Yes, I know we’ve almost worn out the phrase, and it’s fashionable to say climate change. But what in hell is climate change? What we have is a planet, which is actually warming. Now that is an absolute fact, and this year is on track to be the hottest year in recorded history. You would think, with the extreme climate changes, the predicted consequences and our advanced technology, every country in the world would be gearing up to reverse the trend, and they are… except one: the USA. That’s right, and the current powers that be, out of 100+ countries on the planet, are the only one denying global warming. They’re calling it a hoax just like the COVID-19. Well, how is that working out?
I’m writing this column because it is becoming obvious the predictions that extreme weather which would result as the Earth’s temperature increases are not only coming to pass, but are accelerating. The extreme weather that was predicted to happen starting ten years from now is already pounding us. If you live in Lake Charles, Louisiana, and you look at the rubble from two hurricanes, you understand what the future of the entire Gulf Coast of the United States is going to look like in a decade or so.
I don’t think I need to tell you that this year was a record hurricane season, and as the waters of the Gulf continue to heat, next year and the year after that will result in more and stronger hurricanes. How long will it be until a large percentage of the Gulf Coast becomes uninhabitable? Am I being an alarmist? Why don’t you ask the folks living in Lake Charles how many more hurricanes will it take before the town is abandoned? Of course, as the waters of the Gulf continue to heat, Category 4 and 5 storms will be the norm.
El Dorado had two tropical storms this year. Guess what? We’re having weather very similar to a sub-tropical climate, and that’s not just tropical storms. Just look back at the summer weather we had this year. Those July and August rains, which moved north from the Gulf, weren’t anything like our typical south Arkansas weather. Those were waves of heavily moisture-laden sub-tropical clouds. Check out Houston if you want to get a real feel for the coming sub-tropics. One hundred year rainfalls are now becoming commonplace.
If the Earth’s temperature continues to increase and the polar ice caps thaw, which is already happening at an astonishing rate, these massive hurricanes will be accompanied by a rise in sea level that will swamp the towns along the Gulf Coast until only the very largest cities with the resources to construct massive coastal barriers will be able to survive. The inhabitants of the smaller towns will be forced to evacuate and the Gulf of Mexico will encroach 10 to 15 miles inland.
How long have we got to stop this from happening? A few years back we were looking at 25+ years, but now? If the current increases in temperature continue and the storm intensity follows, we may see a new Gulf shoreline as much as five to ten miles inland within the next 15 years. That scenario will make the current pandemic look like a Sunday School Picnic. Some called the pandemic a hoax and 400,000 Americans will eventually die. How many worldwide lives will be lost as severe weather and drought sweeps across the continents?
But don’t think just the Gulf Coast is going to get hammered. During the past year, extreme weather has produced tornadoes in sections of the country where they were unheard of. Of course, the West Coast wildfires, which were caused by extreme drought conditions, burned a record amount of land, and as those weather conditions continue, the threat of wildfires will increase. Yes, the West Coast droughts and accompanying wildfires are a result of global warming.
But as severe as the hurricanes, droughts, and wildfires are, they pale with the consequences of a 4 to 6 foot rise in sea level. The number of worldwide towns and cities that are at or actually below sea level is staggering. It will be impossible to even consider protecting all of the inhabited coastal land around the world, which will be threatened by a rise in sea level. A few major cities will have the resources to keep from being swamped by rising sea level, but a large majority of inhabited coastline towns will simply be allowed to submerge below the rising waters.
Yes, the consequences of inaction on global warming are horrific. However, it has become a so called mantra of some politicians to deny that global warming is occurring. It seems as if we are having to start the learning curve all over again as we have with the pandemic. But what is different, is that the pandemic will run its course, and in a year or so we will have a vaccine or herd immunity, and we will be through with it. But that is not the way global warming works. If we allow the continuing heating of our planet’s atmosphere, it will reach a point where the quality of life on our planet will be tenuous for several billion inhabitants of Earth.
Unless our country not only joins the rest of the world to try and reverse global warming, but actively takes a leading role, the prospects for a severe reduction in the quality of life for billions of our planet’s future population are grim. We must attack global warming with the same intensity as we would a major threat such as a World War.
So why are we dragging our feet? Actually, it’s not just foot dragging; we are actively opposing the curtailment of activities which would slow or stop global warming. I know, with the current avalanche of facts about hurricanes, droughts and rising sea level, that’s hard to believe. But it is happening. Of course there is a reason, and in our capitalistic society, sometimes the desire to make money without considering the consequences dominates everything, and the desire to just make money now and forget about future generations dominates the goal to stop global warming.
Yes, it is all about the greed to make money now and to hell with the future. It’s the same concept as the slash and burn of the vast east Arkansas old growth forests that took place late 1800s.
The United States, who led the world to stamp out fascism, must take the lead again. Unless our country assumes the mantle of leadership and leads the way to reverse global warming, we will be dooming our great grandchildren to live in a vastly inferior world. Surely we can put aside petty political rhetoric, and once again lead a worldwide coalition to combat the greatest threat to mankind in recorded history. If we care about future generations, every person should become actively involved. Only then can we reverse what seem to be an inevitable severe reduction in the quality of life for Earth’s future inhabitants.
Richard Mason is a registered professional geologist, downtown developer, former chairman of the Department of Environmental Quality Board of Commissioners, past president of the Arkansas Wildlife Federation, and syndicated columnist. Email [email protected]