Guest opinion: A climate changes-based apology

  • Wednesday, November 11, 2020 1:30am
  • Opinion

An apology to family and friends:

I have been well prepared by education and experience to understand the climate changes being brought about by the increase of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. That I have not done so and apprised you, the people I love, of the consequences of those changes, is a serious failure on my part, and for that I apologize.

Speaking up now may be seen as “better late than never,” but continued degradation of our global environment is very serious. Over the past 20 years the world has experienced a rough doubling of catastrophic storms, floods, incidences of drought, hurricanes, forest fires, bleaching of coral reefs, loss of species, melting of glaciers and polar ice and increases in the number of refugees. We will not go back to what we once considered normal. This is not a new normal.

Carbon dioxide continues to accumulate. The effects will spread and intensify. If you want to know more see the NOAA website,, and click on state of the climate and then global. Or, read “The Uninhabitable Earth: Life After Warming” by David Wallace-Wells.

I particularly want to apologize to my grandchildren. In 30 years, when they are in their 50s, the world we have left them will be chaotic and face an uncertain future. Refugees fleeing drought, flood, famine and conflict will overwhelm agencies trying to help. We might have avoided the worst if we, the world, had taken appropriate action 20 years ago, based on the compelling evidence available to science at that time. We did not.

What can we do now? Individual efforts at minimizing carbon footprints will help a little and will keep the issue foremost in our minds. Recycle. Use less fuel. Grow trees. Keep doing the little things and encourage others. BUT this is a global problem and must be addressed on a global basis to have any chance of minimizing the damage to the planet.

A global carbon tax aimed at eliminating the use of fossil fuels by 2050 is a necessity. The United States once had the opportunity to be a leader. Recent policy changes have made it a laggard and has discouraged others from taking more aggressive action. That must change. Ask questions of policy makers. Don’t vote for any state or national office seeker who does not understand this issue!

If you have a home or property that may be at hazard of flooding, forest fire, or hurricane – sell it! Oceanfront property sales already show effects of a growing awareness of such issues. Panic sale is not warranted. However, people in Houston, who thought they were safe from floods, found that 50 inches of rain flooded places that had never been flooded before.

Ellicott City, Md., with two 500-year floods within a year, was devastated. Make plans with such things in mind. The caution of the old “Hill Street Blues” TV show, “be careful out there”, is appropriate.

This is a heavy message. I love you all. Knowing what I know now I could not do other than give you an apology for past failure and a warning for the future.

Paul Wessel is a Sequim resident who worked for 40 years for the U.S. Navy as a scientist, engineer and senior executive.

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