By now everyone in the US has heard the words climate change and global warming. It seems that the overwhelming evidence holds that it is happening, and we have only a short time to do something about it to avoid a global disaster. The vast majority of scientists around the world and in our own nation have come to the conclusion that it is happening due to continued use of fossil fuels by humans, which is damaging the atmosphere with excessive carbon, causing the warming.
The curious thing is that, despite the overwhelming evidence, there is a consistent percentage of people who deny that it is a fact. Those who deny it are led by our denier-in-chief Donald Trump. He has been very vocal that he simply does not believe it. His denial is based solely on his ego and the belief that he has some supreme authority and people should just believe his opinion.
His position reminds me of the old joke about the man who was caught cheating by his wife. His denial to her was, “Who are you going to believe, me or your lying eyes?” So those who follow Trump blindly may continue to believe what they are told without question by their authoritarian leader. Well, our eyes can see the damaging results of fossil fuel pollution and the resultant warming.
Rather than continuing to concentrate on all of the effects of carbon pollution, maybe we should try to understand what it is about American culture that causes such skepticism about the harm it is doing. The entire argument against doing something about it comes from the fossil fuel industry. Their argument is the same as the tobacco industry presidents who testified before Congress and swore that smoking cigarettes was not harmful to health.
The corruption of capitalism is that short-term profits trump the interests of the general welfare of society. There are other examples of that greedy approach, such as when the auto, gasoline and tire industries destroyed the red car cable system in Los Angeles to make the population dependent on cars. That resulted in air pollution, smog and respiratory problems. Now Exxon is trying to squelch a lawsuit inquiring into the company’s internal memos as early as the 1970s that outlined the damaging effects on the climate by fossil fuels and their decision to hide the facts from the public.
It turns out that in 2018 carbon dioxide in the atmosphere increased from the previous year for the first time after a three-year plateau, according to a story in The New York Times last December. But carbon pollution and the global warming it causes have come back with a vengeance. The Antarctic ice shelves are now melting more than six times faster than they did in the 1980s. A recent study has found the ice loss is accelerating dramatically —- a key indicator of human-caused climate change, this newspaper recently reported.
Related to the breakdown in Antarctica ice is the warming of the oceans, which last year were warmer than they have ever been. It’s all happening very quickly — much faster than previously recognized. Every year of the last decade was among the 10 warmest ever measured. This warming contributes to more intense hurricanes, destroys coral reefs, and causes sea levels to rise. It is also causing fish and other marine species to migrate toward the poles, leading to harmful disruptions to fisheries that provide food and a livelihood to hundreds of millions of people around the world, the LA Times reported weeks ago.
The warming compounds the problem of the increasing acidity of the oceans, which is increasing due to the oceans absorbing more carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. This results in more carbonic acid formation, causing an increase in acidity which is harmful to many marine organisms.
Back on land, California has recently had some devastating wildfires, which have killed scores of people and destroyed thousands of homes and other structures. A big contributor to these disasters has been climate change, which increases the chance of wildfires.
All of this was predicted by a recent report issued last November by 13 federal agencies that was buried in the news on Black Friday. Among the “chilling conclusions” contained in this National Climate Assessment was a doubling of the chances of devastation from wildfires in the Southwestern US due to heated and dried-out conditions caused by global warming.
The president’s attitude does make a difference. Climate change is not a politically correct fad. It is a matter of life and death for our children.
Louis Santilena and John Grula are Pasadena citizens concerned about climate change.