Vox Populi: A Public Sphere for Politics and Poetry
If someone threw buckets of gasoline on the front and back doors and the windows of a home and lit it on fire in the early morning, those sleeping inside would likely perish, their escape routes blocked by the inferno. The arsonist would be hunted, hopefully caught, and face a long prison sentence if not the death penalty. Consciously trapping people in life-threatening environments, taking their lives, these are the most serious crimes.
Those who deny the link between global warming and the burning of fossil fuels are lying. This link is not a matter of opinion; there are no legitimate opposing arguments because the science is overwhelming. The entire scientific community, people educated at the same top flight universities that teach us how to explore the planets and create cures for deadly diseases, these climate scientists are warning us that humankind’s ancient obsession with fire is the undeniable cause of global warming.
Due to human activity beginning with the start of the industrial revolution, atmospheric CO2 has climbed from 275 parts per million, a number largely unchanged for 800,000 years, to a dangerous 403 ppm today. The last time that CO2 levels were this high, humans did not exist. And just as predicted by scientists over 50 years ago, Earth is warming dramatically. The month of August, 2016, set the 16th straight monthly record for global average high temperatures and 2016 will have been the hottest year ever, again. In February of 2016, parts of the Arctic were more than 29 degrees Fahrenheit warmer than “normal” for February, bringing them on par with typical June temperatures. This train of back-to-back records stretching over 16 months is unprecedented in recorded history and signals a long-term, dangerous transition.
Now, every year shatters the previous year’s record for global average temperature, and each decade is hotter than the previous, with no end in sight. This is the “new normal”. And this a disaster. Among many, the results have been increased droughts, increased coastal flooding, record heatwaves, fastest-ever rates of glacier loss, record global loss of polar sea ice, and worldwide crop losses from drought and flooding.
Global warming has only just begun and left unaddressed, will continue over centuries. We may in fact have entered a runaway state, where more warming melts more sea ice, causing the dark seas to absorb more heat and warming the planet further. Warming is thawing the Earth’s arctic tundra regions, releasing more methane gas. Methane is roughly 80 times more potent as a greenhouse gas than CO2, and will contribute to still more warming. Extend this ramp largely unbroken for 25, 50, 100 years, and the result will be clear disaster. Ongoing widespread loss of human life will be a certainty, due to unbearable heatwaves, crop losses, food shortages, sea level rise, and loss of fresh water. And this disaster won’t be temporary. We are changing Earth’s climate fundamentally, creating a dangerous new Earth that is not remotely as hospitable as the one we’ve leaving behind.
President Obama has been the first president to take this threat seriously, but Trump has promised to demolish Obama’s energy policy. Trump plans to withdraw from the Paris climate agreement, open more federal lands to oil and gas drilling and coal mining, slash existing regulations on fossil fuels, scrap proposed regulations on domestic drillers or “frackers”, kill the Clean Power Plan (which is President Obama’s plan to transition the nation to coal-free power plants), and eliminate or fatally hobble the Evironmental Protection Agency. Trump has no environmental plan, other than to set the clock back to 1950 and give the fossil fuel industry free reign.
The deniers of human-caused climate change are engaged in a deeply cynical strategy to claim ignorance and state that more study needs to be done, all the while raking in billions in fossil fuels industry profits at the expense of humanity. The tobacco industry used this exact strategy to evade legal liability for decades, killing nearly half a million Americans every year, and that industry still kills millions worldwide while pocketing hefty profits. Big tobacco eventually paid out hundreds of billions of dollars to US states for their fraud, but with fossil fuels and global warming, the stakes are infinitely higher because we’re talking about the planet. People can chose to quit cigarettes or never smoke at all. We can’t quit the planet. There is no escape.
Like most Republican politicians, Trump says he doesn’t believe in human caused climate change. He says it’s all a Chinese conspiracy to make the US less competitive. As absurd as this sounds, for Republican deniers, believing or not believing is not even relevant to them because their only motivator is greed. It’s the “I want mine” mentality. The point is, they don’t actually care. And because we all know what is at stake – the viability of Earth, the lives of many millions of people, the survival of countless plant and animal species – the actions of the deniers are in fact, criminal.
Just like professional arsonists motivated only by money, the deniers – the fossil fuel companies and their political co-conspirators including Trump, his likely new EPA director Myron Ebell, James Inhofe, and others – have soaked the windows and doors of this home we call Earth with gasoline, and they have lit the match. Humanity is trapped in their fire because we can’t quit the planet. And there is no escape.
Copyright 2016 Daniel R. Cobb