The moral challenge of our time

In this reply to a Cal Thomas column [“Ice breaking climate change fears”, 2013-09-19], we challenge this so-called “man of values” with a very simple value: If you make a mess, clean it up.

There is little doubt about the mess:  climate scientists have never been in greater agreement (98%) that human-caused greenhouse gases are the major driver changing the world’s climate. This change is going to impact us all; in fact, it is already impacting us – including we who live on the Olympic Peninsula.

The basic science is understandable: greenhouse gases make the atmosphere hold more heat and moisture. This imbalance changes ocean and wind currents and precipitation patterns. This new climate regime expresses itself in various ways in different places, such as more frequent and intense drought, wildfire, or storms – or all three bunched together, as seen recently in Colorado.

On the Olympic Peninsula, we are seeing warmer temperatures, shrinking glaciers, altered storm patterns, and acidifying oceans. Climate models say we’ll continue to see warmer summers and warmer, rainier winters, translating into more winter flooding, summer drought, and wildfire, with attendant harm to businesses, homes, public infrastructure, water supplies, fish, wildlife, and human health.

The only plausible explanation for the rise in weather-related catastrophes is climate change. This statement comes not from a scientist, but rather from one of the world’s largest reinsurance companies – the folks who insure the insurance companies against major disasters. They should know, because they’re ultimately footing the bill.

Faced with this situation, does it make sense to cast our entire stake in with a tiny minority of the scientific community, Big Oil, and the coal companies – the folks who profit by denying climate change? Common sense tells us to take precautions against the greatest threat we’ve ever seen. If nine doctors say you’ve got a cancerous tumor that needs removing, do you go running to find a tenth who will tell you everything’s fine?

But let’s turn back to values. We’ve made a mess; now who should clean it up? The climate models indicate we have perhaps a few decades to drastically reduce our greenhouse gases to avoid the worst. If we fail to act, older folks will get through our lives without feeling the brunt of it, and in the meantime, there’s good money to be made by mining ever more “dirty” coal, oil, and natural gas! The choices are stark: our fossil-fuel-driven contemporary life versus the health and welfare of our children and grandchildren.

In response to this choice, we have founded Olympic Climate Action and this website with the intent of stimulating thought, dialogue, and action in regard to climate change – to help prevent as much of the problem as we can and prepare for what we can’t prevent.

Thomas may choose to stick his head into the expanding desert sands, but we do not. Please join us in believing that we can address this crisis — but only if we face up to it first.