Sometimes, it is important to revert our attention away from news broadcasts and concentrate on the weather reports, especially those that send red flags up the pole that demand the attention of every person on the planet. Such reports are not conservative, liberal, democratic, communist, alt-right or socialist: they are dire warnings about the future.
Yesterday, flights were cancelled in Sacramento CA, because the tarmac asphalt was too hot and soft to bear the weight of airplane wheels without breaking through and sinking into the ground. And this phenomenon has been occurring intermittently for many years in various locations across the United States.
Record temperatures are being recorded in many cities in the southwest United States, with some rising to some 124 degrees Fahrenheit. Such reports, by themselves, while unlikely to be disputed by the current U.S. administration, are apparently not adequate to ‘move’ decision-makers to an effective, conscientious and determined commitment to reduce carbon emissions. Jared Kushner’s single public statement yesterday, as one of the most influential voices in the White House about providing services to people through the private sector contributes not a single syllable or energy molecule to the global threat from rising temperatures. Private, for profit corporations will do everything they can to avoid, evade and counter any government regulations on their carbon emissions.
Recent drought-based incendiary outbursts in Portugal left some 60 dead, many having died in their cars while trying to escape the inferno. Simultaneously, an apartment tower in London is an unstable skeleton of its former self, with another several dozen dead and many more homeless, having lost literally everything they owned. While the London fire may not be attributable to global warming and climate change directly, the refusal of authorities to listen to legitimate and repeated cries of the impending danger from both occupants and building experts (who knew of the dangers of the cladding on the building) is a parallel process in the wider world. Authorities, especially the United States administration, are tone deaf, as well as climate deniers, to the growing chorus of plaintive and informed voices about the dangers we all face from global warming and climate change.
In her ground-shaking book, This Changes Everything, Naomi Klein calls this “Decade Zero” since she believes our shared situation has to be sorted out within the next ten years. Focusing squarely on the future of capitalism as culprit, Klein posits that if capitalism beats the climate, it means famine dramatic sea-level rise and increasing weather disasters. Maybe capitalism survives on a dying planet while holding power over increasingly depleting resources and thereby imposing even greater hardship on a voiceless minority of survivors.
Given her concept that 20% of the world’s population has generated 80% of the world’s carbon emissions, there is a clear and present danger in the starting point to reverse the process. Those responsible, the first world nations, are loath to sacrifice the necessary cash to the developing world to enable them to implement emission restricting technologies, and equally difficult will be the developing world’s leaders to let the polluters off the hook when it comes to implementing the nearly 200-country sign-off on the Paris climate agreement.
And there is an even more complicating reality to any resolution of the problem, permitting the planet to ‘trend’ toward a mere two-degree rise in temperatures. Since it is primarily for-profit corporations who have emitted the largest percentage of the choking carbon, any attempt to put the weight of both moral and ethical responsibility for the dangers as well as financial compensation to ameliorate the threat on those companies will take a kind of government so empowered with a titanium spine of all sitting legislators from all political persuasions, that the scenario is almost beyond the reach of most imaginations.
In many quarters ordinary people have lost trust and confidence in government institutions, given their apparent eunuch-behaviour to take action on most of the more grave files they face. And there is little to no indication that such trust and confidence can or will be readily restored looking at the current governments on which the world depends, and into the near and medium-term future.
Budget cuts on social policies needed by people, in order to provide tax relief for those least in need of such cuts, is an approach favoured by many conservative politicians and their capitalist cheque-writers. Already, then, the needs of workers, and those living in poverty, un-or-under-employment, those suffering from the impediments to a post-secondary education necessary for adequate employment in a rapidly changing job market are suffering, as are the individuals and families in those desperate straits.
The apparently permanent embedding of these attitudes of insouciance and indifference to the needs of the voiceless does not bode well for an effective resolution to the threat of rising temperatures rising sea levels and increased climatic disasters. In fact, these attitudes along with the accompanying greed, spell not merely anxiety going forward but sheer panic eventually if they are not countered, and dissipated and replaced by shared commitment to collaborate, to ‘go green’ and to shift the weight of the cultural pendulum in all countries away from corporate dominance, control and reckless disdain for all forms of life.
Rich countries continue to pour millions of tonnes of CO2 into the atmosphere, and continue to purchase manufactured goods from the developing world where emission standards. The use of fossil fuels for manufacturing and the mutual dependence on the products produced continues the clouds of noxious gases into the atmosphere. Animal populations are being depleted, ocean ecosystems are being destroyed, pipelines and fracking increase the potential for pollution of clean drinking water for millions and some governments, especially the United States under trump, continue their wanton disregard both for the environment and for the people, plants and animals that are already suffering.
The scientific truth that a single storm, hurricane, tsunami, forest fire or drought cannot be directly linked to the ravages of global warming and climate change ought not to be permitted to excuse our collective failure to reduce emissions, and our equally heinous complicity in permitting the capitalists to continue to govern by their greed and their moral and ethical vacuity.
Their argument that jobs depend on the continued use of fossil fuels, too, cannot be substituted for the real evidence that green energy jobs have and could continue to rise at a rate even more rapid than the rate of fossil-fuel dependent jobs.
The culture war is not only about health care, about an opiod crisis, the raising or lowering of taxes for the rich or the increase in military spending. It is also a deep divide over whether the climate is in danger and whether there is still time to lower the dimensions of the threat.
So far the evidence of official institutional/governmental willingness to take the threat seriously seems minimal, when compared with the dimensions of the threat. The issue, too, is not amenable to a single bullet solution. Nor is the solution dependent on military intervention, which could result if nothing or not enough is done to prevent and to reduce the threat.
Will we turn down the planetary temperature in our lifetimes? There is such a little time left!