President Joe Biden had a successful trip to Europe earlier this month. The main item on the Biden agenda was to assure our allies – and enemies – that the United States is again in the hands of a responsible adult, not a blustering buffoon whose personal pecuniary interests dictated what passed for his foreign policy.
No name-calling or other insults. No slavish obeisance to the Russian autocrat who helped secure his election (since said Ruskies were still working on the former president’s campaign). No staining the country’s reputation. Certainly no side trips to failing resort properties to grift U.S. taxpayer funds into his own coffer.
But, the G7 meeting and subsequent meetings with NATO allies had economic (making tax scoffs pay fair shares of their taxes), health (providing vaccine relief to desperate countries) and other issues on which to try to find common ground since 19th century isolationism is impossible in the intricately connected 21st.
Ever practical, American philosopher John Dewey once observed:
“I am suspicious of all attempts to erect a hierarchy of values: their results generally prove to be inapplicable and abstract. But there is at every time a hierarchy of problems, for there are
some issues which underlie and condition others.”
Underlying and conditioning the world in which we live is the climate chaos engendered by the man-made warming of the planet.
In fact, British naturalist David Attenborough warned the G7 leaders that the decisions they make dealing with climate chaos are “the most important in human history.”
In a pre-recorded message, Attenborough challenged the leaders of the free world:
“We know in detail what is happening to our planet, and we know many of the things we need to do during this decade.”
And what do we know?
From Radio Prague International in March: “The series of severe droughts and heat waves that hit central Europe in recent years have been the most severe in the past two millennia, suggests a study carried out by an international team of scientists.”
From NBC News earlier this month: “Drought is here to stay in the Western U.S. How will states adapt?”
“Drought ‘is not a temporary condition we can expect to go away, but rather something we have to deal with,’ one expert said.”
While El Punt Avui+ was estimating 100 climate change related deaths per year in Barcelona, KOTA-TV announced: “Happy June. Rapid City’s annual mandatory water conservation measures are beginning.”
After running a story in March based on a study in the journal Geophysical Research Letters that predicted, “Summers in the Northern Hemisphere could last nearly six months by the year 2100 if global warming continues unchecked,” NBC News ran another in June pointing out that the water level in Lake Mead – the key water supplier “to millions of people across Arizona, Nevada, California and parts of Mexico” – was lower than at any time in history. And, with a drought in progress that show no sign of letting up.
This drought, The Wall Street Journal reports, “crimps hydroelectric power generation,” which could result in power blackouts.
And, the global greenhouse is heating up, with CNN reporting June 18, “The planet is trapping roughly double the amount of heat in the atmosphere than it did nearly 15 years ago, according to an alarming new analysis from NASA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.”
Attenborough also told the world leaders, “Tackling climate change is now as much a political and communications challenge as it is a scientific or technological one. We have the skills to address it in time, all we need is the global will to do so.”
The G7 showed some will, according to the BBC, promising “to move away from coal plants, unless they have technology to capture carbon emissions,” with the White House saying, “it was the first time the leaders of wealthy nations had committed to keeping the projected global temperature rise to 1.5C.”
The 1.5 degrees Celsius, CNN reports, “has been identified by the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) as a key tipping point beyond which the risk of extreme drought, wildfires, floods and food shortages will increase dramatically.”
Yes, as bad as we know it is right now, greed-centric inaction will make it worse.
And some scientists fear that it might be too late already.
Common Dreams reported mid-month, “The atmospheric scientist that led a major year-long Arctic research expedition said Tuesday that the world may have already hit one of the so-called climate ‘tipping points.’
“’The disappearance of summer sea ice in the Arctic is one of the first landmines in this minefield, one of the tipping points that we set off first when we push warming too far,’ said Markus Rex of the Alfred Wegener Institute, reports Agence France-Presse.
“’And one can essentially ask if we haven’t already stepped on this mine and already set off the beginning of the explosion,’ he added.”
While short-sighted science deniers joke about a permanent Northwest Passage, the reality is that melted ice packs will change ocean currents, including the Gulf Stream. In March Live Science noted that already “The Gulf Stream is slowing to a ‘tipping point,’ and could disappear.
“The current could slow down to a point of no return, altering the climate on both sides of the Atlantic.”
At the other pole, ABC News reported, “New satellite data show the Pine Island Glacier, one of Antarctica’s largest glaciers, ‘ripping itself apart.’”
We’ve been getting updates on Antarctic ice shelf deterioration on a regular basis, but this one is more critical since, “right next door to the Pine Island Glacier is the Thwaites Glacier – or what scientists call the Doomsday Glacier. If Thwaites falls apart it could unleash the collapse of the entire ice sheet on the western half of the continent.”
Detached glaciers and collapsing ice shelves set huge chunks of ice free into the oceans – where they melt, adding water volume and raising the sea level to threaten coasts throughout the world.
So while G7 leaders congratulated themselves on their plans, according to the BBC, including the promise to send “$100 billion to help poor countries cut emissions,” that same story noted the criticism by climate activists that these actions were more window-dressing than addressing the number one problem facing every living thing on the planet: keeping Earth habitable.
(Gary Edmondson is chair of the Stephens County Democratic Party. Longer versions of his columns can be found at scdpok.us or facebook.com/SCDPOK/.)