Del. Ken Plum: A Warning Too Dire to Ignore

by Del. Ken Plum October 18, 2018 at 10:15 am 24 Comments

Del. Ken Plum/File photoThis is an opinion column by Del. Ken Plum (D), who represents Reston in Virginia’s House of Delegates. It does not reflect the opinion of Reston Now.

For those who like to plan where will you will be and what you will be doing in twenty years a complicating factor that has for too long been ignored must be considered: climate change. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change brought together by the United Nations issued a report earlier this month, written and edited by 91 scientists from 40 countries and based on a review of more than 6,000 scientific reports, predicting much more dire consequences of climate change much earlier than previously had been expected.

Conditions that have been visibly happening with much more regularity in recent years of intense rains and hurricanes, droughts, excessive heat, flooding, and wildfires will be getting worse. Forget retirement to that beach house you have been fixing up; there is a high probability it may be under water as the beach disappears. Rising costs of living may eat into our retirement savings yielding them inadequate.

What about life for our children and grandchildren? What will it be like? The evidence presented is too compelling to ignore. To sustain a future quality of life for our posterity we must take aggressive action now.

As reported in The New York Times, the authors found that if greenhouse gas emissions continue at the current rate, the atmosphere will warm up by as much as 2.7 degrees Fahrenheit above pre-industrial levels by 2040 inundating coastlines and intensifying droughts and poverty. The new report shows that many of the most serious changes will come much earlier than expected.

The report said that to prevent 2.7 degrees of warming, greenhouse pollution must be reduced by 45 percent from 2010 levels by 2030 and 100 percent by 2050. The use of coal as an electricity source would have to drop from nearly 40 percent today to less than 7 percent. Renewable energy such as wind and solar, which makes up about 20 percent of electricity generation, would have to increase to as much as 67 percent.

While the report talks about the science involved, the politics of the issue present the greatest challenge. With a federal administration filled with climate-change deniers and with a pledge to bring back coal for greater energy production, there seems to be a great likelihood that the United States will indeed withdraw from the Paris Climate Agreement. (Under the terms of the agreement, the U.S. wouldn’t actually be able to withdraw until November 2020.) The administration also may eliminate more regulations that were put in place to reduce climate change if those regulations stand in the way of greater business profits.

Until sanity returns at the national level, it is important that actions–as small as they may seem–be taken at state, local, community and family levels to preserve our climate and our planet. We have a responsibility to our children and others to live our lives in a way that recognizes the clear and present dangers our planet faces. The warning is too dire to ignore.

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