The Free Press, Mankato, MN

February 23, 2014

Climate change is verifiable and threatening


The Mankato Free Press

---- — I would like to respond to Mr. Bob Jentges “In Defense of Carbon Dioxide” opinion in the Feb. 15 Free Press. It is not carbon dioxide that needs defense. It is life that needs defending from excessive human generated carbon dioxide.

Climate change is no longer open for debate. It is fact. Since 1991 more than 97 percent of climate scientists agree that the climate is warming and that human generated CO2 emissions are the cause. And more recently that number has increased.

James Powell, distinguished Ph.D. appointed to the National Science Board by Ronald Reagan and again by George H.W. Bush, states that from November 2012 to December 2013, there were 2,258 peer reviewed climate articles by 9,136 authors. Only one author rejected man-made global warming. If we are to stand a chance, we have to acknowledge this. Now. Climate change denial has gone the way of the flat Earth society.

Almost every government in the world has agreed that we must limit global warming to less than 2 degress Celsius to sustain life as we know it, as agreed to in the Copenhagen Accord. We have already raised the temperature by 0.8 degrees, and it has caused more damage than predicted.

The oceans are 30 percent more acidic, one-third of the Arctic summer ice has vanished, and our atmosphere now contains 4 percent more moisture which contributes to the accelerated pace at which we are experiencing catastrophic floods, droughts, and other extreme weather.

Scientists estimate that we can put 565 gigatons of CO2 into the atmosphere and still remain below the 2 degree threshold. NASA scientist and climate expert, James Hansen, says that if we stopped increasing CO2 levels right now, the global temperature would continue to rise another 0.8 degrees, which puts us dangerously close to the 2 degree mark.

And according to other scientists, this is overly optimistic. Some say that it is already too late. A team of financial analysts and environmentalists have estimated that proven coal, oil, and gas reserves of the fossil fuel companies are equal to about 2,795 gigatons of CO2 (5 times more than what we can afford to release). So the important numbers to remember are 2 degrees for survival, 565 gigatons CO2 budgeted, and 2,795 gigatons CO2 available.

Being that Mr. Jentges’ professional background was in the insurance industry, it might interest him to know that Bob Johnson, president of the Insurance Federation of Minnesota, states that Minnesota insurance rates have increased 267 percent since 1997 due to extreme weather catastrophes likely brought on by climate change.

A piece in The New York Times published May 2013 states that climate change is one of the insurance industry’s biggest threats. Christine LeGarde of the International Monetary Fund has also expressed concern and encouraged action in response to climate change. In fact she suggested we get rid of the worldwide annual fossil fuel subsidies of $1.9 trillion. Global warming isn’t just terrible for humanity, but also for business.

Mr. Jentges also mentions that climate change received $165 billion in government funding. I can’t verify that is true, but I wonder if that includes the annual spending on climate related disaster relief from super storms and hurricanes. These cost the government $136 billion for fiscal year 2011 to 2013, according to the Washington Post, which comes to about $400 per household.

Experts believe these are conservative estimates and they are expected to rise in the years ahead. According to NOAA, the number of severe weather events that inflict at least $1billion in damage went from 2 per year in the 1980s to more than 10 per year since 2010. Mr. Jentges cites John Hinderaker. He is a conservative attorney and blogger. What climate or science expertise does he have?

I am a member of MN350, an affiliate of 350.org. This organization derived its name for the acceptable level of carbon dioxide in the air to maintain our environment.

It is 350 parts per million. We are now at approximately 400ppm so there is no time to be wasted on this sort of head-in-the-sand mentality.

I don’t know if Mr. Jentges has children, but I have to believe that he cares about future generations. It is his and our responsibility to face our reality and do the right thing. Keep the carbon in the ground. It will be daunting. But our survival and the survival of our descendents depend on it.

Liz Ratcliff is an active community member, environmental activist and lives in Mankato.