Image by Carol Colman from Pixabay

We see heavy rains. We see hurricanes. We see flooding. Do we believe in climate change that is making these worse? If yes, will we vote for it? Will our political leaders act on this vote? Can we delay any longer?

Donald Boesch, the native New Orleanian whose long career in science has made him one of the world’s leading authorities on the causes and solutions to his home state’s coastal crisis, has a problem with the way the climate science news is being reported. No, not the findings. He agrees the world and Louisiana are careening toward unparalleled disasters if human-caused greenhouse gas emissions are not drastically reduced soon. His complaint is that the second part of that last sentence isn’t getting enough attention. Science is always about cause and effect. Boesch is concerned the possible catastrophic scale of those effects are making the public overlook the fact they can be reduced or avoided if the cause is addressed. “When these articles come out it’s important to pay attention to the fact that they consistently show this dramatic sea level rise that could come from polar ice melt in Antarctica and Greenland could be avoided if we actually achieve the goals of the Paris climate agreements,” he said. “The point is: This doesn’t have to happen if we address the cause that is clearly stated in these papers.”

We do know the problem and it is reported enough and in a clear message. But the politicians seem always want to kick the can down the road. Cans don’t kick well in flooded streets!

The effect: Many politicians still feel free to delay or block the tough regulations and overhauls needed to reduce emissions. The cause: The public still has not made it a top priority when voting. A quick Google search of “sea level rise and greenhouse gas emissions” returned 95 million hits in less than one second. Similarly, a search of the “Paris climate agreements” brings 105 million hits in little more than half a second. Yet a Pew Center poll before the 2020 elections found climate change ranked 11th out of 12 issues considered by likely voters. Only 42% of those polled considered it “very important.”

11th of 12 and I rank it first as what climate change is doing impacts everything else. 70% of Louisiana residents say climate change is here and impacting us from a 2019 study. Another study the same year showed 93% want their elected leaders to tackle the problem and make substantive steps. Yet we keep electing leaders that don’t do this or share our concerns.

These elected officials, many supported handsomely by oil and gas contributions, spend most of their time worrying about what effects emissions reforms could have on a shrinking industry that is still laying workers off. They never mention the need: Even delaying taking action could allow the Gulf of Mexico to swallow many of the communities, and jobs, in south Louisiana. Which brings up another issue Boesch believes the public should be better informed about: Action now may well put off some of those really bad impacts into the next century. “We need to act now on emissions while sea level rise is not out of control,” he said. “If we don’t act smartly now, a lot of what we achieve with the coastal master plan could be wiped out before the end of this century. “What people and policymakers need to understand is that what we do in the next 20 to 30 years will determine whether south Louisiana becomes part of the Gulf or not.”

We have been told. We know what to do. Will we?

Do Voters Care about Climate Change?
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