SOLUTIONS 7/17: Our Changing World


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By Huck Fairman

A tropical storm came ashore near Atlantic City and blew up along much of the Mid-Atlantic coast, flooding roads and fields. High temperatures and humidity blanketed the East and other regions of the country. This, according to National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) and other weather and climate predictions, around the world, is our new normal.

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Polls show that 60% of Americans view manmade climate change as a “major threat.” And they want something done. The question is: what? And will it be soon enough to hold off more powerful storms, heat and the destruction of our environments?

We are not alone. Japan recently experienced extreme weather, in the form of rain storms depositing more than 9 inches of rain in a single day. Landslides and flooding rivers swept away villagers and nursing home residents. A Japanese climate scientist warned that global warming will be producing rainfall amounts never experienced before.

The South Pole, the most isolated landmass on the planet, is experiencing unprecedented warming along its coasts. The heat is coming primarily from the tropics, but reveals that no place on the planet is unaffected by warming. The major impacts of this warming will be the loss of sea ice and rising ocean levels.

In Siberia, unusual heat is allowing wildfires to burn the tundra’s permafrost, which in turn is releasing stored methane, a more powerful, and therefore more dangerous, heat-trapping gas than carbon dioxide.

In the Atlantic Ocean, off the New Jersey coast and north up to Canada, the warming waters are having impacts on the species living there. Right whales and lobsters are respectively dwindling in numbers and migrating north. The Gulf of Maine’s deep waters have warmed nearly 9 degrees Fahrenheit since 2004. The food that the right whales primarily eat, “fat-rich zooplankton,” is moving north, and the whales are following. The lobster population in the Gulf of Maine is expected to decline by as much as 62%.
Instead of seeking ways to reverse climate change, the Trump administration is opposing efforts and new restrictions. The National Marine Fisheries, ironically a division of NOAA, is avoiding any publicity of these environmental changes. A biologist familiar with the region observed that the fisheries department wants to announce only good news, not bad. Another observer warned that departments in NOAA are “entrenched” in old ways of doing things, when dynamic management is needed.

In contrast, Canada has recently issued “wide-ranging” protections for marine life, including seasonal closures of fishing and whaling regions. Not doing this, as the current American departments’ policies are, will lead to the extinction of species. These, in turn, will have economic, food supply and ecological impacts.

The good news is that former Vice President Joe Biden has recently consulted with both Senator Bernie Sanders and with Al Gore, as well as with Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and former Secretary of State John Kerry, and he seems to be heading toward more active climate stance. Last year, Biden proposed a $1.7 trillion plan to reach 100% clean energy by eliminating carbon emissions by 2050. This is one of the steps we urgently need, including turning to electric vehicles. This month’s heat and storms should remind those not thinking of these issues.

Looking across this country and around the world, observers are finding rapid changes in many regions, at many levels. As a result, it seems pretty clear that if we want to preserve our world as we have known it, we must undertake, as soon as possible, a range of policies that reduce emissions, and the warming they produce, while also adopting policies that preserve life in as many of its forms as possible. Extinctions are in many cases dangerously advanced, leading to destructive ecological repercussions.

We know what to do. The issue is: are we going to work together to marshal the will to do what we need to do?


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