On June 1, President Trump announced his intention to withdraw from the Paris Accords, setting off waves of outrage throughout the world, including right here in Orange County. As a PhD chemist, I understand the danger of inaction on this issue.
Scientists agree that keeping the global average temperature below 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels will help to offset the string of severe weather patterns across the globe. The progression is simple. When the global temperature rises, the oceans heat up and expand. When the ocean expands, it starts to flood beaches and cause tides to shift. Hotter oceans also change current patterns and alter common commercial trade routes.
The main issue in question is the levels of carbon dioxide (CO2) in the atmosphere. High levels of CO2 are the result of burning fossil fuels like coal and oil. So, in addition to the dangers presented by hotter oceans, higher levels of CO2 in the ocean result in a dwindling fish population. This creates a ripple effect all throughout the world’s food chain and endangers our natural wonders, such as the ailing Great Barrier Reef, which sadly future generations will not be able to enjoy.
It’s not just the rest of the world that is impacted by these hazardous changes. Soon we’ll be noticing it much closer to home. Here in Orange County, we are adjacent to a considerable coastline that is at risk. This coastline – which we take great pride in by way of oceanfront property and beautiful public beaches – contributes not just breathtaking scenery but sizeable revenue for cities and businesses.
The drought-to-deluge weather cycles also have severe consequences in Orange County and Southern California. During dry times, thousands of homes are at risk of exposure to wildfires, which puts immense stresses on public safety services, as well as homeowners and communities. This is in addition to pressure on the state’s water supply and the cause of extreme conservation efforts as we saw as recently as last year. During wetter periods, there is a higher risk of flooding and pressure on our state’s aging infrastructure, as we saw last year with the failure of the Oroville Dam spillway.
This has always been a global issue that directly affects our state. Now, with the withdrawal of the U.S. from the Paris Accords, there is a seismic shift in which nations are at the forefront of change. This does not mean that we stand by and do nothing. For issues that are this vast in scope and this significant in terms of human impact, scientists reach out to and cooperate with others across the global community, pooling our research and resources toward common goals.
President Trump claimed that he would be pro-business and wanted a better deal, but U.S. businesses warned President Trump that pulling out of the Paris Accords would be bad for business, as a burgeoning decarbonized economy stands to create millions of jobs. German Chancellor Angela Merkel, however, has stated that no new deal could be negotiated.
Although I laud Governor Brown’s efforts today on his landmark deal with China, the point is that America needs to be a leader in this issue. If President Trump and his generation of leaders don’t do anything to halt this disastrous course, it will be up to our generation to stand up, step up, and take the lead. Those in the science community must take control of the conversation. We can no longer be passive and stay on the sidelines.
Most importantly, if the U.S. doesn’t do its part to help reign in climate change as the world’s second largest emitter of CO2, then we will continue to destroy our planet for future generations.
Phil Janowicz is President and CEO of Quill and Abacus, an education consulting firm, and a former chemistry professor at California State University Fullerton. He is a candidate for congress in California’s 39th Congressional District.
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