Monday, February 24, 2020

Ever closer to the cliff
   I have a good friend who believes climate change is a clever insidious hoax for vague and shadowy conspiratorial motives, and he arms himself with various arguments in support of that belief. No amount of logic or evidence can convince him otherwise.

   This much is undeniably true: A hundred thousand daily global flights stitch contrails across the atmosphere, burning so much jet fuel it runs through pipelines to major airports like Atlanta and Raleigh in the southeast where I live. That’s a million flights every ten days. Two million plus coal-fired power plants everywhere belch their waste gasses, double the number that existed in 2000. There are now one point two billion internal combustion vehicles adding their exhausts to the noxious mix. That’s one point two thousand million vehicles. Electric vehicles are only making an insignificant scratch on that vast problem and even they depend on those coal-fired plants for recharging. Fifty thousand huge ships ply the global seas daily with their copious diesel exhausts. There are thirty-five hundred oil wells in the Gulf of Mexico alone, each constantly flaring off unrefined natural gas. Thousands of other wells and refineries worldwide add their pollutants. Seven point eight billion people are inhaling oxygen and exhaling CO2 constantly while slash and burn agriculture eats into the planet’s lungs. These are not conjectures, not conspiracy theories, not political rhetoric in support of this agenda or that, not skewed statistics, but are hard, unarguable facts, absolutely unprecedented in all human history. Add to this such events as gaseous volcanic eruptions and voluminous smoke from raging wildfires.

   Dozens of harmful happenings, many of them obviously mankind-caused, are combining to create a dire threat to human life, yet there are many who choose to think our fragile atmosphere can just go on absorbing this vast punishment with no consequences and that our dwindling finite natural resources will somehow never run out.

   We’ve been witnessing those consequences looming ever larger over the past several decades and they’re becoming too numerous and threatening to deny or ignore any longer. Are we crowding ever closer to the lip of a high cliff we won’t be able to back away from? If so, our children and their children will suffer for it.

   Cities like Beijing and New Delhi and Los Angeles are choking on their own smog while oceans choke on plastic wastes emitting more pollutants as they slowly degrade over years and generations. Ugly durable trash litters our roadsides everywhere. Recycling is only making a faint scratch on the surface of the throwaway habit. (My county has considered dropping recycling altogether because it’s so costly and inefficient.) Summers are scorching, and there are widespread persistent extreme droughts and more numerous monster killer storms every year.

   There are tragic global declines in wildlife. The World Wildlife Fund estimates 4,000 wild species have declined by 60 percent since 1970 for preventable reasons including climate change. The record-breaking Australian wildfires, some say exacerbated by global warming, have alone killed millions of creatures. Some are estimating half a billion to a billion.

   What will it take to fully wake us up to this unprecedented calamity, this largely self-caused threat to our very existence on our only shared home in the vastness of the Universe, and to take serious and adequate major actions to fight it?

   Look at it this way:

   If my friend is right that global warming is a mere hoax, then no harm will be done. It will simply pass into odd memory as the Y2K warnings did.

   But if the global warming alarm-sounders are correct, then we’re all facing a major threat to our very existence, and somewhere ahead there is likely a tipping point beyond which it will be too late.


p.s. One of the worst pressures on wildlife is ongoing poaching, and that’s why I wrote the novel Killing Ground. Please check it out on my website. A portion of proceeds will go toward elephant protection.

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