Editorial: Take high temperatures, climate change seriously – Boulder Daily Camera
Hot enough for you?
That old conversation starter has taken on new meaning in recent years, with high temperatures providing constant reminders of the effects of climate change. So do extreme cold, atmospheric rivers of rain and severe drought.
Last week, heat alerts covered more than 20 states and temperatures rose above 100 degrees for over 60 million people. This week, an excessive heat warning was issued by the National Weather Service for parts of the Pacific Northwest — not an area anyone would associate with soaring temperatures.
“Dangerous heat will continue to impact a large portion of the US this week, with now more than 100 million people under excessive heat warnings or heat advisories,” the Weather Prediction Center said.
That increases the chances of heat-related illnesses for people working outdoors or engaged in outdoor activities. Public health officials advise residents to drink plenty of fluids, avoid strenuous activity outdoors and not leave children or pets in parked cars.
And while temperatures are not likely to break records everyday — Colorado is cooling slightly this week — they represent a cycle that is increasingly evident, and increasingly costly, throughout the nation.
A decade ago, naysayers insisted that climate change was a “hoax.” Donald Trump said, “The concept of global warming was created by and for the Chinese in order to make U.S. manufacturing noncompetitive.” Despite this absurd proclamation, he was elected president.
These days, with the reality of climate change impossible to ignore, critics claim that we cannot afford proposed measures to slow global warming. The truth is that we cannot afford to ignore them.
The Office of Management and Budget this year estimated that floods, drought, wildfires and hurricanes made worse by climate change could cost the federal budget about $2 trillion a year by the end of the century. The report also warned that the federal government could spend an additional $25 billion to $128 billion a year on coastal disaster relief, flood insurance, crop insurance, health insurance, wildfire suppression and flooding at federal facilities.
That does not include spending by states to repair damage from climate-related disasters, nor does it include pocketbook expenses from residents.
Most important, it does not account for global food shortages, disease and migration that will result from continuing climate change. As New York Times Magazine asked in 2020: “Today, 1 percent of the world is a barely livable hot zone. By 2070, that portion could go up to 19 percent. Billions of people call this land home. Where will they go?”
The answer is obvious: They will seek to relocate to more welcoming climates. Americans concerned about illegal immigration should recognize the threat posed by severe climate change and support measures to slow it. Those measures focus on limiting the emission of greenhouse gases, mostly from the burning of fossil fuels, which traps heat in Earth’s atmosphere.
None of that is represented by a couple days of hot weather. But the heatwave that has been engulfing the U.S. is reflective of a severe global problem that demands attention.
The truth is that, yes, it is hot enough for us. We should elect leaders who take the threat seriously.
— The Columbian