Fifty-four years ago, the President of the USA, Lyndon Johnson, received a report from an advisory panel of scientists that climate change was a threat to the world. On 5th February 1965, he delivered a special message to Congress on the topic. Silence.Tick, tock, tick, tock… Earlier this year the twenty-nine-year-old Representative, Alexandria Ocasio Cortez, brought forward her Green New Deal proposal and Americans seemed surprised at the bold demands it contains. It might be too late, folks!
It’s not that the USA is the only country to blame for the problems we face, but climate change is a threat to all living things on Mother Earth and, if we cannot manage the danger, we’ll all be toast. The last four years were the hottest on record, and yet we pumped more carbon dioxide into the atmosphere than ever before. We continue to ignore these facts because we are all too worried about our jobs, dividends, and pensions.
While some people play ostrich and bury their heads in the sand, others do think about the future. They know that the systems that regulate our climate, our crops and our existence are intensely inter-connected and are like dominoes standing on a table: once one falls, there is a cascade of other dominoes. Same with climate. When we pump CO2 into the atmosphere, temperatures increase, ice caps melt, the sun’s rays are absorbed by the dark earth rather than repelled by the whiteness of ice and the oceans warm up. Then things get terrible.
The last time there was this much CO2 in the atmosphere was over three million years ago. At that time the oceans were twenty metres (66 feet) higher than they are now and Puerto Vallarta was in no position to be a “puerto”.
The high northern latitudes are already feeling the effects of consistently warmer weather. During the winter changes in and around the Bering Sea, off Alaska, startled scientists. Rivers, which for thousands of years had frozen solid, melted and flooded. The sea ice, which allows the Indigenous peoples to travel and polar bears to hunt was so thin that both scientists and Indigenous populations are very, very worried for the future. “We expected to see situations that occurred last year but not for another forty or fifty years in the future,” Seth Danielson, a physical oceanographer at the University of Fairbanks reported.
Still in Alaska, statewide temperatures for March 2019, were 4F degrees above the previous record (not above the average). Most rivers melted out early; the town of Deadhorse (beautiful name!) was 23 degrees above average for the entire month and, for many days that month, the settlement on the shores of Prudhoe Bay was between 30F and 40F above normal. Imagine being Puerto Vallarta in March 2020, and, instead of enjoying a perfect average high of 80F as we did in the past, we roast at 115F.
Another climate change crisis closer to home affects sex. Sex of the sea turtles. The gender of a sea turtle is determined by the temperature of the sand in which the egg is laid. Because of the warmer sand temperatures, the ratio of females to males is now 116/1. That’s not good odds for the future of these beautiful creatures.
Why is this happening? Who are the World’s Arsonists? Well, in the USA, the giant fossil fuel companies spend about $200 million each year to lobby their paid politicians. In Mexico, AMLO has just authorized the construction of a new oil refinery. In Brazil, the new President, Jair Bolsanaro, is planning to open up the Amazon Basin to more mineral and agricultural exploitation. In Alberta, there’s a huge political push to approve the export of low-grade bitumen. Putin’s Russia depends on burning carbon, and Trump wants to “restore American energy dominance”. Why is it that these old, white guys don’t care if they are remembered as “The Planet’s Worst Grandparents”?
There is good news, though. Independent media do report on critical things happening to our planet; for example, 350.org, Truthout, and the National Observer are all worth following. But the best news is that this generation of school kids and university students is becoming better organized and is demanding change from political leaders. They understand that there is no point in going to school to learn useless facts so that they can get a “good job” in the future. They know that there are no jobs on a dead planet.