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Will we bequeath a habitable planet to our children?

hainesAs a nation, will we permit “drill baby drill” thinking and the greed of corporatists to deregulate the carbon emissions that threaten to accelerate climate change beyond the tipping point toward a runaway environmental catastrophe?

The preponderance of empirical evidence suggests that climate change is no hoax – suggestions to the contrary by the President-elect notwithstanding – and that questions of paramount importance require our consideration.

To what degree are human activities responsible for the changes transpiring on this planet? Do we have the political will or the technical wherewithal to halt them? More importantly, what might be the consequences for inaction?

The receding polar ice caps and rising sea levels threaten to inundate coastal areas and island archipelagos around the world. Just this past week, a mayor from a coastal town in Florida told NPR that seawater spurts out of sewer lines at high tide. The Miami Herald also reported an octopus was found in a parking garage.

How will we manage with the loss of a large percentage of our land mass? How will we cope with lost lives and the migration of countless survivors?

And an even more dire consequence: the loss of Antarctic ice cover apparently threatens the life cycle of krill and plankton, which are the very foundation of the oceanic food chain. Where will humanity find itself if the ocean is lost as a source of nutrition?

For decades now, the American auto industry has resisted any but the most modest improvements in fleet average gas mileage. Even worse, though, fracking wells in Texas and elsewhere have emitted freed methane directly into the atmosphere at rates 90 percent higher than the EPA had previously estimated. According to Inside Climate News, methane “is 86 times more potent than CO2 as a greenhouse gas on 20-year timescales, and 34 times more powerful on 100-year timescales.”

How many so-called “centennial” and “millennial” storms need to occur in the span of a decade before we stop describing them as anomalous events? These frequent and increasingly intense storms were predicted decades ago and the torrential precipitation associated with them will erode topsoil over time, thanks in part to our enthusiastic planetary deforestation.

In this land where corporate profit is king, one is forced to wonder how useful accumulated wealth will be if our descendants can no longer breathe the air, grow crops in the soil or successfully evade the incoming tides. As the caretakers of this planet, it is perhaps time for a 21st Century variation on Blaise Pascal’s celebrated wager. Surely the safest bet must be preserving the environment, since the risk involved with yielding to the climate-change doubters just may precipitate an extinction-level event.

 

Last modified onWednesday, 30 November 2016 16:55
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