Kirk Becchi LTEs for the Climate

CAAV members have been impressed with local attorney Kirk Becchi’s consistent messaging for the climate through letters to the editor in the Daily News-Record over the past two years. With his permission, we thought we’d share the collection here.

A Tale Of Two Red States
Open Forum: Kirk Becchi
December 9, 2019

Some may be tempted to dismiss the climate change- driven wildfires in California as a liberal state problem. But climate change doesn’t discriminate based upon political persuasion. Rather, it hurts us all.

Republican leaning Alaska and Florida are located in opposite corners of North America. In addition to being geographically distant, those states are known for divergent attractions. Alaska is pictured largely as an unspoiled winter wonderland and many people view Florida as a tropical paradise. But these diverse states share a tragic commonality. They are each on the front line of climate change.

According to the International Arctic Research Center, Alaska is warming at approximately 2.5 times the rate of the lower 48 states. Sea ice cools Alaska. A recent study found that sea ice volume Arctic- wide is about 47% lower than the average from 1979- 2018. Alaska’s permafrost is melting, which in turn is undermining the structures and roads built upon it. Melting permafrost releases even more carbon into the atmosphere. Die- offs among sea birds, gray whales, seals, mussels and krill are being reported.

In Florida, studies have shown that climate change increased the amount of rainfall during hurricanes and caused hurricanes to stall out, i.e. hover, instead of moving through, resulting in greater damage to the affected places. Florida’s coral reefs are being attacked by coral bleaching, ocean acidification, disease, and pollution. Algae blooms, like red tide, cost Florida counties $90 million in 2018. Miami is experiencing tidal flooding on sunny days. Sea water is creeping toward the Biscayne Bay Aquifer, which supplies 90 percent of South Florida’s drinking water.

The threat is global. For people who find scientific journals long, boring, and loaded with wonky jargon, in November 2019, a document entitled “ World Scientists’ Warning on a Climate Emergency” was published. The paper succinctly stated “ We declare, with more than 11,000 scientist signatories from around the world, clearly and unequivocally that planet Earth is facing a climate emergency.” Admirers of plain speakers should appreciate the scientists’ directness.

Also in November, the medical journal The Lancet published a report stating that if climate change is left unabated it will adversely and disproportionately affect every child alive today and those yet to be born. Those children will live to see a planet which will be 7.2 degrees warmer than today. While that may not sound like much of a change, they will “ experience more heatwaves, stronger storms, the spread of infectious disease, and see climate change intensify mass migration, extreme poverty, and mental illness.”

The Lancet report doesn’t say that our children are condemned to suffer the adverse effects described. Instead, the report states that we can mitigate and adapt to climate change if we rapidly reduce greenhouse gas emissions, commit to decarbonization, encourage healthier lifestyles (i.e. biking and walking), invest in evidence- based climate change surveillance and adaption, and improve resilient infrastructure and preparedness.

The time for ignoring climate change for reasons unrelated to the science, or pretending it’s someone else’s problem, are long past.

Kirk Becchi lives in Rockingham.

Copyright © 2019 Daily News-Record 12/9/2019

So You’re A Conservative? Then Conserve
Open Forum: Kirk Becchi
June 24, 2019

In the 20th century, Republicans and conservatives advocated for conservation. Republican President Theodore Roosevelt said “Here is your country. Cherish these natural wonders, cherish the natural resources, cherish the history and romance as a sacred heritage, for your children and your children’s children. Do not let selfish men or greedy interests skin your country of its beauty, its riches or its romance.”

Republican President Richard Nixon, founder of the EPA, said “Our physical nature, our mental health, our culture and institutions, our opportunities for challenge and fulfillment, our very survival — all of these are directly related to and affected by the environment in which we live. They depend upon the continued healthy functioning of the natural systems of the Earth.”

Even Republican President Ronald Reagan, who was not an environmentalist, spoke of the importance of environmental protection. “If we’ve learned any lessons during the past few decades, perhaps the most important is that preservation of our environment is not a partisan challenge; it’s common sense. Our physical health, our social happiness and our economic well-being will be sustained only by all of us working in partnership as thoughtful, effective stewards of our natural resources.”

The Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services, a panel with members from 132 nations including the United States, issued a report in May. The report was prepared by nearly 150 authors, from 50 nations, working over a three-year period. Representatives of all 132 member nations signed off on the findings.

The report concluded that 1 million plant and animal species are on the verge of extinction, with alarming implications for human survival, due to man-made climate change and other human activities. The authors noted that more plants and animals are threatened with extinction now than in any other point in human history. The panel’s chairman noted the “decline in biodiversity is eroding ‘the foundations of our economies, livelihoods, food security, health and quality of life worldwide.’” The report found that the natural world is collapsing around us, but also that it’s not too late to make a difference. However, that difference will require more than 100 nations to work together, including the United States.

According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the 10 warmest years on record have all occurred since 1998, and the four warmest years on record have all occurred since 2014. For people who seem not to trust scientists who are unknown to them, hopefully Bill Nye the Science Guy will be compelling. He recently noted on a TV talk show that climate change is an actual crisis.

Through a combination of intentional disinformation, misinformation, shortsightedness, and mistrust too many people have been lulled into inaction, and worse hostility, toward responding to the climate crisis. We’re decades late to the fight, but not too late to attempt to stem some of the worst effects of climate change. The wolf is at the door. And the future is not ours to squander.

Kirk Becchi lives in Rockingham.

Copyright © 2019 Daily News-Record 6/24/2019

The Future Is Now
Open Forum: Kirk Becchi
January 31, 2019

Nature just fired a major climate change warning shot. For example, in 2018 Virginia experienced 190 days of measurable precipitation, for a record setting 63.5 inches of rain, the second highest total since 1889.

In early 2019, the Department of Defense (DOD) issued a report to Congress stating that climate change is a national security issue and that dozens of military installations are vulnerable to floods, droughts and wildfires.

On Black Friday 2018, the Trump administration released the 1,500 page Volume II of the Fourth National Climate Assessment (NCA4), which was prepared by 13 federal agencies, including DOD, EPA and NASA. Key findings of the NCA4 include: “More frequent and intense extreme weather and climate-related events, as well as changes in average climate conditions, are expected to continue to damage infrastructure, ecosystems, and social systems that provide essential benefits to communities. … With continued growth in emissions at historic rates, annual losses in some economic sectors are projected to reach hundreds of billions of dollars by the end of the century. … Extreme weather and climate-related impacts on one system can result in increased risks or failures in other critical systems, including water resources, food production and distribution, energy and transportation, public health, international trade, and national security. … Climate change is also expected projected to alter the geographic range and distribution of disease carrying insects and pests, exposing more people to ticks that carry Lyme disease and mosquitoes that transmit viruses such as Zika, West Nile, and dengue. … [C]lean air and water, protection from coastal flooding, wood and fiber, crop pollination, hunting and fishing, tourism, cultural identities, and more will continue to be degraded by the impacts of climate change. … Climate change presents numerous challenges to sustaining and enhancing crop productivity, livestock health, and the economic vitality of rural communities.”

Climate change isn’t a future problem. It’s an immediate and urgent threat. However, for decades, interested parties have acted to confuse and trivialize the issue. For example, one senator from a fossil fuel producing state even tossed a snowball on the Senate floor, in an attempt to demonstrate that climate change isn’t real. Despite such efforts at disinformation, Americans are now regularly seeing the effects of climate change in the news and out their windows.

Sometimes leaders have to lead. Politicians must disavow the misinformation spread in the past, explain the urgency of the situation (so we are willing to do what is necessary to address the problem), listen to the scientists and implement their recommendations as best we can. The likelihood that this will involve sacrifice is not a reason to fail to act. No war, and this is a war, has been won without sacrifice, and the costs of inaction will far exceed the costs of seeking to mitigate the worst effects of climate change, while there’s still time.

Americans don’t sit idly on the sidelines. Instead, we lead, fight and win. The world needs our leadership, moral clarity, and technological and industrial prowess to confront.

Mr. Becchi lives in Rockingham.

