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Letter: Consequences of inaction on climate are too great to risk
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Columnist Jay Ambrose’s thesis is that fossil fuel use to produce energy is an unqualified good and there is little need for change the “climate alarmists” have been putting forth in scientific journals and the media.

I agree the production of energy is mostly a societal “good.” I am writing this on a computer fueled mostly by Georgia Power coal and petroleum and my house would not be habitable if not for this energy. I am thankful for these technologies. However, I am also aware of the consequences of my comfort, not just from climate change but also to the general degradation of our local environment. Think of the recent stories and pictures coming from Beijing and Shanghai where people are exposed to levels of pollution that have caused illness, discomfort and death for those susceptible.

Ambrose also quotes “climate alarmists” and demeans the efforts of the recent Paris summit on world climate. Personal attacks and dispersions don’t advance his argument. What he needs is a new question: “What if I am wrong?” It is a question all sides need to ask.

If Ambrose is wrong, we will continue to burn fossil fuels and add carbon dioxide to the atmosphere along with sulphur, heavy metals and other pollutants that affect our world in addition to the worldwide addition of greenhouse gases.

It’s true we don’t know the exact consequences of these actions but we have a good idea with a high probability of what will happen, as described in detail by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and others. These include food insecurity, political instability and mass migration.

If the “climate alarmists” (I am one) are wrong, what happens? We will spend huge sums of money and effort converting to less polluting sources of energy. The air will be cleaner, the waters less acidic and greenhouse gas emission will slow (as apparently it has recently) and hopefully decline. We may avert the consequences of a man-made warming of the Earth.

These are only a few of the arguments that both sides can put forth. The consequences of continued business as usual as proposed by Ambrose have a high probability of being disastrous to all of us. The consequences the changes proposed by “the alarmists,” while significant in time and treasure, paint a more stable, sustainable future.

If the National Hurricane Center reports there is an 80 percent chance of a Category 5 hurricane, the most powerful, hitting your town in 24 hours, what do you do? Do you send your family out deep sea fishing while you play golf since there is “only” an 80 percent chance the storm will hit? Or do you protect your loved ones and property though the effort may not be totally necessary?

As Pope Francis said in his encyclical, “we don’t need to have total certainty in order to act.” The scientific evidence is overwhelmingly on the side of affirming man-made changes in Earth’s climate.

It is up to us to act. The time is now.

Jeffrey S. Jones

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