Michael A. Cody: The rising costs of climate denial and what to do about it

  • Published in Letters

To the editor:

When it comes to the increasingly pressing environmental issue of global warming or catastrophic climate change, the shortsighted, obstructive, tactics of the fossil fuel industry and their political puppets are hardly surprising.

However, the continued refusal to understand and accept what far too many experts now recognize as a very grave, and immediate, threat to all life (let alone modern civilization) is now much worse than a farce.

Deny all you wish, this is the world’s “inconvenient” reality:

The last time Earth’s atmospheric levels of “greenhouse gases” such as carbon dioxide and methane (currently “rising with a bullet”) were this high was eons ago, when the planet was much warmer and we silly humans were not even around yet. Wanna go back there? I sure don’t. Who in their right mind would?

But the hard truth is the planet’s temperature is now trying to “catch up,” and the latest predictions are that it wants to do so within a few decades at most (ouch!). The past three years has been the “hottest on record,” and this year show no sign of letting up.

So, just how much heat is coming back our way due to fossil fuel emissions since the 1970s? The equivalent of roughly 4.5 billion Hiroshima bombs, currently twice that of the ’70s, almost four per second (tick, tick, tick …).

As a result, the world’s oceans are already overheated and far too acidic. Marine life is collapsing, forests are in decline, and wildfires are increasing (adding on to deforestation for settlement, agriculture and industry).

The poles are indeed melting, the Arctic at a particularly astonishing rate. Arctic sea ice is at an all-time low, Greenland’s ice sheet is collapsing, and the super potent greenhouse gas methane (which breaks down into carbon dioxide within a decade) is increasingly spewing from thawing permafrost and tundra (especially in Siberia), effectively “piling on” to releases from fracking, gas industry accidents and agriculture.

The Arctic’s astounding warm-up has greatly diminished the temperature differential between the North Pole and the equator, thus weakening the Northern Hemisphere’s Jet Stream and allowing for the abnormal, stuck, weather patterns that are already wreaking havoc with crops, infrastructure, and private property.

Antarctic Sea Ice is now also in rapid decline, and ever larger chunks of glacial ice are breaking free from the Antarctic mainland and continental shelf.

Thinner ice and diminished snow cover at the poles means they are not nearly as bright as they used to be. They now reflect less and absorb more solar radiation than at any time in at least the history of human civilization. They are becoming heat engines instead of air conditioners.

Given all this polar melting, it should be no surprise that seas are now rising at a rate that is likely unprecedented in human history (notice the pattern yet?). The latest predictions are upwards of 20 feet by century’s end.

Simply put, the rates of change currently observed in the Earth’s climate system is already exponentially faster than any seen in the paleo record (which now goes back 450-plus million years). Natural cycles no longer apply due to the excessive heat, carbon and ecosystem damage industrial society has caused.

All of this (and more) is why numerous top scientists (all of whom have friends, families and solid reputations) are now literally screaming about a “planetary emergency.” They insists that serious global emissions reductions and far better stewardship practices must begin soon (very good ideas, long overdue). That a safe and effective way to “recapture” excess atmospheric carbon must be found (not to mention deal with nuclear wastes, especially at coastal nuclear plants). And that it is now imperative to engineer a “cool down” of the Arctic (no kidding!).

So what now?

Do we continue to go along with global warming and climate-change deniers, whose “worm-tongue” claims are more false (and immoral) with each disastrous new day? With those heavily invested in fossil fuels and petrochemicals, and resisting innovation? With somewhat reassuring, but now seriously underestimated/outdated, predictions from past decades? With religious extremists who believe the Earth is younger than the written word (yet have no problems taking advantage of all the products of science)? With our overconsuming habits?

Do we simply take our chances with an “On The Beach” (or, at best, “Beyond Thunderdome”) scenario, despite what so many experts are saying?

Getting off fossil fuels fast doesn’t mean we “have to give up everything.” Not doing so assuredly will.

Maximizing efficiency, hemp instead of GMO corn, the latest in local solar, and “thinking global/being local,” are “no-brainers.” There are also promising, high-tech, methods for “carbon capture” just being introduced. Several methods exist that could help “re-cool” the Arctic.

This all needs serious attention by some type of international tribunal (the United Nations Security Council comes to mind). Because to deal with the climate threat we all now face, far more cooperation will be necessary at a time when everyone seems to be at each other’s throat.

Maybe the worst predictions are true, and it is already too late to stave off collapse.

Yet, it would be such a damn, stupid shame to be touching the stars, and then horribly self-destruct due to ignorance, greed, waste, inefficiency, aggression, superstition and cowardly denial.

Michael A. Cody