Martin Schram, Tribune News Service
Spin your globe, fast as you can. Stop it with your hand, anywhere you want.
This is probably the one week in your life when you will be able to look at whatever place on the globe is under your thumb â€” or closest to it â€” and feel like you know what the folks who live there are talking to each other about at that very moment.
â€œHeat Apocalypse,â€ is what officials in France called it. â€œBurning planet,â€ headlined The Guardian in Britain, where nobody ever gets hot. â€œFloods,â€ they are saying in China. The weather â€” itâ€™s just about the same everywhere in the world. Beastly hot in the Northern Hemisphere. Here in the USA, triple-digit temperatures were buckling roads, bending rails, burning lands and breaking local records. Tragically, that heatwave that was astonishingly enveloping our planet was proving deadly for thousands who werenâ€™t born into air-conditioned lives. Any day now, the politicians and polluting special interests all around our planet will begin explaining to you, yet again, why they arenâ€™t to be blamed for what we all now realise are the rapidly increasing temperatures that now threaten to make large portions of our planet unlivable. But of course, they are.
Many of us have forgotten the way things were â€” and how gullible (see also: easily conned) many of us were â€” back in far gentler weather times. Scientists in the United States and around the world were warning that our planet was becoming warmer due to the emissions from fossil fuels that created heat-trapping greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. Initially, this was a problem that Republicans and Democrats recognised and pledged to solve. President George H. W. Bush once declared: â€œThose who think we are powerless to do anything about the greenhouse effect forget about the White House effect.â€
But when President Barack Obamaâ€™s White House effect included leading a global effort to forge an international reduction on the emissions produced by coal, gasoline and other fossil fuels, some Republicans converted it into an issue of political convenience. A wealthy New York City real estate developer and surreality-TV personality began using Twitter to showcase the depth of his issue awareness. â€œThe concept of global warming was created by and for the Chinese in order to make US manufacturing non-competitive,â€ Donald Trump tweeted on Nov. 6, 2012. His insight was re-shared more than 104,000 times and was â€œlikedâ€ nearly 66,000 times. Meanwhile, Obamaâ€™s White House coordinated a national effort to prepare all federal departments and agencies, plus state and local government officials, with the new array of problems and potential crises that the anticipated global warming would create.
Reading the Obama administrationâ€™s handbook used by participants in the 2014 Climate Change Preparedness and Resilience regional workshops, you come away feeling as if you have just read a 2022 weather app forecast for this past weekâ€™s catastrophic planet-engulfing heat wave.
A section titled â€œFUTURE CONDITIONS (2021-2100)â€ stated: â€œA global temperature increase of 4 Â°C (7 .2 Â°F) could make normal activities like growing food or working outdoors impossible in many regions where people currently live ... .â€
â€œClimate change will increase the frequency and severity of many types of extreme weather. ... Globally, more people will be exposed to floods and economic losses due to flooding. It is also likely that presently dry areas will become more severely drought-stricken in a warmer world. Extremely warm temperatures will occur much more frequently, with impacts on human health, livestock, energy demand, etc.â€
This past weekâ€™s global headlines reported fires in Europe, floods in China â€” and record temperatures in both. Drought imperiled parts of Africa and in South America, fire endangered the archaeological site at Machu Picchu.
But back in 2014, when the Obama administration officials were conducting those workshops that prepared federal, state and local officials to cope with the perils posed by global warming, Trump tweeted this concise analysis: â€œThis very expensive GLOBAL WARMING bull â€” has got to stop.â€
That was good enough for the Republicans and then Americaâ€™s voters in 2016 â€” and Trump is still the partyâ€™s front-runner in the polls.
On Monday, United Nations Secretary-General AntÃ³nio Guterres addressed representatives from 40 countries who were in Berlin to discuss the global climate crisis. â€œHalf of humanity is in the danger zone, from floods, droughts, extreme storms and wildfires,â€ Guterres said. â€œNo nation is immune. Yet we continue to feed our fossil fuel addiction. ...
â€œWe have a choice. Collective action or collective suicide. It is in our hands.â€