Climate-change solutions must happen

The OlympianMay 17, 2013 

The state Senate stripped Gov. Jay Inslee’s Climate Action bill of any reference linking climate change to greenhouse gas emissions, but new data released this week from the Scripps Institution of Oceanography show once again how people are influencing the Earth’s atmosphere.

A monitoring station atop the Mauna Loa volcano in Hawaii recorded the highest level of heat-trapping carbon dioxide in 3 million to 5 million years. During that prehistoric era, known as the Pliocene Epoch period, global temperatures averaged 5 to 7 degrees higher and sea levels were tens of feet higher.

There’s nothing significant about reaching 400 parts per million of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, except that it illustrates the accelerating pace at which we are producing harmful emissions. The carbon level is increasing by 2 parts per million per year, about 100 times faster than it grew toward the end of the Ice Age.

At this rate, we will exceed the United Nations’ goal of halting carbon emissions at 450 parts per million, in about 25 years. No one knows for certain what catastrophic effects on the climate will occur beyond that point, nor do we want to find out.

The importance of the new data serves as a grave reminder to elected officials — including our state legislators — that the survival of future generations depends on the actions we take today. We must not hesitate to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and replace fossil fuels with clean energy technology.

It’s plain to everyone, except the most pigheaded climate change deniers, that carbon dioxide emissions from burning coal, oil and natural gas are driving the velocity of change.

Inslee’s climate change bill funds a study of the programs enacted by other states and Canadian provinces to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to help us reach our 2020 emission goals passed by the Legislature in 2008. It’s due by the year’s end.

Republicans in Congress have blocked President Barack Obama’s efforts for cap-and-trade legislation and a direct carbon tax. There’s no reason to think state Republicans have a keener interest. For example, Sen. Don Benton, R-Vancouver, said, “I think there are greater, more pressing priorities at the moment.”

Benton was recently appointed Clark County’s director of environmental services.

It’s appalling that controversy still exists over what is now common knowledge within the scientific community. But that’s another reality we must acknowledge and overcome.

Inslee’s climate action study will present lawmakers with options, and opportunity for discussion about how to solve undeniable climate problems. We suspect it will lead to conversation about such topics as Inslee’s request for a federal review of plans to renovate two Washington ports into coal export sites.

Carbon levels are increasing with every flip of the calendar page, and time is running out for us to take decisive action.

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