During the last two months the word, “UNPRECEDENTED” was used a record number of times in American media and general conversations — and none of it had to do with Trump.
Rather, it had to do with unprecedented climatic events that unfolded around country. No sooner had ‘unprecedented’ Hurricane Harvey (Category 5) inundated SE Texas and SW Louisiana with up to 50 inches of rain, meteorologists showed three more hurricanes or tropical storms churning in the Atlantic or Gulf of Mexico. They said it was ‘unprecedented’.
Both Irma and Jose became Category 5 hurricanes — giving us three back-to-back-to-back Category 5 hurricanes — “unprecedented”. Between Harvey and Irma the following major American cities experienced ‘unprecedented’ flooding: Houston, Miami, Tampa and Jacksonville.
Meanwhile back in July the big weather story was in the Pacific Ocean. The story was underreported in the U.S. because Pacific hurricanes, known as cyclones, travel west, away from the U.S. and pose the greatest threat to the Philippines, Vietnam and Southern China. In July of this year there were 8 cyclones or tropical storms (at right, highlighted with yellow arrows) in the Pacific at one time! Not quite ‘unprecedented’, but it was the first time such an event had occurred since 1974.
Simultaneous to these massive rain events is what is shaping up to be a record breaking year of wildfires in the western U.S. The U.S. Forest Service has estimated over 8 million acres have burned so far this summer, compared to a recent summer average of approximately 6 million. Below (left) is a current map of fires in the West.
Above (right) is a chart showing the ‘unprecedented’ increase in large wildfires over the last 40 years.
As a student of science I feel compelled to give the following disclaimer: “The cause of individual weather events cannot be directly linked to climate change”. Having said that, after what we have witnessed the past 2 months, how can anyone in their right minds continue to deny that Mother Earth is acting especially bi-polar these days? Can we at least agree that this shit isn’t normal and we need to take this more seriously?
Climate scientists since the 1990’s have predicted, quite accurately it turns out, that the climate is changing at an abnormally fast rate; the main cause is from human activity; it will continue for many decades or more; it will cause sea levels to rise and global temperature averages to increase; which will result in more frequent and more intense weather events. (Top chart from the EPA).
Turns out that scientists are pretty smart. This is exactly what’s been happening. Not only that, but with a few days notice they are able to predict the general path, speed, wind velocity and rainfall for those hurricanes too. Just last month they predicted with perfect precision the exact time and locations for a total solar eclipse across the U.S. We should probably pay closer attention to what these guys are saying.
Unfortunately the U.S. leads the developed world in climate change DENIAL. Our federal government is currently controlled by science skeptics and climate change deniers and so are a majority of states. Our own President ran on a campaign platform of “climate change is a Chinese hoax!” and he WON. The U.S. is quickly becoming the “climate change pariah” of the world. How did this happen?
Climate change denial is, at it’s heart, part religious conservatism, part anti-government conservatism and part wealth-hoarding conservatism. The religious part holds that only God has the power to change Earth’s climate. The anti-government part claims that climate change is just a big government power grab. And the wealth-hoarders don’t want to give up their profitable monopolies on energy, mining and distribution.
Political climate denier’s have cranked out 3 best-selling rebuttals to climate change science. 1) “The planet’s climate is changing all the time. There’s been both hotter and colder times in the past. It’s part of a natural cycle, not man-made.”
2) “I’m not a scientist and the science on this issue is far from settled.”
3) “It’s another attempt by liberal government to expand its powers and control our lives.”
I am tired of tippy-toeing around climate skeptics. You know the ones I mean — who continually confuse ‘weather’ with ‘climate’ and on an unusually cool day in July they say shit like: “So much for global warming!” Or “If this is climate change, I’m all for it!” How many deniers evacuated their homes or stocked up on supplies before Harvey or Irma hit? Why didn’t they deny the science then? How many science skeptics bought eclipse glasses and watched the solar eclipse on Aug. 21? That science was spot on! But the science behind climate change is “unsettled”?? No, that’s called denial.
First, let’s debunk their ignorant rebuttals (above). 1) is partially true — the Earth’s climate does change, all on its own. That’s exactly why current climate change is so abnormal. In the past when Earth temperatures have heated up to current levels or beyond, it was caused by natural (non-human) conditions. For example, the last time it was this hot, 125,000 years ago, it was caused by a change in Earth’s orbit and axial tilt. Or, 55-56 million years ago, one of the hottest periods on Earth since its formation (see Paleocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum), scientists have speculated that the potential causes were natural — solar maximums, volcanic activity, melting of permafrost, changes in ocean currents due to continental drift, an intense period of mountain building, possibly a comet strike or some combination thereof. But even then, rapid climate change happened over thousands of years, possibly more. Our global temperatures have increased an average of 1.5 degrees Fahrenheit in the last 140 years. And the rate of temperature change has accelerated. So calling the changes in our climate “part of a natural cycle” is completely unsubstantiated. There are no known natural causes at work this time. The engine behind current warming is human activity.
