OP-ED: Americans growing more concerned about climate change

Jon Clark
Citizens' Climate Lobby

Recently, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) announced 2018 was the fourth warmest year on record globally. 

This means the past five years are the hottest years on record globally with the years ranked from hottest being 2016, 2015, 2017, 2018 and 2014. Nine of the 10 warmest years have occurred since 2005 according to NOAA.

If the planet were connected to a global warming alert system, red flashing strobe lights and sirens would be going off.  But we do have a global warming alert system — scientists reading data collected from all over the earth. Thermometers don’t lie. 

Climate leadership is absent from the U.S. government’s executive branch. 

Recently when the polar vortex moved down to the U.S. yet again, Donald Trump took to Twitter and posted: “In the beautiful Midwest, windchill temperatures are reaching minus 60 degrees, the coldest ever recorded. In coming days, expected to get even colder. People can’t last outside even for minutes. What the hell is going on with Global Waming? Please come back fast, we need you!”

There are a couple of things wrong with this tweet. 

One, weather and climate are two different things. Weather is the short-term day-to-day state of the atmosphere or what is happening outside your window right now. Climate is the weather of a particular place, averaged over a long period of time, often 30 years. 

FILE - This Oct. 12, 2018 aerial file photo shows devastation from Hurricane Michael over Mexico Beach, Fla. A massive new federal report warns that extreme weather disasters, like California’s wildfires and 2018’s hurricanes, are worsening in the United States. The White House report quietly issued Friday, Nov. 23 also frequently contradicts President Donald Trump. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert, File)

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Second, the polar vortex is supposed to be up in the Arctic. Many scientists believe the polar vortex is weakening and moving south because of rapid warming at the top of the world and this rapid warming is wreaking havoc in the Arctic. 

A recent news story illustrates the warming emergency in the Arctic: A lack of Arctic sea ice forced 52 hungry polar bears to raid the Russian town of Guba to look for food. The town declared a state of emergency on Feb. 9 after the bears, some with cubs, reportedly attacked locals, ransacked garbage dumps and broke into residential buildings, according to a government statement.

A survey released last week by the Yale Program on Climate Change Communication found Americans are alarmed and concerned about climate change now more than ever. 

The survey groups respondents into one of “6 Americas”: Alarmed, Concerned, Cautious, Disengaged, Doubtful and Dismissive. According to Yale, “Our latest survey in December 2018 finds that the Alarmed segment is at an all-time high (29%) — which is double that segment’s size in 2013 and an 8-point increase since March 2018.

"Conversely, the Dismissive (9%) and Doubtful (9%) segments have both decreased over the last five years. The percentage of Americans in these two segments has declined by 12 points since 2013.”  

By definition, “The Alarmed are fully convinced of the reality and seriousness of climate change and are already taking individual, consumer, and political action to address it. The Concerned are also convinced that global warming is happening and a serious problem but have not yet engaged the issue personally.” 

Together, the Alarmed and Concerned make up over half of Americans at 59 percent.

Last month, a bipartisan group of representatives reintroduced HR 763, The Energy Innovation and Carbon Dividend Act (EICDA). The bill, originally introduced by Ted Deutch, D-Florida; Francis Rooney, R-Florida; Judy Chu, D-California; Charlie Crist, D-Florida; Anna Eshoo, D-California; Dan Lipinski, D-Illinois; and Scott Peters, D-California.A). It has since gained seven more co-sponsors, including Rep. Susan Wild, D-Pennsylvania.

The EICDA will reduce greenhouse gas emissions by at least 40 percent within the first 12 years of its passing. The reduced emissions will also lead to cleaner air for all Americans. Poor air quality kills at least 114,000 people a year and sickens many more. 

The EICDA will boost our economy and create jobs. A monthly dividend returned to U.S. households will put more spendable income in peoples’ pockets, resulting in the creation of 2.1 million new jobs in local communities. 

Last month, four former chairs of the Federal Reserve, 27 Nobel Laureate economists, 15 former chairs of the Council of Economic Advisers, and two former secretaries of the U.S. Department of Treasury put their support of a carbon fee in writing in The Wall Street Journal. 

Citizens' Climate Lobby Regional Coordinator Jon Clark, using a tape measure, points out the 60 inch mark when referencing Hurricane Harvey flooding in Houston, prompting conversation on climate control during the Meet the Candidates forum held at Unitarian Universalist of York in York City, Wednesday, April 18, 2018. Dawn J. Sagert photo

Since then, 3,333 American economists have since added their support, making this the largest public statement of economists in history. With all the revenue collected being returned to Americans to spend as they choose, the government will not keep any of the carbon fee and will not grow the size of government. 

Support for action is growing rapidly. The Energy Innovation and Carbon Dividend Act is a simple, comprehensive and effective way to reduce the greenhouse gases causing our planet to warm and at the same time boosts our economy.  I urge Reps. Lloyd Smucker and Scott Perry to sign on as co-sponsors to H.R. 763, and I urge readers to call your members of Congress to do the same.

— Jon Clark is Mid-Atlantic regional co-coordinator for Citizens' Climate Lobby and lives in Lancaster.