The past few weeks have shown that world weather conditions are becoming more and more chaotic. This is happening because temperatures are rising in specific ways and specific areas that are consistent with global warming. It will continue to happen, and in the process powerful storms, changes in ocean and air circulation and extensive fires will also continue.
Unfortunately, the United States, which should be leading the world, is now managed by an administration that pretends that the problem doesn’t exist at all. Amazingly, the US president has even claimed that it is a Chinese conspiracy. The latest internet meme is that it is caused by some sort of weather control by a fictional “deep state.”
All of this is fantasy and nonsense. The truth is very straightforward: the addition of carbon dioxide to the atmosphere causes it to retain heat. This results in arctic melt and the release of methane from liquefying permafrost, which causes even more heat retention.
And yet you can also find fake science on the internet that claims that carbon dioxide doesn’t cause heat retention.
This is an atrocious and extremely dangerous situation. People are left confused, afraid and angry. Worse, the entire issue, instead of being something that is looked at squarely and objectively from the political center, is now the object of an ideological war between the far left and the far right, neither of which have anything very useful to say about it.
The right attempts to misinform the public into believing either that nothing is wrong or nothing can be done, or both, while the left uses scare tactics to try to extend intrusive regulation not only to industries, but individual lives.
Sadly, no president in history has been an effective leader when it comes to this issue, and the current one, Donald Trump, is not just indifferent to it as most of the others have been, he is an aggressively bad leader and the rest of his party is no better.
They deny climate change out of greed, because they foolishly believe that doing anything about it means regulating the industries that provide them with funding, and they don’t want to do that. Ironically, weather chaos is going to cause their preferred industries far more than they can ever hope to save by blocking efforts to reduce global warming.
In fact, the very marketplace that they treasure is doing a large part of the work weaning mankind off of fossil fuels. Around the world, even in the US, solar and wind power are replacing coal, oil and gas. This is not being done for environmental reasons but because new energy resources are getting cheaper than the old ones. This is why, India, for example, is scrapping one coal-fired power plant after another in favor of building solar farms, and why solar is now the leading new energy resource in China.
In the US by contrast, President Trump is doing everything he can to interrupt this market process. He is, for example, exploring placing tariffs on imports of solar panels from China, in an effort to drive the solar industry out of business here. Right now, this thriving industry employs nearly 200,000 workers in the US, while the coal industry he seeks to protect employs just over 50,000. He wants to help the smaller industry by destroying the larger. That is very poor leadership indeed.
The recent seasonal wave train of Atlantic storms, which generally organize off the Cape Verde Islands, has produced an unusually rapid development of storms so far, and one of them has become exceptionally large. This is happening because ocean waters are too warm, and that is a direct consequence of global warming.
Hurricane Harvey is also an example of the kind of storm that is going to become more common as the global warming regime develops. This storm developed quickly and grew extremely large because of excessively warm ocean waters, in this case in the Gulf of Mexico. Warm oceans are storm food.
In the case of Harvey, however, another factor was at play, which was slow air circulation. This, also, is a direct result of global warming. What is happening is that the northern latitudes jet stream is weakening due to the fact that the temperature difference between high and mid latitudes is getting less because the high latitudes are warming too much. This is also causing the Gulf Stream to slow down, further retarding both ocean and air circulation.
The public is not stupid. People can see with their own eyes what’s happening. But they will jump at any nonsensical conspiracy theory, any lie, that enables them to deny a problem that terrifies them and that they have been tricked into believing cannot be solved.
There are practical steps that can be taken that will retard warming and also harden coastal areas against permanent inundations, which are certainly coming if we do nothing. Among other things, we can create a new Manhattan Project to improve our understanding of how to draw carbon out of the atmosphere. This is a natural process that can certainly be amplified by technological means. But there is no national initiative, of course.
Just these two things would significantly improve the situation, but without leadership they cannot happen. Neither of them is ideologically significant, in the sense that they don’t further regulation or interrupt free market activity.
Global warming is no longer an issue we can pass down to the children and grandchildren. It is with us in the here and now,, and it is up to us to find moderate, thoughtful leaders from the center of the political spectrum who can protect this country and help protect this world. For it has come down to that. Either we do this and continue the wonderful expansion of prosperity and promise that we have enjoyed for so long, or we don’t do it and see not only our children’s futures destroyed, but also our own lives, now.