2) This excuse is pure ignorance. You’ve heard this stat before and it’s true: 97% of all published, pier-reviewed scientific work has confirmed that A) Climate change is a real phenomenon and global temperatures are increasing and B) the cause of these changes are directly attributable to human activities, especially the burning of carbon-based fuels and increased emissions of methane and CO2. If you think that 97% agreement still gives you the right to say “the science isn’t settled” then, as Neil DeGrasse Tyson has said, “Anyone who thinks scientists like agreeing with one another has never attended a scientific conference.” To get 97% agreement on anything is remarkable and it means the issue must then be very cut and dry. It is our job as humans to use the best science available to make decisions about our future. We ignore the best science at our own peril.
If a politician says “I’m not a scientist…” thereby implying they can’t make a judgment call on science, then please ask them how they can pass health care legislation without being a doctor, nurse or health care professional.? Or how can they pass military appropriations with being in the military? Or how can they weigh in on public education funding if they’re uneducated? My god, this is the biggest wussy-assed cop-out I’ve ever heard. That politician is absolutely worthless and should resign.
3) There are certain challenges that face us which have national and global implications. Some challenges need a common directive and purpose that can only come from the federal government. In less acrimonious times, our federal government led the way to building the greatest military in the world; an interstate highway system that was second to none; a space program that was (and is) the envy of the world; a system of Social Security and Medicare that has benefitted generations of citizens.
Climate change is that kind of challenge. Private industry (especially in the Age of Trump) has made great contributions. But I believe that America’s future greatness will hinge on how we work together to solve the problems that climate change will create. To accomplish this we need a fully engaged federal government committed to protecting its citizens and infrastructure. The federal government can provide funding, grants, research, tax breaks and credits, resources, manpower and a common direction. Without full government engagement, I fear that the U.S. will lag behind innovators and visionaries in Europe, China, Japan, Korea and India just to name a few. American efforts will be second-rate and ultimately we’ll be paying or dependent upon foreign governments and corporations for the privilege of using their technologies. At worst, we will become both an energy and climate change pariah.
Yes, this means we will have to make major changes in how we live, consume, produce food, produce and distribute energy, transport ourselves and so much more. Sure, it’s quite scary and it means that government will have to enforce these changes to some degree. It is up to us to remain vigilant and informed about our elected officials and hold them accountable for their deeds in office. It would be most helpful if we had more than 50% of the voting population participate in elections.
There were times in decades past when America rose to the challenge of making the world a better place. Now is one of those times. It has been a long time since the U.S. government has lead the way with a long-term vision (that didn’t involve war) and actually saw it through. We must lead or we will falter. We shouldn’t view this as party politics or an ideological divide. This is an OPPORTUNITY to create a better, cleaner, more livable world. New industries will arise from the coal ashes. New technologies will replace internal combustion. There will be new jobs to build the new infrastructures and energy grids of tomorrow. But we must start now.
In the spirit of bi-partisanship, let us suppose for a moment that climate change is not man-made and therefore there is little or nothing we can do to stop it. We still live on an increasingly toxic planet. How do we provide adequate food, fresh water, energy (any kind), medical supplies and care, and shelter from harsh weather to 7+ billion people without raping and destroying our habitat? What price do we pay once our rain forests have been logged and developed? Can we continue to extract carbon-based fuels from our soils and oceans without polluting them beyond recovery? What happens when our oceans cease to yield sustaining quantities of fish and seafood? What happens when our precious aquifers no longer provide fresh water? All of these things can and will happen, maybe within the next century, whether or not we lift a finger to change the climate.
We are facing a crisis of our human habitat. It is here, it is real and it is now. If you insist on denying climate change, can we at least agree that we cannot continue to live in our present manner without creating profound repercussions that will effect the lives of hundreds of millions, conceivably a billion or more people?
I present our choice in simple terms: We can join, encourage and lead a global effort to fundamentally change the way we live that will open new opportunities, industries and technologies and is our best chance to sustain a reasonable quality of life for our children, grandchildren and generations to come OR we can shove our heads up our bums, go on selfishly and ignorantly living amongst waste, pollution, toxicity and frivolity until the balance of Nature culls potentially billions from the human herd without care, pity or remorse. What’s our best move? Bold, dynamic and visionary or head up your ass?
And by the way, just in case the upcoming showdown with Mother Nature sounds like the oft-forecast biblical End of Days, listen again. It won’t be a divine Apocalypse. It will not matter if you’re Christian, Muslim, Jew, Hindu or Atheist. There will be no rapture, no Kingdom of Heaven on Earth. Nor will it matter (for most) whether you are rich or poor, dark or light-skinned, American or Malaysian. Because Nature doesn’t give a fuck.
At this moment in time the best science we have says that climate change is real and man-made. It also shows that we are destroying our habitat (and habitat of millions of other species) at alarming rates. The ‘Sixth Extinction” (read The Sixth Extinction — An Unnatural History by Elizabeth Kolbert) some experts call it. If your legislator, governor or candidate for President denies climate science and/or disbelieves the dangers of continued reliance on carbon-based energy; or deregulating the pollution of our air, soil and water; then that politician does not have your best interests, your children’s best interests or the country’s best interests at heart. If instead they offer some version of the those pathetic excuses discussed above then they are either living delusively in the past or they are protecting the best interests of wealthy donors. In either case, they do not belong in a leadership position. They do not deserve your vote. November 6, 2018: VOTE THEM OUT. Or sooner it the opportunity arises.
Follow this blog for related upcoming articles on the Climate Deniers in our Government and Climate Change is just a Symptom, the real problem is Overpopulation.