Jim Probst: We ignore climate change at what cost?

By By Jim Probst
CHRISTIAN TYLER RANDOLPH | Gazette-Mail file photo
Residents begin clean up of flood damage on the lower portion of Oakford Avenue in Richwood on June 24.

At what cost do we continue to ignore the reality that climate change is happening now and is effecting us right here in West Virginia? At what cost do we allow our leaders to tell us that we can’t afford the price of curtailing our carbon emissions. At what loss of life, home and business, will it take for us to pull our heads out of the sand and say, enough is enough?

I know there are those that are saying about now that you can’t tie a specific event to climate change. A recent report from the National Academy of Sciences does tell us though, that climate change is affecting the likelihood and intensity of extreme weather events. It’s really pretty simple science, warmer air holds more moisture which generates more energy and precipitation such as we just witnessed in West Virginia.

A quick search this morning on extreme weather events in 2016, led me to 206 pages of extreme weather related stories in The Guardian from throughout the world. A short list includes record heat waves in India, record warmth in Alaska, record flooding in Texas, wildfires in California, severe flooding in China, floods in Paris and Germany, and the Fort McMurray fire in Alberta.

By all accounts, the recent floods in West Virginia are one for the record books. The descriptions included 1,000-year event and record high levels for several rivers. We can say that climate change was a contributing factor, that it increased the likelihood of it occurring, and it served to increase the intensity and devastation that resulted.

At what cost? I’m sure it will be awhile before the economic loss estimates from all of this devastation are in. A recent report from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration states that 2015 was the eighth consecutive year with damages from severe weather exceeding $10 billion in the United States. At the current rate there is no doubt that 2016 will be the ninth.

The reality is climate change is here, it is happening now, and we are seeing its effects right here in West Virginia. This is not some far off problem to be solved by future generations. This is not a problem of concern for just people in low lying countries and Pacific Islanders.

This is happening right now, in the Mountain State of West Virginia, and it is past time we move past the tired argument that we can’t afford to address climate change. We can’t afford not doing something about this issue.

Please join with me and hundreds of your fellow West Virginians who have begun to raise their voices and their concerns in asking their members of congress to take action on this issue. As stated recently by Dr. Michael Mann, “We have no choice but to address climate change, or it will address us.”

Jim Probst, of Lincoln County, is state coordinator of West Virginia Citizens Climate Lobby.

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