Trump is Not the Issue, He’s Only the Distraction: Climate Change is the True Apocalypse and Americans Are Limping There Like Lambs to the Slaughterhouse
Anyone who doesn’t have his head up his posterior knows that humanity’s lease on Planet Earth is running out fast. Cataclysmic atmospheric warming, as a direct result of human activity, is the singular life-and-death threat the human race faces. That understanding, repressed or sublimated into comic book nightmares, is the reason why so many of our arts and entertainment narratives deal with apocalypses and dystopias, planetary disasters of all sorts: We know this. It’s in our dreams, our movies, and our books. Our time is running out, and our lease on Earth shortens every day in which we do nothing to change our ways. This knowledge is lodged firmly in our subconscious, even if the leaders chosen by our conscious self-blinding egos refuse to acknowledge it.
Our political and corporate leaders have known this truth for well over 30 years now. Our leaders simply behave as if denying the truth will somehow cause this reality to shrug and go away. It will not. No superhero can suck the greenhouse gases out of our atmosphere and our oceans. The aliens will not arrive to save us. The ‘rapture’ will give way to The Rupture, and our planetary lease will be permanently broken because we couldn’t be bothered to take care of the place.
Face it, folks, barring some apparently super-human course correction we are living in the last of the human centuries. Our children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren will be struggling with conditions those of us born in better (though careless) times would regard as unbearable and unimaginable.
What are the countries of the world doing to mitigate the disaster?
Making inadequate promises they fail to live up. What are our political and business leaders doing? Sticking their heads in the sand, on which they build their mansions of narcissistic self-absorption. “Vanity of vanities,” sayeth the preacher. “All is vanity.”
We have known about the science of greenhouse gases and global warming for a long time. The recent death of George H.W. Bush puts our societal self-deception into perspective.
The last Republican President with the semblance of a working brain, Bush helped create the ongoing governmental research project called the National Climate Assessment. The fourth edition of this assessment was issued (as required by law) a few weeks ago by the administration of a POTUS who believes his innate self-regard is a surer guide to policy than science, fact, or the requirement of an empirical basis for proclaiming truths about nature that Western Civilization has accepted since the time of Newton.
This latest Climate Assessment basically confirms that human civilization is doomed in the absence of what amounts to the political miracle of a worldwide crash program to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
In 1988, the year Bush senior was elected president, the New Yorker published an essay titled “The End of Nature,” spelling out the predictable effect of continued rapid greenhouse gas poisoning of the earth’s atmosphere. Thirty years ago, that is, anyone who could read was likely to draw the conclusion that rapid atmospheric warming spelled major trouble for that planetary ‘nature’ of which we are all a part and for all the natural systems on which human society depends.
The corporation in that day with the tightest hammerlock on the upper reaches of the American government, Exxon, had understood the seriousness of global atmospheric warming directly caused by the human burning of fossil fuels since way back in 1977, when one of its senior scientists told Exxon’s top execs that fossil fuels were driving up average global temperatures at a rate likely to produce disastrous consequences. Further research sustained this conclusion.
Five years later Exxon scientists told execs that “potentially catastrophic events” would require “major reductions in fossil fuel and combustion.” [https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2018/11/26/how-extreme-weather-is-shrinking-the-planetlink]
Exxon corporate execs did what corporate execs always do. They hid the facts and spun the issue in a way to keep government away from the problem, the public in the dark, and industry profits as high as possible.
Earlier this year the New York Times devoted an entire issue of its weekly magazine to a story titled “Thirty years ago, we could have saved the planet.”
Detailing the many opportunities industry and government leaders had to make policy choices to reduce the pace of global warming during the decade after scientific findings showed that human society was in trouble, the report offered this summary of the consequences of inaction:
“Since 1989, the global mean temperature has increased by one degree Fahrenheit. By 2030, the number of people worldwide affected by floods is expected to triple. Between 2030 and 2050, climate change is expected cause the deaths of roughly 250,000 people each year. By 2050, the Arctic Ocean is expected to be largely ice-free in the summer. By that same year, a million species will face extinction… By the turn of the next century, global sea levels will have risen by to four feet, potentially turning hundreds of million of people into refugees.”[https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2018/08/01/magazine/climate-change-losing-earth.html]
Those refugee numbers will spike even higher when croplands parched by rising temperatures can no longer feed us. In fact, world agricultural output is already on the decline.
These are impacts that well-meaning individuals cannot deal with by recycling more and driving cars with better mileage, or even electric cars. This is a crisis that requires a full national and international mobilization of human effort and resources such as that required to win a world war.
To plan, initiate and organize that sort of effort, a large representative democracy such as ours relies on its leaders. Individuals can neither study the full extent of a life-or-death planetary crisis nor provide a solution. That’s what governments led by elected leaders are for.
Our elected leaders have failed us. They go on failing us today.
Becoming President in 1989, Bush senior supported legislation creating the National Climate Assessment, a project that brings 13 different federal agencies into play. The fourth iteration of that Assessment was issued on November 23 by the administration of a POTUS who claims for political reasons not to see what the problem is. In fact, no one can be quite that stupid. What he believes is that it will be someone else’s problem long after he’s gone.
Frankly, that’s what everyone appears to believe. But ask the Californians whose homes went up in smoke last month. Ask the people of Florida, or Texas, or Puerto Rico who suffered similar losses in last year’s record-setting hurricane season. Ask the citizens of the Pacific island nations who watch their country washing away. The effects are already here, and they will inevitable get worse.
After a good start on climate assessment, Bush senior ran away from the clearly identified problem by failing to support a government mandated program to reduce greenhouse emissions.
He’s had plenty of company ever since. No carbon tax, calculated to reduce our dependence on fossil fuels and make sustainable alternatives more attractive, can achieve political traction in Washington so long as the fossil fuel industry retains its hold on government by employing its financial power to influence the public and bribe fossil-fuel friendly Congresses against it.
The environmental researcher and writer Alex Steffen describes the successful industry conspiracy to block efforts to reduce carbon emission as “perhaps the most consequential deception in mankind’s history.”
The consequence being, of course, the undermining of human civilization.
Cornering the stock market, or dumping bad mortgages on little banks, is child’s play in comparison.
Human beings survived an Ice Age that ended a mere 12,000 years ago. Perhaps a few of our species will survive the current man-made polluting of the atmosphere and consequential cataclysmic disruption of the climate to which we contemporary humans and our societies have adapted — i.e. a livable planet, which soon we will make unlivable. It’s a slender hope.
Bush senior’s son, Bush junior — H.W.s biggest single mistake — played his predictable dunderhead role in leading America down the garden path to environmental hell.
When world leaders woke to the looming global warming disaster and held the Koyoto Convention in 1997 — twenty years after Exxon scientists identified the problem — they reached an “accord” on limiting carbon emissions from fossil fuels. But back in these United States lobbyists went to work on our weak-kneed politicians. George W. Bush, a dilettante in every field he ever entered, surrendered his thread-bare political manhood to the evil mastermind and oil-industry stooge Dick Cheney, who cared more about oil futures than little consequences such as the future of humanity.
Cheney had a word with the newly (and falsely) elected President, and Bush junior obligingly dropped his election-year 2000 promise to back laws to reduce carbon dioxide pollution. In American politics, facts that get in the way of profits are simply made to go away. Now we are in thrall to a POTUS who does not believe in facts, except those alternate realities of his own invention.
Total political irresponsibility in the face of an increasingly obvious threat of catastrophic climate change continued until Obama — America’s last legitimately elected President; will we ever have another? — signed the Paris Climate Accord, committing us to do something. The agreement’s goals were not stringent enough, and most countries have already failed to meet them, but at least the Paris Accord committed us to an international effort to mitigate the worst impacts of a looming societal breakdown.
Ah, but this level of responsibility proved too much for self-indulgent Americans to bear.
Our failing democracy promptly enabled the fraudulent election of a dunderhead and schoolyard bully, who straightway tore up the agreement and called for more drilling, digging, and all other means of rapid environmental desecration.
But global warming is not simply a ‘political’ issue and you can’t put all the blame on the current POTUS since a long string of lies, obfuscation, greed and political corruption have undermined action on this singular crisis for the future of humanity for a clearly documented 40-year history.
It’s a problem that won’t go away, because facts don’t. Since we can’t go back in time and change things — the only truly satisfying intellectual solution is time-travel; a theme on which we also keep getting screen and literary narratives — the only thing we can do now is kick away the obstructions and distractions.
De Trompe, whose government is all obstruction and distraction, certainly has to be yanked off stage by the hook of rational self-interest. His supporters have to be invited to resume their displaced humanity, if they can find where they left it. And Americans have to elect and support leaders willing to tell corporations and other wealthy funders what to do, rather the long-endured other way around.
I’m not sure our democracy is up to this job. Anybody know a good candidate for benevolent dictator?