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My Point of View: Vote for leaders who listen to scientists, are science literate

My Point of View by Jennifer Vogt-Erickson

It was a gut punch to see meticulously-kept homes and fields violently clawed away by historic flooding that swept western Germany in mid-July. This is not normal by any measure. The climate that supported the growth of human civilization — the one that my German ancestors were accustomed to for millennia — is history.

Jennifer Vogt-Erickson

Floods that inundated parts of Henan province last week were beyond 5,000 years of Chinese record-keeping.

As we pump ever more greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, we are entering a climate outside of human experience. We are already witnessing the weather extremes produced by 2°F of warming since the 1880s.

The record flooding, droughts, heat waves and thawing this summer is the result of climate change spurred by massive heat-trapping fossil fuel consumption during the Industrial Age. According to NASA, two-thirds of measured warming has occurred since 1975. The 10 hottest years on record have all occurred since 2005.

The planet will keep warming, but by how much is somewhat in our control. It depends on our political will to trust each other at a governmental level to cooperatively decrease our impacts. To give our children just a little more time to adapt to warming we have already locked in.

Every year we don’t significantly curb our fossil fuel consumption is a year we commit our children and our children’s children to a hotter planet. We are formidable at adapting, but we have limits, and we become worse at making good decisions as scarcity deepens. Rising temperatures bring water shortages, species extinction and sea level rise. It brings costly destruction. We need to make good decisions now.

If a person jumps off a cliff with no equipment, they fall. We do not doubt the law of gravity. We do not expect God to catch them. Climate is harder to understand the dynamics of, but natural laws apply to it as well. We ignore those laws at our children’s peril and, as is already apparent, our own.

Democrats want to mitigate the impacts of climate change and harden our physical defenses against it.

Republicans like our U.S. Congressman Jim Hagedorn just want us to harden our hearts against climate refugees instead.

Hagedorn would rather see billionaires blast themselves into space in a plume of greenhouse gases than make them pay their fair share of taxes, which we need for climate-resilient infrastructure and our necessary shift to low-carbon energy.

Both COVID and climate change are urgent issues that require leaders to listen to scientists and adjust the course of human behavior as necessary to protect human life.

COVID vaccines are our best, most effective tool to stop COVID. They have saved tens of thousands of American lives already. They have brought families back together safely. They have helped businesses safely re-open.

“Please get vaccinated” is a vital message we should be hearing clearly and repeatedly from all our elected leaders. Yet state Rep. Peggy Bennett, state Sen. Gene Dornink and Hagedorn have failed to send this unequivocal message.

Do they fear backlash from supporters who are anti-vaccination? Do they suffer a science literacy gap themselves? Do they take their cues from a vaccine-questioning, mask-ridiculing “big man” with a rapt audience like Tucker Carlson?

Fear, misinformation or political calculations should not get in the way of them using their public platforms to protect their constituents’ lives. Even diehard Republican governors like Kay Ivey of Alabama and Ron DeSantis of Florida are now urging people to get vaccinated. Congressman Steve Scalise of Louisiana said he recently chose to get vaccinated. Their states’ COVID numbers are rising at alarming rates, almost entirely among unvaccinated populations.

It’s already too late to save the lives of many people who could have easily been vaccinated in time. That’s the thing — Republican leaders have been consistently late to heeding dire warnings from scientists, and their constituents bear the costs.

The future is coming at us really fast, and technological innovation and climate change are speeding up change. We have a choice to adapt — we developed effective vaccines for COVID in record time — or face a much more diminished future.

We need to vote out asteroid-denying dinosaurs like Hagedorn, Dornink and Bennett, who think climate change is beyond our control and are timid about getting on a megaphone to tell their constituents to get vaccinated. We simply don’t have time for them to catch on and get courageous.

Hagedorn, Dornink and Bennett are pro-fossil fuel and anti-science, not pro-life. They have shown their preferences over and over.

If you love humanity and you want to save it, you must trust science, and you must vote for leaders who listen to scientists and are science literate themselves. This is not optional. If this summer has taught us anything, it’s later than we think. Please, please get vaccinated. We are all in this together.

Jennifer Vogt-Erickson is a member of the Freeborn County DFL Party.

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