Copyright © 2019 Daily News-Record 1/31/2019

Preserve Our Traditional Outdoor Way Of Life
Open Forum: Kirk Becchi
December 12, 2018

Many Americans love the outdoors for hunting, fishing or even just backyard grilling. Climate change can rob us of those pleasures. According to the National Wildlife Federation “[c]limate change poses an immediate and specific threat to hunting and fishing in America.” A 2015 NWF publication entitled “Climate Impacts to Our Hunting and Fishing Heritage” predicts that climate change may cause shifts in major ecosystems in up to 20 percent of North America. The article notes “[s]hifting ranges for pests and disease-causing pathogens may have some of the most devastating impacts for wildlife and habitats.” Among the threatened species are white-tailed deer, ducks and brook trout, which are described as being “severely threatened” and having lost half their historic habitat in Virginia.

In May 2018, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration issued a report stating “Climate change will force hundreds of ocean fish and invertebrate species, including some of the most economically important to the United States, to move northward, disrupting fisheries in the United States and Canada.”

It’s not just wildlife that are threatened. The meat we buy at the grocery store, and toss on the grill, is vulnerable. A Jan. 19, 2017, EPA publication entitled “Climate Impacts on Agriculture and Food Supply” casts a dark shadow over barbecues. The article projects that climate change driven-heat waves, droughts, parasites, and diseases will directly endanger livestock.

The wildlife many Americans hunt, the fish we catch, and even the farm animals Americans eat are endangered and will be disappearing. The outdoor life those species historically enabled Americans to enjoy will vanish with the threatened animals and fish. Unless we swiftly and effectively act, future generations, including our children, will be deprived of their outdoor heritage.

After the World War II attack on Pearl Harbor, only the most unpatriotic Americans would have dared to say “we shouldn’t enter the war because fighting might hurt the economy.” Instead, our grandfathers enlisted and our grandmothers took their places in the workforce. Americans led the way and endured whatever hardships were necessary to get the job done and win the war. The doubters were rightfully ignored. Combating climate change is a true world war. The coasts and island nations are suffering hardest first, but no place on the planet is safe. Also, people of all political beliefs need clean air and water, and a temperate climate.

We don’t own the Earth. Rather, we just borrow it for a very short time from our kids, our grandkids, and everyone else who follows us. It’s our moral responsibility to turn the planet over to those who follow us in at least as good a condition as we got it. If we want the next generations to be able to enjoy the same outdoor experiences we had, we need to demand immediate and decisive action from politicians, and join the fight. Our children are watching. How will we answer when they ask “what did you do during the war to save the environment?”

Kirk Becchi lives in Rockingham.

Copyright © 2018 Daily News-Record 12/12/2018

Conservative Policy, National Security And Climate Change
Open Forum: Kirk Becchi
November 7, 2018

Some people try to dismiss climate change as a liberal or Democratic issue. That position is incorrect and unsupported by history. Conservative politicians and institutions have recognized the need to protect the environment and the threat presented by climate change.

In 1970, Republican President Richard Nixon created the Environmental Protection Agency. In 1988, Republican President Ronald Reagan signed the Montreal Protocol, which banned ozone-depleting fluorocarbons.

On July 29, 2015, the Department of Defense issued a report on climate change. The report identified climate change as a “security risk … because it degrades living conditions, human security and the ability of governments to meet the basic needs of their populations. Communities and states that already are fragile and have limited resources are significantly more vulnerable to disruption and far less likely to respond effectively and be resilient to new challenges.”

In February 2017, a group of Republican elder statesman — including former Secretaries of State James A. Baker III and George P. Shultz, and former Secretary of the Treasury Henry M. Paulson — called for taxing carbon pollution produced by burning fossil fuels, which the trio referred to as “a conservative climate solution” based on free-market principles.

The National Association of Insurance Commissioners issued an updated report on July 11, 2018, entitled “Climate Change and Risk Disclosure.” In part, the report reads “Munich RE [a reinsurer] found that weather related losses have increased nearly fourfold in the United States since 1980. According to a study by Munich Re, extreme weather events (such as prolonged droughts, hurricanes, floods, and severe storms) led to $560 billion in insured losses from 1980 until 2015. Experts predict climate change will continue to intensify the frequency and severity of these types of weather events.”

