One of the things President Obama talked about yesterday was global warming. Let me add a few comments. Global warming is about patriotism and whether our children, grandchildren, and the children and grandchildren of our fellow Americans will have water to drink or food to eat, whether their homes will be destroyed by hurricanes, tornadoes and floods, whether they will be refugees in our own country.
If that sound like too much we’ll go through that list – but serious as these are, NASA scientists have been putting numbers on the risk that the earth itself will become too warm for human habitation. Based on the science, they are making it clear to anyone who is willing to listen, that the point of no return is fast approaching. So, OK, let’s talk about the smaller issues.
Changing climate patterns make drinking water an issue by extending droughts and making new areas arid.
The warmer climate makes food to eat an issue by inundating other places with water that drowns crops, carries topsoil to the oceans, and exposes crops to new damage and disease. It’s not just the animals that are endangered but also the forests and vegetation we need.
The warmer globe threatens our homes by making storms more violent and frequent. So-called hundred year events happen now almost routinely. Twentieth century flood control measures are proving woefully inadequate to more serious storms and flooding.
Rising oceans will make tens of millions of Americans refugees. If you’re sitting on higher ground, think of the refugees who will be camped on your doorstep – if they’re so polite as to camp. Natural disasters can change the rules as people struggle to survive. For millennia, the search for food, water and land was a constant source of invasion, war, murder and rape.
Higher ground may not be habitable either. There may not be drinkable water on that high ground and the homes may have been destroyed by storms.
As the earth warms up, we are threatened with new forms of diseases for which we don’t have immunity. As Native Americans were decimated by smallpox, brought to these shores by European settlers, we too will face devastating pandemics made possible by new higher temperatures.
It’s difficult to get our minds around the enormity of the problems created by global warming. But the old cliche of crossing the bridge when we get there is totally misleading. As we start seeing the problems in our own back yards, and come to understand that the droughts, storms, floods and diseases are not just random acts, but all related to global warming, it will be too late to stop them. The only way to stop global warming is to take forceful action – now.
I own a Prius but that won’t stop global warming. Stopping global warming requires government action. Governments were created to take care of the problems we couldn’t solve individually. None of us can sit out global warming. There are some whose attitude is to let the deluge come once they’re gone. They cannot be allowed to hurt the rest of us and our children. We all have to share the effort to get this right. We all have to pay taxes and look at windmills and solar collectors. We cannot approach global warming like just another part of life – our lives and the lives of our children will depend on solving this problem and there is no time left for the politics of not-in-my-back-yard – the solution, if there is one, has to involve us all.
Dealing with global warming requires major effort. It requires all of us to be patriots and put our country first.
– This commentary was broadcast on WAMC Northeast Report, September 22, 2009.