Climate Conversations : Business as usual

Clyde Burnett, Peak to Peak.  We have elaborate news reports of mildewing personal possessions on the curb in Houston, as well as property damage from destroyed mobile homes and trailers in the Florida Keys and migrant housing in Immokalee, to tree branches on the East Coast. We found less than the potential storm surge in Naples and Everglades City, 6 and 8 ft rather than the potential 15 ft. And folks in Everglades City are dying from exposure to that muddy contaminated water. That village, described in your local author’s book “Orbatz in the Everglades” (buried somewhere in our library shelves) will never look quite the same.


The National Weather Service predicted that slow-moving Harvey would make small Texas towns uninhabitable. Later the Weather Channel meteorologist frantically warned Caribbean islands, already uninhabitable, that Maria was a monster. Puerto Rico has no power, water, or sewage to cope with damage and floods, approaching a panic situation.


Flooding from Harvey and the monstrous Irma and Maria were more damaging due to warm oceans. The warm oceans are an obvious water and energy source for hurricanes. Their frequency and track are clearly contributing to damage; these depend on the upper atmosphere winds, but are mostly independent of climate change. An AGU scientific report demonstrated that the increasing ocean heat content over the last 50 years is precisely parallel the 300 to 400 ppm increase in CO2 atmospheric concentration, and that CO2 controls the amount of water vapor and final precipitation. There is no complete alternate explanation other than burning of fossil fuels for energy.


Florida has always planned to spend billions to adapt. Rebuild stronger and on stilts. No visible damage in sunny Florida to solar panels and wind turbines from Irma.


We rebuilt the old way after Katrina and Sandy and now apparently plan to do the same in Houston. We plan to rely on the technology of pumps in New Orleans and Miami Beach. So, we adapt for the normal climate of the past, but we can’t go back; at best, we must cope with our new normal storms, and with “Business as Usual” we should expect all Hell to break loose!


Yes, we have climate change! We had a choice in the not too distant past to respond to Hansen’s warning to learn and respond to the science of the climate danger. Since that time, developing countries, particularly Europe, but even China and India, have made the decision to move to renewables. We chose to procrastinate and try to ignore rather than to become the world’s leader. We have begun to pay the unimaginable billions in adaptation.


Now we again have a choice. Shall we continue to warm the ocean as a fuel source for hurricanes and melt the glaciers that are a source of fresh water for millions?


Or we could follow the other leaders in implementing the Paris Accord and try to mitigate with a reduction in CO2 emissions. We had that choice years ago. We can’t go back; the CO2 atmospheric lifetime is centuries and the oceans will not cool for thousands of years. Increasing temperatures will ultimately release the greenhouse gases from permafrost or methane from shallow oceans—a catastrophe not to be imagined!


I have resisted the obvious choice to ignore the situation and become a couch potato. Instead I greatly appreciate the opportunity offered by The Mountain-Ear to communicate these climate threats to readers. Readers may conserve energy and perhaps add solar panels, but we must also do something about US leadership.



Please vote for our planet home’s health!