This letter is in response to the misleading and obstructionist column by Nicholas Loris of the Heritage Foundation on climate change. The time is long past to accept the reality of the human impact on climate change and begin to seriously engage the dual problems of reducing our dependence on fossil fuels (especially coal) and preparing for the climate changes that are already upon us.
The scientific consensus on human-caused (anthro-pogenic) climate change is simply overwhelming. The Geological Society of Amer-ica, the American Meteoro-logical Society, the Ameri-can Chemical Society, the American Geophysical Un-ion, the American Physical Society, the American Asso-ciation for the Advancement of Science, the National Academ-ies of Science and many other national and international scien-tific organizations have taken firm positions affirming the validity and critical importance of anthropogenic climate change.
Detailed data on all aspects of the causes and impacts of cli-mate change can be readily obtained through the recent report of the National Climate Assessment, NASA, the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration and the sum-mary reports of the IPCC.
The impacts of climate change are occurring now; this is not some hypothetical future. Arctic sea ice has been in steady decline since the beginning of the 1970s, the melting of the Greenland ice sheet is acceler-ating, mountain glaciers are retreating worldwide and a recent study has indicated that the West Antarctic glaciers have reached a point of irreversible retreat. Arctic permafrost is melting, destabilizing the arctic soils and releasing methane (a strong greenhouse gas).
The oceans are warming and becoming more acidic. High temperatures have resulted in more frequent bleaching events in coral reefs, and increasing water acidity is already causing the dissolution of the shells of marine organisms.
The blooming times of flowering plants have moved earlier in the spring, and agricultural zones are shifting. Climate change is affecting migratory species and causing the movement of species’ ranges into higher latitudes.
Disease vectors such as mosquitoes and ticks are moving into areas where they were previously absent. Extreme high temperature events are in-creasing in frequency. Nearly all of the observed changes have been occurring more rapidly than predicted by previous studies.
There are practical actions that can be taken now to reduce our impact on the global trend toward higher temperatures. We can all take steps to reduce our energy consumption. Such steps are the easiest and most effective ways to reduce our “carbon footprint” and have the added benefit of reducing our energy bills. Kansas has one of the best wind resources in North America and is poised to become a national leader in renewable power genera-tion.
Wind generation provides significant income to rural Kansas communities as well as providing jobs and economic investment. More efficient use of our groundwater resources will become increasingly important with rising temperatures and declining water levels in the Ogallala Aquifer. These and other actions should be our focus as a community, state and nation. There is an alternative between denial and hopelessness — and that is step-by-step practical action.