By Patrick Hunter
New Year’s resolutions can be traced back to the Babylonians, according to Wikipedia. My resolution is to put more effort into putting a dent in climate change and global warming. And so, I’m starting 2017 by writing this column. By the way, occupants of the Fertile Crescent had their own environmental problems with salinization a few thousand years ago.
The consequences to our species for failing to stop climate change will be catastrophic. That’s not just my opinion. Last year, 194 countries signed the Paris Climate Accords. A total of 120 countries, that represent about 80 percent of global emissions, have ratified or acceded to the agreement. The leadership of almost all countries on the planet took this action because they realize the seriousness of the danger we face.
The Paris agreement hopes to reduce carbon emissions sufficiently to hold the projected increase in average global temperatures to under 2 degrees Celsius. We currently have an increase of about 1 degree Celsius. The world’s scientific community has projected several severe impacts from temperature increase:
1. Large rises in sea levels that will force millions of people to move from the coasts.
2. Reductions in availability of fresh water.
3. Reductions in food production, from land and sea.
4. Deadly heat levels.
5. More disease.
6. More destruction from severe climate events such as floods and droughts.
7. Destruction of natural resources and our environment.
All of these outcomes are beginning to take place even now.
President-elect Donald Trump said that he believes climate change to be a hoax. He has named cabinet members and advisors who say the same thing. Rush Limbaugh, the most influential radio host in our country, says climate change is simply made up; it doesn’t exist.
The Republican Party’s 2016 Platform contains the following statements:
1. “We reject the agendas of both the Kyoto Protocol and the Paris Agreement …”.
2. “We demand an immediate halt to U.S. funding for the U.N.’s Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) …”.
3. “The United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change is a political mechanism, not an unbiased scientific institution.”
4. “Climate change is far from this nation’s most pressing national security issue. This is the triumph of extremism over common sense, and Congress must stop it.” (That is, remove climate change from the list of national security issues).
Is the decision of 194 countries an example of “extremism,” or is extremism the destructive denial by the Republican Party and its members, and its financial supporters such as Exon-Mobil? Exon-Mobil is now under investigation for its ongoing efforts to conceal the truth about global warming. Their own scientists advised the company about climate change as early as the 1970s. The CEO of Exon-Mobil has been nominated for U.S. Secretary of State.
Solving these climate change problems is no easy task. It is true that millions of dedicated people are doing everything they can. Progress is being made. It is not enough.
There are tremendous barricades to fundamentally changing the world’s economy. Political parties (both our main parties), corporate mass media, Madison Avenue, the plutocracy of the super wealthy (that now rule not just the U.S. but virtually all countries), multi-national corporations, educational and religious institutions, and even government surveillance agencies are all playing a role in the global system we live in. For sci-fi movie buffs, we have to extricate ourselves from “The Matrix”. The alternative could be a future like “Mad Max”.
The task I’m setting for myself, with the help of so many others, is to imagine the kind of lifestyle we will be living in if we can transition from the fossil fuels and our “consumer economy.” How much progress will we see a year from now?
Patrick Hunter is a Colorado Mountain College sustainability studies student, Outreach and Education member of the Carbondale Environmental Board, and a member of the local Citizens’ Climate Lobby. He lives outside Carbondale.