Back in 1988, when James Hansen testified in Congress that human-caused climate change was already happening, and in 1989 when I read Bill McKibben’s book, The End of Nature, about climate change, I thought it would be nice if the world could take action to protect our planet and all the creatures who depend on her. Then, in 1992, the first Earth Summit brought world leaders together to make such a pledge, including the U.S. president, George H.W. Bush. Nothing seemed to change, and global warming gases in the atmosphere kept climbing. But I hoped that when the apocalyptic events scientists were predicting began to actually happen, then the people would demand action and the politicians would deliver. There was even that cute scene on the couch in 2009 with Nancy Pelosi and Newt Gingrich, the then-current and former leaders in the House, agreeing that climate change was real and pledging a response.
Fast forward to 2016 and the election of Donald J. Trump – the climate change denier-in-chief and the fossil fuels promoter-in-chief. And, not coincidentally, the ever-stronger hurricanes hitting the Gulf Coast, Florida, the Carolinas and Puerto Rico – dumping unimaginable amounts of rain due to the warming seas and warmer atmosphere (warm air holds more moisture than cooler air) as they stall over hapless cities like Houston, where Harvey dumped 50 inches of rain in five days. The strengthening of hurricanes was predicted in the modeling of climate scientists, and the increased frequency of stalling is also likely due to climate change.
Meanwhile, out West nothing could be more apocalyptic than the wildfires that have devastated California and other states in the past few years. Due largely to the drier, hotter weather caused by changes in the climate – also predicted by the science – fire season is now year-round, with much greater loss of life and property since more people live in the so-called “wildlands-urban interface.” But fires have roared right into cities as well.
Now it gets personal. I’ve always felt sorry for the parts of the country that have to suffer through disasters like hurricanes and wildfires and have felt more or less immune here in Connecticut. But since 2011 we’ve endured six major storms with local or statewide impact, resulting in the loss of thousands of trees and power outages lasting as long as two weeks. Three of those six have occurred in just the past two years. We just had a one-two punch of a storm more damaging than Super Storm Sandy followed a few weeks later by another tornado. The lights were barely back on and the CEO of our biggest utility had just finished justifying the terrible job his company did in restoring service when power was knocked out again. It’s scary getting a blaring “TORNADO WARNING” message on your phone to take shelter immediately.
We must underground the wires, which is expensive but I’d bet no more expensive than multiple per year power outages that will only get worse as the climate crisis escalates.
(The sign in the photo above says, "Danger: downed wire. Keep away.")
Climate science has progressed to the point where we can learn what percent more likely or more powerful a given storm is, due to the warming of the planet. But Trump and other politicians are blaring that this is all fake news and way too many people are willing to believe them and not what their eyes are showing them. This is the biggest threat of all to our survival.