Opinion: Time’s up for the new planet Earth: Here’s what we need to do to save the country

The Colorado River in the upper River Basin is pictured Friday, May 29, 2021, in Lees Ferry, Ariz.

The Colorado River in the upper River Basin is pictured Friday, May 29, 2021, in Lees Ferry, Ariz. Ross D. Franklin / AP photo


Published: 07-06-2024 8:00 AM

Dr. Sills was the chief engineer of the New Hampshire Environmental Agency, NHDES-WMD, for nearly 30 years, overseeing the agency’s Super Fund, RCRA Solid & Hazardous Waste, and Emergency Spill Response functions.

We all remember Hans Christian Andersen’s folktale, “The Emperor’s New Clothes.” No one in the kingdom would tell the vain emperor he was naked. We have the same situation today. No one will tell the public we have a new earth, and the old one we knew for eons is gone forever. It has changed drastically due to global warming.

We know that “atmospheric rivers” are formed from increased ocean evaporation due to global warming. When these atmospheric rivers pass over the land, they precipitate large amounts of rain on the earth in unpredictable locations, causing massive flooding all over the United States.

The reason this has such a brutal impact on our society is that the centuries-old climatological data engineers have used to design basic infrastructure, like flood control, highway protection, and drinking water and sewage treatment systems, is irrelevant, and we are literally engineering in the dark.

In the Southwest, the conditions are opposite. The Colorado River has been undergoing a 20+ year mega-drought, resulting in a loss of hydroelectric power and irrigation water for the region. This area is a major source of crops not only for humans but also for animals. Both are valuable sources of our country’s food supply.

The ambient air temperature is also rising dangerously in the Southwest and could soon be unfit for human habitation. This condition will eventually result in the mass migration north of over 60 million people with no place to go.

Our national defense and basic freedoms are also at risk. As it becomes more difficult to grow crops in the rising temperatures, the only places left to grow crops will be in the northern latitudes, with Siberia in Russia containing the largest agricultural area because of its thawing permafrost. China has also recognized this and has implemented an international agreement with Russia to control the global food chain by farming Siberia together.

Lastly, thawing and collapsing glaciers in Antarctica, particularly the Thwaites Glacier, promise to raise sea levels on the East Coast by 2-3 feet. It is estimated that there are 127 million people who live near the Atlantic Ocean on the East Coast. The density of this area is driven by major cities, including New York, Baltimore, Washington, D.C., and Boston.

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The centers of expertise of our modern scientific and technological facilities, financial networks, political and government support systems, healthcare, and the arts are present in this zone. The survival of the East Coast is paramount to the survival of America. Immediate measures need to be taken to mitigate the possibility of losing the East Coast. The scientific community and the New York Times and Pro Publica publications have covered all these problems in detail.

The immediate actions needed now fall into three areas.

First, The Corps of Engineers (Corps), which plays a significant role in managing our infrastructure and environmental challenges, should lead the first major effort. The Corps should begin reviewing and updating the country’s HUD Flood insurance maps.

Using the updated topography, the Corps should then complete a design of by-pass channels and other engineering structures to route flood flows around vulnerable populations. Because of the lack of historical data, a best-guess approach and the use of new high water marks may be the primary basis for this design work. It is recognized that some residential and commercial properties may be lost.

Second, the next COE effort should be in capturing the new atmospheric river flood flows and storing and piping them west to the Rocky Mountains. At this point, a detailed analysis should be done as to whether it is best to pump the excess flood waters over or through the mountains to the Colorado River drainage basin on the other side.

This water will then flow by gravity to the two vital reservoirs that supply irrigation water and hydroelectric power to the region. This effort needs to also involve the Federal Bureau of Reclamation, which is responsible for the Glen Canyon Dam and Hoover Dam’s power stations, and Lake Powell and Lake Mead, their associated reservoirs.

Finally, the Corps, the Federal and State Departments of Transportation (DOTs), and NOAA should begin the preliminary engineering evaluations for using Rt. 95 as a flood control levee stretching from Florida to Maine. Other engineering facilities, like sheeting and flood control pump stations, will also be needed to address sea level rises near major cities, as has been done in Boston and New Orleans.

As fantastic as these projects sound, they are never the less critical to our country’s survival and will require the highest support possible from United States elected officials. We have no time to argue about these immediate measures and we also need to see that global warming does not get worse.

A divided country, in the battle against global warming at this point, will seal our fate for the worse.