ALLIANCE, Ohio — Given the extreme heat we’ve endured, beach water that’s bathtub warm, smoke from massive wildfires, and a substantial increase in flash and hurricane flooding, hopefully those still dismissing global warming are few and far between. With the Earth’s response to the pollution we’ve poured into it now biting into our lives, all are now without excuse. Just as the writer C.S. Lewis explained how, “God whispers to us in our pleasures, … but shouts in our pain,” hopefully all can now hear the Earth screaming at us over the damage we’ve done, continue to do, and the need to change.
Before considering how to respond to global warming, perhaps it would be best to examine the scale, longevity and the implications of this problem. Since the industrial revolution began around 1750, global CO2 levels in the atmosphere have risen 40% to 50%. While that might not seem like a lot, given the enormity of the global atmosphere, that’s a very large change.
According to NASA, the last nine years have been the hottest on record. While temperatures across the United States have soared, it’s also important to appreciate that these heat waves are associated with just a two-degree Fahrenheit global temperature rise. Imagine what it’s going to feel like when global temperatures rise by three degrees Fahrenheit over the next decade, and even more after that.
Beyond the oppressive heat we’ve experienced, it’s essential that we absorb the magnitude of the derivative consequences of all this heat. Ocean temperatures are rising, major hurricanes are becoming more likely, coral reefs are dying, glaciers are melting, sea levels are expected to rise one to six feet, and massive wildfires are growing more pervasive.
Given this trail of destruction, it would be easy to throw up our hands and say, “What can I do?” The fact is, there’s a lot we can do. Given the ability of the government to address major crises, the easiest and most important thing we can do is limit our support of political candidates to only those willing to make combatting global warming a top priority.
Rather than backing into political corners on this issue, perhaps it would be worthwhile to recall how Republican President Teddy Roosevelt, in moving to protect hundreds of millions of acres of land through designations as national parks, forests and monuments, argued, “We have fallen heirs to the most glorious heritage a people ever received, and each one must do his part if we wish to show that the nation is worthy of its good fortune.”
If Republican “leaders” today want to behave anything like those who laid the foundation of the Republican Party, we need them to find anew their conservative roots, turn away from their perceived short-term political interests, and turn toward protecting the environment and the best interests of the people.
In addition to supporting candidates with the courage and foresight to lead us in protecting the environment, we can reduce the carbon footprint of our own households. We can consume less fuel by driving less aggressively or trading in our current vehicle for a more fuel-efficient one. We can also do our best to consume less power and natural gas at home by either installing a more fuel-efficient furnace or air-conditioning unit or by installing solar panels on our home. Fortunately, thousands of dollars in tax rebates are available for these investments.
Given the way climate change is growing, the characterization, often misattributed to Winston Churchill, that, “You can always count on Americans to do the right thing, after they’ve tried everything else,” bodes poorly with respect to tackling this accelerating crisis.
Our reluctance to go on a war footing against global warming now only allows it to intensify and become more entrenched. If we want to take the top off the climate crisis barrelling towards us, our children and grandchildren, it’s imperative that we act with courage and all due haste.
George Zadigian has been an engineering and construction project manager in the steel industry in Ohio for nearly 40 years. He’s also been a conservative and a Republican for 40 years.
Have something to say about this topic?
* Send a letter to the editor, which will be considered for print publication.
* Email general questions about our editorial board or comments or corrections on this opinion column to Elizabeth Sullivan, director of opinion, at firstname.lastname@example.org