Halloween Eve – television and other media are filled with pictures of damages megastorm Sandy inflicted on the Eastern United States. Experts tell us that the storm is unprecedented, with New York experiencing ocean surge three feet above all past records, surge which has shoved salt water into the city’s underground transportation and power networks, shutting them down. Over the next few days, climate scientists will repeat what they’ve said many times before: the planet and its oceans have gotten warmer over the past century and increased the energy available for extreme weather events like Sandy. That no-so-gentle lady got the attention of millions who are without power and witnessed the most destructive storm in the nation’s history.
Sandy will, perhaps, erode the massive wall the American public has constructed against looking at climate change evidence, and of the even larger wall against evidence that human activities are the primary cause of global warming. Joe and Jane Public have it together like this: “I’m worried about the bills and my kids, and I don’t want to think about big things I don’t control which might make things worse.” Well, Sandy’s message is that climate change can make Joe and Jane’s lives more challenging quickly and unexpectedly. I think we’ll see vigorous discussion, based on Sandy’s surprises, from these alternative viewpoints:
1. The worldview that global warming doesn’t exist, that talk about is is part of a liberal conspiracy pushed by Al Gore and his allies to expand the federal government and steal constitutionally-guaranteed American freedoms;
2. Whatever happens is God’s will, and it’s sinful human arrogance to think that mankind changes God’s creation in ways He does not intend;
3. Climate change exists, but it’s part of natural cycles that man’s activities have nothing to do with;
4. Human activities are heating the world, so Americans should use clean energy, conserve resources intelligently, and explore technological geoengineering fixes, but without changing our lifestyles or lowering consumption;
5. Man-caused climate change is real, but the fragmented international political community, with China, India and others expanding consumption rapidly, guarantees a natural systems train wreck whatever Americans do, so think ahead and prepare for a different world (see blog posts “New York City and Rising Seas” dated 9/11/12, “Where to Live in 2032″ dated 8/31/12, “A Graceful Retreat” dated 8/30/12 and “New Orleans: A Strategic Retreat” dated 4/2/12);
6. The United States has been the biggest cause of the world’s environmental mess through more than two centuries of high economic growth, and Americans should lead by quickly lowering consumption of fossil fuels and other natural resources; and
7. Man has heated Earth’s air and oceans, endangering our very survival, by burning massive of hydrocarbons, by clearing millions of square miles of forests for farmland, and by civilization itself, but it’s no longer possible to avoid Earth’s becoming less hospitable and doing nothing to slow human-caused global warming is the right, rational thing to do – each of us should ignore global issues and worry about his own specific needs.
Your grandchildren may someday ask what choices you made in 2012.
Image by Vicpeters (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons