Tom Burger: Focus on facts in dealing with climate change (Opinion)

It’s no surprise that people who have a vested interest in the fossil fuels industry are reluctant to accept the overwhelming evidence that increasing temperatures are doing great harm to our planet. However, what is encouraging is that companies like BP (once known as British Petroleum) are making “investments in low-carbon technologies and projects.”

Their solutions may not be my solutions, but at least they recognize the problem.

That recognition is not so evident closer to home, unfortunately.

In a recent commentary, David L. Yaussy, a lawyer who represents natural gas companies, stated that maybe many people are slow to take climate change seriously because some of those spreading the alarm about a warming climate fly jets to meetings, have big houses, and buy beach homes. What Yaussy is hoping is that readers will fall for his sleight of hand and lose focus on facts.

Recent data collected by the Pew Research Center, a nonpartisan fact gathering organization, shows that 57 percent of Americans now believe climate change is a major threat and that number is growing.

A poll by Yale University and George Mason University found that Americans are increasingly alarmed by global warming. Even Republicans under 40 years old want action to halt climbing temperatures even though a vast number in that party can’t seem to accept the grim realities of climate change.

Yaussy also snickered at the slow rise of sea levels and noted that the UN can’t directly connect global warming with “increased storms.” Perhaps the slow rise in sea level is not as immediate a concern, but — although the number of storms may not be increasing — scientific evidence shows that the storms we are getting are much more violent.

And the droughts, fires and other natural disasters derived from a warmer climate have caused more than $2 trillion in losses to the world’s economies over the last 20 years. That’s two times what was lost in the 20 years prior to 1998.

Yaussy reminded us of the global warming period during the Middle Ages, leaving out the fact that most climate scientists believe increased solar radiation coupled with less volcanic activity caused that warming trend. When those two factors ceased, temperatures dropped again.

Current global warming is caused by something different, the burning of fossil fuels that raises the levels of CO2 and other greenhouse gases. That is not going to stop unless the occupants on this planet act.

Humanity has a job to do, and all nations must help — especially the economically advanced countries, which have spewed the most soot into the air. Smaller, less developed countries — which suffer the most severe consequences from climate warming — need a hand during the coming transition to alternative sources of energy. Rich countries are in the best position to give that assistance.

We must make the necessary changes now in an orderly and planned way, before we have no choice but to adapt to an ever more hostile global climate in the future.

Let’s not let smokescreens, such as those used by Yaussy, further cloud our thinking and delay the actions all of us — individuals, governments and businesses — need to take if life on Earth is to survive the threat of climate change.

Tom Burger is a member of the Charleston Chapter of the Citizens Climate Lobby.

Funerals for Sunday, October 20, 2019

Fink, Janice - 1:30 p.m., United Disciples of Christ Church, South Charleston.

Honaker, Dewey - 2 p.m., Arnett Assembly of God Church, Arnett.

Jenkins, Tina - 2 p.m., Hafer Funeral Home, Elkview.

Payne, Joseph - 3 p.m., Gateway Christian Church, St. Albans.

Snyder, Janice - 4 p.m., Snodgrass Funeral Home, South Charleston.

Vance, Kendall - 2 p.m., Handley Funeral Home, Danville.