem by expanding its cause. The consequences only worsen as the time to change course grows ever shorter. The federal government turns its back as the waters and temperatures rise.
 
History will record it as a shameful abdication of our responsibility to the planet and each other. 

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