For years, there has been a debate over the reality of climate change, specifically human impact on the climate and related weather events. While the climate change naysayers are few, they have been a strong, vocal minority. Climate change has also taken a background role on the national stage, with politicians preferring to address much more pressing and immediate needs related to the stalled global economy. This year’s presidential race is a prime example: although energy independence was a major talking point for both candidates, neither of them addressed larger, long-term global climate issues.
However, the devastating effects of Hurricane Sandy have brought climate change back to the mainstream media and into the larger international conversation. Scientists from a variety of disciplines have reported that the effects of climate change likely made Sandy’s impact much greater than it might have been otherwise. A variety of climate-related events contributed to the so-called “superstorm” including sea level rises, sea surface temperatures, warmer than usual temperatures, and a high pressure system in the northeast. Arctic temperatures and glacial melting caused by climate change are at least partially to blame.
Last month, a 2030 trend report issued by the National Intelligence Council indicates that climate change will play a role in what they refer to as global “tectonic shifts” likely to occur between now and 2030. These shifts, which include population explosion, urbanization, energy demand, food and water shortages, and a growing international middle class, will lead to increasing energy consumption, waste and carbon generation, and resource scarcities.
The effects of climate change on resources will lead to ongoing weather events such as drought that stand to have the greatest impact on arid areas such as the Middle East, North Africa, western Central Asia, southern Europe, southern Africa, and the Southwest United States. These climate effects, combined with the increasing need to house, feed, and employ an additional billion people, could result in very challenging environmental circumstances over the next 15-20 years.
Climate change is already having a very real—and negative—effect on weather-dependent U.S. industries, like winter sports. An article in this week’s New York Times online points to climate change as the culprit in a decline in activity at national ski areas. Rising temperatures that result in late opens and early closes for skis areas across the country mean that resorts may end up closing their doors altogether. According to some warming forecasts, more than half of the ski resorts in the Northeast won’t be able to last the season by 2039. This warming trend “spells economic devastation for a winter sports industry deeply dependent upon predictable, heavy snowfall,” says a report issued by the Natural Resources Defense Council. The industry generates more than $10B in revenues and employs nearly 200,000 people annually.
Is the climate debate over? Undoubtedly, climate change deniers, who are funded by coal and oil companies, will continue to argue. However, irrefutable evidence from the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has been embraced by the national academies of science from all G-8 nations as well as China, India, and Brazil.
It’s time to turn our attention away from proving the existence of climate change and towards the solution, if we are to have any hope for ourselves and our descendants. At Renewable Choice, we’re working every day to be part of that solution. We believe that renewable energy is the key to global prosperity in a power dependent future.