The Personal Moral Issue Around Climate Change
by Francis P. Koster, Ed.D
We have two decades to save life on earth as we know it - and I am not kidding[i].
About 150 years ago we unknowingly started making gasses that are coming back to hurt us. They came from the carbon-based fuels - coal, oil, and natural gas. We have been rapidly increasing production of these gasses every year since the late 1800s. [ii]These gasses float up, and over decades create the equivalent of an oven around our collective living quarters - our earth. [iii]
The cooking has started.
A quick recap: We just finished the warmest 6 months on record for the entire globe.[iv] The August 2015 sea surface temperature was the highest for any month in the existing 1880–2015 record.[v] Extreme rainfalls have increased dramatically since the 1950’s. These short violent rainstorms cause flooding and erosion. The warmer ocean water along the coast caused most of the increase, although these storms also occur elsewhere. [vi] McAllen, Texas had a 700% increase, for example. [vii]California, source of much of our nations fruits and vegetables, is having its worst drought in more than 1000 years
Insurance companies now anticipate a bad storm year could cost them over one trillion dollars, posing a serious threat to their industry. Allstate Insurance said that recent storms wiped out all the profits they had made in 75 years of selling homeowners insurance, and that they are withdrawing from insuring coastal states.[viii]
I could go on and on. (You can see much more at NASA’s website http://climate.nasa.gov, The International Panel on Climate Change website http://ipcc.ch and the CIA website https://www.cia.gov/news-information/press-releases-statements/center-on-climate-change-and-national-security.html)
The first signs of climate change began to be noticed in the 1970’s. It took around 30 years for scientists to understand what is happening. Teaching what they have found is difficult enough, made worse because there are a number of disruptive students in the global classroom.
How do we head off disaster? The scientist’s answer is stunning in its scope and impact: If we burn more than 18% of known coal, 50% of known natural gas, and 70% of known oil, your children and grandchildren will suffer enormous pain and suffering, as will other humans all around the world. [ix]
You read that right - starting soon, we have to leave in the ground a lot of very valuable carbon-based fuels. The corporate owners of those natural resources are fighting hard to convince us it is not necessary - but the science says it is.
Alternatives exist, thank goodness. New solar is now cheaper than new nuclear, natural gas, or coal.[X],[XI], [XII] In most parts of the United States, wind power is now cheaper than any new generating plant. And while we are not there yet, replacement gasoline and diesel made from algae have dropped in price from $240.00 per gallon in 2009[xiii] to $7.50 in 2014[xiv] - and many new cost reducing production methods are on the horizon, including locating the algae plants next to sewage treatment plants so that currently taxpayer-paid - for waste treatment is converted to energy production - a double win.[xv]
One of the first steps to removing the danger is to remove the existing subsidies to coal and oil companies in the United States. A complex and detailed subject, the bottom line is that taxpayers have subsidized oil and coal companies for decades, and clean renewables for a short time. The dirty fuels have a 37 billion dollar annual unfair taxpayer funded advantage in the marketplace - and they create pollution and climate change not counted in that number, and which add between 360 billion and 1 trillion dollars each year in costs to the United States taxpayer.[xvi],[XVII],(XV111)
Here is the good news - while major international corporations being forced to walk away from trillions of dollars in carbon-based fuels will disrupt segments of the national and international economy, we can create a strong local economy by switching our energy sources from those that make the oven warm to those that don’t. We will make jobs here at home when we do it, because these new sources are disbursed, located near consuming markets, and are labor, not capital, intensive.
We will also keep at home those billions we send abroad weekly to buy oil.
What the scientists are saying is scary. Many people are covering their ears, and saying this is just too complicated to understand. The science may be hard, but at root the morality is not.
Our political leadership, and the leaders of these fuel companies, have a moral choice to make between the future of their profits/campaign contributions or the future of their kids. I don’t envy them.
[ix]"The geographical distribution of fossil fuels unused when limiting global warming to 2 C ", Nature - the International Weekly Journal of Science, January 7, 2015