In October, the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change issued an urgent call to action in the form of a report stating that we have only a dozen years to prevent global temperatures from increasing 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7º F). If we go above that mark, the scientists say the risks of drought, floods, extreme heat and poverty for hundreds of millions of people significantly increase. This isn’t a problem only for future generations. The wolf is at the door.

Those persons concerned about security at our southern border should imagine the masses of starving and thirst-crazed people who will arrive there, if Central and South America are ravaged by crop failures, droughts and/or severe weather. It’s not hard to envision governments collapsing in those regions and their populations fleeing north to the United States.

We need to stop pretending the problem isn’t real and immediate. We need to listen to the scientists and do what Americans have always done in times of crisis. Roll up our sleeves, stare the danger straight in the eye, and fix the problem. We need to lead other nations, from the front, in the fight. Battling climate change now is a truly conservative, national security and economic imperative.

Kirk Becchi lives in Rockingham.

Copyright © 2018 Daily News-Record 11/7/2018

Facts And Faith Dictate Climate Action
Open Forum: Kirk Becchi
October 5, 2018

A May 1988 Shell Oil confidential internal memorandum, entitled “The Greenhouse Effect,” states “[m]an-made carbon dioxide, released into and accumulated in the atmosphere, is believed to warm the earth through the so-called greenhouse effect. The gas acts like the transparent walls of a greenhouse and traps heat in the atmosphere that would normally be radiated back into space. Mainly due to fossil fuel burning and deforestation, the atmospheric CO2 concentration has increased. … Mathematical models of the earth’s climate indicate that if this warming occurs then it could create significant changes in sea level, ocean currents, precipitation patterns, regional temperature and weather.”

Unless one assumes Shell scientists are smarter, or more observant, than, e.g., Exxon-Mobil scientists, it is safe to assume that the whole industry has likely known of the dangers of climate change for three decades.

A NASA article entitled “Scientific Consensus: Earth’s climate is warming” states studies published in peer-reviewed scientific journals show 97 percent or more of actively publishing climate scientists agree that climate warming over the past century is extremely likely to be due to human activities.

The scientific organizations concurring include American Association for the Advancement of Science, American Chemical Society, American Geophysical Union, American Medical Association, American Meteorological Society, American Physical Society, The Geological Society of America, 11 international academies, U.S. National Academy of Sciences, U.S. Global Change Research Program, Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, and an additional 200 worldwide scientific organizations.

A 2016 Papal ecumenical states, “To commit a crime against the natural world is a sin against ourselves and a sin against God.” The “sins” to which the Pope was referring include causing changes to the environment.

According to Interfaith Power & Light, the churches and religions recognizing climate change and the need to care for creation include Baha’i, Buddhist, Anglican, Baptist, Catholic, Brethren, Eastern Orthodox, Episcopal, Lutheran, Mennonite, Methodist, Hindu, Interfaith, Jewish, Muslim, Sikh, and Unitarian Universalist.

Today, we are seeing the effects of man-made climate change, including here in the Valley. We take for granted our temperate climate, which allows for inexpensive and abundant food; the infrequency of severe weather; and the relative freedom from insect borne, and tropical, serious diseases; but all of that could change.

Due to our denial and inaction, we’re decades late to the fight, but there may still be time to minimize the damage for the benefit of our children, grandchildren and everyone else yet to be born.

Instead of dismantling environmental protections, we should (i) acknowledge the urgency of the problem, so the deniers can no longer claim there is no problem or a lack of scientific consensus; (ii) listen to the scientists and implement their suggestions, which almost certainly will involve sacrifice and regulation; and (iii) as a country assume a leadership role in this fight, so other countries won’t be able to use our inaction as an excuse for theirs.

Preserving the planet is the fact-based, faith-based, and pro-life thing to do.

Mr. Becchi lives in Rockingham.

Copyright © 2018 Daily News-Record 10/5/2018