Thursday, November 10, 2016

Thoughts about the election results and climate change

I am having trouble following advice I hear to turn the other cheek, accept Tuesday’s election results, and move forward. I'm not sure where forward could possibly be. I feel like many people just don't get it. Hillary was not just our best choice; she was our last chance and America blew it.

During the campaign season, people discussed many issues: jobs, unemployment, immigration, terrorism, wars, and many others. In my opinion not nearly enough attention was paid to the issue which looms over our civilization and which dwarfs almost all other concerns: climate change.

People really are causing the climate to change. Global warming is already happening. The Arctic and Antarctic ice sheets are melting. Sea levels are rising. Ask the residents of Miami Beach. Ask the residents of low lying island countries.

If we continue without aggressively reducing our fossil fuels, global warming is going to get much worse and is going to be far more than an inconvenience. A significant part of the world’s population will be dislocated by coastal flooding. A significant part of our arable land will be unusable for farming. A significant fraction of our fresh water resources will be destroyed. There will be mass refugee, starvation, and water shortage crises at scales which the world has never seen or even imagined. The world economy will take very hard blows.

I was alarmed that Bill Clinton did almost nothing about climate change. He could and should have raised the alarm. I was frustrated that Al Gore wasn't elected; he could and would have worked hard to alleviate the problem at a time when it was more manageable. I was angry that George W. Bush again did almost nothing about climate change. I was very disappointed that Obama's administration took part in but did not lead the global efforts to decrease use of fossil fuels. Before the 2016 election I was struggling to avoid despair. I hoped that Hillary would do better than Obama and she would help us avoid global catastrophe.

Trump denies global warming is even real. He actually plans to increase use of fossil fuels. Reading his policy statements, I am convinced that his administration will increase the rate at which we move towards a planet so warm that modern civilization as we know it may no longer exist.

If you doubt this could be true, please read the Positions section of Donald Trump's web site:

He has no policy directly related to the environment or climate change. Indeed, if you look at his site's Energy page, you will see that he wants to open onshore and offshore leasing on federal lands, eliminate the moratorium on coal leasing, open shale energy deposits and encourage the use of natural gas and other American energy and reduce and eliminate all barriers to [responsible] energy production.

I have so far been unable to find any reason to avoid the conclusion that we are screwed. 

I struggle to agree with those who suggest we should follow our normal behavior and accept the election results, try to understand our fellow citizens' concerns, and move forward. I don't know what else to do, but the normal after-election behavior seems questionable to me.

A normal election chooses a candidate to govern under normal conditions. A normal election would have candidates who are reasonably well informed and have at least a passing interest in using science to inform their decisions. A normal election includes differing ideologies but does not deny reality.

This was not a normal election. We have an enormous global problem looming over us. This problem will require concerted international effort by individuals, towns, cities, countries, governments, and corporations. It will require understanding and using science. It will require those mounting the response to acknowledge the problem and inform themselves about complex issues. Trump is uninformed and actually claims climate change is a hoax.

Frankly, I believe that perhaps the best hope for the rest of the world may be for them to boycott the United States and refuse to sell us any fossil fuels because they know we will just spew it into the environment and destroy their chances of fixing the problem. Unfortunately, as Trump gleefully reassures his constituents, the United States has plenty of reserves and can become energy independent enough to continue to mercilessly foul the atmosphere.