by Lorraine McCarty
Because of its location and plentiful water, the Midwest was thought to be sheltered from the worst disasters of climate change–but not from everything. Ohio’s record rainfall last year, Lake Erie’s water levels rising higher than they have been in a long time, farmers having a tough year, many communities with flooding problems and rains that never seem to stop have become common occurrences. Government leaders are beginning to pay attention. Some of them have implemented countermeasures, while others are considering or planning for stormwater management and ways to lessen flooding.
These actions, however, do not address the underlying problem, which requires putting coal-burning utilities out of business and learning to enjoy electric cars fueled by wind- and solar- generated electricity.
Meanwhile, many environmental changes are occurring around the world as officials and others argue about what the next steps should be. This following are a few items from recent news reports that illustrate some of the world’s environmental problems and the sporadic progress (or lack of it) being made to resolve the problem:
The sea is rising, prompting Indonesia to move its capital, Jakarta, farther inland. Jakarta has sunk more than 10 feet in the last 30 years, and estimates of average global sea-level rise this century ranges from 3 feet to as much as eight feet-amounting to a wake-up call for other coastal cities such as Mumbai (which is ranked as most threatened), New Orleans, Houston, Tampa, London, Tokyo, Copenhagen, Bangkok, Calcutta, Shanghai and Manilla (along with many others). Preparing for rising sea levels requires adapting to a new normal, and coastal communities need to be looking at 30-year master plans to positively address the threat, which could be different depending on location but are necessary for a sustainable future.
Record-High Carbon Dioxide Levels
Carbon dioxide levels measured at Mauna Loa Observatory in Hawaii reached record levels of 415 parts per million, which is the highest that carbon dioxide levels have been in the last 3 million years. Three million years ago, the seas were 65 feet higher than today and America was covered by forests.
From Coal to Renewables in Great Britain
Great Britain was without coal power for a week in May for the first time since the 19th century. Plans call for the removal of coal entirely from the energy-generation mix by 2025. The government also set a deadline of 2050 for the elimination of all greenhouse gas emissions, which environmentalists say is not soon enough.
Diminished Role for Coal-Powered Electricity in Ohio
Coal’s role in electricity in Ohio shrank from 87% 12 years ago to 47% last year. Natural gas generated 34% of Ohio’s energy need last year, while nuclear generated 15% and renewables 3%. The Public Utilities Commission of Ohio’s forecast shows that the production of power from these sources in 2036 will be much as it is today.
Increase in Natural Disasters in Central U.S.
In the central U.S., levee breaches have caused floodwaters to inundate towns around the Arkansas and Mississippi rivers.In late May, 15 tornadoes in Ohio left a great deal of devastation. In Montgomery County, 631 homes were unlivable, while 2,550 more homes and 173 businesses were damaged. In Harrison County, 84 homes and 14 businesses were destroyed and 134 homes, and 19 businesses had major damage. In Dayton, 39 homes were destroyed, and 95 others were heavily damaged. Brookville also recorded 39 homes destroyed and another 42 unlivable. The preliminary count in Trotwood showed 33 homes destroyed and another 98 unlivable. The Federal Emergency Management Agency and the American Red Cross were offering help.
Climate’s Effect on Baby Lobsters
The number baby lobsters is very high in Canada but lower than expected in New England. Some scientists have said the shellfish appear to be moving north as the New England waters warm because of climate change. The decline in the settlement of baby lobsters has raised concerns in Maine, although the industry is described as strong.
New Mexico Plan for Wind Farm
New Mexico’s plan for a wind farm is moving forward and is projected to generate 250 megawatts, which is enough to power 250,000 households. Scout Clean Energy won the bid for 25 square miles of property and will build the Great Divide Wind Farm. Construction could take two years.
Nuclear Plant to Shut Down
The Three Mile Island nuclear plant will begin shutting down June 1 because a financial rescue did not materialize. The expected shutdown has generated a debate about the zero-carbon-emissions characteristic of nuclear power in a time of global warming.
Booming Shale Business in Ohio
Ohio’s shale business is booming. It is estimated that by 2040, the Utica and Marcellus shale regions in Ohio, West Virginia and Pennsylvania will supply energy to 45% of the United States. Natural gas liquids (i.e., ethane, propane and butane) are expected to double during the period from now until 2040.
Pittsburgh Plans for 100% Renewable Energy by 2035
Pittsburgh has pledged to get 100% of its energy from renewable sources by 2035, while Illinois has pledged to do so by 2050 and California and Hawaii by 2045. Nevada pledged to get 50% of its electricity from renewable sources by 2030. In addition, 101 U.S. cities, 174 large corporations and many other entities have pledged to switch to 100 percent renewable energy. In 2017, public utilities in the United States invested more than $7.8 billion in energy-efficiency programs. The following year, substantial commitments were made by state and local governments to engage in energy-conservation efforts.
Planting of One Trillion Trees an Antidote to Climate Crisis
Research shows that planting one trillion trees could capture huge amounts of carbon dioxide, and this is by far the largest and cheapest way to tackle the climate crisis. Scientists calculated how many more trees could be planted without encroaching on crop land or urban areas and found that planting 1 trillion more trees could remove two-thirds of all emissions that have been pumped into the atmosphere by human activity. Other scientists, however believe the estimates are overly ambitious. In any case, everyone can get involved by growing trees themselves or by donating to forest restoration organizations.
So, when it comes to climate change, we know what to do. We just need to find a way to do it.
Sources: The Signal Tree Newsletter (Portage Trail Group of the Sierra Club), July/August 2019; Akron Beacon Journal, April 25, 2019, May 6, 2019, May 7, 2019, May 9, 2019, June 4, 2019, July 3, 2019; Record-Courier, June 7, 2019, July 1, 2019; The Plain Dealer, May 17, 2019; NRDC Bulletin, Spring 2019; Solutions, Spring 2019; Guardian, July 4, 2019.