EDITORIAL: Leaving our children a deadlier world

·2 min read

Sep. 29—A new study in the journal Science does not bode well for Southwest Missouri.

It warns that children born today will face many times the number of extreme weather events in their lifetimes compared to what older adults did during their lifetimes, saying that "we estimate that children born in 2020 will experience a two- to seven-fold increase in extreme events, particularly heat waves, compared with people born in 1960, under current climate policy pledges."

The scientists looked at six climate events, and concluded that a rise of 3 degrees Celsius (in line with the latest U.N. forecasts) means a child born today could experience:

—Twice as many wildfires and tropical cyclones.

—Three times more river floods.

—Four times more crop failures.

—Five times more droughts.

—Thirty-six times more heat waves.

Southwest Missouri already gets some of the most extreme weather in the country, and Missouri, Kansas and Oklahoma already rank in the top for states with the most extreme weather disasters. The last thing we need is more flooding, drought, ice storms and tornadic activity.

Now, it's nearly impossible to tie any particular storm or single weather event to climate change, but the overall pattern in our region reveals that we are already having a problem with river flooding, for example. Now imagine that doubling, tripling, quadrupling or worse.

Just one extreme event this year — the February arctic blast that caused rolling power outages over a couple of days — could cost Liberty utility customers dearly, as it created prices that have never been seen before.

"Throughout the course of the month, the energy charges incurred by Empire (Liberty) totaled $217,887,306, whereas a typical February would have purchased power costs of only around $9 million," a utility official testied to the Missouri Public Service Commission. Customers could be paying for that storm for 13 years, under the latest regulatory proposal.

"Limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius instead of following the current pledges scenario nearly halves (-40%) the additional exposure of newborns to extreme heat waves and substantially reduces the burden of wildfires (-11%), crop failures (-27%), droughts (-28%), tropical cyclones (-29%) and river floods (-34%) but still leaves younger generations with unprecedented extreme event exposure," the Science authors concluded.

How and how much we respond is certainly the national and global question, as is the influence other nations will have over countries such as China, which is reportedly building a new coal plant at the rate of one per week, but this study raises the specter of a more dangerous and unlivable world for our children, and is a warning of what's to come if we dismiss the threat posed by climate change.

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