In a recent guest commentary titled, Recent studies show climate change should be major concern, I mentioned sobering, if not terrifying numbers on anthropogenic (human caused) global warming:
1) The widely held number of 2 degrees Celsius in warming that we cannot exceed and hope for a livable, recognizable earth (Scientists are now concerned 2 degrees Celsius may be too high.).
If the numbers have you concerned, you’re invited to hear solutions, offer your ideas, get involved and attend a Public Visioning, sponsored by Columbia Climate Change Coalition, at 7 p.m. Monday (refreshments and music at 6:30 pm) in the Friends Room, at the Columbia Library.
2) The 565 gigatons we could burn and stay below 2 degrees Celsuis.
3) The 2,795 gigatons the polluting energy-fuels industry has "laid claim to" and intends to market to us to burn. This last number is 5 times over the very "upper safe limit" scientists' estimate.
Continued scientific studies point even more definitively to stronger links to climate change and largely anthropogenic warming, with specific weather events, such as the latest severe drought and other weather events. This science is still being gathered and researched. However, scientists feel comfortable to say, with strong levels of certainty, that these weather events and changes — "taken together as a whole" — are due to both "natural causes" along with a "significant anthropogenic" component.
To build bridges on this topic of how much are humans contributing, just look back about 45 years to when we originally instituted environmental EPA laws for the primary purpose of protecting human health. Business and industry naysayers claimed these clean water and air laws would kill jobs and business, but facts show these rules had just the opposite effect. With these laws, in the past more than four decades, we have not only saved millions of human lives, but instead of economic collapse over any of these years, as the naysayers predicted, we actually created opportunities in business, new technology and marketing these environmental protection advancements here and around the world. Obeying these environmental laws proved to be a boon in both economics and public health.
Like the deregulation and subsequent economic calamity in the business, insurance, real estate, banking and related sectors, our environmental regulations have now also been watered down by the opposing view. We see similar, widespread problems emerging in this environmental sector including the roll-back of gains in public health correlative to more polluted water and air. We pass up many business opportunities with new technology — refusing to focus on true renewable sources offering the smallest footprints. Instead, we let other countries such as China and Germany take over advancements and leadership in this whole renewable energy sector.
If only we would agree to just strengthen and enforce our clean air and water laws — laws that have saved human life and created good jobs — and wisely apply these protective laws equally and fairly to all sectors of business and industry. That simple step of just obeying our laws would go a long way to anything those of the public who accept the science of human contribution to climate change would wish — it would put us all on the same page. We pride ourselves, as Americans, on being a law-abiding society, so, if we just demanded that the industry comply with these rules — proven to spur economic activity and save human life — that would eliminate the climate change science argument the industries and vested interests prefer we stay caught up in. It’s very simple, even wildlife show us we cannot do well and have a livable home when we insist on soiling our own bed.
Monta Welch is founder and president of the Columbia Climate Change Coalition. Questions? Contact Opinion editor Elizabeth Conner.