The Sept. 27 lead editorial in The Star, on climate change, begs a clarifying response. The editor says that climate change is “not the most immediate problem facing the planet.”
That point is arguable, at best. Just ask the good folks responsible for running the U.S. Navy’s Naval Station Norfolk, which is the world’s largest naval station. As your own reporter Robyn Taylor notes in the Sept. 27 issue of The Star, the entire Hampton Roads (Tidewater) area of the Commonwealth is at imminent risk from rising sea levels caused by climate change.
The Star editorial seems to focus heavily on America’s standing in the community of nations, where climate change is concerned. It points out, correctly, that China is the world’s largest emitter of greenhouse gases and especially of carbon dioxide, the largest contributor, by volume, to the problem.
What the editorial does not mention is that in the period from the mid-1980s to about 2008, the overwhelming majority of climate scientists were warning us about global warming, and during that time, the United States, with 5 percent of the world’s population, contributed 25 percent of the world’s greenhouse gases. And during that period, the American fossil fuels industry, led by the American Petroleum Institute, steadfastly opposed any meaningful U.S. response. That’s partly why we’re in peril today.
Ultimately, China passed us as the major source of the problem, in part because we have in fact — however belatedly — been taking limited steps to curb our CO2 output. But The Star’s selective fact-reporting is a dangerous thing, and in this case, it leaves an unwarranted sense that we can take our time in addressing climate change.
The good news is that the children of the world, especially teenagers, are leading us into a clearer appreciation of what is at risk is delaying major efforts at stopping climate change before is does actually overwhelm us.