What Climate Debate? It's Over.

The most calamitous effects of our denial and delay are now baked into the future. ...We have blown our opportunity to do anything meaningful to stop the worst effects of climate change.

What Climate Debate? It's Over.
Your future vacation spot. 

A few weeks ago, I wrote about climate change. Specifically, about the dishonest work done by the Texas Public Policy Foundation who take money from industry to throw enough dust in the air in climate debates to create just enough cover for politicians to vote against the best interests of the planet, and continue the money fountain from big industry.

And I still feel that way about this wretched group of hired guns. But, I have to hand it to them and their brethren in the lobbying trade. They are good at what they do. So good in fact, that they have managed to stall things just long enough to insure disaster.

I had been doing a lot of reading in the wake of writing that piece, and it is increasingly clear to me that we have missed the chance to do anything meaningful to stop the global warming train from leaving the station. It's over. The best we can hope for is to keep it from getting any worse. And, I doubt even that modest goal is obtainable.

The nature of our problem was best illustrated in a segment of one of my favorite shows of the last few years, The Newsroom created by Aaron Sorkin.  In this clip, the anchorman, Jeff Daniels, is about to do the standard interview on climate change with an expert. He gets more than he bargained for...

One magazine did a fact-check on this scene and the information in it. They found it was all pretty much on the nose. My favorite part is when Daniels practically begs for something positive to go to break on and it just isn't there.

In other words, the most calamitous effects of our denial and delay are now baked into the future. A 2021 report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, a United Nations body that forecasts the effects of human activity on the climate, says essentially, we have blown our opportunity to do anything meaningful to stop the worst effects of climate change.

Linda Mearns, senior climate scientist at the U.S. National Center for Atmospheric Research, said, “It’s just guaranteed that it’s going to get worse. Nowhere to run, nowhere to hide.”

The drought we have endured for most of this century will continue. The drying of major rivers around the world, more intense storms, more wildfires, melting glaciers and rising seas, all are facts of life now. It is no longer a matter of if, or even when for that matter. It is happening now. Oh, we have a big climate summit coming up soon, and everyone will say the right things about insuring our children's future, but it is all Kabuki theatre. They will pledge to redouble efforts to hit the goals set by the Paris Climate Accord. That agreement set a goal of limiting the average global temperature increase to 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels in order to prevent irreversible climate damage.

That won't happen. We will blow past that mark in the next 15 years or so, and pass 2 degrees Celsius by 2100. The latest IPCC report doesn't coddle deniers and frankly, shouldn't. They are the ones who have landed us in this mess and that combination of ignorance, greed, and just plain laziness insures that nothing meaningful will happen going forward.

Want to know why? Just look at the upcoming UN Climate conference this fall. It will be held in and chaired by, wait for it...The United Arab Emirates, home to  more Rolls Royces, Bentleys, and exotic sports cars per capita than anywhere else on this warming globe. They are the one part of the world even less inclined than Texas to face the facts about climate. So for a week, a bunch of guys in white robes and a bunch of guys in expensive suits will roam around some garish hall making pledges they won't keep and worrying mightily about their children's futures, which are already written in stone. It makes Mad Max look like a documentary.

The ultimate Uber ride.

One summary of the report from People'sWorld.Org summed it up this way...

The scientists behind the report list all the evidence we’re already seeing around the globe: extreme heatwaves, flood-inducing precipitation in many areas, extended droughts in others, violent tropical cyclones and hurricanes, the disappearance of sea ice and snow cover, and the melting of permafrost.

The vanishing of Arctic sea ice is a particularly dire indicator of the trouble we’re in. Ice levels in the region vary throughout the year, but summertime retreats are now at their lowest levels in a thousand years. Even in its most optimistic scenario, the IPCC says the ice will disappear during summer at least once between now and 2050. This melting creates a feedback loop: Ice cover reflects solar radiation back outward, but darker bare water absorbs it, causing further warming.

All of these trends will get unavoidably worse, and the 3,000-plus-page report doesn’t rule out the catastrophic possibilities of a total collapse of the Arctic ice sheet or abrupt changes in the circulation of ocean waters—events which would trigger rapid and massive swings in global weather. Regardless, the world is already “locked in” to between 6 and 12 inches of sea level rise over the next 25 years.

The Associated Press reported this week, that we now know the oil companies, for example, knew about this all along. A study in the journal Science, looked at research that Exxon funded that didn't just confirm what climate scientists were saying, but used more than a dozen different computer models that forecast the coming warming with precision equal to or better than the government.

Well, OK, we knew it was coming. But we didn't want to cause a panic, you know?

That was all since the 1970s. They knew and publicly lied about it. They not only lied but actively worked against any attempts to mitigate this when it might have done some good. The why is obvious, money. The results are catastrophic.

If the 1970s seem too distant to be believable, how about this tiny caption in Popular Mechanics in 1912...

Michael Mann, a leading climate scientist, gets to the real heart of the problem:

“The great tragedy of the climate crisis is that seven and a half billion people must pay the price—in the form of a degraded planet—so that a couple of dozen polluting interests can continue to make record profits. It is a great moral failing of our political system that we have allowed this to happen.”

And let me venture a prediction. We will continue to do so. I see nothing to indicate that our political chattering class, our partisan media and the average American driving his Suburban has any intention of changing. That might involve effort and that would mean parking the truck and making lifestyle choices he simply will not make. The idea of making communitarian decisions for the collective good sounds vaguely socialist. You can just take your electric car and shove it, comrade.  

Here's a good example of the rampant idiocy at play. A Wyoming legislator, no doubt incensed that some states are moving to phase out gasoline powered vehicles, has proposed banning electric vehicles. Why? He is in a snit. That and the fossil fuel business provides a lot of money for the state. Understood, but the state's other major industry is tourism and when your forest burns down, it's tough to attract that busload of foreign tourists to snap photos of black tree trunks in Yellowstone.  But no matter, this kind of third-grade playground tit for tat is emblematic of the non-serious nature of American governance.

If you're a Wyoming politician, this is the devil's umbilical cord.

So we are slaves to the luxuries we have created, and no matter the consequences, we somehow think the lifestyle is worth it. As for me, the plan is simple. Move north, move high in elevation and invest in companies that make sunscreen.

Roger Gray has toiled at the journalism trade since 1970 and his first radio news job at KTRH in Houston. Over those woefully misspent years, he has worked in radio, TV and written for magazines. He was twice elected President of the Texas Automobile Writers Association and was elected to the Texas Radio Hall of Fame. He covered the first Persian Gulf War, the fall of the Berlin Wall, the reunification of Germany, Oslo Accords in Israel and peace talks in Ireland. He interviewed writers, actors, politicians and every President from Ford to George W, and none of them remember him.
Now, he is part of the Texas Outlaw Writers, and if this doesn't pan out, the outlaw part will still work as he will indeed resort to robbing banks.