Wednesday, December 4, 2013
What if I told you that it’s the 11th hour, and that the proof is Warsaw, Kiribati and South Carolina?
I suppose the response of most sensible people would be to carefully avert their eyes and keep moving. But some, the more curious perhaps, might be tempted to ask: the 11th hour of what? Isn’t Warsaw in Poland? What the heck is Kiribati? And what does any of this have to do with South Carolina?
The answer to all four questions? Climate change.
OK, now that I’ve thoroughly confused everyone, let me try and explain.
First, climate change. There are a lot of terms that get thrown around in all this, like global warming, ozone layer, parts per million, etc. It can be confusing, but the simple and hard truth is this: The earth is warming as a result of our burning fossil fuels and it’s causing all sorts of huge problems – and if we don’t fix it, the planet and everyone on it are, to borrow a technical term from the climate science community, totally screwed.
Our generation may get by, and even our children’s too, but eventually it’s going to catch up with us…and our future generations will curse us as they roast on an ever-hotter planet with ever rising sea levels and a whole host of other problems that we can’t even begin to understand.
Now, there are some folks that insist on denying that climate change is real. If you look hard enough, you can probably even find a few scientists (mostly those getting paid by oil and coal companies) that seem to make a persuasive case that climate change doesn’t exist.
But just because you can find some folks that agree with you, even if they have impressive-sounding credentials doesn’t mean you are not wrong. See www.TheFlatEarthSociety.org.
So, if you listen to these guys– and, here, I’ll have to ask you to pardon my bluntness – you are simply wrong. Wrong, wrong, wrong. And if you persist in being wrong in this particularly wrong-headed way, you are going from wrong to stupid.
Second, Warsaw. Yes, it is a city in Poland and most recently it was the site of a big global conference on climate change. The good news is that over 10,000 smart and committed people from 195 countries showed up for 12 days and talked about how we as a planet are at the 11th hour and what must be done to avoid the coming crisis. The bad news is that they mostly just talked and nothing very concrete came from it.
Officially known as the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, these folks have been meeting annually for 19 years and though some progress has been made, it hasn’t been enough, as we’ll see in a moment.
Third, Kiribati. Formerly known as the Gilbert Islands, Kiribati is a nation of 103,000 citizens living on 33 small islands spread out over 1.3 million square miles in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. Folks have been living on this island paradise for about 5,000 years but they probably won’t be there 50 years from now.
The ocean level is rising quickly and as one local said, “All it takes is one wave,” and the whole country and everyone in it is gone. See the recent typhoon in the Philippines for details.
Although Kiribati is the first that’s likely to go, others will soon follow, which brings us to our next point.
Fourth, Cape Romain in South Carolina. Over the last 25 years we have lost about 1,200 acres that have eroded away on the four barrier islands of this beautiful nature preserve just up the coast from Charleston. Sea levels in the region will rise by another five feet by the end of the century.
In the words of US Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell, who visited the area last week, “This is your impact of climate change.”
So folks, climate change is real. It is here, it is visible and if we don’t do something about it – NOW – we will be a disgrace to humanity.
There are many things we as individuals can do. Go to Google and put in “what can I do about climate change” and you’ll find lots of good information.
Beyond that, a good place to start is with our politicians, both in Columbia and Washington. The next time you see one, ask them a simple question: “What are you doing about climate change?”
If they start mumbling the usual political nonsense, then think about your grandchildren, stiffen your backbone, look them straight in the eye and tell them: ‘You have gone from wrong to stupid and I’m not voting for you.’
Your grandchildren will be proud of you.
Phil Noble is a businessman in Charleston and President of the SC New Democrats, an independent reform group started by former Gov. Richard Riley to bring big change and real reform to South Carolina. firstname.lastname@example.org www.SCNewDemocrats.org