Work to fight climate change

Parkersburg News and Sentinel – Aug 19, 2018 Eric Engle –

Dangerous anthropogenic (human-caused) global climate change is upon us. It is not just a threat to be feared down the road, but is a reality here and now.

Europe and Japan are boiling under record-breaking heatwaves; the American West is burning; we have seen record-breaking hurricanes and precipitation events completely ravage Puerto Rico, Texas and Florida, and in Puerto Rico we now know that over 1,400 people died after Hurricane Maria on the soil of an American territory. Almost a year later, many remain without power.

Attribution science now allows the global scientific community to very accurately assess the degree to which the variable of anthropogenic global climate change is a factor in weather events. For example, researchers at Columbia University and the University of Idaho have found that climate change has more than doubled the forest fire areas in the western U.S. since 1984 by causing warmer and drier conditions.

With dangerous climate change already here, what we must work to do is stop catastrophic climate change or, worse yet, existential climate change (the point at which climate change threatens human existence itself). On our current trajectory, we are not set to stop catastrophic or eventually existential climate change at all.

What does stopping the climate catastrophe mean? For one thing, it means we cannot afford an Appalachian Storage and Trading Hub in the Ohio Valley with its hundreds of miles of pipelines, thousands of hydraulic fracturing (fracking) sites and processing facilities, and underground storage of petrochemicals and fracked gas liquids — every stage of natural gas development from extraction to transport to storage to use releases an enormous amount of methane, a heat-trapping greenhouse gas 86 times more potent than carbon dioxide over a 20-year period. It also means that we cannot continue to burn coal, the worst fossil fuel for greenhouse gas release, for energy at places like Pleasants Power Station.

Our future must be in renewable energy (especially solar and wind energy) with battery and other storage capacity; in the zero emission electrification of all land, sea and air transport; in maximum energy efficiency; and in sustainable development and agriculture. Going this direction will have the added benefits of creating more jobs, repairing our crumbling infrastructure, saving countless lives and improving the health of countless people by reducing air and water pollution, and helping us address our enormous waste problems, especially from plastics.

The public policies, investments, technologies, knowledge and capabilities all exist … all that is lacking is the political and social will.

Eric Engle