December 29, 2012
No denying climate change
Earth is growing warmer; the records prove that. Some still doubt human activity has anything to do with it, but it's past time for the rest of us to face reality.
We need, first, good leadership. The United States should provide it, as it has repeatedly promised but failed to do. And Florida should be a leader among the states, because it is among those most threatened with ecological problems and rising sea levels.
Tallahassee should take its cues from South Florida, where local governments have long recognized the dangers associated with climate change. Raising seawall heights, moving drinking-water wellfields farther inland and imposing tougher development regulations for particularly vulnerable areas — ideas once unthinkable — are now part of a regional climate-change plan designed to help local communities address a changing environment.
While the flooding and saltwater intrusion now seen in South Florida occur regularly, far more devastating effects are happening in other parts of the world. According to the Climate Vulnerable Forum, a 20-nation consortium of developing countries, failure to act will result in about 100 million deaths worldwide by 2030 from mega-droughts, floods, disease, crop failure and major water shortages. The forum puts the economic costs of climate change at $1.2 trillion a year now, and says it will double by 2030. Some nations could lose 11 percent of GDP. Oxfam, an anti-poverty group, puts potential agricultural and fishery losses alone at $500 billion a year by 2030.
Skeptics may pooh-pooh the climate forum's report as commissioned by those nations most at risk, which makes them most in need of help. But its findings are consistent with those from the world's most important climate-change organization, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.
Some skeptics say "many" scientists don't believe in global warming or don't believe it's caused by human activity. But the "many" is actually just a handful. The overwhelming consensus among scientists the world over is that climate change is occurring and human activity plays a major role.
South Floridians may think droughts and wars in faraway places are no threat to them. They are wrong, but in any case, we are dealing with the effects of climate change here at home. Some of our cities have wisely begun to include resources to address the problem in their long-range planning. Their foresight is commendable. It may not be long before every coastal city on earth is doing the same.
"We need to have the will to do things we've never done before and do them quickly," said Richard Grosso, professor of land-use law at Nova Southeastern University, at a regional climate-change conference in Jupiter earlier this month. "We need to elect officials who will not be paralyzed by doubt."
In 2030, most young people who graduated from college this year will turn 40 years old. They will have moved or be moving into positions of power and influence in government and industry. The world's problems will be in their laps.
These are our children. We're already saddling them with a preposterous debt, much to our shame. Do we also want to burden them with the possibly catastrophic effects of climate change, just because we lack the will to act now?