Nel's New Day

December 31, 2013

Answers for Deniers of Climate Change

Climate change is here whether people admit it or not. In just the last year, 39 weather-related disasters cost $1 billion or more. In the Philippines, Typhoon Haiyan was the strongest storm ever recorded on land, killing more than 6,000 people and affecting millions more. In Australia, record high temperatures forced mapmakers to create a new color on the weather map. California had massive wildfires throughout the state, historic flooding took out bridges and roadways in Colorado’s flood destroyed bridges and roads, and Midwest tornadoes swept through towns such as Moore (OK).

For the first time, CO2 concentrations passed 400 parts per million, but governments are doing little to curb emissions. Climate-denier think tanks and advocacy groups are raking in hundreds of millions of dollars, frequently from secret sources.

At the end of 2013, the eating holidays of November and December have passed, followed by dieting, but arguments continue. These talking points from the Environmental Defense Fund were suggested for the holiday dinners, but in the interest of peace, I suggest that they can be addressed now to start off the new year.

Alarmed Aunt Anna & Concerned Grandpa Christopher believe that science may be real but think that we cannot solve the climate crisis:

  • California—the 8th largest economy in the world—has implemented the world’s most ambitious climate action plan.
  • At the national level, the EPA is starting to regulate climate pollution using its existing authority under the Clean Air Act.
  • The renewable energy industry is growing exponentially—in fact, the clean energy economy is growing twice as fast as the rest of the economy, and we have enough potential wind and solar energy in the U.S. to power our economy 100 times over.

Trump Card: Yes, this is challenging. Yes, it will take time to rebuild support for national climate action. But what choice do we have? There is no time to waste, and we need to act now.

Cautious Cousin Charlie, Disengaged Grandma Denise, & Doubtful Brother David think that there is not a real consensus on the science of climate change. Without attacks, here are the points to engage them:

  • Carbon dioxide is a heat-trapping gas, and that’s generally a very good thing. Without greenhouse gases, every night when the sun sets, temperatures would immediately plunge to frigid levels.
  • But we are now emitting 9 billion tons of carbon, or 30 billion tons of CO2, into the atmosphere every year, and CO2 levels have increased by about a third since the industrial revolution. If we don’t reduce emissions, we could more than double the level of CO2 in the atmosphere over this century.
  • Already, food growing patterns are changing, seasons are coming earlier, water resources are strained and the number of natural disasters in the U.S. has more than quadrupled in the last 50 years.

Trump Card: You don’t have to accept all the science. But if you had a health condition and 98 out of 100 doctors agreed on the diagnosis, would you base your treatment on the views of the other two?

Dismissive Aunt Debbie almost certainly won’t change her mind, and the more facts she hears, the less she’ll be inclined to agree. Yet she might be willing to help the economy and protect national security:

  • America needs to rebuild. Did you know the clean energy sector creates 3 times as many jobs as the fossil fuel sector? We can’t afford to pass up those jobs.
  • Other countries are taking advantage of the economic stimulation that comes with climate action. China is testing carbon cap-and-trade markets in an area encompassing 250 million people. The U.S. needs to stay competitive.
  • America’s billion-dollar-a-day dependence on oil from hostile nations directly funds our most dangerous enemies, putting guns and bullets into their hands and putting our soldiers in danger. It is time for America to stand strong on its own independent and in control of our energy future.

Trump Card:  Whether climate change is real or not, the benefits of a clean energy economy are undeniable. Not only will we rid ourselves of dangerous pollution that can make us sick and even cause deaths we can finally be energy independent. What’s the downside?

More thoughts to chew on— 

Costs: 

  • In just one year—2012—extreme weather events cost over $100 billion. The future will see higher and higher expenses, bringing even more burden to the U.S. taxpayer.
  • Federal and state disaster relief payouts last year alone are estimated to have cost every person in the US more than $300.
  • The nation had at least 200 annual weather-related natural catastrophes recently compared to about 50 in the early 1980s.
  • Federal crop insurance cost taxpayers a record $17 billion in 2012 alone.
  • Taxpayer-funded federal and state wildfire protection payouts tripled over the last 20 years.

 Lessons from the Colorado floods:

The tragedies of September’s flooding may be the new normal.

  • The 17 inches of rain caused the deaths of eight people and left people with millions of dollars in property damage, including public infrastructure.

flooding highway

  • The disaster came during Boulder’s driest month.
  • The warmer atmosphere held more water and unusual atmospheric circulation patterns came from climate change.
  • Heavy downpours may increase in intensity or frequency in this century.

Climate change and violence go hand in hand: 

  • There is a strong connection between rising temperatures and acts of violence, increasing war and murder
  • Human conflict increases 14% and violence rises 4% with even a modest shift in weather, according to an examination of almost 200 studies.
  • Neglecting the apparent psychological impact of unusual weather, the impact on the food supply and the decline of natural resources is likely to result in warfare on its own.

Negative affects of climate change on individuals:

  • Extreme weather may cause you to lose everything you have, including the people you love.
  • Your insurance costs will go up because the company has to pay out on disasters but still needs to make money.
  • Your food and utilities will cost much more because of extreme temperatures and problems of growing conditions.
  • You’ll have to pay more taxes to care for others that have extreme weather conditions.
  • You may suffer from serious health issues.
  • Your personal security is at risk. Admiral Samuel Locklear, a naval officer in charge of the Asia-Pacific region, said that global warming “is probably the most likely thing that is going to happen . . . that will cripple the security environment.”

Denying these affects won’t allow you to escape them.

There’s still hope. A year ago, a 59-year-old woman, avid follower of Bill O’Reilly and opponent of belief in climate change, reversed her opinion after she watched Chasing Ice. The documentary film uses time-lapse to compress years into seconds, capturing the disappearance of ancient mountains of ice at a breathtaking pace. As with any change, it’s one heart at a time.

Tonight the calendar rolls over to 2014. Maybe we can remedy people’s failure to believe in climate change before 2015.

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