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Charlotte Amalie
Saturday, July 2, 2022
HomeNewsArchivesWhy Virgin Islanders Should Be Concerned About Climate Change

Why Virgin Islanders Should Be Concerned About Climate Change

Dear Source:

President Obama is focused on Climate Change. Climate Change is going to affect us all – from Alaska (where they recently had tropical weather) to St. Croix, St. John, St. Thomas and, even, Water Island; but it is hard to get Virgin Islanders’ attention when we have so many problems.
The usual attack artists came out with the usual attacks after the Obama speeches. They called it a “War on Coal.” (Can’t we give that war metaphor a rest for a while?)
I have taken courses from the University of Florida, the University of Illinois and the University of British Columbia on fossil fuel use and its effects on climate; I have heard those arguments by climate change deniers and have found none convincing.
The arguments don’t stand up to examination. We hear about sun spots, a Middle Age warming spell, money to climate scientists, a year when temperature did not get higher than the previous year; continents sinking and global cold spots.
Science has looked at these factors and, though they may be real, they do not constitute a valid argument against what is observed. Glaciers retreat, wildlife adjusts its ranges, global temperatures steadily increase, CO2 molecules hold heat, weather events become more extreme and sea level rises.
Climate change will have profound effects on island life and we won’t have to wait 50 years to see them.
Take our Coral Reefs. There is a lot happening in the ocean besides water temperatures rising. We have invasive species (the lion fish here), coast erosion from development, over fishing, sewage spills, and chemical runoff. Good Climate Science takes those into consideration and charts various possibilities. The outcome, if we continue business as usual, putting all the CO2 in the atmosphere the fossil fuel companies want us to, is the world’s coral will all be dead within 50 years.
But dead coral might not be the only problem that plagues our ocean in the coming decades. Some CO2 stays in the atmosphere from burning fossil fuel, but the ocean also absorbs some of that CO2 and, because it does, it has become more acidic. A more acidic ocean makes it difficult for shellfish to form shells.
Scientists (none of whom are getting grants that match the subsidies going to fossil fuel companies) have run many different models about how we can protect our natural environment or destroy it. The worst outcome, the business as usual outcome, looks to be where we are headed.
The models persuade because they have been around long enough to be tested against observed results. The observations match close to the predictions. Not perfect, of course. The ice sheets were not predicted to melt as fast as they have. Temperature was expected to rise at a bit faster pace. Sea level, on the other hand, rose faster than it was predicted. None of that proves that the modeling was wrong. The trends were all correct. It just means that the modeling needs fine tuning.
With the science exhaustive on Climate Change, one has to wonder why anyone would believe a politician whose campaign is fueled by the fossil fuel industry dollars, instead of the science.
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change reports make for dry reading, but there is no doubt that the studies point to Climate Change being caused by man. In a summary for policymakers from the Fourth Assessment, scenarios include methods of mitigation – decreasing emissions of carbon dioxide – and adaptation – taking preventive measures such as Mayor Bloomberg’s plan for a sea wall in New York. The Federal government is doing practically nothing for mitigation or adaptation. The federal government is unable to overcome the economic force of the fossil fuel companies. Right now, mitigation and adaptation efforts are only making progress through local governments. Maybe Obama’s new focus will change that.
He said, "The question is not whether we need to act – the question is whether we will have the courage to act before it’s too late."
Virgin Islanders and all Americans can do something. We don’t need to be intimidated by the scare tactics of the fossil fuel advocates. Saving the environment is not going to throw the country into any economic crisis; surely nothing like the crisis the bankers and Wall Street dragged us through the last five years. A couple of facts – United States residents are using thirty percent more energy than they were in 1980 (World Bank figures) and it can be argued that our economy was better for most people in 1980. In 1970 the world put about 15 gigatons of CO2 in the atmosphere; in 2004 we were putting close to 30 gigatons in the atmosphere (IPCC figures). One question — Is this a great market economy or is it just plain stupid?
As for “war on coal,” my mother’s father was a West Virginia coal miner. He suffered from Black Lung for much of his life and died before I really got to know him. Do I want my son or his son to work in a coal mine? Or for that matter, do I want them breathing air that makes them more susceptible to allergies or asthma? But then, health risks arising from Climate Change is a topic on its own.

Don Buchanan, St. Croix

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