Brennan: Priority soars on climate problem
By Tom Brennan |
With much of California going up in flames due to undergrowth dried by a warming earth, the time may be nearing when the nation makes a real effort to reduce human impact on climate.
The world has been growing more apprehensive every year as new evidence emerges that humans are endangering their environment and themselves. The time seems right for a serious effort at reducing the deleterious effect we are having on the world around us.
Solving the problem could take 20 to 50 years, but I am confident it will be solved. A lot of finger-pointing is going on. The Wall Street Journal even blamed California state leaders for over-reacting to the threat of climate change by skimping on safety upgrades and repairs to its electric grid while pumping billions into green energy and subsidies for electric cars.
Such misguided priorities made the state vulnerable to a prolonged drought resulting in fire caused by falling electrical lines in dry woods and fields, and near expensive housing areas. The problem exacerbated by bad decisions in California is one being felt increasingly in many parts of the world.
Those who deny that humans have actually caused a dangerous change in our climate seem to be waning in credibility, but the real change will have to be moving the world away from reliance on coal and oil for its energy and on to whatever comes next. We should also consider the possibility that, even if no wondrous new source of energy is discovered, we may just learn to use our existing energy resources in ways that will drastically reduce their negative impacts.
Major energy companies like ExxonMobil and ConocoPhillips have been funding such research for years. They understand the problem probably better than most of us and see its resolution as an important goal for all our futures, including their own.
One approach being pursued by ExxonMobil is being endorsed by many scientists. It’s called “carbon capture and storage,” a method of capturing the deleterious waste products of energy creation and rendering them harmless. The system is still being developed but shows promise to a world growing increasingly worried. CCS plants are already being developed or operating in the United States, Japan and Norway.
We in Alaska have seen the results of a warming climate close up. We have seen disastrous wildfires, rising oceans and negative impacts on fish and wildlife resources that are close to all our hearts as well as our livelihoods. The effects of an overheated world are especially noticeable in the Arctic, where a receding ice pack is impacting many aspects of northern life.
Alaska’s Commissioner of Environmental Conservation Jason Brune says state leaders are aware of the climate change problem but, he added, “I don’t think it is an emergency right now.”
We can only hope that Commissioner Brune doesn’t see it as an emergency because he doesn’t see any emergency steps he or his department could take to head it off. And that is true; resolving the climate problem will take a worldwide effort and many years.
It took many generations to get us into this problem and it could take a few more to get us out. The decisions essential to finding our way out of this dilemma will be made in corporate board rooms and government seats of power, seats somewhere above Jason Brune’s level.
The important thing is that the corporations closest to the problem are well aware of it. And organizations like the Alaska Federation of Natives, whose worries are heard in the highest levels of government, are hearing from their members that it is time to address the challenge of a world warming as a result of human activities. And a young girl’s recent plea to the United Nations brought the issue to worldwide attention in a very powerful way.
More obviously needs to be done, but the good news is that more is being done. We are nowhere near being able to map a course to victory. But the first priority is acknowledgement of the gravity of the situation.
And that seems to be happening at many of the right levels.