Uncertain future

Marietta Times Letter to the Editor Mar 18, 2020 by Dawn Hewitt

Society seems to be freaking out irrationally about COVID-19. Rational preparation to the growing threat makes much more sense. We don’t know whether the virus will peak in the United States in a matter of days or weeks or months. We don’t know whether it is seasonal, whether it will arrive, do its damage, and be over, or if it will return to wreak havoc again in the fall or next year. Will it mutate, rendering a yet-to-be-developed vaccine impotent? We don’t know. But stockpiling toilet paper is unlikely to help the situation. Ultimately, though, COVID-19 will be contained and controlled.

Climate change, however, will continue unabated unless we combat it with all the attention and resources we can muster. The effects of a changing climate could kill even more people than COVID-19, and over a much longer time span. We humans are not the only ones affected by climate change. Research by the Field Museum has found that in only 38 years, the body size of songbirds has dropped and their wing size has increased due to rising temperatures. A report published recently in The Auk: Ornithological Advances found that songbirds are migrating 5.5 days earlier than they did in the 1960s. “If migratory birds are not arriving at the breeding grounds at the right time, when there’s a peak abundance of insects, then they’re not going to have enough food for their young,” said Brooke Bateman, senior climate scientist at the National Audubon Society, in a recent email from the organization.

Maybe humans can adapt to climate change by shoring up coastlines, shifting agricultural production, and managing weather disasters, but will wildlife be able to adapt? The truth is that we really do not know what will happen if we do not take serious steps to reduce carbon emissions.

Fortunately, there is something we can do. The bipartisan Energy Innovation and Carbon Dividend Act (H.R. 763), which is currently in the House of Representatives, would tax fossil fuels at the source of production and return the proceeds back equally to American households. It also protects American markets, and provides incentives to reduce fossil fuel consumption and increase use of renewable energy. I encourage you to contact Representative Bill Johnson or whoever is your Congressperson and ask that they support H.R. 763.

Covid-19 is worrisome, and its impacts could prove to be devastating. But it is temporary. Unless we act immediately, climate change could have even more devastating impacts than COVID-19, impacts that could affect all life on Earth.

Dawn Hewitt