Ilona Jappinen: Destructive climate change is here

(Jack McNeely | The Herald-Citizen | AP) This Santa bear came to rest in the splinter of a tree in the Locust Grove area just off Highway 70 west of Cookeville, Tenn.,Tuesday, March 3, 2020.

When the tornado hit Cookeville, Tenn., recently, Katelyn Steakley and her children and home were spared. Eighteen lives were lost, and few houses among the town’s splintered schools, churches and businesses were left.

Katelyn is now coordinating the Facebook page “Cookeville Strong” for the recovery efforts. The winds of 174 plus mph were assigned the rare category EF-4. Katelyn has lived there all her life and experienced tornadoes before, but, as she told reporters: “I wouldn’t call them experienced compared to this.”

Such statements are being heard around the world. What was formerly considered rare is ever more common. The force and frequency of extreme weather events are increasing exponentially and are on track to increase even more in coming years.

We have been hearing it for decades now: “Climate change is not proven, and whether it is human-caused is not clear.” This is, in fact, a rumor propagated by carbon-heavy corporations, based on reports from the tiny percentage of scientists financially or ideologically supported by those corporations.

It reflects a vision that extends no farther than the next quarterly bottom line. That vision overlooks the decades ahead and the planet their children and grandchildren, and ours, will have to live or die on.

The scientists with more freedom to do objective research have actually understated their warnings. They have not wanted to be accused of sensationalism or a “sky is falling” mentality. Most now recognize the urgent need to risk being called “Chicken Littles” because the conditions and the rate of change have outpaced them.

Cookeville and communities around the world need help. Destructive global warming is here.

It is in the ashes of wiped-out Paradise, Calif., in the soggy, unsaleable crops of the Mississippi and Missouri plains, in the expensive dikes being built around Manhattan and Charleston, in Florida Keys succumbing to sea-rise, in the painful shrieks of burning kangaroos, koalas and human beings in Australia, and the smog-choked cities of industrial China.

And in Utah.

One wonders how the captains of industry can turn a blind eye to this. Surely some really believe the voices of doubt. But many of the carbon-heavy company leaders are on record as knowing and believing the predictions. We know this because they are already investing extensively in renewable energy industries.

Perhaps they are just determined to wring every last pinched red penny from the old technology? Do they really not worry that wide swathes of the globe will become uninhabitable, generating giant waves of eco-migrants, starvation and the resulting social upheaval?

Perhaps they figure they’ll retreat to their private islands and safe mountain residences while the rest of humanity suffers?

Some say they aren’t worried because they don’t believe in science. It would be nice if they could be consistent. To do so they would not use medical doctors or pharmaceutical research, automobiles, airplanes, refrigerators, air conditioning, computers or cell phones.

These and a myriad of modern conveniences were created from the same body of scientific processes and knowledge that produced climate science and its predictions.

We enjoy the dance, we pay the piper.

We Americans have the opportunity and the duty to lead the world by instituting changes that will slow and stop the warming before it becomes irreversible. That’s about 10 years.

A world-wide carbon-based economy is a big ship, hard to turn around. Time to get going. Other countries will not begin if we don’t. If we are the greatest nation on earth, we can and must lead, and now.

Please consider supporting HR 763 in the U.S. House of Representatives. It would place a tax, increasing each year, on carbon-based products. The purpose is to increase corporate incentives to invest in renewable energy sources. The tax money that is collected is then paid out in monthly checks to every adult American.

This extra income can be used to offset the increased cost of carbon-based products or, even better, to purchase non-carbon-based products, or whatever they want to buy.

The “Economists’ Statement on Carbon Dividends,” appeared in the Wall Street Journal Jan. 17, 2019, from 3,558 U.S. economists, four former chairs of the Federal Reserve, 27 Nobel laureate economists, 15 chairs of the Council of Economic Advisers, and two former secretaries of U.S. Department of Treasury. In that, they state, among other things, “A carbon tax offers the most cost-effective lever to reduce carbon emissions at the scale and speed that is necessary.”

If you agree, please contact your U.S. Congress members and urge them to work to pass the Energy Innovation and Carbon Dividend Act. Remember Katelyn’s facebook page “Cookeville Strong,” and consider that strong legislative action can help reduce the kind of destruction that makes such pages necessary.

Ilona Jappinen

Ilona Jappinen, Logan, is a retired professor of German studies at Utah State University.