Global Climate Change Comes Home

There are many reasons to dislike Donald Trump. He’s an unrepentant sexual predator, who lies without remorse. In addition, Trump is a bigoted bully whose only moral precept is “might makes right.” Nonetheless, the most important reason to dislike Donald is that he refuses to protect our children and grandchildren.  Trump is obsessed with immediate gratification and. therefore, has chosen to ignore global climate change. Now it’s coming home to bite all of us.

If you blinked, you missed the October 8th report of the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) (http://www.ipcc.ch/report/ar5/).  It’s very disturbing; if we don’t take immediate action to control emissions, we’re screwed.  More about that later.

You may have not seen the IPCC climate change report because the mainstream-media focus quickly shifted to the fight between Donald Trump and Taylor Swift.  And then to sexual predator Brett Kavanaugh’s first day on the Supreme Court — by the way, he has four female clerks.  Or, if you live in the southeast, you may have been preoccupied with Hurricane Michael bearing down on the Florida panhandle.

If you’re among the unfortunates living on the coast of Alabama and Florida, I sympathize with your situation.  Perhaps, as your considering the hurricane damage, you’ll have a moment to reflect that you, too, are a victim of global climate change.  These days, that’s the pattern: people don’t pay attention to climate change until it comes to their neighborhood.

Every American has an opinion about climate change, but few of us rank it as an important concern when deciding who to vote for.  Instead, prospective voters focus on the near term: healthcare costs, jobs and the economy, or guns.  This is the recurring pattern when Americans ponder climate change: they decide it’s too abstract or difficult and they don’t do anything about it.   Unless you are fortunate enough to live in California.

In August, Quinnipiac ran a small poll (175 respondents) that asked: “Do you think the United States is doing enough to address climate change, doing too much, or do you think more needs to be done to address climate change?”  64 percent responded “more needs to be done;” the highest number since Quinnipiac started asking the question.  (And “doing too much” or “doing enough” were at all all time lows.)  The pollsters added a new follow-on question: “The wildfires in California are the worst in the state’s history. Do you think climate change is a factor in making these fires more extreme, or not?”  53 percent of respondents believed climate change was a factor.

In California, we take climate change very seriously and a strong majority believes that climate change was a factor in our fires.  A recent Public Policy Poll ( http://www.ppic.org/publication/californians-views-on-climate-change/) found that 80 percent of Californians view climate change as a serious “threat to the state’s future economy and quality of life.”  (California Democrats and Independents view climate change more seriously than do Republicans — only 22 percent of Trump’s Party see it is a threat; they’re more worried about Taylor Swift.)  Californians have to take climate change seriously; a recent report indicated that the frequency of major fires will increase by 77 percent by the end of the century.

In California we’re taking a variety of actions to stem the tide of climate change — such as limiting our carbon emissions — because we understand that  we don’t have a choice.

Meanwhile, the October 8th IPCC report indicates that the world is rapidly reaching the point of no return:  “We are on track to cross a key threshold of danger —1.5 degrees C or 2.7 degrees F—much earlier than anticipated: 2040.”  (A 1.5 degree Celsius increase is the point at which irreversible sea level rise, massive coral reef extinctions, and food shortages begin to occur.)  In California, this would increase the severity of fires and the probability of drought.  It would also increase flooding along the coast and raise the probability that salt water would intrude into the Sacramento-San Joaquin delta — an event that would have cascading consequences, threatening drinking water supplies and impacting farm land.

California is taking steps to deal with this and it’s likely Florida will join us.  The day the IPCC report appeared, Florida got news that Hurricane Michael was heading their way.  (On the afternoon of October 10th, Michael hit the Florida panhandle with winds between 115-155 mph.)  It’s the third major hurricane to hit Florida in the past 3 years.

It’s not Florida’s only global climate change event.  For almost a year, Florida has been beset by the “red tide” (https://www.vox.com/energy-and-environment/2018/8/30/17795892/red-tide-2018-florida-gulf-sarasota-sanibel-okeechobee ), which has killed: “At least a hundred manatees, a dozen dolphins, thousands of fish, 300 sea turtles, and more have died or washed along shores in putrid-smelling masses.”  The red-tide has become a factor in Florida’s election:  Republican Governor Rick Scott exacerbated the situation by cutting Florida’s water-management budget.

Meanwhile, the Trump Administration chose not to respond to the IPCC report.  When queried, Donald said, “It was given to me, and I want to look at who drew it… Because I can give you reports that are fabulous, and I can give you reports that aren’t so good. But I will be looking at it. Absolutely.”  Trump isn’t going to read the report and he isn’t going to lead an effort to protect our children and grandchildren from future harm.

Response to the IPCC report will have to happen at the state level.  In the meantime, move to higher ground.