OPED: Past time to act on climate change
On Thursday, U.S. EPA administrator Scott Pruitt said that the agency could launch a public debate about climate change as soon as January.
Another deer season is over; another season when I’m able to hunt some days in just a lightweight shirt. The changing climate is happening so slowly that we are no longer surprised when our hunting days are warm and pleasant, not like the old days of freezing temperatures and a snow-covered landscape.
That is the danger climate change poses. Slow, imperceptible changes that aren't fully recognized until it is too late to do anything about it. This unwillingness to deal with reality and science reminds me of what we went through with my mother, who died of emphysema caused by smoking.
For twenty-five years, we badgered her to quit smoking, telling her about the health threat, about the scientific studies documenting the dangers of smoking and about the reasons she should quit. Her response was nearly always the same: “Aw, you have to die from something.” She honestly thought it wouldn’t happen to her.
For the last few years of her life, she was tethered to an oxygen machine, sometimes barely able to walk five steps without having to stop, gasping for breath. At the end of her life, she told me, “I didn’t think it would be this bad. I just never knew.” Sadly, she simply would not accept all the available science that would help her make the right decision.
Some of us act that way about global warming. We are waiting to see if the other shoe will drop before finally deciding that all those scientists were right and we really do need to take action. Unfortunately, by that time, it will be far too late. As Washington Gov. Jake Inslee said, “We are the first generation to feel the sting of climate change and the last to be able to do something about it.” Regrettably, far too many of us are willing to gamble with our kids’ and grandkids’ future, hoping, like my mom, that it won’t be so bad, that we will escape.
Nothing epitomizes that philosophy more than the attitude of President Donald Trump, his EPA administrator, Scott Pruitt, and many of our elected representatives. They have their heads firmly planted in the sand, blithely ignoring the vast amount of data and science that points to a looming climate with temperatures, and the changes it brings, not seen for millions of years.
In 2006, when I first began working on climate change for the National Wildlife Federation, I told my audiences during my presentations that I would not live long enough to see the full effects of a changing climate. I could not have been more wrong.
As climate scientists have forecast, hurricane intensity has increased, accompanied by unprecedented torrential downpours. Sea levels are rising, droughts are lasting longer, and some western states now experience a year-round fire season. In fact, the speed at which the changes are happening have even surprised climate scientists.
When most of us are faced with a significant decision, we usually ask ourselves two questions: 1. If I take this action, and what I am concerned with is, in fact, not a problem, what will be the outcome; and 2. If I don’t take action, and the problem is worse than I thought, what will be the outcome.
Our elected representatives should be asking themselves these questions about climate change, because if all those climate scientists are right and we fail to take action, the cost to our economy, our natural resources, our very way of life, will be enormous. And it’s already happening.
The Clean Power Plan that Pruitt and Trump are so intent on demolishing gets us on the path to avoidance of the worst effects of climate change. Fortunately, mayors, local communities and businesses all across the country are pushing back against their attempts to increase our dependence on fossil fuels. They see the future and know how bad it will be unless we transition to clean, renewable energy as fast as possible; therefore, they support the Paris Climate Accord and the Clean Power Plan.
The EPA is holding hearings on the Clean Power Plan and has extended the comment period until Jan. 16, 2018. If you are concerned about Pruitt’s ill-advised proposal to dismantle the Clean Power Plan, you can register your objection by going to http://bit.ly/2Bc5XoQ.
I had to watch my mother painfully learn the folly of ignoring a serious threat to her health. Let’s not as a nation make the same mistake with climate change.
— Ed Perry is outreach coordinator for the National Wildlife Federation.