Our Planet is Gasping for Breath

Appeared yesterday in the EAST HAMPTON STAR.

The Final Inning
Springs
August 30, 2019

Dear David,

Baseball fans like to check the box scores. Unlike people, the numbers never lie. As a fan of the planet earth, I like to check out the NASA website Global Climate Change, climate.nasa.gov/vital-signs/carbon-dioxide.

The June 2019 box score for earth is depressing: 412 parts per million of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, three parts higher than one year ago. For those who may not be avid earth fans, CO2 is the primary greenhouse gas driving climate change. A graph on the NASA website shows that it never exceeded 300 parts per million in 400,000 years of earth’s history. Then we started pumping fossil fuel emissions (CO2) into the air, and it has been rising steadily since. If earth were a baseball team, fans would be clamoring for the manager’s head, lambasting the owner for being too cheap to pay for decent pitching.

The self-appointed manager of the Wainscott opponents of clean wind energy is Simon Kinsella, who claims to be an earth fan, but he thinks a buried cable in his neighborhood is too big a price to pay to improve our chances of winning against climate change. Winning is not guaranteed. In fact, all indications are that humanity is already assured a grim century.

Scientists now project that we must reduce fossil emissions by 45 percent in 11 years to avoid dire consequences. Generalize from resistance to clean energy, like what we see from Mr. Kinsella, and one must conclude that there is scant chance of reaching that goal. So it is bad news indeed that we are still turning earth’s thermostat up. And it is puzzling that Mr. Kinsella persists in telling his team they need not do anything different. They should not accept even a small inconvenience. And it is galling that some residents blithely follow this pied piper of petrochemicals.

Pay no attention to forest fires now raging north of the Arctic Circle in Alaska, Greenland, Siberia, and the Amazon, releasing an unexpected rush of additional CO2 that scientists didn’t count in their calculations. Simon says ignore the 197 billion tons of ice melted from Greenland in the month of July 2019. Ignore 109 degrees in Paris. Mr. Kinsella must feel that we have plenty of time to resist any local disruption and force others to bear the burden.

But the box score scrupulously kept by NASA scientists is crystal clear. We are in the final inning in which we can do anything to forestall the coming chaos. Pay attention, kids. You may be privileged to live at a great inflection point in planetary history, the point at which we humans, through scientific illiteracy, oblivious self-interest, and greed, doom ourselves to be just another dead end on the merciless map of evolution.

Simon might tell you it isn’t him; it’s Donald Trump or Mitch McConnell. But Trump and McConnell can’t do it alone. They need thousands of Si Kinsellas, whether paid lobbyists or useful idiots, on the front lines fighting every local effort to build the infrastructure for clean energy, saying, “Wait! Don’t be rash! WE don’t need to sacrifice even a little of our bubble of comfort.”

Recently Simon sent an email to 800 town residents, impugning the integrity of Gordian Raacke, a man who for 26 years has been fighting for renewable energy in all of its forms. This email was riddled with false statements. Suggesting that solar and microgrid can render Deepwater unnecessary, he appends a document called “Community Microgrid Project,” and suggests this was a town solution to climate change that was diverted by Mr. Raacke. In fact, Mr. Raacke fought hard for this type of project, but it failed for economic reasons to gain state approval. I suppose Kinsella figured nobody would read it, because it actually is an unsolicited study that calls for 15 megawatts of solar. Deepwater is for 130 megawatts. This is like suggesting the new batboy renders the home-run hitter unnecessary.

I don’t know anybody supporting the wind farm who is opposed to microgrids and solar. We are for both. If we are to achieve net zero, even the wind farm is not enough. But we are in the midst of a climate emergency. The wind farm is shovel ready, with private money willing and eager to build it at negligible cost to ratepayers. The microgrid and solar solution is at this point a flying-horse fantasy, unplanned, unsited, and unfunded, and is simply being used as a distraction by those, like Mr. Kinsella, who resist even the smallest inconvenience in their neighborhood in the town’s effort to reduce its carbon footprint.

I urge the signers of Kinsella’s petitions to visit the NASA website and read the box score. Tell him to find another hobby, if it is a hobby. Maybe it’s a profession. We don’t know who is paying for the phalanx of lawyers and engineers on his payroll. A suspicious sort might wonder if fossil-fuel money is involved, but I suppose it could be just homegrown ignorance.

Our planet is gasping for breath. Don’t be fooled by fantasies.

DON MATHESON