MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — The warnings are dire, and the effects are now occurring in real time, according to WVU Geography Professor Brenden McNeil.
He’s referring, of course, to the effects of climate change, citing a Trump administration report — one that Trump said he “didn’t believe” — that came out after Thanksgiving .
“It is very intense about how it describes these impacts and how real climate change is and that it’s a here and now issue,” he said in a recent edition of “The Gary Bowden Show” on WAJR-Clarksburg. “It describes all the ways that different communities around the country are trying to adapt their infrastructure, make sure their economies are resilient to the effects of climate change.”
McNeil added: “This report was really certain about describing the impacts on our economy that climate change is going to pose.”
The report, a joint effort by 13 federal agencies, didn’t mince words about the effects of climate change — saying it could lop off as much as 10 percent of the size of the American economy by the end of the 21st century.
“The cost of not making that transition now is really large,” McNeil said. “We’re going to have a chaotic climate, a climate that’s changed, more intense storms, hits to our economy, our water resources.”
He went on to say that we’ve already had a taste in West Virginia of what’s next.
“The flooding in Greenbrier Valley in 2016, was it caused by climate change? No, but our science is getting much better to say that those types of storms are likely to become more frequent and more intense.”
McNeil said climate change skepticism is no longer based in anything resembling fact.
“Of the predictions that we’ve made 15, 10, 20 years ago have come true and then some,” he said. “Everything that people have said was going to be happening with our climate is happening now and here. And this is why this an issue that we all need to be taking very seriously. That’s what this report said. It’s a wake-up call. This is something we need to act on.”
Though there are concerns that mitigation efforts may no longer be as effective as adaptive efforts, McNeil did say that there is a recent history of success in treating man-made caused issues — citing the treatment of acid rain, at one time believed to be a very difficult issue to tackle.
“You see all the scrubbers on smoke stacks, mixing limestone in with coal, and there were some relatively easy fixes,” he said. “It’s still very expensive to comply with those environmental things, but now you look at our air quality, look at the health of our ecosystem. We’re seeing the effects of those policies have their intended effect.”
That’s why he’s still somewhat optimistic that tackling climate change — a much bigger and badder devil — is possible.
“The costs of not doing something now are really large,” McNeil said.