Two separate but coincidentally occurring events could not have had more in common..
On Friday, Sept. 14, slow-moving Hurricane Florence, the product of a bathwater-warm Atlantic Ocean, started carving out swirling paths of destruction along the coasts of North and South Carolina, methodically doing what hurricanes do best — flooding homes and businesses, and knocking out power and other infrastructure, then advancing inland and drenching much of both Southern states with torrential rain. In the end, 37 people died, with an estimated $17 billion in damage done.
Also that Friday, the Global Climate Action Summit in sunny and warm San Francisco was in its second day, with Friday featuring speeches from such high-level Democratic leaders as former Vice President Al Gore, who won the Nobel Prize for his work on “An Inconvenient Truth,” a book and film about the devastation caused and yet to be wrought by climate change, and former US Sen. and Secretary of State John Kerry. It was Kerry who signed the Paris Climate Accord a year before President Trump pulled the US out of the global pact.
But it was California Gov. Jerry Brown who people — and many of the nation’s political and business leaders in attendance — came to see, hear and meet, although Brown reportedly only spoke for a total of 75 seconds, according to a report on the conference by the Los Angeles Times. But that was long enough for a defiant Brown to declare California will launch its “own damn satellite” to measure greenhouse gas emissions around the world in an effort to reverse global warming.
Brown may not have spoken a long time to the crowd during the two-day conference, but the governor had some 22 invitation-only meetings, including conversations with officials from four states and 17 foreign countries, according to the Times.
“He figures out where he thinks the world should go, then he tries to explain to people why and bring them along,” former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, a Republican and co-chair of the summit along with Brown, told the newspaper.
Was what happened in the Carolinas last weekend the result of climate change? Some say no. Other researchers, however, estimate the storm’s rainfall forecast is 50 percent higher because of warmer oceans and more moisture in the atmosphere brought by global warming, according to the website Inside Climate News.
“Tropical cyclones are nothing new, of course. But climate scientists say that global warming should make such storms wetter, slower and more intense — which is exactly what seems to be happening. And if we fail to act, these kinds of devastating weather events will likely become even more frequent and more severe,” columnist Eugene Robinson wrote in the Washington Post on Monday.
“Some headlines have reported that Florence is a warning of what is to come. But in reality, it is a warning of what has already arrived,” Michael Mann, a professor of atmospheric science at Penn State, wrote in The Guardian last week.
“Far worse is to come if we don’t get serious, in a hurry, about acting on climate change. We must transition away from fossil fuels toward renewable energy even more rapidly, and we must elect politicians who will support such efforts,” Mann concluded.
Here in California, Brown is intent on launching one or more satellites to measure greenhouse gas emissions around the world, using private funds to pay for the project, which is a few years off.
“We’re under attack by a lot of people, including Donald Trump, but the climate threat still keeps growing,” the Times reported Brown saying at the conference. Trump pulled out of the Paris agreement in July 2017 because he said it was unfair to the United States and would hurt the economy, The Associated Press reported.
“So we want to know what the hell’s going on, all over the world, all the time. So we’re going to launch our own satellite, our own damn satellite, to figure out where the pollution is and how we are going to end it,” Brown said, according to the Times.
If we can take away any hope from this storm and others yet to come it is the knowledge that Gov. Brown will not fail to act when duty calls, much as the federal government has chosen to do. But, with Brown turning 80 last April, and leaving office at the end of this year, what we really need now is other leaders who will at least try to emulate that fighting spirit during all the hot and rainy days ahead.