Mysterious craters forming in northern Russia appear to be methane escaping from the permafrost. Plumes of methane are shooting up from the sea floor near Antarctica. California is suffering through a drought of unprecedented proportions in the recorded history of the area. This summer in New York City feels mild, but in fact, it’s a normal summer, distorted in our memories by the blazing summer heat of the past five years. The media is peppered with map projections of what the world could look like with varying levels of sea rise. Drinking water in Toledo, Ohio was contaminated by toxins released from a gigantic algae bloom, which some have speculated is partly the result of global warming. The only good news about global warming is that I will be dead before humankind feels the worst of its effects.
Being of my generation, I feel lucky that I will escape the earthly coil while things are still bearable. The world is a big place, and its climate dominates our daily lives. What are the things I’m going to miss because I will not live forever?
I will not see a massive seawall built around New York City to protect the metropolis from rising seas, nor will I see the subways from 23rd street south in Manhattan closed because the MTA can’t keep up with pumping the seawater from the tunnels. I won’t see the islands in Jamaica Bay disappear or Rockaway Peninsula wither away to a nub as the waves breach over it.
I will not live to see the news reports of Miami’s final days, as the last residents are forced to move elsewhere because nothing, and I mean nothing, can save that city from the sea. Same for Boston.
However, I will live to see Lake Mead continue to decrease, Aral Sea-like, and the cities of the west come to terms with life without water. I will probably see a vast exodus of population from water-starved communities but I will probably not live to see the Las Vegas Strip turn into a ghost town of glass and steel, tombstones left behind to mark the passing of American hubris at its most capitalistic.
My lack of concern for global warming has nothing to do with denialism. I am not a crackpot or a right wing nut job who believes that global warming is a political issue, and not a real issue. Global warming is real, it is happening now, and it will only get worse. But, my pessimistic nature leads me to believe we will deserve every single bad effect of a warming planet, and all because we, in particular Americans, are responsible for it. We have had decades to combat global warming and have done little. We have been unable to muster the will to tackle this multi-generational problem and by the time we do, it will be too late.
I attack the United States as the primary contributor to global warming, but that places the blame equally on all of us, and that is just not so. A single person can do some things to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions, such as using public transport, driving fuel-efficient vehicles, and limiting use of electrical appliances. But, the big changes that are necessary to combat global warming have to come from government, in the form of new legislation and regulations.
Unfortunately, the Republican Party has embarked on an experiment the last few decades where scientific evidence has been dismissed in favor of crony capitalism. Democrats are also to blame, particularly in coal-rich states such as West Virginia, but the lack of concern on the part of Republicans is astounding. Only elected officials from that party claim a scientific conspiracy to trick the public into believing in the dangers of global warming, where no such conspiracy exists. Rather, the evidence is real, and that is why it is so frightening. Only officials from that party claim the EPA cannot regulate emissions from coal-fired power plants because God gave us the coal to use as we see fit. Only officials from that party are so wrapped up in the apocalyptic fetish of evangelical Christianity that they cannot plan for a future beyond their own limited lives.
There is a problem. We know what it is. Deal with it. Or don’t. It really doesn’t matter to me, because, as the Narrator once said, “On a long enough timeline, the survival rate for everyone drops to zero.” Part of me actually wishes I could live another century or two, long enough to witness the worst of the calamities. In fact, it really peeves me that no one from my generation and before, especially those most fanatically responsible for stopping climate initiatives, will be around to see the ultimate damage we have caused. There will be no denouement, no moment of clarity for the climate scoundrels. What a shame.
Happy summer, everyone.