Friday, April 24, 2020

Letter to the Editor

Dear Editor,

Technology in the Garden of Good and Evil. Is there a solution to climate change?

Scientists have called global climate change an existential threat to mankind's sustainable life on Earth. Vast numbers of scientists now believe that the elevated atmospheric carbon dioxide is from man-made primarily from fossil fuel use. This gas effectively traps solar radiation (heat) close to the surface, and further manifests with increased ocean temperature – +1oC since the mid-19th century. 

This small temperature increase causes more water vapor to enter the atmosphere naturally and results in more intense weather events, perversely including droughts and wildfires. Scientists have projected that a rise of +1.5oC will become a “tipping point” where the onset of climate change will become unstoppable or irreversible by any measure.

This was why nations banded together in the 2015 Paris Accords to slow the rate of increase of greenhouse gases by mid-21st Century.  In the aftermath of the 2020 pandemic, the world's nations must remain unified in fighting a new enemy and vow “to slow the growth” of greenhouse gas emissions. It will be equally painful to our economy and culture, but in this battle, the enemy is “Mother Nature,” and we all know from the late 70's Chiffron margarine commercial - “That it is not nice to fool Mother Nature.” Also, like the COVID-19 war, climate change has no territorial boundary or political party. This time it is simply “life as we know it will end” for all species period.
A major lesson from today in 2020 is that we must trust the same scientific process that led us to extend “Slow the Spread” to slow the increased rate of carbon dioxide in Earth's atmosphere before mid-century.  It will not be easy economically or from any technology points of view.
I submit that we must turn to our own EPA and its legacy of reliance on science to manage the environment. Its wisdom and dedication led to near reversal of the environmental affronts of the 20th Century in roughly 50 years. The EPA Alumni Association was formed in 2008 to address ongoing educational and mentoring needs. Its motto is a feisty “We're Not Done Yet.” EPA has repeatedly focused on science and technology to implement a new paradigm that suggests optimistically future successes moving forward on the climate change front.

The challenge will be to infuse a degree of efficiency, creativity, in R&D [research and development] already underway in transportation, construction materials and standards, and electrical power generation. The technology fix is underway in research in solar panels, lighter weight batteries, and pollution prevention practices that alter the impact of manufacturing on multiple products. 

What's urgently needed now is a societal will that empowers technology and excites the public to a more sustainable future for the human race. I close with this interesting observation from our Constitution itself that uniquely supports scientific innovation and creativity. It provides our Congress with the authority "to promote the progress of science and useful arts, by securing for limited times to authors and inventors the exclusive right to their respective writings and discoveries."

Ray Whittemore

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