Las Vegas Sun

October 22, 2019

Currently: 70° — Complete forecast

Where I Stand:

On climate change: Do something right now before we can’t do anything, ever!

Former U.S. Senate majority leader, Nevada’s Harry Reid, has always been a man of few but very important words. Today is no different. Harry is not only sounding the alarm of climate change — yet again — he is challenging all of us to immediate action.

Reid is not a man given to overreaction, so his warning today should be taken seriously by anyone concerned about life on this planet.

— Brian Greenspun

Climate change is more than a looming disaster predicted to doom future generations. We are seeing the effects of climate change now, even here in Nevada, and have only a brief moment to make the changes that will salvage our future.

If greenhouse gas emissions continue at their current rate, by the time my grandchildren reach their 40s, Earth’s atmospheric temperature will have increased by nearly 3 degrees Fahrenheit. While 3 degrees seems small, this change will have enormous and dire effects on everyday life. Increased temperatures will intensify droughts, food shortages, poverty, wildfires and human migration, diminish coral reefs and cause rising sea levels. These consequences are irreversible once they transpire, which is why it is crucial that action be taken immediately while there is time to halt these negative effects.

Global warming is not solely increased temperatures. As the atmosphere warms and ice melts, temperatures will become more extreme. This means while some regions may be increasingly hot, others become unseasonably cold.

In recent world history, the United States has had a major role focusing attention on the environment. Starting in the 20th century, President Theodore Roosevelt created the first national parks, which set a standard for future leaders to respect and conserve the world in which we live.

In 1988, the U.S. ratified the Montreal Protocol, which is now the first treaty to attain universal ratification by all countries in the world. This protocol helped halt the growth of a hole in the ozone layer. According to the U.S. State Department, “Full implementation of the Montreal Protocol is expected to result in avoidance of more than 280 million cases of skin cancer, approximately 1.6 million skin cancer deaths, and more than 45 million cases of cataracts in the United States alone by the end of the century, with even greater benefits worldwide.” This is an example of the world converging to protect the ozone layer and saving countless lives. By uniting once again, the climate crisis can be solved.

The Paris Agreement was created to strengthen global action against the threat of climate change. When it was signed in 2016, there were 175 parties to the agreement. The U.S. played a leading part in bringing about this global effort. President Donald Trump has since removed the U.S. from the Paris Agreement, despite the fact that our country’s greenhouse gas emissions are some of the highest in the world. The U.S. is the sole country to withdraw from the accord. This is a mistake that not only damages our environment but also our reputation as a world power.

One need not be a world leader to make meaningful change on this front. I and thousands of others have been inspired by the work of Greta Thunberg, who is only 16 years old but has helped spark a worldwide movement. For weeks, Greta didn’t attend school, but instead sat for hours each day on the steps of the Swedish Parliament to protest the legislature’s inaction. Greta said, “Some people say that I should be in school instead. Some people say that I should study to become a climate scientist so that I can ‘solve the climate crisis.’ But the climate crisis has already been solved. We already have all the facts and solutions. All we have to do is to wake up and change.”

Being aware of our energy usage, reducing waste and simply living more environmentally conscious can solve this crisis for our children and posterity.

For more information, check out these links:

https://www.state.gov/key-topics-office-of-environmental-quality-and-transboundary-issues/the-montreal-protocol-on-substances-that-deplete-the-ozone-layer/

https://www.ted.com/talks/greta_thunberg_the_disarming_case_to_act_right_now_on_climate/transcript

Harry Reid served as Nevada’s U.S. senator from 1987 to 2017 and was the Democratic leader from 2005 to 2017.