We are future ancestors

To the Editor:

We go about our busy lives with our thoughts mostly focused on the present. The future is next week, or maybe next year. How often do we wonder how our daily decisions will affect the well-being of our progeny a couple of generations into the future? If we should be mystically confronted in 2100 by someone who thinks of us as an ancestor, how would we rate? Would they evaluate us to have been responsible stewards of Planet Earth?

Way back on June 23d, 1988 NASA climate scientist James Hansen testified to the Senate that global warming had begun, and he had the research to prove it. The next day's NY Times ran a page one account of the hearing. It was picked up by the media everywhere. From that day to the present we have been informed inescapably for 33 years that climate chaos is marching relentlessly forward.

And in the face of ever-increasing evidence not everyone is willing to modify the way they think and act. Biologist and co-founder of Woods Hole Research Center, Dr. George Woodwell, speaks cogently about our choices: "If today's trends continue much longer, this earth will become a hell. But we don't have to build a hell. We can tell our grandchildren how they can make the new world we need. At my institute , we live in a building that does not use a flame. It has gotten its electricity from solar panels for the past 24 years. We can do this if we want to. It all depends on what future we decide to build."

Scoffers who point to this winter's blizzards to justify blithely pursuing their high-emissions lifestyles ignore that climate change effects different regions in different ways. Warmer oceans release more water vapor into the air, which produces more flooding and blizzards than we used to get. The world's average temperature is steadily rising. 2005 and 2010 were the hottest years ever recorded.

A European Union study reports 71,449 deaths were caused by their 2003 heat wave. For us the number of hot, muggy days will double by 2020, by 2050 they will triple. instead of 2 heat waves per year, we will have 3 or 4. Think of the increased demand for electricity as people seek comfort. If that power comes from fossil fuel power generating plants the problem is exacerbated. Going to renewables is an ethical necessity.

So blocking wind and solar resources on the Cape, which many of our political bodies have been doing relentlessly for a decade, is surely going to lead to blackouts and curtailments in the near term. And those obstructionist politicians will receive blame increasingly as climate chaos causes George Woodwell's hell to impinge more and more on all of us and later on our descendants.

Richard C. Bartlett
Cotuit, MA

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