We are in a climate crisis
July 18, 2021
For more than 800,000 years, the carbon-dioxide levels on Earth remained below 300 parts per million. However, since the beginning of the industrial revolution in the late 1800s and the burning of fossil fuels, levels have climbed from approximately 280 ppm to a record high of 415 ppm on April 1, 2021.
As the planet heats up at an alarming rate, West Virginia’s Sen. Joe Manchin thinks we are “setting a very aggressive time table” to reach net-zero emissions. Manchin, the chairman of the Senate Energy Committee, told attendees at a recent conference held by the Edison Electric Institute he was worried about coal. It is obvious he’s not worried about the climate.
Neither are most politicians who ignored addressing climate change in the infrastructure bill. The New York Times reported the $579 billion bipartisan bill “does relatively little to fight climate change, an issue that the president has called an existential threat.”
Economically speaking, when it comes to the climate crisis, it is a matter of pay me now or pay me a lot more later. The Commodity Futures Trading Commission said in 2020, “By 2050 the costs from climate-change damages could range from $50 trillion to $140 trillion, yet decarbonizing the U.S. grid in 20 years would cost only $4.5 trillion.”
If we cannot afford the costs of an infrastructure bill that truly addresses climate change, can we afford the market costs (economic) and nonmarket costs (lives) that continue to be lost as a result of a warming planet? Regardless of what some politicians might believe, we are in a climate crisis.
France experienced a devastating cold snap this spring. An unusually warm March caused grapes to bud prematurely only to be hit with frigid temperatures in April. It was estimated over 80% of the vineyards in France experienced damage. The economic loss was estimated at $2 billion. Researchers say these early warming periods are happening more often as a result of a warming planet.
The French Alps appeared to be bleeding this spring. It was not blood making the ice red but an overgrowth of a red algae found in the higher elevations of the mountain range. As carbon-dioxide levels increase and nutrient-rich pollution reaches the mountains, these algae multiply rapidly, similar to the blue-green algae that have caused problems in Lake Erie and the Ohio River.
The algae responsible for causing red snow belongs to the genus Sanguina. Because darker colored algae absorb rather than reflect sunlight, they create a positive feedback loop. The higher the carbon-dioxide levels, the more algae growth, and the more algae growth, the more heat is absorbed.
Just last month the Pacific Northwest was hit with a historic record heat wave killing 116 in Oregon and 78 in Washington. It caused fires to erupt in the region. Scientists determined this heat wave was 150 times more likely because of man-made induced climate change.
The heat wave and subsequent heating of shoreline water along the Pacific Coast was cited as the cause of death of more than a billion sea creatures such as sea stars, clams, snails and muscles. Portland, Oregon reached a record-breaking high of 116 F.
Elsa, the fifth tropical storm of 2021, became a record setter as the earliest named “E” storm on July 1, edging out Edouard, which was named on July 6, 2020. Elsa is the earliest hurricane observed in the Caribbean since Hurricane Alma in May 20, 1970. Elsa arrived a month earlier than the normal start date for the Caribbean storm season, which is Aug. 10.
One would think these climate events and hundreds of others are enough to justify taking definitive and quick action to move the world away from fossil fuels and toward renewable energy. Sadly, that’s not the case, especially in the U.S.
Republican Sen. Ron Johnson of Wisconsin said, “I don’t know about you guys, but I think climate change is bull-(expletive deleted).”
But Dr. Michael Notaro, associate director of the Nelson Institute Center for Climatic Research, said data shows Wisconsin’s climate is changing. The months of November, December, March and April now have very little snow. Most of the snow is now compacted into the middle of the winter season in January and February.
The senator might want to consider a report by the Natural Resource Defense Council that shows Wisconsin has a lot to lose economically if they lose their winter season. Winter sports generate $373 million in labor income alone.
Brian Mark, Ohio’s state climatologist, and Aaron Wilson, a senior research associate at the Byrd Polar and Climate Research Center, point to examples of climate-change impacts in Ohio. There are longer drought periods, more intense rainfalls, a noticeable lack of snowfall across the state and the explosion of ticks in forested areas. Mark said while we don’t see wildfires like California, we are seeing higher nighttime temperatures where the lows stay in the 80s in the summer and people must run their air-conditioners more often.
Unfortunately, a majority of Ohio’s state politicians and the current governor seem to be ignoring this issue. Instead of encouraging renewable energy, they have done everything in their power to thwart it and promote fossil fuels.
In May of this year, the Scioto Analysis, an Ohio public policy research group, released a study that showed Ohio is vulnerable to climate change. The study also showed if the state were to adopt energy policies such as a renewable portfolio standard, cap-and-trade system or a carbon tax, it could result in substantial economic gains for the state and the world.
If any state in the U.S. is seeing the effects of climate change, it’s Florida, the state that banned their Department of Environmental Protection from using the term climate change. Instead of acting to remedy climate change, Ron DeSantis, the Republican governor of Florida, signed into law on June 21 a bill that will prevent cities from shifting away from fossil-fuel sources.
Similar bills have been signed into law in other states, like Texas, a state that saw a record-setting winter storm this past February. The freezing weather and failing energy grid were responsible for the deaths of over 80 people.
Contrary to what Sen. Manchin thinks, we need an aggressive time table to curtail the worst effects of climate change. We cannot afford to remain inactive. Greta Thunberg has repeatedly said, “I want you to act as if the house is on fire because it is.”