To anyone who has been following what climate scientists have been predicting for years, the superstorm that devastated the Eastern seaboard this past week was no surprise, unfortunately. It’s exactly what the models said would happen, and now, is happening.
This doesn’t make me feel proud, happy or smarter than anyone else. It does make me feel a bit sad and forlorn but also hopeful that maybe, just maybe, America will finally wake-up to face this challenge.
It’s not going to get any better. Already, another storm is brewing. With the Atlantic five degrees warmer than normal in some areas, storms can now become super-sized to cause more destruction than they would have otherwise. Combine that potential power with the ever-increasing rising of the seas due to the Arctic ice melt, and it’s a recipe for a never-ending series of disasters like Hurricane Sandy, one worse than the next.
The message can’t be any clearer — don’t mess with Mother Nature. She can be ruthless enough without humanity’s help, so there’s no reason to make her wrath worse. But that’s what the carbon and other greenhouses gases we are still pouring into our atmosphere each day are inviting.
But even in Sandy’s aftermath, we are still facing the same three obstacles to meeting these climate change challenges:
Fossil Fuel Money – As climate change activist and author Bill McKibben so brilliantly pointed out recently, companies and even entire economies have already heavily leveraged the massive oil, coal and gas reserves that are still in the ground but will destroy us if they see the light of day. This “bank” of fossil fuel money exerts a huge force on government to allow the release of that carbon into the atmosphere in the next few years. It waits for us like a junkie’s last hit that may finally finish us off.
Fear of Drastic Lifestyle Changes and Deprivation – Most people who still deny the fact of global warming do so because they don’t see any alternative to the relatively cheap and plentiful fossil fuels to run our civilization. Let’s be clear — no one, including me, wants to suffer in the dark and cold with no modern amenities. But let’s face it, that is currently the way many New Yorkers are living at this moment, and that scenario may become the norm for all of us if Mother Nature’s abnormal strength continues to grow like some hitter on steroids. These folks don’t trust in the innovation engine of American capitalism to find a replacement for fossil fuels. Personally, I just can’t believe in this era of technological wonders that we can’t get renewable forms of energy up to speed in efficiency, cost and ubiquity to make a real and immediate difference if we wanted them to.
The Enemy Is Us – Americans like a clear-cut bad guy to fight. We had no problem spending untold trillions on defense during the years of the Cold War in our face-off against the USSR, and the same goes for domestic security and foreign wars to ostensibly fight terrorism in the wake of 9-11. But the bad guy in climate change, sad to say, is me and you. America has been by far the undisputed leader in spewing CO2 by large margins for decades until China, in trying to emulate our standard our living, recently surpassed us. WE are the ones who caused the worst of the explosion of greenhouse gases, and WE are the ones best equipped to finding solutions that will halt and reverse the course we and the rest of the industrialized world are on.
The only good news about Sandy is that the death toll was relatively low. But still too many people, especially the most vulnerable in our society — the poor, the aged and children — are suffering. To a longtime believer in climate science, this was all so avoidable. Now people, especially Americans, have to look deep into their souls and see what should be readily understood.
We created a problem and now it’s time for us to fix it.
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