By George P. Nassos
Unless you are living in a cave, you have noticed many articles about the negative state of our earth, particularly climate change. Temperatures in early July 2022 are hitting record levels particularly in the southwest part of the U.S. California’s Death Valley was the hottest place in America at 123°F followed by Palm Springs, California and Phoenix, Arizona. A similar situation was occurring at about the same time in Western Europe with Spain and Portugal being hit the hardest. Some towns in central Portugal set all-time temperature records of 115°F.
What kind of damage is being done by wealthy countries inflicted on the poor countries? A recent report shows that the U.S. has inflicted more than $1.9 trillion in damage to other countries from the effects of its greenhouse gas emissions. This was measured by the harm to other, mostly poor, countries through heatwaves, crop failures and other consequences resulting in lost global income since 1990. Other countries contributing to this global economic damage are China, Russia, India and Brazil which, combined with the U.S., have caused a total of $6 trillion in losses worldwide, or about 11% of annual global GDP.
In addition to climate change, two other major environmental issues are the over-consumption of our natural resources and the diminishing quantity of fresh water. The Global Footprint Network determines Earth Overshoot Day every year. This is the day in the year when the global population will have consumed all of the biological resources regenerated in that calendar year. For 2022, Earth Overshoot Day was July 28 which means we are consuming the equivalent of 1.75 earths. This cannot go on forever. An example of the diminishing water availability is the lack of water in the U.S. Southwest. Lake Mead, the largest reservoir in the U.S. continues to hit all-time lows and is getting close to becoming “dead pool”, meaning the water level will be too low to flow downstream and serve California, Arizona, Nevada and part of Mexico.
So what is happening? We just had a Supreme Court ruling to limit the EPA’s authority to regulate greenhouse gas emissions. The ruling not only impedes the federal government’s ability to slow climate change, it also sets an alarming precedent that may prevent other federal agencies from enacting similar climate policies. West Virginia Senator Joe Manchin, who has some ties to the coal industry, has been opposed to many bills containing climate or energy provisions that may be detrimental to the fossil fuel industry. His decision to kill off sweeping U.S. climate legislation has been called “nothing short of a death sentence” for the future generations because we may no longer have a livable planet.
Unfortunately, we have too many people that are opposed to initiatives to improve our environment. They may have personal reasons along with the mindset that these environmental issues are not detrimental and will be resolved by nature. Some may also feel that when this planet becomes unlivable, they won’t be here anyway. It seems to me that we all need to agree that the environment is not only a major issue, but a critical one, and it needs to be addressed. Or we feel that the environment has existed for thousands of years and will continue to be acceptable to us. So we have two alternatives.
One: Everyone agrees that we must address three major environmental issues, climate change, our natural resources, and water, and do whatever is necessary to improve them. We need to create a livable planet for future generations. If in thirty years we find out that we were wrong, what will be the consequences? We will have spent too much money to develop new technologies, increased the level of inflation, inconvenienced much of the population, and destroyed some industries like internal combustion automobiles, as examples. But we would continue to lead a beautiful life.
Two: Everyone agrees that the environmental issues of climate change, over-consumption of the natural resources, and water scarcity are not really detrimental issues, and we shouldn’t be concerned about them. Let’s just go ahead and continue our lives without any initiatives for the environment because it will take care of itself. If in thirty years we find out that we were wrong, what will be the consequents? Devastating.
It seems to me that the choice is obvious. We should all proceed with what is best for the environment and provide a livable planet for our children, grandchildren and future generations. We must do whatever is necessary to mitigate climate change, move Earth Overshoot Day to later in the year, and conserve water, or feel that the environment has existed for thousands of years and will continue to be acceptable to us.