Millions of young people around the globe stepped forward on September 20 to plead with world leaders to leave them an inhabitable planet--a world not plagued by unbearable heat and catastrophic weather. They got a cold and deaf ear from our president, perhaps the most prominent climate denier on the face of the Earth.
It is not easy to ignore the evidence of climate change unfolding before our very eyes. The last five years have seen the hottest global temperatures on record. Last July was the hottest ever recorded. Ice sheets around the world are melting at an alarming rate, sea levels are rising, farmers are having their crops washed out by torrential rains, and conflicts over resources are becoming commonplace. And, we ain’t seen nothin’ yet.
Think of tropical storm Imelda, which surprised southeast Texas in mid-September with a 43-inch cloudburst near Beaumont. Just two years ago, Hurricane Harvey drenched areas of Texas with more than 50 inches of rainfall. Weather experts say that the warming waters of the Gulf fuel monster storms that produce these massive downpours.
Pentagon and State Department planners predict that violent weather events will lead to hotter weather around the globe and changing weather patterns that will result in torrential rains in some areas and persistent droughts in others. That weather, in turn, will cause major population shifts, widespread starvation, and desperate conflicts over water and land, all of which will pose serious threats to our national security.
We have already seen an increased flight of Central Americans to our borders, partly as a result of weather-caused crop failures in those countries. It will get much worse as global temperatures continue to climb.
Rather than taking steps to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in order to limit rising temperatures, Trump is stepping on the gas to burn more fossil fuels. He has pushed coal, even though it is more expensive than clean energy. He has attacked the stricter auto mileage standards so that families will have to use and pay for more gas, breathe dirtier air, and suffer hotter temperatures.
Trump has stuffed the agencies with climate deniers, hollowed out government agencies that research ways to cut down on greenhouse gas emissions, ordered the suppression of their reports, destroyed efforts to cut down carbon dioxide and methane releases, and refused to attend meetings designed to save the planet from environmental disaster. He was an obvious no-show at the G-7 global roundtable and played no part in the recent UN Climate Summit.
If global warming is a Chinese hoax, as Trump complains, why has he not launched an investigation to find out why 97% of the climate experts have agreed that it is an existential threat to life on Earth? If we phase out fossil fuels and spend several trillion dollars to switch to clean energy, only to find that the scientists were wrong, we will have cleaner air, a vibrant energy sector and hundreds of thousands of green energy jobs.
On the other hand, if it turns out that the scientific community was right about global warming and we simply sat on our hands and let it happen, it will be a catastrophe for those kids who demonstrated on September 20 to save the planet, as well as all of the rest of us. (I’m personally inclined to go along with the scientists, given the president’s record in evaluating Hurricane Dorian’s threat to Alabama.)
It is already too late to prevent the kind of violent and destructive weather events we presently experience from plaguing us thousands of years into the future. If we continue to blast billions of tons of planet-warming greenhouse gasses into our closed atmosphere like we now do every year, our children and grandchildren won’t have a chance. Tell our senators and congressmen that our kids deserve to have a life.
Jim Jones is a former Idaho Supreme Court chief justice and a former Idaho attorney general. His previous columns can be found at https://JJCommonTater.com.