What Climate Change? | Opinion | Salt Lake City | Salt Lake City Weekly

What Climate Change? 

Looks like it’ll cost taxpayers a heck of a lot more than any war in Iraq.

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In my last piece [Opinion, July 13, "Better Times Ahead"], I channeled Karl Rove's historical report that America always recovers. Rove pointed to history's example that we often are in this boat, but that eventually loyal Americans figure out how to come together and right this ship of state.

I felt good writing about my Pollyanna perspective. But then I started receiving emails with links to worldwide news stories of devastation to coastal towns and cities due to global warming while our government denies it's a problem. These left-leaners are pretty worked up about America boycotting solutions to a global problem while other countries, including China and India, are using the Paris Accord to build job-creating economies that could overtake us economically, militarily and ethically.

I have a conservative friend in Park City who is a retired government scientist and who has sided with climate deniers. The last time we spoke about this, his point was that climate has been changing for millennia and that there's no proof it's human caused. He's a really smart guy, but I think he's more closely aligned with the Republican Party than with the facts facing most of us locally. Just 11 years ago, I moved here chasing "the greatest snow on Earth." Since then, every major Utah ski area has invested hundreds of thousands of dollars in snowmaking equipment, along with the technicians, water and electricity that goes into making the greatest artificial snow on Earth. But climate economics is more than a Utah issue. It's a national one.

Rear Admiral Jonathan White, Chief Oceanographer of the U.S. Navy, recently told Rolling Stone magazine that climate change is not about a scientific intellectual discussion. He sees rising sea levels at Navy ports and shipyards as becoming compromising to defense within 25 years, and this means we are facing military vulnerability that will cost billions in tax dollars to address. But sea rise mitigation for our military defense might elude us at any cost. Climate change—whether man-made or natural—looks like it'll cost taxpayers a heck of a lot more than any war in Iraq (in my own humble opinion). Sen. Al Franken, D-Minn., in his new best seller, Al Franken, Giant of the Senate says, "The Pentagon considers global warming 'an urgent and growing threat to our national security.'"

There was a bit of a dust-up at the EPA a few months ago when it temporarily took down its web page dealing with climate change. Fortune magazine and USA Today ran stories from an EPA press release that said the agency was updating its site to "reflect EPA's priorities under the leadership of President Trump and Administrator [Scott] Pruitt."

There was quite a lot of pushback, and the site is now back to stating, "Rising global average temperature is associated with widespread changes in weather patterns. Scientific studies indicate that extreme weather events such as heat waves and large storms are likely to become more frequent or more intense with human-induced climate change. This ... focuses on observed changes in temperature, precipitation, storms, floods and droughts."

Remember, that statement is from the EPA after it updated its position to "reflect EPA's priorities" under the current leadership. Beyond scientific studies, it might be helpful to look at real estate insurance and property values for fellow Americans.

Earlier this month, National Geographic published an article reporting that "more than 90 coastal communities in the United States are battling chronic flooding, meaning the kind of flooding that's so unmanageable it prompts people to move away. That number is expected to roughly double to more than 170 communities in less than 20 years." Did you get that? Ninety communities needing FEMA aid today and 170 communities will be lost before your toddler has her own first child.

Across the pond, our British friends are finding coastal city destruction a lot more immediate. The Daily Mail reported that an "entire Welsh village is being 'decommissioned' and its population forced to move after government warns it will be lost to the sea." The article went on, "People living in picturesque Fairbourne in Cardigan Bay are digging in for a bitter legal battle against plans to decommission their village and flood their streets with sea water." In case you're wondering how little, or large, this is, Fairbourne is a community with 500 homes. For those looking to relocate, you can still get a really good deal there.

So where are we? The world is not just getting warmer, but cities and towns across America and around the world are facing extinction due to sea levels rising. Our military is concerned that the cost of defending coastal facilities might prove untenable and states like Utah that depend on winter recreational tourism are facing economic jeopardy.

So why am I so positive about America's future? Because I hope that, as Sen. Franken wrote, scores of U.S. Fortune 500 companies see big bucks in alternative energy technology and they won't be left out of the profitable climate-change business no matter what the current administration says. I hope.

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Stan Rosenzweig

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