A World Burning Up And Under Water Must Finally Act On Climate Change

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Damage, debris and fires left after deadly flooding in Waverly, TennesseeDeadly flooding caused destruction across parts of Middle Tennessee, including the city of Waverly, where widespread damage was seen on Saturday, August 21.Credit: James Allen via Storyful
  • Jan Berry is a volunteer with the Knoxville chapter and a state coordinator for the Citizens’ Climate Lobby, and Mark Reynolds is the executive director of the organization.

The shocking extreme weather of late, from the devastation of Hurricane Ida to flooding in Waverly, Tennessee, comes as no surprise to scientists who warned for decades that we are heading toward climate catastrophe.

“These extremes are something we knew were coming,” climate scientist Katharine Hayhoe recently told the Washington Post. “The suffering that is here and now is because we have not heeded the warnings sufficiently.”

Those warnings go back to 1988 when then-NASA scientist Dr. James Hansen testified before Congress that ''we can ascribe with a high degree of confidence a cause-and-effect relationship between the greenhouse effect and observed warming.''

The “greenhouse effect” Hansen referred to is the additional carbon dioxide humans have emitted by burning coal, oil and gas. As more CO2 accumulates, more heat is trapped in the atmosphere. This year is providing an unwelcome glimpse of the hellish future that awaits if the world fails to take decisive action to drastically reduce the greenhouse gas emissions driving climate change.

A warming climate has contributed to supercharged conditions in the Gulf of Mexico with unusually warm sea water temperatures powering Hurricane Ida inland, causing death and destruction and temporarily reversing the flow of the Mississippi River. As it roared ashore with sustained winds of 150 mph, Ida secured its place as the strongest landfalling hurricane in the state’s history alongside last year’s Hurricane Laura. 

Less than two weeks earlier, inland flooding devastated the town of Waverly, leaving 20 people dead and highlighting how flooding isn’t just a concern for coastal communities. In the northeast, Hurricane Henri generated record rainfall as New York City experienced its rainiest hour in history, with 1.91 inches falling between 11 p.m. and midnight on Saturday, Aug. 21. The unprecedented rainfall causing these floods is partially attributable to warmer air that holds and eventually discharges more water.

In Northern California, the Sierra Nevada mountain town of Greenville lost most of its downtown as the Dixie fire swept through and, 130 miles south, thousands of people rushed to evacuate the resort city of South Lake Tahoe as the threat of the Caldor Fire loomed closer.

In June, the temperature soared to 108 degrees in Seattle, a city where only 44% of households are air conditioned. Nearly 200 deaths in Oregon and Washington state have been attributed to the heat wave.

The cumulative effect of these weather-related disasters sends a clear message: Time is up to address climate change.

Signs of hope emerged recently as the budget reconciliation process continues in Congress. The budget blueprint contains measures to reduce greenhouse gas emissions with the aim of cutting those emissions in half within 10 years. To reach that target, the Senate is considering including an essential tool in the budget reconciliation bill that it will be most effective in reducing carbon pollution: A robust price on carbon.

Several bills have been introduced to set a strong price on carbon, and the policy idea has bipartisan appeal. These bills would protect American businesses with a carbon border adjustment mechanism on imports from nations that do not have an equivalent price on carbon. The budget reconciliation proposal includes such a carbon border tax. In order to comply with World Trade Organization rules, the U.S. would likely need a domestic carbon price to impose a levy at the border.

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To ensure that the indispensable tool of carbon pricing is included in upcoming legislation, we ask U.S. Sens. Marsha Blackburn and Bill Hagerty to support a price on carbon as part of the budget reconciliation negotiations. U.S. Reps. Tim Burchett and Chuck Fleischmann have both joined the Conservative Climate Caucus and support action on climate. Burchett introduced the Carbon Capture Improvement Act, H.R. 3861, while Fleischmann is a strong proponent of energy efficiency and nuclear power.

Recent extreme-weather disasters underscore that we are running out of time to address climate change. Our Tennessee members of Congress need to go big on solutions, or we will all continue to suffer the consequences of climate change, now and in the future.

Jan Berry is a volunteer with the Knoxville chapter and a state coordinator for the Citizens’ Climate Lobby, and Mark Reynolds is the executive director of the organization.

Source : https://www.knoxnews.com/story/opinion/2021/10/05/world-burning-up-and-under-water-must-finally-act-climate-change/8371455002/

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