Thursday, October 09, 2014

We must act now on climate change

by Leigh Pomeroy

As a family we were not avid campers, yet a certain ethic about camping — indeed, visiting anywhere in our travels — was simple: Always leave the place as you found it, if not better. This was drummed into me as a youth, and as an adult today this is one of the rules I live by.

Others, however, don't seem to agree.

Recently the Wall Street Journal published an op-ed piece by Dr. Steven E. Koonin, former undersecretary for science in the Energy Department during President Barack Obama's first term and chief scientist for BP, as in British Petroleum, the company that brought us the Deepwater Horizon oil spill of April 2010.

Dr. Koonin claims that the science of climate change is not settled. Yet he acknowledges that:

"[t]he crucial question whether humans are influencing the climate ... is no hoax: There is little doubt in the scientific community that continually growing amounts of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, due largely to carbon-dioxide emissions from the conventional use of fossil fuels, are influencing the climate. There is also little doubt that the carbon dioxide will persist in the atmosphere for several centuries."

Dr. Koonin's point is that the full impact of these changes on the atmosphere and the oceans is yet to be determined, and therefore we don't need to do anything about it till it is.

A rebuttal to Dr. Koonin's piece was subsequently published in the letters to the editor section of the Wall Street Journal. The authors were two prominent climate scientists, Dr. Ben Santer of the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory and Dr. Thomas Stocker of the University of Bern, Switzerland. They acknowledge that the models are not perfect but that "[u]ncertainties in projections of 21st century climate change shouldn't be an excuse for policy inaction."

They continue: "The longer we delay concerted action to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases, the more difficult it will be to avoid dangerous interference with the climate system. Time is a luxury we don't have."

We could dilly-dally around arguing about whether human-induced climate change is real or not. But over 95 percent of climate scientists say it is. Even Dr. Koonin recognizes this.

Increasingly, economic models indicate compellingly that investments we make today to stave off climate change and adjust for its consequences will more than pay for themselves in the future.

We now have the technological ability to transition from a fossil-fuel economy of the 20th century to an energy efficient and energy sustainable economy of the 21st century. We can put these technologies to work for us.

If, like good campers, we choose to leave our camp area in no worse condition than how we found it, we have no choice but to act now to avoid the most dire consequences of climate change. To do anything else would be a crime against succeeding generations.

A version of this piece was published in the Mankato Free Press, Oct. 8, 2014.


Blogger Minnesota Central said...

Good letter and I hope you talk with your Congressman about it.

BTW, did you see Erik Paulsen's campaign commercial -- "Camping" ?
See it and my thoughts here.

Dr. Steven E. Koonin is just one scientist ... and he does not vote in Congress but Tim Walz does. Considering Tim Walz votes on EPA regulations, does he think we should act on climate change ?

6:20 AM  

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