September, 2004, has been a terrible month on planet earth. We have suffered one of the greatest sequence of storms in recent memory, with devastation from the United States to China to Bangladesh.
As I am writing this, the death toll in the United States is close to a hundred. At least a thousand people have been killed in Haiti, 64 in Grenada, and Grenada has been ruined as a country, with every hotel on the island damaged or destroyed, the electrical system destroyed and the nutmeg plantations entirely destroyed. Both of Grenada’s major industries, tourism and nutmeg farming, are ruined. The suffering in Haiti is unspeakable, as hungry and thirsty people wade in waters that stubbornly won’t go down, amid the stench of rotting corpses.
And Jeanne, growing stronger yet again, is expected to deliver Florida an unprecedented FOURTH blow this weekend. Meanwhile, Ivan has done the impossible, traveling as far north as the Carolinas, then backtracking into the Gulf where it now threatens Louisiana and east Texas with torrential downpours.
In Bangladesh this September, at least 800,000 people have been stranded by floodwaters and are living in waist deep water because they have no other place to go.
In the United States, vast areas of human habitation have been destroyed by three successive hurricanes, and damage, still being tallied, could exceed 30 billion dollars.
And this is just the beginning of what will be a decades-long problem that is destined to get only worse and worse. There are likely millions of people alive on this planet right now who are destined to be ruined and possibly killed by storms.
And do not imagine that they are packed into the third world where you can’t see them. Go to Florida or South Carolina or Pennsylvania: they are you. Or, if you are European, consider the 30,000 you lost last summer in the heat wave. They are you, also.
The reason for all this cruel weather is that the changes that were foretold in the Coming Global Superstorm are happening now. The weather extremes that herald sudden climate change are under way.
Last summer was one of the hottest on record. Now, this summer is just as extreme–in the opposite direction.
This flip-flopping between extremes is an ominous sign. Last summer, ocean currents drove tropical heat almost to the Arctic Circle. This summer, the currents that normally drive warm water northward have weakened due to excessive polar melt, resulting in the 16th coolest summer on record in the northern hemisphere and the 7th coolest August on record in the lower 48 American states. Meanwhile, carbon dioxide buildup in the troposphere (lower atmosphere) has caused it to retain more heat than it should, catastrophically preventing this heat from radiating into the stratosphere.
The result is that the temperature difference between the two levels of the atmosphere has increased dramatically, a dangerous process that has been going on since 1992, and has been virtually ignored. To see a graphic representation of this, click here.
The greater this temperature difference, the stronger storms will be. And it is getting greater every year. For this reason, we can anticipate more terrible storms of all kinds, storms that defy expectations, storms that cause devastation and suffering on a scale that has not been generally seen in the past.
You will never read this in the general media–in fact, they will do anything to avoid telling you this–but this situation is not a result of purely natural forces acting at random. Far from it, the increasing heat retention of the lower atmosphere is a direct result of human activity. It has happened because the human species is emitting carbon dioxide faster than the planet’s biosphere can absorb it.
And this is taking place because of a general lack of leadership among governments, most specifically those of China and the United States, both of which have consistently ignored the problem of emissions. Indeed, the present American administration has gone farther than indifference. It has proactively sought to deny the problem, and even undo what little has been done to curb emissions in the US. As such, it has become an engine of human suffering.
I have been amazed to see the American president visiting the storm-ravaged areas of the country. How much nerve does he have, this man who is among those most responsible for the fact that these storms were so violent? And if you assume he could not have been responsible after just three years in office, you assume wrong.
The atmosphere changes quickly as CO2 levels go up and down. If he had started his presidency with real leadership in the area of the environment, he could have been responsible for a massive reduction in emissions right here in the USA–at NO cost to business, just by encouraging the public to do the simple things recommended in the Coming Global Superstorm and on our Quickwatch page–recommendations that have been verified as valid by environmental scientists and were originally proposed by the Prime Minister of Canada.
So, like the presidents who have come before him, who have ignored this problem because it is not ‘sexy,’ Mr. Bush must take personal responsibility for this disaster.
As, of course, must the rest of the leaders of this world, who have, almost without exception, busied themselves with esoteric, unworkable large-scale environmental proposals while ignoring the fact that individual action on a personal level is the fastest way we have of doing what we urgently need to do, which is reduce emissions NOW.
China’s new leader, Hu Jintao, has declared a high level of concern for the environment, and the Chinese government has gone so far in recent weeks as to require Chinese climate scientists to view the film the Day After Tomorrow, based on the Coming Global Superstorm.
This is a good sign, but when will the rest of the world, including the US government follow suit? So far, the current administration’s record on the environment reflects the fantasies of ideologues. It has nothing to do with science. In fact, it defies science and reality, and we are suffering the consequences.
As this tremendous catastrophe gathers force in our world, and more lives are lost and property destroyed, and more human suffering is caused, the fact that it does not need to be this way, and that governments, corporations and individuals are responsible for changing it, cannot be ignored.
The American public has been curiously indifferent to the problem. The reason is that a flood of propaganda in this country has lulled us into complacency in the face of the whirlwind. Media propagandists like Rush Limbaugh and his host of howling camp followers, who have been screaming that there is no such thing as global warming, are responsible. Every short sighted corporation that has supported them with advertising, or lobbied governments to roll back environmental laws, is responsible. Every world government that has ignored the problem is responsible. And individuals who have preferred to believe the comfortable fallacy that nothing is wrong, instead of the hard truth that our backs are against the wall and we need to act, are responsible.
So what, exactly IS wrong? What precise mechanism is causing all of this climactic mayhem, and how does it relate to what we’re doing?
The mechanism that is increasing the violence of storms is the rising temperature difference between the lower atmosphere, the troposphere, and the layer above it, the stratosphere.
The storms that we have experienced over the past few months would not have been as devastating if the lower atmosphere was not retaining too much heat. But it is, and this is due to the fact that we are emitting too much carbon dioxide.
National leaders must accept the responsibility for encouraging what is needed, which is a massive, worldwide effort to reduce emissions, and economically fatal sanctions against countries and corporations that fail to comply. People with the power to be heard–the likes of Rush Limbaugh and his cohorts–must step up and admit their mistake, and start demanding that the problem be responsibly addressed.
We are facing nothing less than a planetary catastrophe, and a human tragedy on a scale that is beyond present comprehension. Mankind can respond, and effectively, on every level, from the international to the personal. And because we can, our responsibility to do so is overwhelming.
We need to declare war on emissions, and we need to do it now. Leaders and media stars need to declare themselves as generals in this war, and those who do not step forward must be rejected by the public for what they are: dangerous, irresponsible fools.
Billions of dollars and hundreds of lives have been lost. It will get worse and worse and worse, unless we act at once. Leaders who ignore this problem are not leaders at all. History will see them for what they truly are: undertakers.
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