To the Editor:
First, I want to thank The Smoky Mountain News for co-sponsoring the political candidate forum held at the Jackson County Public Library on Oct. 15. It was perhaps the most meaningful forum of its type I’ve seen, with relevant questions posed and answered.
But, mostly I’m writing because I’d like to further the public discussion that began at the forum about climate change. There are a growing number of people who feel an urgency about climate change and who are deeply troubled that this issue is not often part of the dialog in political campaigns or news coverage in general. Legitimate scientists who in the past were skeptical about climate change are rapidly coming to accept the alarming findings of the Inter-governmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) as the evidence has mounted and become overwhelming.
Climate change is real. It is mostly man-made. And it’s happening faster than we ever thought it would. As I mentioned at the forum, even a comprehensive study funded by the Charles Koch Charitable Foundation that was intended to disprove the reality of human-caused climate change proved the opposite and converted the team of 12 scientists who conducted the study into believers and climate activists (see Dr. Richard Muller, The Conversion of a Climate Skeptic, NY Times, July 28, 2012).
We are already beginning to feel some of the consequences of climate change. The ice caps are receding, glaciers are disappearing, sea levels are rising. There are low-lying islands that are already threatened. Tropical diseases and insects are moving northward. Invasive plants are threatening forests and farms. Extreme weather conditions are bringing drought to some areas, flooding to other areas, tornados to places that have rarely experienced them. But, the scientists who correctly predicted this would happen are now telling us this is just the beginning and it’s going to get worse unless we do something to reverse the buildup of carbon and methane in our atmosphere.
There is a misconception that climate change is only a national and international problem. Even The Smoky Mountain News reporter stated in the article about the forum that this question seemed inappropriate for local candidates to address. I couldn’t disagree more. Whatever happened to “Think Globally, Act Locally?” There are many things local elected officials can do to address climate change. I thought Mark Jones, candidate for commissioner, voiced some good ideas related to choices in transportation and the types of industry we invite into our community, for instance.
In addition, the scale and direction we’ll have to take to confront the climate crisis has the potential to generate a new industrial revolution around clean energy, clean transportation and energy efficiency. This can rejuvenate our economy and create millions of jobs. All levels of government will need to be involved. There couldn’t be anything more important than making climate change a priority issue during this campaign season. We have this responsibility toward ourselves and future generations.
Canary Coalition executive director