by Ralph Scharnau
Republished with permission
Reading the press, watching television, looking at digital material has brought the concept of climate change to public consciousness. Various governmental agencies, political groups, and the UN have also weighed in on the issue. Informal gatherings of people on sidewalks, in eateries, and at barrooms are further examples of places where folks share their climate impressions.
In various worldwide locations, the first weeks of 2020 witnessed mass evacuations, rising death tolls, and wrecked homes due to raging fires, devastating flooding, and powerful earthquakes. An overwhelming number of scientists, climatologists, biologists, and other experts attribute the devastation to climate change. Climate change also threatens World Heritage properties from archaeological sites to historic buildings.
The Pew Research Center’s January polling revealed environmental protection now rivaling the economy, jobs, and the deficit as a top policy priority. Overall, 85% of Democrats rate protecting the environment as a major priority compared to only 39% of Republicans. The ranks of those who prioritize planet protection include young people and women, as well as black, brown, and indigenous folks, especially those in neighborhoods with pollution-caused threats to their health and safety.
The United States, an international leader on environmental issues, has, in the past three years, become an outlier. The Trump administration undermines the search for ways to create a more sustainable and healthier planet. The president has unleashed an unprecedented assault on our environment and the health of our communities. His policies threaten our climate, air, water, public lands, wildlife, and oceans.
Trump seems determined to weaken, rollback, or even eliminate measures designed to safeguard the environment. Environmental preservation laws have been sacrificed on the altar of corporate greed and profits. Development plans by corporations are expedited while public input is restricted.
Trump’s budgets ignore or cut environmental spending. While he castigates his critics as misguided miscreants, most experts and advocates agree that Trump is our worst environmental president. And a number of states, counties, and cities have responded with their own protective statutes.and legal briefs.
Today stories of global climate change include loss of sea ice and shrinking glaciers, shifts in plant and animal ranges, more intense heat waves and droughts, and devastating floods and hurricanes Without adaptation and mitigation efforts, risks to health, food security, economic growth, and human mortality rates will increase. Indigenous people, the poor, and people who depend on agriculture and coastal livelihoods like fishing or tourism will face dire consequences. As a result of these factors, migration and refugees become more widespread, creating a massive international humanitarian and security crisis.
It is telling that Greta Thunberg, a 16-year-old Swedish climate activist, was named Time magazine’s person of year for 2019. She became a riveting voice for urgent environmental action on the most compelling issue facing the planet. President Trump mocked her by calling Times’ selection ridiculous and suggested she take anger management classes.
Despite Trump’s trademark bullying tactic, each year that humankind dumps more carbon into the atmosphere makes our global home less habitable. Our biggest immediate challenge is negotiating the scientific reality of climate change with global political uncertainty.
The earth is more than a globe to be surveyed or developed. It is the home of our human family Sustaining the planet means analyzing jobs, productivity, and wages, but also capital, profits, and earnings. We need mutually reinforcing goals of economic growth, environmental protection, and social equity. This requires reducing disparities in education, opportunity, and environmental risk. We have to link economic growth, environmental protection, and social equity.
February 27, 2020