Climate scientists have been under attack since before I was born, and those attacks have not lessened one bit as the evidence for man-made climate change has grown clearer and clearer, along with our understanding of just how much danger it presents. When Svante Arrhenius wrote about the influence of CO2 in our atmosphere in the 1890s, it was a hypothesis, grounded in a solid understanding of chemistry and physics, and backed up with calculations that hold true today. A century later, the IPCC second assessment was out, and climate scientists knew with a high degree of certainty that rising CO2 levels were causing the entire planet to warm at an alarming rate.
And the denial movement, funded by companies with a direct interest in continued use of fossil fuels, was in full swing, attacking scientists and their reputations, fostering political polarization around the issue, and pushing the Republican party farther along the path to full-fledged denial of reality. Today, publicly accepting the reality of climate change, as a GOP candidate, is tantamount to political suicide.
This post serves little purpose, except as an outlet for my frustration. According to everything we know, right now, we are facing conditions of the kind that have spelled doom for countless species in eons gone by. Beyond that, it has been clear for a long, long time that climate change will be one of the biggest drivers of war in the 21st century. More drought, more floods, higher seas, and more heat waves will all lead to food shortages, refugees, desperation, and chaos. It’s not hard to figure out why the Pentagon is worried.
And yet we still have people saying, with each disaster, and each new war, or new atrocity, “now is not the time.”
Here’s the thing – they’re right.
The time was before I was born. The time was 1996. The time was any time in the last fifty years. The time was before it was too late to stop the planet from warming. It’s long past time to be talking about climate change. Right now what we should be doing is taking action.
For the rest of this century, there will always be a disaster ongoing. Always. For the rest of this century, there will always be a crisis in urgent need of our attention. The predicted threats to national security, to economic stability, to human existence – they are beginning to become a reality, and will only get worse for the rest of my life.
This problem should have been handled. It could have been handled before I became aware of it. But instead, over 100 years after the first calculations of CO2’s relationship to planetary temperature, I’m finding myself in the position of saying “we told you so.” I’m too young for that. My generation should not have had enough time with this problem unsolved to say that. But for the rest of my life, and the lives of everybody else on this planet today, “we told you so” will be a refrain. And if anybody dares to say “now is not the time”, we can tell them, “you’re damned right, so why are we still talking about this? Why aren’t we DOING something?”