Friday, May 25, 2018
Editorials

Editorial: Time running out to address climate change

The big threat to Florida's future that elected leaders aren't talking about: the average amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. In the past 10 days, two different groups of scientists have reported the heat-trapping gas has reached the neighborhood of 400 parts per million — a level not seen for millions of years and not since sea levels were 60 to 80 feet higher.

But amid another partisan week of politics in Washington, there was minimal reaction to estimates that in less than 25 years the planet could suffer irreversible damage. Nor was there acknowledgement that long-term worldwide efforts — including the lackadaisical strategies by biggest carbon polluters China and the United States — are nowhere near what is needed to slow the trend. Such neglect portends significant risk to coastal states like Florida and future generations.

To get a sense of how quickly human activity has altered CO2 levels, scientists study ancient air bubbles in Antarctic ice. For about the last 8,000 years, which represents the age of human civilization, CO2 levels measured around 280 parts per million in the atmosphere. But since the start of the Industrial Revolution, after the burning of fossil fuels accelerated, levels of greenhouse gases have spiked 41 percent. Hitting the 400 parts per million mark, the highest daily average ever recorded by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the Scripps Institution of Oceanography, brings the planet closer to 450 ppm, the maximum level nations have set if the world is to prevent massive damage from global warming. At this rate, experts say the planet will hit that point in under 25 years.

A hotter planet will be susceptible to long droughts, reduced polar ice, higher sea levels and more acidic oceans. The changes will wreak havoc on food and water supplies, infrastructure, human habitation and economic stability, especially for the billions of humans who live on or near coastlines like Florida's.

Last year, a study commissioned by the CIA and other intelligence agencies issued a warning that the acceleration of climate change will spark conflicts and human migration of such magnitude that it will strain the American military. The Defense Department has no doubt about the climatic impact humans are having. It has already spent billions of dollars to adapt to the changes, including by making ships and vehicles more fuel-efficient.

Blame for the planet's predicament can be laid throughout the developed and developing world, but — relative to population — the United States has done more than any other country to contribute to the problem. Our nation owes it to future generations to invest in efforts to undo the damage. But Republican leaders' aversion to the science of climate change is blocking reforms such as a carbon tax, a cap on carbon emissions, or any other responsible action. That means President Barack Obama, who called for a bold response to climate change in his most recent inaugural address, will have to act without congressional support. His first-term doubling of fuel economy standards was an important step. Obama's plan to engage China in joint ventures on renewable energy is worth a try. But much more aggressive action is needed.

The CO2 milestone indicates that dire scientific predictions are coming true. Doing nothing will be seen in hindsight as one of the worst examples of human greed and ignorance.

Comments
Editorial: Filling Rocky Point lagoon to build townhomes is an empty-headed idea

Editorial: Filling Rocky Point lagoon to build townhomes is an empty-headed idea

One of the worst ideas in a long time in the field of urban planning received a blessing this month when the Hillsborough County City-County Planning Commission approved a land-use change for a project that calls for filling three acres of water insi...
Published: 05/25/18
Editorial: Trump right to cancel North Korea talks on nuclear weapons

Editorial: Trump right to cancel North Korea talks on nuclear weapons

Regardless of the reason, the cancellation of the U.S.-North Korea summit to address Pyonyang’s nuclear program is hardly the worst possible outcome of this high-stakes diplomatic gamble. President Donald Trump was unprepared, North Korea’s Kim Jong ...
Updated: 5 hours ago

NFL kneels before the altar of profits

The owners of the 32 National Football League teams sent a wrongheaded and, frankly, un-American message to their players Wednesday: Expressing your opinion during the national anthem is no longer permitted."A club will be fined by the League if its ...
Published: 05/24/18
Editorial: Banks still need watching after easing Dodd-Frank rules

Editorial: Banks still need watching after easing Dodd-Frank rules

Legislation that waters down the 2010 Dodd-Frank law and was sent to President Donald Trump this week is a mixed bag at best. Some provisions recognize that Congress may have gone too far in some areas in the wake of the Great Recession to place new ...
Published: 05/23/18
Updated: 05/24/18

Another voice: The chutzpah of these men

A new phase of the #MeToo movement may be upon us. Call it the "not so fast" era: Powerful men who plotted career comebacks mere months after being taken down by accusations of sexual misconduct now face even more alarming claims.Mario Batali, the ce...
Published: 05/22/18
Updated: 05/23/18
Editorial: Candor key step to restoring trust at Johns Hopkins All Children’s Heart Institute

Editorial: Candor key step to restoring trust at Johns Hopkins All Children’s Heart Institute

Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital has begun the important work of rebuilding trust with its patients and the community following revelations of medical errors and other problems at its Heart Institute. CEO Dr. Jonathan Ellen candidly acknowledges...
Published: 05/22/18
Updated: 05/23/18
Editorial: Tampa Bay House members fail to stand up to Big Sugar

Editorial: Tampa Bay House members fail to stand up to Big Sugar

Big Sugar remains king in Florida. Just three of the state’s 27 House members voted for an amendment to the farm bill late Thursday that would have started unwinding the needless government supports for sugar that gouge taxpayers. Predictably, the am...
Published: 05/18/18
Editorial: Bondi holds drug industry accountable for Florida opioid crisis

Editorial: Bondi holds drug industry accountable for Florida opioid crisis

Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi’s lawsuit against the nation’s largest drug makers and distributors marks a moment of awakening in the state’s battle to recover from the opioid crisis. In blunt, forceful language, Bondi accuses these companies of ...
Published: 05/18/18
Editorial: A sweet note for the Florida Orchestra’s violin program for at-risk kids

Editorial: A sweet note for the Florida Orchestra’s violin program for at-risk kids

This is music to the ears. Members of the Florida Orchestra will introduce at-risk students to the violin this summer at some Hillsborough recreation centers. For free.An $80,000 grant to the University Area Community Development Corp. will pay for s...
Published: 05/17/18
Updated: 05/18/18
Trump backs off China tariff threat as China pumps money into a Trump family project

Trump backs off China tariff threat as China pumps money into a Trump family project

In barely six weeks, President Donald Trump has gone from threatening to impose $150 billion in tariffs on Chinese goods to extending a lifeline to ZTE, a Chinese cell phone company that violated U.S. sanctions by doing business with Iran and North K...
Published: 05/17/18