Nostalgia is the remembrance of what was once possible. But I don’t feel nostalgic about not addressing Climate Change earlier. I feel impatient. We have wasted valuable time prevaricating on Climate Change action. This crisis has gotten significantly worse. We are hurtling dangerously close to our inability to avoid the worse consequences of planetary warming and I suspect we will be held in contempt by those who come after us much like those who either ignored or in some way contributed to slavery. The Civil War could have been avoided had important warnings been heeded.
30 years ago scientists warned Congress on global warming. What they said sounds eerily familiar It was such a different time — and yet, the message was so similar. Thirty years ago, on June 10 and 11 of 1986, the U.S. Senate Committee on the Environment and Public Works commenced two days of hearings, convened by Sen. John H. Chafee (R-R.I.), on the subject of “Ozone Depletion, the Greenhouse Effect, and Climate Change.” “This is not a matter of Chicken Little telling us the sky is falling,” Chafee said at the hearing. “The scientific evidence … is telling us we have a problem, a serious problem.” The hearings garnered considerable media coverage, including on the front page of The Washington Post (see below). (June 11, 2016) The Washington Post
For many places on Earth the time when carbon dioxide levels will drop below 400 parts per million (ppm) is gone. Considering that our species thrived for 10,000 years, up to the mid-1800’s with a very stable 280ppm climate, our present climate disruption is a case of jaw-dropping irresponsibility. The Antarctic is now experiencing this incredible benchmark: “Antarctic CO2 Hit 400 PPM For First Time in 4 Million Years” (6/15/2016 Climate Central). We could have prevented this.
The fossil fuel industry actively campaigned against acting on Climate Change when their own studies revealed the impact of the continued use their products on our climate. [See: “EXXON: The Road Not Taken” Imagine, as writer, activist, and creator of 350.org, often does if EXXON did the right thing way back then.
In the years ahead we won’t have much time to reflect on what could have been because we’ll be too busy scrambling to save critical infrastructures, vital ecosystems, and people. Lots and lots of people whose ability to feed themselves and escape the heat will be placed in jeopardy because of our inaction.
There’s this peculiar relationship we have with our own history. For instead of using history to learn from our mistakes, we often tend to see our past mistakes as inevitable. Wars, famine, accidents were meant to be. Perhaps tragedies seem more bearable if we view them as something far beyond our control.
Nothing was meant to be. If the worst of Climate Change comes to be, it’s because we allowed it to happen.
This is where we are now:
“May was the 13th month in a row to break temperature records according to figures published this week that are the latest in 2016’s string of incredible climate records which scientists have described as a bombshell and an emergency.” Shattered records show climate change is an emergency today, scientists warn” (6/17/2016, The Guardian)