Back in 1985 when I published Nature’s End, my publisher arranged a news conference in Washington. The environmental reporters who showed up mostly scoffed at the warnings in the book. It predicted terrible fires, catastrophic droughts and pollution emergencies among other things, set in the context of a science fiction story. It was set in the year 2020. My co-author James Kunetka and I had called it with heartbreaking accuracy. We were ignored.
In 1999, Art Bell and I published Superstorm. When we went on the Today show, Matt Lauer scoffed at us. Al Gore preached slow climate change. In fact, that was the mantra of the environmental movement at the time. It was wrong then and it’s wrong now. We are in an absolutely urgent climate crisis. In fact, even the president has recently admitted that global warming is real–but then said that there’s nothing to be done about it. In other words, we shouldn’t try to save the lives of the young people of this world.
The Master of the Key, whose comments about global warming led to the writing of Superstorm, also said that "sin is denial of the right to thrive." At this point in human history, there could be no greater sin than global warming denial. It is a sin and a crime both against humanity and against all life on this planet.
The danger of global warming is not a recent discovery. In fact, one of the world’s leading global warming deniers, the Exxon Corporation, understood back in the 1970s what would happen. Internal documents their scientists created at the time make this crystal clear. But instead of doing the responsible thing, as was recommended internally, they chose to become the foundational resource for global warming denial.
Global warming denial is and always has been about one thing: greed–make money now and let the children die. That’s the stark truth of it. But now those children are no longer living in some distant future. Climate change is here and the danger is with us right now and our kids who are growing up right this moment are in direct jeopardy.
As I write this, a terrible hurricane is hitting the Florida panhandle. It will cause great destruction and certain loss of life, and each and every global warming denier bears a degree of personal responsibility for that suffering and all of the suffering that the climate upheaval that is going on now is causing and will cause. There’s no getting around it: voting for climate change and global warming deniers requires that you take personal responsibility for the suffering that these greedy liars have caused and are causing.
If Exxon, back in the 1970s, had cast its corporate vote on behalf of the human future and the political world had followed with the kind of action that could have been accomplished then, Hurricane Michael would not be as intense right now, and might not be there at all. As I have been warning since before Katrina, the Gulf of Mexico is dangerously warm and when storms enter it, they are highly likely to turn into monsters, as is happening right now.
Because the deniers chose to spread lies in the service of greed, a whole lot of suffering is going to come upon us. Had a great corporation like Exxon–or any number of others–taken action, the politicians would have followed. Instead, they filled the political coffers of the deniers and spread the pernicious lie that there is some kind of debate involved here. There is no debate and never has been. Nature is numbers and the numbers tell a very clear story. It is that weather chaos is going to continue and get worse and worse until this place is going to become unlivable.
So, what can be done? Actually, a lot, but it is going to take real leadership and on planet Earth, that starts with the United States. The pressure put on money-hungry politicians by big oil, big coal and too many others has caused this country to fail in its essential leadership role, until we have reached the sinful, evil and false proposition: yes, global warming is real but there’s nothing we can do about it.
Technologies that would remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere are a possibility, but there has been little research into how to do this. There needs to be much more. At the same time, we need to get much more aggressive about reducing our emissions worldwide. There has to be a new and more urgent level of international co-operation. But without American leadership, it simply will not happen. Like it or not, this country is the leader of the world and it needs to accept that reality. Moreover, the corporate world must stand up and take active responsibility. Companies like Exxon and the others that have led the global warming denial parade need to face up to what they have done and what they are responsible for and proactively join the effort to save this planet and this species.
Right now in this country, what we have is a lunatic effort to help the coal industry while harming the solar industry. Why? For only one reason: greed. Or is it deeper? Is there some sort of wish that a whole lot of people die on this planet? I’ve been the subject of too many conspiracy theories to take them very seriously, but I can imagine that some sort of cabal of super wealthy might imagine that the third world will be the most damaged, and want that to happen.
The third world, however, which has much simpler infrastructure, is more durable than the first. Our complex cities are not so easily repaired as the simpler ones in poorer areas. In addition, both Europe and the United States are particularly vulnerable to the type of weather extremes that are emerging right now.
It is ironic indeed that the southern US is an area of acute vulnerability and also the world center of global warming denial. Uniformly across that entire region, the political leadership is in denial. In fact, if you take a strong stand on global warming, there are few constituencies in the south that will elect you. They and all the others like them have to change. That’s all there is to it. And now.
We are out of time.