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High price for our indifference on climate change

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missippi-flooding

Record flooding has come on the heels of record tornadoes and historic fires in the U.S. -- and there are still 7 months to go in 2011. [Photo Credit: Southerntabitha, Flickr.Com Creative Commons]

editors-blog-entry3As a whole, Americans have generally shown woefully inadequate concern for climate change.

For instance, in a 2008 Pew Global Attitudes Project survey, the U.S. ranked an abysmal 21st out of 24 national publics polled on the question of how serious a problem Americans considered global warming to be, with 42% saying they considered it to be a very serious problem – compared to 92% in Brazil, where concern was the highest.

Publics in countries you wouldn’t necessarily expect scored higher than the American public in terms of concern about global warming in this poll, including Mexico (70%), India (66%), and even Russia (49%).

Poll: Climate change

Americans care ________ about climate change.
 

The so-called “climate-gate” controversy, which hit in 2009 and which saw hackers steal e-mails of climate scientists and subsequent right-wing media attacks on climate science just prior to the Copenhagen summit, an event which was supposed to see the world get serious about global warming, created even more skepticism and/or indifference toward climate change in the U.S.

So, for instance, a Gallup Poll conducted post “climate-gate” found a substantial drop in the percentage of Americans who saw climate change as potentially significantly affecting their way of life from 40% in 2008 to 32% in 2010. Meanwhile, 67% of Americans polled in 2010 said they did not believe climate change would represent a serious threat to their “way of life” in their lifetime.

Hmmm….wonder what folks in the American South and the Mississippi basin are thinking right now. In fact, maybe it’s time to poll Americans again about their attitudes toward climate change.

Are you secretely crossing your fingers right now hoping for Exxon CEO Rex Tillerson’s mansion to be taken out by a tornado, flood or fire? I thought so ;-)

Record-setting costs
According to USA Today, so far this year – and we’re only five months into it with hurricane season still to come -- the U.S. has been hit with five weather disasters costing more than a billion dollars each. According to insurance estimates and government records, reports USA Today, this “sets a modern record for the most high-cost weather events so early in a year.”

earth-white1No, there is no definitive proof that the massive tornadoes and the truly historic flooding in the Mississippi basin are a direct result of climate change.

However, these weather disasters are perfectly consistent with climate science projections. These projections predict that as a result of rising global temperatures – and there is no denying that these are rising – the world will see more intense and destructive weather events more often, in particular more floods.

In fact, it will likely always be impossible to prove with 100% certainty that an individual weather disaster is a direct outcome of climate change and rising global temperatures, though scientists can – and have shown – that rising global temperatures mean, among other things, more moisture in the atmosphere, which, of course, means more rain, and, ultimately, more floods.

Hoping climate-change deniers get hit by flood
The fact that there will never be 100 percent certainty about whether climate change led to an individual weather event is, of course, convenient for climate-change deniers, who will forever insist on this certainty before we do anything – or, at least, they’ll do so right up to the time that their own homes are destroyed by yet another historic flood, hurricane, tornado or fire.

[Are you secretely crossing your fingers right now hoping for Exxon CEO Rex Tillerson’s mansion to be taken out by a tornado, flood or fire? I thought so ;-) ]

But what if the certainty that climate change caused, or at least intensified, the massive Mississippi flood of 2011 was, say, 90%, or even 75%?

Is that good enough for you?

False claims about fossil fuels being “cheaper”
Or would you rather continue to believe the rhetoric about fossil fuels costing us less than renewable energy forms such as wind, solar, geothermal, hydro and wave power – all the while praying that your house, your family, your workplace, your friends and relatives are not directly affected by what is clearly, actually, what is literally a rising tide of increasingly intense and destructive weather events?

You can believe, and do, what you want. Though, of course, it will affect you, me, and the billions of other people who live on our planet at a time when, as environmentalist and writer Bill McKibben has put it, we are moving from the Earth we knew to an Eaarth we do not know, meaning to a much more dangerous and destructive earth thanks to our stubborn refusal to stop burning fossil fuels at a prodigious rate.

I’m very definitely convinced humanity needs to radically change its ways – which is made pretty clear by the thousands of hours I have invested into producing and delivering SolarChargedDriving.Com the past two years.

Maybe you aren’t.

Fossil fuel sheep
However, it seems to me that even if fossil fuels are not contributing to climate change – which, to me, is a preposterous belief – there are plenty of other good reasons to make a massive move to renewables. Among the most important: Cleaner air and water for you, me, and our children; less lung disease and cancer; and locally produced energy that doesn’t have to travel thousands of miles to power our shiny metal boxes on wheels.

Oh, by the way, how’s that claim that we hear so often from fossil fuel shils and the legions of sheep who blindly follow them that fossil fuels are “cheaper” than renewable energy sources sounding right about now – with billions and billions of damage costs rolling up from one historic weather event after the other (which will become less historic as they become commonplace)?

It's looking kind of outrageous, isn’t it?

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