Francis Koster: Grandkids need us to act like adults

Published 12:00 am Sunday, September 27, 2020

By Francis Koster

Some years ago, I took my son and young grandson fishing on Lake Norman here in North Carolina, near where we live.

Lake Norman had a historic reputation for big, record-setting fish, and I wanted to give him a chance to make a grand memory. As I planned the trip, I had fantasy of him standing with his arms outstretched as he bragged to his buddies about the one he caught.

What surprised me as I was planning that trip was learning that the breed of big fish (striped bass) that set all the size records back in the day no longer survives in Lake Norman. Between 2000 and 2010, the lake water got too hot, and the traditional breed of striped bass could not survive. After they all died out, new breeds of fish had to be transplanted in Lake Norman that can survive these still rising temperatures. 

Why do I tell this story? Because in my grandson’s lifetime, the same thing that killed off the fish can kill him and many of his generation. And it is not rising temperature.

The warmer water gets, the more it evaporates. Rising river and lake temperatures increase humidity and the number of very muggy days. Remember how August felt? A rather small rise in water temperature produces a large rise in humidity. And humidity kills. 

The combination of heat and humidity is called the heat index – and that is what we need to be paying attention to.  People who talk about “global warming,” which only looks at temperature, are missing a key threat. 

If it is 92 degrees outside with humidity of 40%, it feels like it is 94 degree. If it is 92 degrees and the humidity is 85% it feels like 126 degrees — and because your body cannot handle that for long, it can kill you. 

The average temperature for the entire globe for every single month thus far in 2020 was either the warmest or second warmest in history as far back as scientists can tell. And that created a lot of new humidity.

Last year, the temperature of the water in the Great Lakes was up between 6 and 11 degrees (depending on how deep the lake is) warmer than the historic normal. Because of rise in evaporation increased humidity in the air, the heat index went up for the entire Northeast and broke every record on the books.  

This indicates we have grim times ahead unless we can control the rise in lake and ocean temperature.

Your kids and grandkids will have a better chance at living longer lives if you switch to LED lightbulbs. If you are a fiscal conservative, you will like this: the average American household uses around 40 lightbulbs. Replacing them with LEDs costs you about $100, and saves you $300 per year, cuts the greenhouse gas made to produce the electricity they burn by 75% and earns you at least 100% return on investment each year for 10 years until the bulb burns out.  

Or you can buy an electric lawn mower — scientists at the University of Florida have found that, due to successful 1970 EPA regulation of car pollution, it takes as many as 43 modern cars to make as much air pollution in one year as each gas lawnmower.

It is important that we set aside politics and listen to the scientists. Your kids and grandkids need us all to act like adults.

Koster lives in Kannapolis and is an activist who has been studying, teaching and implementing local solutions to national problems for over 50 years.