It will only get worse.
If you think the coronavirus pandemic is a biblical-type curse, just wait until we experience the worst that climate change will produce. While billionaires briefly escape the climate curse in their space ships, the rest of humanity suffers the consequences of both human actions that have brought us to the brink of destruction, and human inaction that dithers while the world hurtles towards an existential abyss.
It was unrealistic to expect George W. Bush and Dick Cheney, both oil industry alumni, to acknowledge the reality of climate change. Donald Trump, whose knowledge of the implications of global warming is on a par with that of a gnat, was if anything, an active destroyer of the environment. He thumbed his nose at climate change and went beyond the extra mile to make it more difficult to combat its negative effects. While Bush and Cheney were guilty of inaction, Trump was guilty of intentionally reversing course and putting the U.S. in a far worse position than when he entered the presidency. In addition to pulling out of the Paris Climate Agreement, he took steps to encourage air and water pollution and turned the EPA into the Environmental Pollution Agency.
As always appears to be the case, it will be up to a Democratic successor president to clean up the mammoth mess left by his Republican predecessor. That was true of Obama’s needing to pull the country out of Bush’s Great Recession. It is even more of a challenge for Biden, given the immense number of disastrous policies he inherited from Trump, climate regression and environmental devastation being only two of them.
The climate problem is that 12 years of Republican presidential denial and aggressive action have put us in position to wave a white flag of surrender in the face of onrushing global warming and its toxic effects. Inexorably, the seasons will become warmer, delicate ecosystems that depend on cooler temperatures will be destroyed, extreme weather events will occur more frequently, and both people and the plants and animals that we steward will suffer escalating illness and death.
The current political scene does not lend itself to optimism. Managing an ongoing calamity is not the stuff of political reward. Absent the political will to think longer-term than the next election cycle, we will be relegated to attempting to live with the consequences of what we have wrought. The bipartisan infrastructure bill being considered by Congress is a perfect example of Congressional Climate Change Avoidance Syndrome. It contains only a smattering of band-aids that do little to address climate concerns. Big Oil lobbyists are dancing with joy on K Street.
It is astonishing that the congressional Republican caucus still contains members that deny climate change despite the obvious evidence all around them. The more ignorant among them likely actually believe that human-caused global warming is a left-wing, tree-hugger fantasy. Most, however, understand what is going on, but calculate that they will be gone from public life when the climate Armageddon descends upon us. They are perfectly willing to accept the inevitable cataclysm as long as they have left Washington before it happens.
All of this doom and gloom, however, does not mean that we should throw in the towel and meekly accept our fate. We must nevertheless make an attempt to mitigate the damage. Whatever we do, however minimal, is better than nothing. The challenge for those who care about climate change is how to push/pull the deniers to go along with them.
July 30, 2021