It’s real, we’re the cause of it, and we’re watching it unfold right before our eyes. And, it’s immoral for us to continue dumping millions of tons of heat-trapping gases into our atmosphere, condemning our children to a future of intensifying storms, massive wildfires, extreme droughts, and intolerable heat.
Wait, it appears the future has arrived. And no, it’s not inappropriate to be talking about climate change while people are still suffering in Texas. There are people suffering from the effects of climate change all over the world, right now, and will be from now on. We have already put enough carbon into the atmosphere that the planet will continue to heat up for years even if we were to stop burning fossil fuels tomorrow.
Right now, extreme flooding has killed more than 1,200 people in South Asia, 140 in Nepal, 130 in Bangladesh, over 500 in India, with estimates running to 1,000 in Sierra Leone due to flooding and mudslides and there have been 100,000 displaced in Nigeria due to flooding there.
Hurricane Harvey is shaping up to be the most costly natural disaster in U.S. history, with current estimates running to $190 billion dollars, and, as I write, this Hurricane Irma is heading towards Florida with record-breaking intensity for an Atlantic storm.
In Phoenix this summer, it got too hot for planes to take off, as temperatures soared to a record 124 degrees. A train derailed in Southern California due to tracks warped from the extreme heat. To date, 7.6 million acres have burned in the American west with NOAA classifying 11 Western states as suffering from heavy smoke concentrations.
My point is that we should be way past the point of arguing the degree to which this event or that event can be tied to climate change and need to be moving as rapidly as possible to discussing ways to address solving this problem.
The thing is that not taking action on climate change is actually costing us more than doing nothing. We are presently locked into spending 2 percent of our GDP on dealing with natural disasters. By the end of this century, we are looking at an increase to 7.5 percent of our GDP, with an accompanying growth in government to administer that increase.
Taking action to seriously cut our greenhouse gas emissions would actually cost less than that 2 percent. An approach favored by many economists would be to put a fee on carbon emissions, with the money collected returned to American households. Studies have shown that this approach would not only stimulate job growth but would also save lives. There is a way forward.
If not now, when? It’s time for all of us to get involved. We have all enjoyed the benefits that come from burning fossil fuels, but we are leaving it to our children and grandchildren to deal with the consequences.
If you, like me, have a hard time living with that, join with fellow concerned West Virginians at 7 p.m. Tuesday at Park Place Cinemas for a one-time showing of the film “An Inconvenient Sequel,” with post-film discussion on how you can get involved in this most important issue.
Jim Probst is the state coordinator of West Virginia Citizens Climate Lobby.