Climate change: Obama needs to move forward

Climate change: Obama needs to move forward

February 22nd, 2013 in Opinion Times

Mr. President: The heat is on. No pun intended.

You made a pledge in your State of the Union address to get the country on track to combat and cope with climate change. You even said your administration will take executive action on climate change if Congress won't cooperate.

With gridlock in Congress, the ball most likely is going to stay in your court.

Climate change is a hard topic. Even reasonable people who love to talk about our changing weather patterns often roll their eyes when the words "climate change" or "global warming" are spoken.

So here are thoughts -- factoids, if you will -- from the Southeast.

• In 2010, up to 19 inches of rain over Tennessee's Cumberland River brought what has been called a "biblical" flood to Nashville, killing 24 Tennesseans and causing more than $2 billion in damage.

• The year 2011 -- with 492 tornadoes in the southeastern U.S. and most of them in one four-day outbreak -- went down in history as the deadliest tornado year across the region. When the devil winds were gone, 356 people were dead and more than 3,000 people were injured. More than a few of them were here.

• In 2012, Chattanoogans got an extra-early wave of heat in June -- JUNE -- with a string of 100-plus degree days. The mercury hit 107 on two of those days. The heat wave gave the Tennessee Valley Authority a new record power-use jolt and prompted local groups and officials to look harder at what the future may bring to this region.

• This January, a University of Tennessee researcher completed a first-of-its-kind study to predict heat waves for the top 20 cities in the eastern United States. His findings put the Tennessee Valley in the cross-hairs of climate craziness, predicting more intense heat waves and drastically wetter weather.

The region could see heat-waves increase in intensity by 4 to 6 degrees Fahrenheit.

And the Tennessee Valley's normal range of rainfall, about 30 to 60 inches a year, could increase to a range of 47 to 82 inches a year.

None of us like change and perhaps that's why buzz phrases like global warming and climate change make our shoulders slump. But in Chattanooga, at least, there is recognition that something has to give.

Last August, the city's outgoing mayor -- by executive order -- mandated that city departments and offices accomplish a 25 percent reduction in overall energy use by 2020. Painful? Yes, in the way changing habits can be, but it also is expected to save the city and taxpayers an estimated $2.85 million a year.

That's more than $22 million in the next eight years, and some city leaders say it's a conservative estimate.

If little bitty Chattanooga can do it, so can you, Mr. President.