We watched in fascination yesterday as NASA’s inSight Lander successfully touched down on the surface of Mars – the Red Planet. Following years of research and efforts, six months of space travel, and one billion dollars of funding. It was an accomplishment of seismic proportions.
In a few days, the Lander will begin digging 16 feet below the surface to test the temperature of the soil. Some believe it’s hotter than many think.
It now appears that millions are beginning to wonder the same thing about earth.
It’s taken time to approach it seriously – likely too long – but the arrival of the Trump administration’s climate change report is just the latest in a series of urgent warnings that our environment is about to place us in a series of crunch situations that will leave us with little choice but to make major adjustments in our spending/lifestyle/policy decisions or else perish. Just in time for the holiday season, we have a parallel message coming from Washington talking about “hell on earth.”
So much has been made of the fact that Donald Trump released the major report on Black Friday in order to obscure the troubling warnings, but that’s politics and that’s always what’s done when a government has to release information that reveals the ineffectiveness of its policies. – bury it That’s the easy stuff to talk and get upset about, but the report itself is the main story. It’s best to remember that this is about 13 federal agencies all agreeing on just how impacted the United States itself is going to be for its refusal to act.
On a Black Friday, when the President wondered whatever happened to global warming in the midst of a blizzard across the northeast, his own administration’s National Climate Assessment reminded Americans that those heat-wave seasons that occasionally move across the country have expanded by more than 40 days in five decades. It singles out Phoenix, Arizona as an example of what’s coming. By the end of the century, the city might have as many as 150 days per year above 100 degrees (F). The frequency of cold waves has decreased steadily since the early-1900s, while heat waves have dramatically increased just since the mid-1960s.
Over the next few decades, temperatures will continue to increase by 2-3 degrees, with temperatures climbing much higher than that by the end of the century – only 80 years away. Cold waves are projected to become less intense and heat waves more intense.
Especially timely was the report’s projections on the kind of wildfires that just devastated California. All the data could be listed here, but we already know that such phenomena are drastically increasing, and the report lays the cause on climate change and its propensity to heat up the forest and the earth’s surface. Loss of life, property destruction, and environmental ruin are all on their way up and the costs to recover will be in the billions and billions of dollars
Temperatures rising and forests being destroyed are serious problems, but could likely become overshadowed by the report’s conclusion that coastal cities will soon be under threat and that it would result in millions migrating away from such vulnerable areas as sea levels continue to rise.
The report’s chapter on the coastal effects of climate change warns that sea-level rise alone could force tens of millions of people to move from their homes within the next century. According to the Atlantic:
“Shoreline counties hold 49.4 million housing units, while homes and businesses worth at least $1.4 trillion sit within about 1/8th mile of the coast. Flooding from rising sea levels and storms is likely to destroy, or make unsuitable for use, billions of dollars of property by the middle of this century, with the Atlantic and Gulf coasts facing greater-than-average risk compared to other regions of the country.”
While all this is happening, the Trump administration is seeking to remove standards to limit car emissions, attempting to breathe new life in the coal industry for political reasons, and refusing to cooperate with other nations of the world to deal with the global carbon emissions problem.
The time for debating whether environmental change is caused by humanity or not is long, long past. What matters now is that only human intervention and global solidarity can mitigate the disasters that are about ready to descend on us. Regardless of who is to blame for climate change, the fault for the poor response to these environmental challenges now falls on all of us. It is similar to the U.S. gun debate: a few powerful interests are defying all the data and collective desire for a less violent country and citizens refuse to use the vote to change it.
Kudos to all those who propelled the NASA Lander to its successful landing. It is a matter of historic irony, however, that we can accomplish such a feat almost 60 million kilometers off in space through collaboration, funding and intelligence, but we remain uncommitted in an effort to avert climate disaster. There is no longer one Red Planet in our solar system but two, and if we’re not careful, there will ultimately be two barren planets.