Past time to address climate change
By Claude J. Tellis – Originally posted on September 14, 2016 in The Advocate (Louisiana)
In mid-August, we experienced the biggest rain event in Louisiana history. It caused a 1,000-year flood.
Between 60,000 and 120,000 homes have been damaged. More than 30,000 people were rescued. Thousands of businesses were flooded. Amazingly, we just had a major flood in Louisiana as recently as March. It was a 500-year flood. That is a lot of record flooding in a short period of time. As I watched the water flood the homes of my neighbors, I wondered what is going on? Why are we having so much rain? The answer is climate change.
We are having more severe storms and flood events. According to Jon Erdman at weather.com, 18 major flood events have hit Texas, Louisiana, Oklahoma and Arkansas since March 2015. This has been the wettest year on record for Louisiana. Over the last few years, the United States has experienced increasingly frequent and severe weather, including floods, fires, hurricanes and tornadoes. We have also had record-breaking heat. Much of this severe weather is due to man-made global warming. Global warming is caused by an accentuation of the greenhouse gas effect through increased production of carbon dioxide and other gases mainly by fossil fuel burning power plants. These gases blanket the earth and trap heat in the atmosphere. This causes increases in the temperatures of the oceans and the earth and ultimately leads to severe weather changes. This is how climate change is produced.
These severe weather events would appear to be acts of nature about which we can do nothing. This is not the case. There is much that we can and need to do. We can change our environment by reducing and possibly reversing the effects of global warming. We can reduce carbon dioxide production by changing our energy source from power plants to wind and solar energy. One tree absorbs 13 pounds to 48 pounds of carbon dioxide per year. We can reduce carbon dioxide in the atmosphere by stopping or limiting deforestation. We should insist on replacing trees that have been cut down.
Methane gas is also a major contributor to global warming. The cattle industry is the main methane producer in the country. So if we can raise fewer cattle and eat less meat, we can reduce methane in the atmosphere. We should produce and eat more fruits and vegetables, thus reducing our carbon footprint.
We can do a better job of diverting the water to avoid flooding once it does rain. The diversion canal needs to be built. Both our landscape and drainage planning need to be improved, especially when building new housing developments.
Finally, we need to get our leaders to participate in the Clean Power Plan that is designed to decrease the production of carbon dioxide from power plants by 32 percent over 25 years relative to 2005 levels. With these efforts, we can begin to change the severity of these floods, control the flow of our waters and alter the pace of climate change. We need to begin now.
Claude J. Tellis, is a physician, and the vice chairman of the Commission on Environmental Health, National Medical Association, Baton Rouge.