I was appalled to read a commentary by John McClaughry in the Dec. 7 edition of the Manchester Journal called “That really scary climate report.” Appalled because after accurately quoting the U.S. government’s National Climate Assessment report, he falsely stated that there is a “debate” as to its accuracy and denigrated the civil-service scientists who compiled the report, calling them “prophets” who misconstrued facts to further their careers. Really? In the Trump administration? How can any rational person think that speaking truth about climate change would further their career under Trump — the guy who just appointed a former lobbyist for the coal industry to head the EPA.
John McClaughry is attempting to cast doubt on the scientific findings about climate change, despite the fact that there is consensus among climate scientists that Earth is warming, the climate is becoming increasingly inhospitable to humans (and many other species), that the changes are accelerating, and the changes are due mostly to human activity.
Reports from major climate science institutions (such as the U.S.’s Global Climate Research Program, which delivered the National Climate Assessment report) are thoroughly researched and peer-reviewed. The NCA report was endorsed by NASA, the Department of Defense, NOAA and experts in 10 other agencies, and matches the conclusions of thousands of other scientists around the world.
Who does Mr. McClaughry quote in his commentary to negate this consensus? Judith Curry, who, after Trump was elected president, said: “Trump’s election provided an opportunity for a more rational energy and climate policy.” Really? Defunding the EPA, encouraging more coal consumption, and drilling in Alaska’s National Wildlife Refuge is a more rational energy and climate policy?
Ms. Curry was chairwoman of the School of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences at Georgia Tech from 2002-14. Sounds impressive, unless you read the book “Dark Money” by Jane Mayer, who spells out with detail and clarity how billionaire Libertarians like Charles Koch funneled money into colleges around the country to establish ‘Schools’, ‘Centers’ and ‘Institutes’ with innocuous sounding names to spread their lies about climate, economics and politics. The fact that we’re even having this “discussion” is testament to the effectiveness of these “Merchants of Doubt” (read the book or see the movie of the same name to see how they do it), who never prove the real scientists wrong, they just plant the seeds of doubt.
The NCA report, as quoted in the Dec. 7 commentary, states that the effects of man-made climate change will be sea level rise, fires, floods, droughts, heat waves, ocean acidification, shrinking glaciers and disappearing Arctic sea ice. Mr. McClaughry says these dire effects “could” be coming. I’m not sure what planet he’s on, but these events and severe hurricanes, all of which were forecast decades ago by real climate scientists, have arrived. My wife and I spent some time in Panama City, Florida, helping out after Hurricane Michael; the physical and human devastation was painful to witness. Painful. Sadly, the scenes in the Florida panhandle were duplicated in California, Houston, New Orleans, North Carolina, Puerto Rico and many other places around the world. I’m sure the people who experienced these events would disagree with Mr. McClaughry’s claim that: “living on Earth has become a much happier experience.”
Mr. McClaughry wonders if the “cost of reducing global fossil fuel combustion to nonthreatening levels demands too great a price in prosperity and human well-being.” From my perspective, it seems like the fossil fuel industry and their billionaire beneficiaries like the Koch brothers, are the main beneficiaries of the prosperity, while the majority of us are having a more difficult time earning a living.
Let’s look at the economics for a minute: In Vermont, 78 cents of every $1 spent on fossil fuel leaves the state, nearly $1.5 billion per year, while money spent on local renewables create more jobs for Vermonters. 3.2 million Americans work in wind, solar, energy efficiency and other clean energy jobs. The solar and wind industries are creating jobs 12 times faster than the rest of the economy. Working to stop climate change can drive economic growth, while unchecked climate change is expected to have dire economic consequences. Citibank estimates the costs of unchecked climate change at more than $40 trillion by 2060.
Now, about “well-being:” Burning coal increases health problems like asthma and other respiratory illnesses. Knowing that, is it rational to push for more coal-fired power plants like Trump wants? Is it rational to pump millions of gallons of poisonous chemicals into the ground to extract natural gas when we rely on that ground to grow our food? Some residents who live near gas fracking wells can actually ignite their drinking water.
If you’re still skeptical, ask yourself this: What happens if Mr. McClaughry is right but we switch to 100 percent renewables anyway? Well, we’d have clean air, cleaner water, better-paying jobs, more equitable distribution of wealth and resources, and a few oil executives will be looking for jobs. But what happens if I’m right and we don’t change anything and keep burning fossil fuels? Well, it would be the end of civilization as we know it. Feel like gambling?
Carl Bucholt is a Manchester resident.