Opinion | Susan Knopf: Faced with dire climate change report, Trump says, ‘I don’t believe it’
Just in case you missed it last week with all the holiday hubbub, 13 U.S. agencies came out with the fourth National Climate Assessment report, mandated by Congress. Big surprise! Global climate change is real and it will cost us 10 percent of our economy (Gross Domestic Product, GDP) if we don’t get serious and do something right now.
“A team of more than 300 experts, guided by a 60-member Federal Advisory Committee produced the report, which was extensively reviewed by the public and experts, including federal agencies and a panel of the National Academy of Sciences,” according to report. It wasn’t a bunch of left-wing yahoos forecasting a worst-case scenario, as Trump suggested. The contributors are top notch.
The report is more than 1,600 pages, and I confess I didn’t have time to read it all. I researched some highlights for you. I also recommend Deepan Dutta’s Summit Daily News story published Nov. 24. The assessment is not a doomsday report. We can each make a difference. We must start now!
“The amount of future climate change will largely be determined by choices society makes about emissions. Lower emissions of heat trapping gases mean less future warming and less severe impacts. Emissions can be reduced through improved energy efficiency and switching to low-carbon or non-carbon energy sources,” states the assessment. That means wind and solar are better than oil, gas and coal for reducing greenhouse gases and reducing global climate change.
That’s right on track with the last National Climate Assessment issued May 2014. The last report informed the Obama Administration’s work on the Clean Power Plan. The plan, launched in 2009, sought to reduce power plant emissions 32 percent by 2030. According to the EPA, the Obama plan created an ancillary benefit of saving thousands of lives, for those directly affected by the soot and smog particulate matter discharged by coal plants. The Trump Administration has been steadily dismantling the plan. The Environmental Protection Agency projects Trump’s new plan will result in 96,000 worsening cases of asthma, and 140,000 lost school days due to illness caused by increased pollution, and ever-worsening climate change outcomes.
Trump often conflates weather with climate. Trump tweeted “Brutal and Extended Cold Blast could shatter ALL RECORDS — Whatever happened to Global Warming?” For the record, weather is what’s happening today. Climate is scientific measurements aggregated over a long period of time. Climate statistics prove the weather is changing. “According to NASA data, 2016 was the warmest year since 1880, continuing a long-term trend of rising global temperatures. The 10 warmest years in the 138-year record all have occurred since 2000, with the four warmest years being the four most recent years.” (NASA/NOAA)
Climate change causes weather shifts that seem contradictory, like droughts and downpours, according to the recent climate report. In 2011, Texas and Oklahoma saw record setting heat, with more than 100 days at 100-or-more degrees F. The heat wave caused $10 billion in direct agricultural losses alone. In May 2011, a year’s worth of rain fell in a single month on the upper Missouri River Basin dramatically damaging crops and ultimately contributing to the loss of a nuclear power plant. People in five states were affected. Extreme precipitation events are occurring with greater frequency, as are hotter days and “longer summers.” The same global climate changes that make Texas hot, can drive rain events, warmer air can contain more water vapor than cooler air.
Climate disasters like these will become increasingly the norm, and they will worsen over time if we don’t make a course correction. It’s as if we are all Thelma and Louise. We are driving right off the cliff and we know it. Stop the car! Change the route!
What can we do to help global climate issues? Here in Summit County, we made a great start at the polls this month. We approved more money for our firefighters, and for wild fire mitigation. The climate assessment calls these actions adaptation strategies. There are also mitigation strategies to reduce emissions. Be mindful of driving trips, share a ride with a friend, drive fuel efficient vehicles, walk or bike to do errands and use mass transit.
Beware of those who tout oil and gas industry jobs as being good for Colorado. The fact is renewable energy jobs in wind and solar are growing faster than fossil fuels jobs.
Elected officials who have the guts to lead on the issues: mitigating emissions by demanding higher fuel efficiency standards, building better highways equals better fuel efficiency, creating mass transit, creating bike and pedestrian friendly environments, creating effective and efficient waste management and recycling, and putting enough money and resources aside to fight fires, store water, manage flood waters, snow removal, and create green spaces.
Forests are “carbon sinks,” ecosystems that store and offset about 17 percent of U.S. fossil fuel emissions. Trees are under attack as never before by developers, insects, drought and floods. Be someone who speaks for the trees. Plant trees. Help Friends of the Dillon Ranger District protect our forests.
Eat less meat. Beef production, according to some, is a bigger contributor to greenhouse gas than cars. It’s cow farts, it’s how the manure is used and stored, transportation of beef to market, and other issues.
The National Climate Assessment is beautifully indexed, offering you a variety of ways to approach it from climate change issues, geographical regions, rural versus urban sectors, and mitigation strategies. It’s family friendly with great pictures and easy to understand language. I urge you to drop in and take a gander. You paid for it! I think you’ll be surprised how user friendly it is. And it has great science resources to dig deeper.
Susan Knopf is a Summit County resident. She has won awards from the Associated Press and United Press International for her news reporting.
Susan Knopf’s column “For the Record” publishes biweekly on Fridays in the Summit Daily News. Knopf lives in Silverthorne. She is a certified ski instructor and an award-winning journalist. Contact her at email@example.com.
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