We need more than just the Paris Climate Accord

Re: Jan. 21 article, “Biden’s first act: Orders on pandemic, climate, housing.”

President Biden’s actions are most welcome on critical issues including the pandemic and ever-worsening climate crisis. They have caused emotional and economic devastation. It is refreshing to know that these crises will be collaboratively addressed based on facts and truth.

The reversal of the Trump administration’s freeze on vehicle mileage and emissions standards is critical to reduce pollution. The transportation sector is responsible for 28% of the total U.S. emissions. Manufacturers are ready to ramp up production of clean vehicles. The U.S. will need all possible measures to meet the goals of the Paris Climate Accord, which we will rejoin.

Global engagement is necessary but the Paris Climate Accord won’t be enough. Young people are demanding bold actions to draw down emissions. The lawmakers of the most resourceful nation, the U.S., could lead the world by sponsoring bipartisan proposals that help low-income families, create jobs and help reach the climate goals.

Kalpana Sutaria

Austin American-Statesman

February 5, 2021

Texans should demand action from lawmakers on Earth Day

This letter was published in 2018, but the discussion remains relevant today.

Each year, the world celebrates Earth Day on April 22 after its creation in 1970, when a large oil spill occurred on the California coast off Santa Barbara.

Concerns about the environment were increasing at the time in the U.S., and Republican President Richard Nixon created the Environmental Protection Agency in 1970.

Humankind has been using fossil fuels for a long time — and its use has helped modernize transportation, manufacturing and agriculture. Since the beginning of the Industrial Revolution, human activities have produced 40 percent more atmospheric concentration of carbon dioxide, from 280 ppm to 406 ppm in early 2017. This increase has happened despite the absorption of the gas by oceans and forests.

These trapped emissions have severe consequences for humankind. They act as a blanket around Earth, allowing global temperatures to rise. The American Meteorological Society has been keeping records of weather since 1919, allowing scientists to understand the changing climate.

Thirteen of the 15 hottest years in last 100 years occurred between 2000 and 2014.

Researchers found that there is some certainty that human activities are responsible for warming of the Earth.

As temperatures rise, evaporation increases, which causes more water vapor, a potent greenhouse gas. These conditions create more intense storms. We saw the likes of them in 2017 in Texas, Florida and Puerto Rico.

Hurricane Harvey started as a tropical depression, grew into a Category 1 hurricane and continued to gain strength over the warm waters of the Gulf of Mexico and churned towards Texas.

It became a Category 4 hurricane, covering a huge area from the coast to Central Texas and dropping 51 inches of rain over Houston. The estimated damage is $198 billion.

Total damages from natural disasters in 2017 alone are estimated between $300 billion to $400 billion. Victims are still waiting for help. In comparison, the damages were just $46 billion in 2016.

The list of climate change impacts is large: Heat waves, floods, wildfires, melting glaciers, rising sea level, droughts, severe storms, off-the – charts high temperatures in the Arctic, crop destruction and deforestation are just a few.

Earth Day is especially crucial for Texans this year. We must reverse warming of the planet by reducing dependence on fossil fuels and developing clean sources of energy. The longer we wait, the harder it will be.

The Montreal Protocol signed by 197 countries to discontinue ozone-depleting chemicals was a success story in 1987 for the global community. It has worked hard for years, and 195 countries signed the Paris Climate Accord in 2015 to limit global temperature rise. But President Trump announced his intention to withdraw in 2017, making us the only country to disengage.

A Yale survey of 36 congressional districts in Texas shows 67 percent of adults are concerned about global warming — and 75 percent believe in funding research into renewable energy sources. Millennials are broadly convinced human-induced climate change is real and deserves action. Industries, businesses, universities, cities and states are addressing it.

A carbon fee and dividend is proposed by Citizens’ Climate Lobby, which would put a fee on oil, coal and gas. The money collected would be returned to American households.

This rebate would stimulate the economy and make clean energy cheaper. The Climate Leadership Council is proposing a similar solution.

On Earth Day 2018, let us demand actions from our lawmakers to find solutions. A bipartisan group of lawmakers in the U.S. House are working on it. Let us support them and ask others to join for a livable world for all.

Kalpana Sutaria

Austin American-Statesman

April 21, 2018