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Accepting responsibility

By Mike Ruffin According to the most recent report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), we have until about 2030 to make drastic changes to prevent environmental catastrophe. If we can hold global warming to under a 0.9 degree Fahrenheit increase, then, as a story at PBS.org says, ’¢ Half as many people would suffer from lack of water. ’¢ There would be fewer deaths and illnesses from heat, smog and infectious diseases. ’¢ Seas would rise nearly 4 inches (0.1 meters) less. ’¢ Half as many animals with back bones and plants would lose the majority of their habitats. ’¢ There would be substantially fewer heat waves, downpours and droughts. ’¢ The West Antarctic ice sheet might not kick into irreversible melting. ’¢ And it just may be enough to save most of the world’s coral reefs from dying. Meanwhile, a recent report from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA)’”part of the Trump administration’”says that Earth’s temperature will warm by 7 degrees by 2100. According to BusinessInsider.com, the report was released with the goal of justifying Trump’s decision to freeze federal gas-mileage standards for cars and light trucks by 2020. The report shows the administration believes this rise in temperature is baked into the global system, and freezing the aforementioned fuel consumption standards wouldn’t make a difference. In other words, the Trump administration says that we can’t do anything about the situation we’ve put ourselves in, so there’s no need to try. Besides, it might put some strain on the energy industry. We don’t need such avoidance. We need a national and global effort to do all we can to take all available steps, including reducing carbon emissions by moving away from fossil fuels, to address the problem. This effort needs to be on the scale of what the Allies did to defeat the scourge of totalitarianism in World War II. Like then, the future of not just our nation but of the entire planet is at stake. The IPCC report says that there are steps we can take, but it also expresses little optimism that we will. As a story in the Intelligencer (nymag.com) put it, But creating the systems needed to clean dirty air on a global scale might be easier than convincing stubborn world leaders to join the effort. Jim Skea, a co-chair of the IPCC, says this report is all the scientific community can do. ‘Frankly, we’ve delivered a message to the governments,’ he said in a press conference. ‘It’s now their responsibility ‘¦ to decide whether they can act on it.’ So why don’t we do something about it? Why doesn’t our government join with other governments in doing more about it? The biblical book of 2 Kings tells a relevant story. A delegation from Babylon came to Jerusalem to visit King Hezekiah of Judah. Wanting to show how great he and his kingdom were, he showed off their holdings. When the prophet Isaiah found out about it, he told the king that the time would come when the Babylonians would take it all away. He also told Hezekiah that the invading armies would take his children away too. Hezekiah said that all sounded good to him. His reasoning is shocking: ‘Why not, if there will be peace and security all my days?’ (20:19). In other words, he wouldn’t worry about what was going to happen to his children, so long as everything was fine for him. I may live long enough to see the beginnings of the environmental calamity that our negligence is helping to bring about. My children certainly will. And I shudder to think what my grandchildren will face. If this doesn’t trouble you, I don’t know what to say. But if it does, and you’re wondering what you can do about it, one thing is to vote for the right candidates. In deciding who the right ones are, I suggest these three simple steps. (1) Find out where the candidates stand on science in general and on climate science in particular. (2) Vote for those who affirm science in general and climate science in particular and against those who don’t. (3) Encourage everyone you know to do the same. Do it like your children and grandchildren’s future depends on it. Because it does.

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