The earth’s climate is changing and as the leading nation in the world, the United States should be taking a leading role. Instead, we are being cowed by shrill voices on the right proclaiming climate change a massive hoax. They point to arguments made by the Heartland Institute, the Heritage Foundation and the American Association of Petroleum Geologists as proof that human activity has no impact on the planet and the climate change we are experiencing is a natural process.
Never mind that 97 percent of scientists have come to the consensus that climate change is real and is being driven by human activity. Even a study funded by the Koch Brothers concluded that climate change is real and caused by gases resulting from our use of fossil fuels.
Why are we letting such a small percentage of people, who are powered by obvious motives, dictate public policy? When did the outcry of crackpots take precedence over science?
It isn’t difficult to understand why entities like the American Association of Petroleum Geologists would put forward the notion that all is well and there’s nothing to fear. Their entire way of life, not to mention their income, is on the line. As Upton Sinclair famously said, “It’s hard to get a man to understand something when his salary depends on him not understanding.” And of course, there are all sorts of other entities that are inextricably entwined with our current energy sources and have no wish to see funds and efforts directed elsewhere. So they concoct lies, present them as truth and badger the American people into either believing the poison they spew or just giving up and crying uncle.
But here are the facts: as illustrated in Al Gore’s Academy Award winning film An Inconvenient Truth and backed up by the Koch Brothers funded study, the rise in greenhouse gases and the rise in the global temperatures are directly related. The rise in temperatures relates to the severe weather events we have experienced, as well as the rise of the oceans. For those who would deny the rise in sea level, one has to look no farther than the effects of Hurricane Sandy on the New York subway system. New York State, in a progressive move, actually made provisions for the rise in sea level, which according to some scientists has risen along New York and parts of the Northeast about a foot higher than it was a century ago. However, the severity of the storm overwhelmed the effort and we all witnessed what happened to the New York City subway system.
In terms of costs, climate change is presenting us with staggering bills. Sandy alone is estimated to cost anywhere from $20 Billion to $100 Billion in damage to property and lost income. The numbers for last summer’s severe drought are not yet completed, but estimates put it at least $12 Billion with the expectation that it will go higher. 2012 was also a record season for wildfires, with affected states spending tens of millions of dollars to combat them. As of August, Utah alone spent $50 Million fighting over 1,000 wildfires in that state. Colorado spent over $197 Million fighting 12 wildfires. Across the country, aging transportation systems have been adversely affected by climate change and the costs for improving those systems and making them stand up to the climate challenges will be more expensive than merely replacing the systems with methods and materials traditionally used in the past.
And that does not even consider the safety hazards caused by the fossil fuels that are warming the planet: refinery explosions in the midst of populated areas, oil spills that pollute our wetlands and waterways, fracking that despite assurances it is safe, is suspected in the sickness of livestock and volatile gases in well water, even earthquakes in states not known for having them. And of course, there are the health costs associated with the burning of fossil fuels, estimated to run $120 Billion annually.
The latest, weakest and most insane argument to come out of the right for using fossil fuels is that we are insulting God and the gift we have been given. To that I have this to say: The Creator endowed each of us with a brain and one would think that He expects us to use them, otherwise, what was the point? We have been given this planet as our home and if anything is insulting to the giver of the gift, it is those who plunder the planet mindlessly when all the evidence points to the fact that we are well on our way to making it uninhabitable for future generations. We have despoiled the oceans with petroleum-based plastics and oil spills, our air is fouled with the pollutants from fossil fuels and our fresh water supplies are at risk from the aforementioned fracking and droughts.
It is time to demand a national policy to meet this crisis head on. No more dithering, no more arguing over silly semantics and no more letting the uninformed and/or agenda-driven interests dictate that we remain in the last century. They tell us we can’t afford to change our oil-based economy. The truth is we can’t afford not to.
We are at a crossroads and it may already be too late. But we are fools if we don’t at least make the effort to clean up the messes we have made, take the gifts we have been given and care for them, for ourselves and for those who will come after us. It is up to us. The time is now.