Monday, September 25, 2017

Will We Ever All Agree on Climate Change?

It was only a few weeks after Al Gore's An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power debuted at theaters around the country. Since I admired his previous Oscar winning documentary An Inconvenient Truth.  I was interested to see what new things Gore had to say about climate change.
But a check of theaters in the Greater Pittsburgh area only showed one theater offering the movie and that theater only offering one showing per day. I, along with about a dozen other people watched the film that day.
Indeed, I thought the movie to be worthwhile. Instead of his original movie that predicted the results of climate change, this one graphically showed many of the results of climate change around the world. But what was sad to me was that so few people apparently cared enough about climate change to want to see this movie. With all of the crazy goings on in American politics, climate change just wasn’t on anybody’s radar anymore.
But then came the start of the 2017 hurricane season and the horrific damage it caused to places like Houston, parts of Florida, and most recently, Puerto Rico. Climate scientists have warned that the oceans are warming which would result in more powerful storms. And they came in the form of Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria with possibly more to come.
Past experiences cannot prepare us for storms that have been called unprecedented. Even deniers had to question whether climate change was indeed contributing to the severity of these storms.
Harvey was declared to be a '500 year storm' which meant that in a particular year, a storm like this should have a 1 in 500 chance of happening. But Houston has now had three 500 year storms in three years.
Theoretically, the odds of a 1-in-500 event occurring three straight times are one in 125 million. 
The inescapable conclusion is that the frequency and strength of these storms are clearly not random occurrences. Something must be affecting the climate for all of this to be happening!
But in spite of it all, the climate change deniers still persist. There is a famous quote by the author, Upton Sinclair:
It is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary depends upon his not understanding it!
There is nobody this quote applies to more than the fossil fuel industry and the politicians they finance. The most notable one in Congress is Sen. Jim Inhofe who is noted for the snowball he brought to the Senate floor as his lame attempt to disprove climate change. But the entire Trump Administration is on board too. And to show how crazy partisan this issue has become, Rush Limbaugh offered these cynical words on the forecasted Florida storms.
There is a desire to advance this climate change agenda, and hurricanes are one of the fastest and best ways to do it...fear and panic help sell batteries, bottled water, and TV advertising.
He evacuated his Palm Beach mansion soon afterward.

So given all of this partisan rancor, will we ever all agree on climate change someday? Surely there will always be some dead-enders who will never give in. But there are some unmistakable trends that will continue to marginalize these holdouts.
First, Hurricane Harvey is bringing up inevitable question of climate change. It is easy to dismiss questions on climate change arguing as an ideologue. But when death and destruction literally come to people’s front doors, these questions can no longer be ignored. And while the storms affecting America were indeed terrible, the suffering in other parts of the world was even more catastrophic resulting in the deaths of many thousands from droughts and typhoons which makes the American climate change deniers look even more pathetic.
Secondly, as an admission that climate change is making these superstorms the new normal, more and more people will sensibly be moving away from the coasts like what has already happened as a result of Hurricane Sandy. To help this along, governments will have to buy lands from these coastal dwellers in addition to modifying the crazy parts of our national flood insurance program that encourage rebuilding in known floodplains.
And finally, renewable energy sources such as solar and wind are becoming more and more price competitive with fossil fuels. Our only hope to mitigate the worst of climate change is to convert from fossil fuels to renewables as quickly as possible. The manufacturing of solar panels has exploded in recent years as costs have dramatically fallen. Unfortunately, in this industry like so many others, the Chinese are eating our lunch.
While President Trump has announced America’s intention to withdraw from The Paris Climate Accord, many cities, states and companies have indicated their intentions to ignore Trump and will proceed to comply with the agreed to guidelines – as they should!
So while some of us can continue to be in denial over climate​ change, Mother Nature always gets the last word. We ignore her stern warnings at our peril!