Climate change: what to expect?

From the Southampton Press Jan 5th 2017

There are many things to worry about regarding the incoming Trump administration. The list is long as both New Deal and Great Society programs could be hobbled beyond recognition. However, the thing that has me existential-threat level worried is the denial of climate science as revealed in statements made by Mr. Trump and some of his key cabinet-level appointments. Mr. Trump saw fit to nominate several climate change skeptics to his cabinet; specifically, his selection to head the Environmental Protection Agency, Scott Pruitt, proclaimed, “Scientists continue to disagree about the degree and extent of global warming and its connections to the actions of mankind.”

Well, yes, some scientists do disagree about the degree and extent of global warming, but only a small number of them disagree with the conclusion that mankind is a contributing factor to climate change. There is no debate. Burning fossil fuel increases carbon dioxide output, which contributes to the greenhouse effect, trapping heat in the atmosphere. So, for example, the question is not if sea level will rise due to rising temperatures and melting ice; the question is by how much (degree), and where will the impacts occur first and when (extent). Sea level rise is one of the results of an atmosphere suffused with carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases. Last year, Carbon Dioxide concentration was measured at 1.6 times the amount from pre-industrial days. That needs to be reduced.

When I first began reading about climate change, the discussions focused on methodologies and models and data points and offsetting phenomena that cool the atmosphere. Those debates still occur, but some recent reports have less to do with the arcane science dealing with models, algorithms, data capture and scientific extrapolation, and more to do with just plain observations through the use of eyeballs and thermometers:

  • Miami Beach floods even without rain. The local government is spending $400 million to raise road beds and build sea walls.
  • To avoid rising seas, the Inupiat Eskimo village of Shishmaref, Alaska, has voted to relocate to higher grounds.
  • The Isle De Jean Charles community in Louisiana was provided $48 by the US Department of Housing and Urban development to relocate due to rising sea waters.
  • Small Pacific Islands in the Solomon Island chain are disappearing.
  • Ice shelves are collapsing in Antarctica and Greenland, and glaciers in many parts of the world are shrinking.

Those of us seeking climate change mitigation efforts are lucky to find champions in enlightened governors like NY’s Andrew Cuomo and California’s Jerry Brown, in green energy companies building and installing solar and wind power energy sources, in the climate mitigation works of foreign governments unencumbered by a political party in denial over global warming, and, more at home, by Southampton Township government officials pursuing clean energy and environmental proposals. A lot of good is happening in the sphere of clean energy and reducing our carbon footprint, let us hope it is sufficiently comprehensive.

In the meantime, we can hope that the inconsistent Donald Trump (the businessman believer in climate change who pursued sea barriers at his Scottish golf course) convinces the pre-presidential candidate Donald Trump (the prevaricator who claimed climate change is a hoax perpetrated by the Chinese) that climate change is real.

Mike Anthony, Westhampton

One solid reason to fight confirmation of Scott Pruitt for EPA.  East End leads by example.  Where is Lee Zeldin?

David Posnett, East Hampton

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About D. Posnett MD

Emeritus Prof. of Medicine at Weill Cornell Medical College
This entry was posted in Environment, Uncategorized and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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