Well, it’s “official” now. The Trump administration has stated that human-caused global warming is real (see the latest National Climate Assessment), even though the president remains skeptical. More dire and catastrophic events are predicted unless mitigating action is taken to slow greenhouse gas emissions.
The scientific community overwhelmingly has viewed HCGW as “settled science.” Carbon dioxide levels are now nearing 410 parts per million, the highest level ever recorded in the history of the planet, going back hundreds of thousands of years. The rapidly increasing CO2 levels correlate with increased worldwide fossil fuel use.
Climatologists are alarmed at the rapid and unprecedented changes they are seeing. James Balog, who publicized the effects of climate change by video recording the accelerated melting of glaciers in the 2012 documentary “Chasing Ice,” stated that water levels could rise 1.5 to 3 feet during his daughter’s lifetime, based on the rate of rapid melting he observed of glaciers and massive ice-sheets worldwide. He estimated this could displace up to 150 million people now living in coastal areas. Now, in the new NCA report, the latest prediction is that water levels will rise 1 foot per decade until 2100.
Great ecological damage will continue to occur in our oceans. More than 90 percent of increased atmospheric heat is absorbed by ocean water. Ocean warming led to the loss of nearly 30 percent of the coral in the Great Barrier Reef in 2016, and more than 60 percent coral death in the warmer northern areas of the Great Barrier Reef, where water temperatures reached 95 degrees F.
Based on the present trajectory of the warming oceans, experts predict most of the world’s coral will die within 30 years. As about 25 percent of marine life depends on coral reefs to survive, and up to 1 billion people in the world depend on marine life as their sole protein source, this is a nightmare scenario.
According to the most recent report issued in October by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, a 1.5-degree C (or 2.7-degree F) rise is a threshold that we cannot cross without experiencing some of the worst destructive effects of climate change. The report predicts this increase will be reached by 2030, which gives us only 12 years to act decisively.
President Donald Trump, who could remain in office another six years, has shown his disdain and ignorance of HCGW, calling it a hoax. He is gutting environmental laws and continues to promote coal-generated power when natural gas is a better alternative, generating 50 percent less greenhouse gas than coal. And it’s less costly!
Protecting the environment and jobs are not mutually exclusive or at odds with each other. Development of new energy technologies will lead to job creation. Harnessing the skills of our talented engineers and scientists in crash programs, as we did in the Apollo Project, would be a good first step. A concept that is showing progress and still has a way to go is Elon Musk’s vision to develop affordable electric vehicles that can be recharged at solar-powered charging facilities. Fortunately, wind- and solar-generated power are gaining traction!
As citizens, we should encourage responsible Republicans and Democrats at the state and national levels to set their differences aside and unite, with a sense of moral and ethical responsibility, to initiate programs and sensible regulations (like meaningful carbon tax legislation or reinstating higher fuel mileage standards) that will vigorously combat HCGW. The smart Republicans who accept the science will likely bear the burden of persuading the Trump administration to reverse its negative climate policies.
I enjoy the outdoor recreational opportunities that Utah offers each of us. As an avid skier, I wonder, for example, if we will have enough natural snow in the future to even enjoy the sport. Short-term, will we have enough snow to adequately host the 2030 Olympics? In the future, will Utah residents be able to engage safely in their favorite summer activities in air that is almost continuously smoke-filled?
The welfare of future generations depends on the measures we take in the critical years ahead to combat global warming. While we have immediate issues that most of us want addressed — such as affordable health care and sensible gun controls — let’s not falter in caring for Mother Earth as well. Controlling climate warming will be one of man’s greatest challenges in the years ahead.
Karl Sears, Ph.D., is a retired chemist with numerous research publications and patents. He lives in Heber City.