A dry wetland near the editor’s home in Cocle. The water does tend to disappear in dry season, but it has been a long time since it was dry for so long. The birds and the dogs miss this favorite splashing place of theirs. Photo by Eric Jackson.
As the father of four and the grandfather of seven,
I very much wish that I did not have to say this
by Bernie Sanders
Yes. These are crazy times.
Trump will be the Republican nominee for president and is leading in most polls.
Earlier this week, I held a hearing with major drug company CEOs that showed, as part of our dysfunctional healthcare system, that we pay by far the highest prices in the world for prescription drugs and that many Americans suffer and die because they cannot afford them.
In Gaza, thousands of Palestinian children are starving as a result of the horrific policies of Netanyahu’s right-wing government while Congress wants to give Israel $10 billion more in military aid.
Three blocks from the Capitol, in the richest country on earth, people sleep out in the streets because of a housing crisis which exists in almost every city in America.
And on and on it goes.
And, in the midst of all that and more, the American people and people throughout the world are seeing the devastating impact climate change is having on their communities and their families with their own eyes. And please understand that everything that we are seeing today will likely become worse, much worse, in the years to come.
Just take a look around at what’s happening right now in the United States and around the world, and what scientists are saying.
As you read this, Los Angeles just finished a week in which is received of record amounts of rain. There have been hundreds of mudslides, 250,000+ homes and businesses are without power and the New York Times reports that the storm has “prompted millions of residents to stay home to avoid potential hazards.”
In Chile, the country is experiencing its deadliest wildfires in over a century. More than a hundred people have died. Like most wildfires, they are likely started by humans, but it is a changing climate that allows them to spread with a ferocity not experienced before.
According to NASA, 2023 was the hottest year on record, and also “millions of people around the world experienced extreme heat, and each month from June through December set a global record for the respective month. July was the hottest month ever recorded.”
And if that wasn’t warning enough, scientists are now saying that the previous high category for storms — Category 5, a category once considered extreme — is not enough, and they want to add a new category: Category 6.
In the past, a series of climate disasters and scientific pronouncements like these might have seemed like a silly plot in a bad movie about the apocalypse. Unfortunately, however, this is not a movie. This is reality. This is what we are experiencing right in front of us.
And, again, this entire scenario will likely become worse, much, much worse if the United States, China and the rest of the world do not act together to break our dependence on fossil fuel.
But let us take a step back.
How in the world did we get to the point where the very habitability of our planet for future generations is at risk? How did we get to the point where the lives of billions of people is under enormous threat?
You might think the answer is complicated, but the truth is that it is not.
The truth is that the scientific community, for many decades, has made it crystal clear that climate change — and all the dangers it poses in terms of drought, floods, extreme weather disturbances, and disease — is the result of carbon emissions from the fossil fuel industry.
As far back as the late 1950s, over 60 years ago, physicist Edward Teller and other scientists were warning executives in the fossil fuel industry that carbon emissions were “contaminating the atmosphere” and causing a “greenhouse effect” that could eventually lead to temperature increases “sufficient to melt the icecap and submerge New York.” That’s what they were saying 60 years ago!
But it is not just the scientific community that knew …
What we are also learning is that the fossil fuel companies knew as well.
Recent news reported by The Guardian showed “The fossil fuel industry funded some of the world’s most foundational climate science as early as 1954.”
The research, funded by energy companies at the time found “The possible consequences of a changing concentration of the CO2 in the atmosphere with reference to climate, rates of photosynthesis, and rates of equilibration with carbonate of the oceans may ultimately prove of considerable significance to civilization.”
Let me repeat that — as early as 70 years ago, fossil fuel companies were beginning to understand the dangers of carbon emissions and that the impact would be of “Considerable significance to civilization … “
But there is more.
Of course there is more.
In 1975, Shell-backed research concluded that increasing atmospheric carbon concentrations could cause global temperature increases that would drive “major climatic climactic changes” and compared the dangers of burning fossil fuels to nuclear waste.
Beginning in the late 1970s, Exxon — now ExxonMobil — conducted extensive research on climate change that predicted current rising temperatures “correctly and skillfully.”
The fossil fuel companies knew.
They knew they were causing global warming and therefore threatening the very existence of the planet.
Yet, in pursuit of profit, fossil fuel executives not only refused to publicly acknowledge what they had learned but, year after year, lied about the existential threat that climate change posed for our planet.
So what happened to the CEOs who betrayed the American people and the global community? Were they fired from their jobs? Were they condemned by pundits on cable television and the editorial boards of major newspapers? Were they prosecuted? Did they go to jail for their crimes?
Nope. Not at all. Not one of them. These CEOs got rich.
So, where do we go from here?
What do we do to make sure our planet is habitable for future generations?
First – We must defeat Donald Trump. There is simply no way around just how important it is that we beat him this November and beat him badly. If Donald Trump is president again, there will be no progress on climate change.
Second – At the same time, we must elect as many progressive candidates as we possibly can who will fight to pass a Green New Deal.
Third – We must hold the fossil fuel industry accountable for its longstanding and carefully coordinated campaign to mislead consumers and discredit climate science in pursuit of massive profits.
Fourth – We must demand action from the next Congress and during President Biden’s second term that transforms our energy systems away from fossil fuels and into energy efficiency and sustainable energy.
We can do that in transportation, electricity generation, agriculture and making our buildings and appliances more energy efficient. And when we do that we not only combat climate change but we create a cleaner and healthier environment.
Fifth – We must recognize that no individual nation can solve alone for its own people. It is a global crisis. It is an issue that requires the cooperation of every nation on earth. Whether we like it or not, we are all in this together.
As the father of four and the grandfather of seven, I very much wish that I did not have to say this. But the most serious challenge facing our country and the entire world today far and away is the existential threat of climate change. That’s not just Bernie Sanders talking. That’s what the scientific community is telling us in a virtually unanimous voice.
The bad news is that it was a set of human decisions that has gotten us to this point.
The good news is that we can now make the decision to act aggressively in combating climate change and prevent irreparable damage to our country and the planet.
We cannot go far enough or be too aggressive on this issue.
We are custodians of the earth. All of us. And it would be a moral disgrace if we left to future generations a planet that was unhealthy, unsafe, and uninhabitable.
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