It’s February, and the weather in Southern California, where I live, is delightful. Temperatures in the 70s, light breezes, and little to no rain so far in what should be our wettest month. It’s a terrible state of affairs.
All reputable scientists agree that we are living in a world with rapidly changing climate, and that a major, if not the major contributor to the change is the burning of fossil fuels, with release of massive amounts of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. Other contributors, such as the loss of forests due to logging and other development, and the effect of paved cities with heat retaining structures, also play a role, albeit a lesser one. Of course, it also must be acknowledged that climate change can and does occur as a natural event but, all evidence indicates, it’s not the major factor in what we are currently witnessing.
It is unfortunate that the term “global warming” has often been used as a synonym for climate change. Even though it is demonstrably true that the planetary warming is occurring, it does not mean that every place on Earth is warming at the same rate, or that extremes of temperature, both hot and cold, are not part of the process. That is why the term “climate change” is more accurate. 2014 was the hottest year on record for the world as a whole, but not, for example in the Midwestern U.S., which suffered a monstrously cold winter.
Unfortunately, we in the U.S. live in a country plagued by large scale public ignorance about science, and an unwillingness to see the handwriting on the wall. Somehow, ignoramuses like Senator James Inhof (R., Oklahoma), still insist that climate change is a “hoax”. Even otherwise intelligent people (some of whom I know and with whom I’ve argued the issue) refuse to accept the science. And then, there are those who either think their God will take care of the matter or that the Rapture is coming anyway, so there’s no need to do anything about the fact that things are going to get much worse unless we start addressing the problem now.
How much worse? Consider what’s in store for us, our children, and our grandchildren:
- Increasingly violent storm activity: This is already evident both in this country and around the world.
- Continued melting of polar ice resulting in rising sea levels: This will cause not only the disappearance of certain islands and inundation of coastal areas, but will force massive migration to escape flooding. This will cause increased national and international tensions. Violence is likely.
- Major threats to U.S. national security: A recent article in Rolling Stone magazine by Jeff Goodell describes the current high level of concern by U.S. military officials over the failure to address climate change. Loss of coastal bases (e.g., the Norfolk navy yard) will cost the U.S billions as it tries to build new bases. Loss of our major base on Diego Garcia, an island in the southern Indian Ocean, will markedly reduce our southern Asian presence and influence.
- Threat to U.S. economic interests: With Arctic ice melting rapidly, a “Northwest Passage” above Canada is rapidly becoming a reality. Failure to develop ships with reinforced hulls (including dedicated icebreakers) is already compromising our ability to be a presence in the area, one rich in natural resources and where Russia and China will certainly increase their presence in years to come.
- Loss of water: Increasing drought resulting from climate change will decrease potable water supplies. This will be exacerbated by pollution secondary to overpopulation and poverty-related poor sanitation, and by unrestrained corporate pollution. The end result will be a massive shortage of both water, itself, and potable water specifically. This will result in an increase in the prevalence of both infectious diseases and cancer, not to mention violence in “water wars”.
Congress, under the influence of ignorant, self-interested leaders abetted by the short term influx of corporate money, is not even beginning to face up to the coming realities. The Republican Party seems to have become a de facto subsidiary of Koch Industries, and Democrats aren’t taking responsibility either. This is all depressing and inducive of a sense of foreboding. I’d like to be optimistic, to think that Congress will come to its senses and enact measures to reduce the impact of a process already begun but still able to be moderated. Unfortunately, I see no signs of it happening right now.
About all we can do is continue to try and get the word out, to support and elect only those people to Congress who “get it”. But it remains that until – unless – the public demands action, it simply isn’t going to happen, and woe to our descendants, who will live in a world beyond rescue.