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Elections 2016 – Little Difference

Human activities – agriculture, cities, burning hydrocarbons and so forth – having been changing Earth’s natural systems for thousands of years. The pace of change has accelerated in the past century – global warming, rising seas, species extinctions – and more people are paying attention as those changes immediately affect their lives – more hot weather, more floods, more powerful storms. The 2016 elections were to some extent a referendum on Americans’ concern about climate change, and the Republican side, the political party that essentially denies that human-caused climate change exists, is now entrusted with political steering wheels for the next few years. That will make no difference to Mother Nature.

I submit that changes in political power in favor of Donald Trump and his allies will make little impact on the most important issue humanity faces, little difference because human consumption of natural resources has already baked in large changes to natural systems. There is great momentum to the heating of air and oceans that is now going on. The greenhouse gasses we have now put into the atmosphere would continue to heat air and water for decades to come even if everyone stopped burning gas, oil, and wood immediately. Polar ice will continue to decline, and feedback loops such as release of methane from melting permafrost will accelerate, just as physics demands.

For many, the question is how to adapt to climate changes that are coming at us with unknown timetables, and unknown but unpleasant and possibly life-threatening consequences. I left Texas and spent July in Canada last summer, and I have other scouting expeditions planned for a possible relocation. In the meanwhile, we are thankful that as middle-class Americans we were born into and live in an unprecedented golden age, and we should each take time each day to appreciate our good fortune.


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