Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Worse Than We Could Possibly Have Imagined

Those who took the time to study climate data objectively always said that we were putting the future of the planet at risk because of the amount of CO2 that we were spewing into the atmosphere.  We knew since the 1970s--if not earlier than that--that our CO2 emissions were raising global temperatures and the effects of this warming trend would lead ultimately to rising sea levels and more unstable weather patterns around the world. 

We knew all this, and yet collectively we did very little to try in a serious way to curb our wanton CO2 emissions.

But now the latest scientific data indicates that the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere has reached levels not seen in at least three million years.  You heard it right.  That's 3,000,000 years. 

In other words, we're failing miserably as a species to address the single most important issue facing our planet today.  We selfishly thought, perhaps, that climate change was a problem that the next generation would have to deal with, because the more dire impacts of climate change wouldn't be felt for some time.  But the new data indicates that climate change is our problem and it has to be addressed right now.  Actually this problem really needed to be addressed thirty years ago, but our selfish human tendency to want to live as though there were absolutely no consequences  to our voracious exploitation of the earth's resources got in the way of sensible action that could have been taken on this issue.

We can certainly blame conservatives, who have spent the last twenty years acting as shills for the gas and oil industry and who have spread doubts about the reality of climate change.  But most Democrats have lacked the courage to act decisively on this issue when they controlled the White House and Congress.  President Obama may have mentioned the dangers of climate change once or twice in the five years that he's been President, but he has been too timid to even raise the issue of a carbon tax--the most effective way to control carbon emissions.

Let's not forget that we Americans have been the largest emitters of CO2 for some time, even if the Chinese are now surpassing us.  It's our consumptive way of life that is the cause of the problem. But rather than trying to live in greater harmony with nature, we have instead gleefully spread our American style of consumerism to the rest of the planet. 

I wish that I could say that this new milestone will be exactly the kind of impetus that our elected officials need to begin working to place caps on carbon emissions, but I know almost for certain that this won't be the case.   Human beings are certainly capable of acting cooperatively and rationally when their interests are in jeopardy, but it takes our species a long time to get around to doing what's right.

And time right now is a luxury that we simply don't have.

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