superstorms, climate change

Jan Freed: Mother Nature’s Climate Wrath Will Be Costly


The US has been through hell with unprecedented drought, fires and floods, the most costly in history. Chance variation? The pattern of disasters and extreme weather evens beat the odds of your neighbor winning the lottery twice in a row.

superstorms, climate change
High tide begins to flood a street on the shoreline area of Milford, Conn., as Hurricane Sandy approaches Oct. 29, 2012. (Credit: Reuters/Michelle Mcloughlin)

Mother Nature will not suffer fools gladly

By Jan Freed, Published in the Pasadena Star News

Given the importance of climate change, many of us involved in the Citizens Climate Lobby in Pasadena were quite disappointed that the candidates for president in the recent campaign seemed to be going out of their way to ignore the climate crisis and the climate disasters besetting our nation. No mention was made of what we must do to reduce Earth’s fever. Americans have been through hell with unprecedented drought, fires and floods, the most costly in history. Chance variation? The pattern of disasters and extreme weather evens beat the odds of your neighbor winning the lottery twice in a row.

Even though growth in green energy has produced more jobs than oil, even though increased domestic oil production has never lowered gas prices, even though most citizens want to see carbon emissions decrease, the president and his erstwhile challenger tried to outdo one another on who is more aggressive about “Drill, baby, drill.” Still?

Our finest generals and Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta understand climate change is a major national security issue. But it wasn’t mentioned.

We have solutions, but not political will. At the outset of WWII, the government contracted for hundreds of thousands of warplanes, ships, and tanks, which were built in a matter of months. A fraction of that commitment could help save our climate.

One powerful free market solution can save our climate and, at the same time, lower taxes. This is the carbon fee and dividend approach advocated by the Citizens Climate Lobby. Better than cap and trade, because it is more predictable, transparent and less subject to manipulation, it has been recommended by many from both parties. All carbon fees would be returned to taxpayers in the form of lower taxes – this is one option; there are others such as a bonus check issued each month by the government. The Save Our Climate Act, HR3242, incorporates this carbon fee but is languishing in the House. You can write your member of Congress and urge support. This carbon fee approach tells the oil, gas and coal industries, “You may not poison our air for free any longer.” Green energy gets a level playing field at last.

climate change,winter storm, December 2012
A water vapor view of winter storm Euclid in Dec 2012. Scientists say that heavy snowfall is related to increasing temperatures on the Earth’s surface. (Image: NOAA)

Right here in Pasadena, an innovative project, the Fuels from Sunlight Hub, led by the California Institute of Technology, is an example of state-of-the-art research that can provide viable replacement fuels once the true cost of fossil fuels on our environment is recognized in the market place.

From “The New York Times” – “Artificial leaves are inspired by leaves, but they won’t look like them,” said Nathan S. Lewis, a chemistry professor at the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena. He is the principal investigator for a five-year artificial-photosynthesis project that was awarded a grant of up to $122 million by the federal Department of Energy. “We will be leading a national and international effort to produce fuels directly from sunlight.”

Our climate has, since pre-industrial times, increased 1.5 degrees Fahrenheit and we have seen the very extremes that climate scientists predicted decades ago – only they are far more severe and have arrived sooner than predicted.

climate change, Arctic Ocean Glaciers Melting
Unless we act now to reduce the burning of fossil fuels, massive destructive changes to the Earth’s climate will continue with greater frequency in harsher superstorms, wildfires, droughts, etc. AP Photo.

Mother Nature will not suffer fools who taunt fate, and given the high educational and scientific level here in the San Gabriel Valley, we ought to follow Mother Nature’s lead. A business as usual approach to fossil fuels will be game over for our comfort, our agriculture, our food and wine, forests, fisheries, water supplies and a large fraction of the Earth’s species, as we are predicted (and on track!) to arrive at 10-plus degrees higher average temperatures unless we stop the burning of fossil fuels.

But politicians fear the wrath and loss of campaign funds of the oil-based denial community, whose mantra is “wait, wait.” The denial community comes up with endless objections, speculations and delay. Their predictions have always failed. Science has debunked them repeatedly.

Would anyone be surprised to find denialists making excuses when one day all Florida is under water? Let’s not waste our precious time with these folks.

Politicians gleefully pointing to all that oil and coal in the ground are like doctors who ignore a dark spot on your lungs and instead cajole you with the strength of your heart. And if a serious health crisis arose, would you wait until all bloggers and politicians settled on the diagnosis and treatment? No, you would consult with a medical doctor – but only if that physician specializes in your problem, and if the physician is the best around.

Since all of us share responsibility for the health of our nation as well as our kids’ future, we should have standards as high.

In Extreme Weather 101, scientist Jay Lawrimore and meteorologist Dan Satterfield detail how increased temperatures can affect the formation of snowstorms that can blanket and paralyze a city. From Climate Central.

Instead of relying on politicians playing their hunches, instead of trying to educate, debate and placate the last denier, citizens should insist that President Obama re-convene a panel of our very best minds – Nobel laureates – in climate science, meteorology, chemistry, physics, biology, economics and agriculture.

Task the panel: “What is our best science? What does the evidence say? What are the consequences of a given energy policy on our health and economy, what are the solutions, the costs vs. the benefits of mitigation (and adaptation)? What is the scope of the needed response?” And ask them: “How much time do we have to act? One year? One decade? What are the expected costs (in lives and dollars) if we delay?”

Then, Mr. President (and Congress), if you truly love your children and all America, and value your mission and legacy, implement policy on the recommendations of these best minds.

Jan Freed is a former high school science teacher and a volunteer with the Pasadena Foothills Chapter of the Citizens Climate Lobby.

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