Newly inaugurated President Joe Biden has embraced global-warming induced climate change as an existential threat. He has declared climate change the “number one issue facing humanity” and vowed a national transition from fossil fuels to renewable energy that he says will create millions of new jobs.
Biden has a $2 trillion plan that puts the U.S. on a path to zero carbon pollution from the electricity sector by 2035 and net-zero emissions by 2050. His signing an executive order to rejoin the Paris Climate Accord brought the U.S. back to the international table.
In support of climate action, hundreds of snowmen appeared outside the Utah Capitol in Salt Lake City last Sunday to make a case for carbon pricing or enforcing a tax on emissions. Supporters say it is an effective way of curbing climate change and saving snowmen from extinction.
Let’s review some of the climate change consequences or “hits” that our country absorbed during 2020 underscoring the need to act expediently on our climate crisis.
Hurricanes: An unmatched 12 named storms, including a record-tying six hurricanes, made landfall in the U.S., leaving few areas on the Gulf and East coasts untouched. Louisiana suffered a record five storms make landfall alone.
Tornados: There were 1,243 preliminary filtered reports of tornadoes in the U.S. in 2020, with 1,022 confirmed, resulting in 78 deaths, $14.4 billion in damage.
Wildfires: The 2020 season throughout California and the U.S. as a whole was record setting. NIFC reported that by Nov. 27 there were 52,113 wildfires that burned 8,889,297 acres in 2020, approximately 2.3 million more acres than the 10-year average and double the acreage burned in the 2019 season.
Record cold from Wisconsin to Texas: At least 14 people are dead in four states from the effects of a record-shattering cold snap and series of winter storms since Sunday, posting the lowest temperatures in Texas since at least 1989. Some 14 million Texans were ordered to boil water due to low water pressure caused by pipes bursting and leaking.
Reasons climate hits keep on rolling: During 2020, Salt Lake City recorded the fifth warmest average high temperature of 66.6°, the seventh warmest average low of 44.7° and an overall average temperature of 55.6° placing 2020 as the sixth warmest year on record.
Since 2000, the longest duration of drought in Utah lasted 288 weeks, beginning on April 3, 2001, and ending on October 3, 2006. The most intense period of drought occurred the week of January 19, 2021, affecting 69.99% of Utah land.
The effects were reported in Feb. 21 Salt Lake Tribune: “Snowpacks in the Wasatch, Uinta, Bear River …. store frozen water that reservoirs capture in the spring for use by residents and farmers. …. Moisture held in the mountains remains so shallow …… that some water watchers fear low runoff could result in streams running dry and farms going dry.”
There is progress. In 2019, Sen. Mitt Romney joined the bipartisan Senate Climate Change Caucus, focused on private sector technology investments and innovation. Last August, Rep. John Curtis called for bipartisanship on climate change. Bipartisan carbon fee legislation may be re-introduced in Congress again. It’s the Energy Innovation and Carbon Dividend Act (H.R. 763). Let’s support the people who built snowmen on the Capitol grounds with a plea to policy makers to not make the snowmen “extinct.” Let’s hope they succeed.
Jim Wightman is a retired resident of Bountiful, with children and grandchildren who want the “climate hits” to not keep rolling.