As farmers across the US stagger under the worst drought since at least the 1980s and as climate scientists are showing that global warming was the primary cause for this drought and will result in even worse droughts to follow, one has to wonder who really has the best interests of the United States at heart.
Conservatives have tended to align themselves with fossil fuel special interests, seeking political funding and support from a vast array of special interest and lobbying firms aligned with these groups. And much political effort on the part of conservative politicians and think tanks has been spent on degrading or denying the impact of climate change in the public mind. These efforts have been aimed largely at reducing costs, lowering taxes, and increasing subsidies for fossil fuel extraction industries and efforts. And the result has been an ever increasing volume of carbon dioxide pumped into our atmosphere.
And as we can see from the drought, fires, sea ice melt, and increasing instances of extreme weather, this carbon dioxide is exacting a devastating economic toll. Hundreds of homes burned, millions without power, tens of thousands losing well water and forced to ship in water to make up the difference, vast areas of crops lost, greatly increased cooling costs, hundreds of millions of trees lost. These are just a few of the impacts that can be linked to human caused climate change and their cost can be measured, not in billions, but in tens and likely hundreds of billions of dollars. The result is that each barrel of oil is likely costing us between 50 and 100 dollars extra in added weather and extreme climate damage. And this global warming tax foisted on the rest of us by the free-wheeling fossil fuel interests has a major impact on our country’s ability to function.
According to Munich Re, $10 billion dollars in damage was caused to insured assets in the US due to extreme weather events during the first half of this year alone. And that doesn’t include the massive damage to crops, fish, forests and wildlife. Nor does it include the increasing threat of world hunger due to climate change induced drought, or the increased cost to American families who must now purchase their food at higher prices. Nor does it include the cost to many Americans in the midwest who are now forced to ship water in because their wells ran dry.
Overall, and added all together, this is a staggering loss. But if we are to believe the scientists, those scientists like James Hansen whose predictions for climate change have been accurate, if slightly conservative, thus far, then what we are seeing now is only the tip of the iceberg. Within 30 years, according to a more recent nature report, summers like this year could be occurring each year, with extreme events looking like something we’ve never experienced before. In short, if you think this summer was bad, hold on to your hats, because things are bound to get much worse.
In this country, many people seem concerned about external threats to US national security. But the loss of tens and hundreds of billions of dollars as a result of damage caused by climate change month after month, year after year, is a persistent impact far exceeding that of any typical war. It is an event in which we have riled nature to the point where she consistently and with ever greater frequency turns on us. If this is not a clear, present, and increasing danger, then it is difficult to say what it.
We have known, for years, that policy solutions for reducing and eventually eliminating the harm caused by global warming were at hand. But we have consistently refused to use those tools in favor of the assurances given us by fossil fuel special interests. Now, during one of the worst extended severe weather events in US history, it is time to reassess those policies. It is high time that we brought funding and incentives to increase use of alternative energy supplies: wind, solar, electrical vehicles. It is high time we brought taxation measures into effect that limit and reduce the use of fossil fuels. And it is high time we took the world stage as leaders in a transition away from carbon-based fuels rather than as antagonists who continue to do damage to the world’s climate system.
Many have painted this choice with the brush of ‘ceding US leadership.’ But the real cessation of US leadership will occur when the heartland dries out and US agriculture withers. The real loss of US leadership is happening now as we make the choice not to employ US workers in an expanding alternative energy industry. The real decline is happened as we shackle ourselves to fuels that will wreck the environment and abandon us through depletion and increased costs at our moment of greatest economic need.
The choice to turn away from fossil fuels couldn’t be clearer. And the time for this, if it wasn’t yesterday, is certainly now. Now. Now is the time to make a concerted path away from the carbon era. This is no longer a choice for saving our grandchildren, our children. It is a choice to save our own futures and it is high time we rose to the challenge.