Guest commentary: Vote to save the planet

Citizens need to make ballot-box decisions that will produce climate-change solutions

By Margaret Jean Cannon and Roy Wysnewski

Margaret Jean Cannon
Roy Wysnewski

As America prepares for the 2020 General Election, voters are discussing a range of key issues: health care; gun control; immigration; and climate change, to name a few. The latter subject, which has been around for many election cycles but lacked any serious voter priority, is emerging as one of the most serious issues to face the American electorate. Here’s why.

For decades scientists have warned about the dangers of global warming and the increasing threat (destruction of life and property) that it represents to every man, women and child on Planet Earth. Only in recent years have the impacts of climate change become more visible and frequent — the global warming process is accelerating — elevating the need to move the issue to a higher level of public discourse and action.

Globally, climate migration is increasing. The world is experiencing the highest levels of climate-related displacement on record, with nearly 24 million people migrating in 2017, more than at any other point in human history. Today Central Americans are migrating to our southern border to escape climate-related floods and droughts. These climate refugees will only grow in number, increasing the potential for political unrest and economic uncertainty in the United States.

Catastrophic weather events are on the increase, and they get closer to home every day. Residents of Marathon Key are abandoning homes destroyed by flooding from Hurricane Irma and migrating north. Recognizing this to be a potential problem for Florida’s entire coastline, the state is purchasing the affected homes to clear a path for swelling seas.

Schoolchildren worldwide are stepping forward, demanding that adults consider their future by engaging now in the fight against climate change.

Our actions should include mitigating global warming by drastically reducing greenhouse gas emissions; helping people prepare for or adapt to climate change; and strengthening federal government agencies so they can manage the aftermath of severe weather events.

Unfortunately, a divided American electorate effectively blocks these actions. Special-interest groups and industry forces have succeeded in pitting us against each other over an issue that should be humanitarian, not political.

Voters must come together in a joint humanitarian cause and focus on climate change solutions. Equally important is securing renewed leadership and financial support from all levels of government. Political leaders who continue to obfuscate the scientific facts about climate change, roll back environmental regulations, and refuse to engage in the fight need to be replaced.

John F. Kennedy left us with these words: “Let us not despair, but act. Let us not seek the Republican answer or the Democratic answer, but the right answer. Let us not seek to fix the blame for the past — let us accept our own responsibility for the future.”

We should all vote for candidates at every level of government who support immediate and continued action in this fight. Our children expect nothing less.

Roy Wysnewski had a 36-year career as an engineer specializing in industrial radiography. Since retirement to the Sarasota area, he has been active as an amateur meteorologist and serves as a certified Skywarn Spotter for the National Weather Service in the Tampa region.

Siesta Key resident Margaret Jean Cannon had a 50-year engineering career built around defining and solving business problems and working with global teams to deploy technical solutions. In more recent years, she has become an entrepreneur, managing MyStartupSuncoast.