Some leaders -- notably President Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney -- have stated they will do nothing to stem global warming if it will harm our economy. Let's examine two examples of what would happen to our economy if we follow their advice and do nothing.
Note that predictions of climate change have been quite accurate, so a high degree of confidence exists (and, in fact, a growing degree of confidence) that future predictions will be borne out.
Look at the consequences of rising sea levels. If the oceans rise 20 feet, much of our coastal land would be imperiled. What would that mean?
Most of Florida is barely above sea level. A 20-foot ocean level rise would put half of Florida under water, including Miami, Tampa Bay and Jacksonville, Florida's three largest cities.
What would be the cost of building dikes around all this real estate? Hundreds of billions of dollars, perhaps well into the trillions. Florida has the longest coastline of any state except Alaska, and the dikes needed to protect Florida would have to be extended across the other Gulf States and up the East Coast to truly be protective.
We can't build a Maginot Line of dikes just around Florida, allowing the rising waters to flow around the ends of the dikes. If we build protective dikes for some areas, we have to protect them all. Not only are we looking at excessive expenditures, but we're looking at an impossible amount of material needed to build thousands of miles of dikes 20-plus feet high.
The option is to abandon all that land. What costs would that entail? What would be the further cost of rebuilding all that infrastructure elsewhere?
A third of Manhattan lies less than 20 feet above sea level. That's very expensive real estate. Do we dike Manhattan? Should Manhattan and Florida (together with the other states) battle it out for the money? Which is more important to save? Do we enter a new civil war to answer that question?
The same problems plague Washington, D.C., Boston, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Seattle, San Diego and other low-lying areas. A sea level rise would not present difficult problems; it would present catastrophic problems and impossible choices.
Shifting our focus to diseases, everyone has heard of ebola virus, malaria, cholera, West Nile virus, etc. Until recently, these were confined to the tropics. But West Nile virus already has spread across the lower 48 states.
So far, it has done little except kill some birds and a few people, but it could become rampant at any time. The other diseases could, as well.
What would be the cost -- or even the possibility -- of vaccinating the entire U.S. population, the European population and the Asian population against these formerly "tropical" diseases? What would be the cost in lives of not vaccinating the population?
We can't create enough vaccine to inoculate everyone, so who gets it when it becomes available?
These are just two of the upcoming costs and conflicts of doing nothing about global warming. They should be enough to convince
everyone of the complete lack of thought or foresight shown by our president and vice president.
Bruce Barnbaum lives in Granite Falls.
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