WAMC Jan. 9
Steven A Leibo is the Sage Colleges Professor of International History & Politics
Let me see if I have this straight. The climate on our beloved earth, the only planet we know of in the entire universe with an environment capable of sustaining human life is seeing wild gyrations of weather, extremes of heat and freezing, flooding and drought, few of us have ever experienced and some folks still think all this is “normal”? I don’t get it.
And this very week, while genuine arctic winds seem to be whipping south into North America, in fact, doing so for the fifth winter in a row even as the southern hemisphere is baking in record-breaking heat waves people are acting like nothing is wrong. I just don’t get it.
And of course, all this happening while the science of climate change is entering its third century of accomplishments, yes, literally since the mid 1800’s when scientists finally figured out that our planet was heated not merely but the sun’s heat but how much of that heat was retained by green house gases… co2, methane and the like, all the way to today’s cutting edge efforts to understand how changing conditions in the arctic might literally be releasing arctic winds more violently southward precisely because of global warming. And people are pretending these extremes don’t matter?
They don’t call it the climate crisis for nothing.
No, I just don’t get it, especially when we already know, In fact, have proven countless times the core physical reality that the explosive growth of CO2 in the atmosphere is upsetting the heat balance of the entire planet while basic chemical analysis tells us that very increased CO2 has a distinct chemical signature that proves is origins in our obsession with burning more and more fossil fuels.
And yet some folks insist on wantonly burning even more fossil fuels while others insist on finding even more disruptive ways to get at it, literally putting in jeopardy the single most important human resource short of oxygen itself, water in danger. After all, we all know that hydro fracking, the effort to get at underground natural gas, a substance itself that is extraordinarily more powerful as a greenhouse gas than CO2 can and already has a history of poisoning underground water.
While the fossil fuel industry is increasingly embracing an even dirtier fossil fuel like Tar Sands, that nasty stuff that the proposed Keystone pipeline is supposed to ship across the entire county all the while pushing our entire planetary climate system into greater and greater extremes, bringing on more powerful storms of the sort that just devastated the New York metropolitan region or the central Philippines. Or, as we have seen in other areas, less and less water, growing blocks of simple desert from China’s Gobi to the American southwest.
Not forgetting the possibility, not yet verified, that this last week’s extreme cold, the fifth year in a row of extreme cold, however short-lived may not be just an example of a temporary cold snap but something more sinister, an aspect of a changing global climate system that is actually making this painful dip of arctic temperatures into the lower latitudes more likely.
All this going on while concerned citizens have rallied not only in front of the White House but yesterday here in Albany practically begging President Obama to say no to the Keystone pipeline and Governor Cuomo to stop prevent fracking in New York. And yes those leaders both of whom know the climate crisis is real have still not made up their minds. I just don’t get it.
I mean, do people really want to keep experimenting with the only planet we have. Because, while average folks might not understand the infinitely complex planetary climate system as some scientists do it should be obvious to all of us, that massive storms, rising waters, the ongoing rise in global temperatures, freezing winds —- literally extremes coming at us in every form imaginable all spell the truth about a growing global climate instability that may well be pushing our planet toward the sort of environmental harshness that makes the rest of the known planets uninhabitable to humans.