Quantcast

Now Is Exactly the Time to Have That Discussion About Climate Change

Popular
Hurricane Irma with its eye completely encompassing the island of Barbuda on Sept. 6. University of Wisconsin / CIMMS

By Susan Glickman

As a native Floridian, I chose to ride out Hurricane Irma in my hometown of Tampa—just a few miles north of where the Tampa Bay Buccaneers play football. Like millions of other Floridians who evacuated low-lying beach communities for higher ground, I had the obvious safety concerns and worries about whether I would even have a home to return to. But as a public interest advocate who has worked on climate and energy issues every day for almost two decades, I also have intense concerns about the growing climate change/hurricane nexus.

So when EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt says it's insensitive to Floridians and Texans to talk about climate change during hurricane emergencies, I say he missed the boat as to what's truly insensitive.


What's insensitive is not talking about the links between warmer surface water temperatures and more intense weather events. What's insensitive is dismantling the Clean Power Plan that was put in place to reduce climate-changing carbon pollution. What's insensitive is unraveling the environmental protections we all rely on so allies in the oil and gas industry can continue to pollute for free and have consumers pick up the tab.

Plain and simple, we are altering the climate of our planet for all living beings just so that a few people can make money selling, trading and producing fuels and products that emit greenhouse gas emissions. It's not okay and it's got to stop.

Increased greenhouse gas emissions are fueling more extreme weather events. It's just that simple. The warmer ocean temperatures in the Atlantic and the gulf are contributing to more intense hurricanes. Climate change is causing sea level rise that adds to the threat of coastal flooding.

We have needed to act to reduce emissions for a long time, but now we are at a true crossroads. The Arctic is melting, and the permafrost is thawing. As goes the Arctic, so goes Florida. We must take serious action now to both adapt to the climate change impacts that are inevitable from carbon pollution already in the pipeline and to reduce our emissions and future impacts by transforming to a low-carbon economy.

Make no mistake, we've known about the problem for a long time. In 1965, three weeks after his inauguration, President Lyndon Johnson said: "This generation has altered the composition of the atmosphere on a global scale through radioactive materials and a steady increase in carbon dioxide from the burning of fossil fuels." Johnson was responding to the first official governmental report on the possible challenges posed from increasing carbon dioxide (CO2) to dangerous levels.

Even before that, physicist Roger Revelle testified before Congress in 1956 about the relationship between fossil fuel combustion, rising CO2 in the atmosphere, and potentially increased hurricane risk in the Atlantic. So the potential impacts of climate change on hurricanes were known 60 years ago. This is not new news.

So why do so many people today still deny the causes of climate change despite the overwhelming evidence? Since I'm from the Sunshine State, I liken it to the intense rivalry between the University of Florida Gators and the Florida State Seminoles. You pick a team and stick with them through thick and thin. Football allegiances are powerful in Florida. There's no in between once you take sides.

Similarly, for climate deniers to embrace the largely accepted science they have to renounce their world view and their peers. And while it is difficult to stray from one's world view, more and more people now see reality staring them in the face.

So without pointing fingers or recrimination, I say that this is the moment we must all confront the realities of a changing climate and acknowledge there are solutions at hand. There is no shortage of data on climate science and, thankfully, there seems to be no shortage of technologies to achieve a low-carbon economy. Transitioning to a clean energy economy will be better for all of us all in the long run, creating jobs, saving money and protecting our natural environment.

Being in a hurricane—or in any crisis situation—does have a certain surreal quality to it. Across the globe we've been pummeled with so many recent cataclysmic events—earthquakes in Mexico, fires in the West, mudslides in Sierra Leone—and now the nearby devastation from Hurricane Harvey is fresh on our minds. Every day it's like we're watching a movie—an intriguing thriller—except this one is real. Climate change is happening and we're seeing it play out before our eyes. It would be insensitive to continue to ignore the signs and fail to take action.

Susan Glickman is the Florida director of Southern Alliance for Clean Energy.

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

A new study shows that half of all Arctic warming and corresponding sea-loss during the late 20th century was caused by ozone-depleting substances. Here, icebergs discharged from Greenland's Jakobshavn Glacier. Kevin Krajick / Earth Institute / EurekAlert!

The world awakened to the hole in the ozone layer in 1985, which scientists attributed it to ozone depleting substances. Two years later, in Montreal, the world agreed to ban the halogen compounds causing the massive hole over Antarctica. Research now shows that those chemicals didn't just cut a hole in the ozone layer, they also warmed up the Arctic.

Read More
Diane Wilson holds up a bag full of nurdles she collected from one of Formosa's outfall areas on Jan. 15. Julie Dermansky / DeSmogBlog

By Julie Dermansky

On the afternoon of Jan. 15, activist Diane Wilson kicked off a San Antonio Estuary Waterkeeper meeting on the side of the road across from a Formosa plastics manufacturing plant in Point Comfort, Texas.

After Wilson and the waterkeeper successfully sued Formosa in 2017, the company agreed to no longer release even one of the tiny plastic pellets known as nurdles into the region's waterways. The group of volunteers had assembled that day to check whether the plant was still discharging these raw materials of plastics manufacturing.

Read More
Sponsored

By Simon Coghlan and Kobi Leins

A remarkable combination of artificial intelligence (AI) and biology has produced the world's first "living robots."

Read More
Malaysian Environment Minister Yeo Bee Yin (front 2nd L) and officials inspect a container containing plastic waste shipment on Jan. 20, 2020 before sending back to the countries of origin. AFP via Getty Images

The Southeast Asian country Malaysia has sent 150 shipping containers packed with plastic waste back to 13 wealthy countries, putting the world on notice that it will not be the world's garbage dump, as CNN reported. The countries receiving their trash back include the United States, the United Kingdom, France and Canada.

Read More
Trump leaves after delivering a speech at the Congress Centre during the World Economic Forum annual meeting in Davos on Jan. 21, 2020. JIM WATSON / AFP via Getty Images

U.S. President Donald Trump dismissed the concerns of environmental activists as "pessimism" in a speech to political and business leaders at the start of the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos on Tuesday.

Read More