Climate change apparent – solutions aren’t

Black Friday this year marked the containment of one of the nation’s worst wildfires and the release of a 13-agency study detailing what Americans can expect from global warming in the next 70 years.

California’s Camp Fire was the nightmare predicted by climate change research. It started Nov. 8, well after the normal fire season, and in 16 days burned 153,000 acres and destroyed 18,733 structures. Eighty-seven deaths are known; 475 people are missing.

Idaho is no stranger to wildfire.  In 2016 the Soda Fire in the Owyhees and the Pioneer Fire north of Idaho City together burned three times as many acres as Camp Fire has, Yet, no deaths were reported. Even with winds, people had time to escape.

California, however, had seen months of hotter, dryer days.

And the woods exploded.

Since 1975, Idaho’s average temperature has risen two degrees Fahrenheit and the number of acres burned annually has doubled. If our average temperature continues to rise a degree every 20 years, Idahoans too will see hotter and more deadly fires.

Yet, the new study, the Fourth National Climate Assessment, Vol. II, predicts Idaho will suffer less damage from climate change than much of the country. Imagine higher temperatures in Phoenix, more powerful hurricanes along the East Coast, larger algae blooms around Florida, and greater insect infestations nationwide and you’ve got a preview of the report.

Weather-related disasters have gotten so much worse, it’s hard to believe more people don’t believe in climate change.

But they do. The latest poll by Stanford Professor Joe Krosnick shows that 74 percent of Americans’ believe the world’s temperature has been rising.  Even more respondents–81 percent–believe the U.S. should cut greenhouse gases to meet the goals of the Paris Climate Agreement and give tax incentives to companies that create electricity from renewable resources.

Over two-thirds support taxing carbon emissions and imported fossil fuels.

The real question is why do voters who worry about global warming continue to elect politicians who subsidize coal mining and support more offshore oil drilling?

A March 28 article on The Verge, an online source of technology news, explored possible answers.

People are in denial. “A lot of people think that we won’t bear the brunt of climate change until 2050 or 2100, and that other parts of the world will be affected, not the US, not their state, their city, or their community.”

Magali Delmas, a UCLA professor, points out that there is a 99 percent chance that a 6.7 earthquake will strike California in the next 30 years, yet only 13 percent of residents have purchased earthquake insurance.

More immediate problems demand our focus. Worries about health and bills come before concerns about earthquakes and melting sea ice.

People are discouraged. Scare tactics make climate change seem like an “insurmountable problem that’s just too big” to tackle.  They may turn the thermostat down, take shorter showers, and cut down on driving, but the problem keeps getting worse.

We need assurance that solutions are achievable–like good news about renewable energy and some assurance that Congress will take action.

People have a sense of my team, right or wrong.  Anthony Leiserowitz, director of the Yale Program on Climate Change, points out that fewer Americans believed in climate change after the rise of the Tea Party in 2009 and the election of President Trump in 2016.

Time keeps passing.  The problem keeps growing

Note this editorial by Judy Ferro published by Idaho Press – 2018
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