Global Warming or why…

This is a column I recently wrote for “The Santa Clarita Gazette” a conservative paper in my hometown. I will be writing weekly, the opinion column “Lean to the Left. This is my first…to go to the column copy and paste this link into your browser.

Earth NASA Image

Global Warming, or why our grandchildren will most likely hate us.

The biggest problem currently facing humankind is global warming. Boom. That’s it. It doesn’t matter if we believe it or not. With or without our consent and acknowledgement, the oceans are acidifying, sea level is rising, and permafrost is melting, releasing methane into the atmosphere. Methane holds atmospheric heat 30% more efficiently than CO2,, thus increasing the rate of warming and it’s effects on the oceans. The planetary crisis of Global Warming has caught up to us. When I was an undergrad in 1978, studying marine biology, it was already happening. My professors at the University of Rhode Island, home to one of the finest marine research facilities in the world, were screaming about it then. No one would listen. They were considered alarmist, nuts. Well, people are beginning to listen now.

“On July 20th, (2015) James Hansen, the former NASA climatologist who brought climate change to the public’s attention in the summer of 1988, issued a bombshell: He and a team of climate scientists had identified a newly important feedback mechanism off the coast of Antarctica that suggests mean sea levels could rise 10 times faster than previously predicted: 10 feet by 2065. The authors included this chilling warning: If emissions aren’t cut, ‘We conclude that multi-meter sea-level rise would become practically unavoidable. Social disruption and economic consequences of such large sea-level rise could be devastating. It is not difficult to imagine that conflicts arising from forced migrations and economic collapse might make the planet ungovernable, threatening the fabric of civilization’” (Holthaus).
Scary and true. Currently, there are over 400 dead zones in the oceans documented by oceanographers, where no life exists. Divers are frightened by it: They should be. We were never meant to be alone in the oceans. In his book Ocean of Life, Callum Roberts quotes the scientists who dove in; “As you go deeper, it gets kind of scary. Because there’s nothing there. There’s no fish, no organisms alive, so it’s just us” (121). Predictions for the future of the oceans run the gamut, from hopeless, to hopeful. Ocean acidification, due to the high levels of CO2 the ocean is absorbing from the atmosphere, is already beginning the dissolve the shells of snails, oysters and mollusks and kill off plankton, the base of the food chain.

Did you know that nearly half of the world’s populations live on or near the coast, harvesting twenty percent of their annual protein from the oceans? Poor and rural communities harvest thirty percent more. We are facing rising sea levels, acidification, the looming extinction of species and growing garbage patches that cover hundreds of miles in all of the deep ocean gyres. Whether you like the terms Mother Earth or Mother Nature the truth is the oceans feed us, and are the regulatory systems and engines of weather patterns, droughts and floods alike. How many refugees will be created by flooded coastal cities and parched farmlands? How are we going to care for our families and each other? What kind of world are we leaving for our children and grandchildren?

A movement has begun in both the Eastern and Western traditions, re-assessing the role of religion and the church in environmental leadership. Pope Francis’ recent Encyclical, “On Care for Our Common Home” was an eloquent and timely plea to the world, an environmental and social call to action. Equally, the life’s work of the Dali Lama has been of care and compassion for all living beings, including the Earth. Time is running out. We must deepen our concern and broaden our actions on a massive scale in order to save our oceans and our planet, for our grandchildren and their children, lest our names memories, and lack of action, be cursed throughout history. It’s time for some serious American, environmental, leadership. We got to the moon in eight years after we made the decision to do it. Let’s ditch fossil fuels, we can do it; we are Americans and we can do anything we put our minds, grit, muscle and heart into.

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Eric Holthuas,