Couldn’t we at least try to leave our descendants a livable world?

Every scouting family knows that Lord Robert Baden-Powell was the founder of the world scouting program. Included in his last message to the scouts was this piece of wisdom: “Try and leave this world a little better than you found it, and when your turn comes to die, you can die happy in feeling that at any rate, you have not wasted your time but have done your best.” Ever since, scouts have understood the imperative to make things better for future generations.

Many who have been in power in America and across the world for the last three decades have not only wasted their time, but actually made things much worse, when it comes to the single most important issue of our time–climate change. The scientific community began issuing increasingly alarming warnings about the existential threat of a warming planet in the early 1990s. They told us that the greater the concentration of greenhouse gasses like carbon dioxide (CO2) and methane in the atmosphere, the warmer the planet would get. They said we had to stop burning fossil fuels if we wanted to keep the Earth from becoming an uninhabitable hothouse.

For the most part, we and our policy makers ignored them, and the planet has continued to get hotter. The Pacific Northwest reached record highs through the end of June. Lytton, B.C., broke Canada’s all-time heat record, reaching 121 degrees, while most of the village went up in flames. Authorities think that over 800 deaths in the region may be linked to the extreme heat. While the Pacific Northwest was sweltering, the land surface temperature in Verkhoyansk, Siberia, reached 118 degrees.

The heat now trapped in Earth’s atmosphere has almost doubled since 2005. NOAA scientists announced in April that CO2 levels were higher now than at any time in the last 3.6 million years. Consequently, NASA tells us that 2020 tied 2016 as the hottest year on record and that the world’s seven warmest years have all occurred since 2014.

We routinely see headlines that should cause our leaders to jump into action to keep the Earth from frying. “Earth is now losing 1.2 trillion tons of ice each year. And it’s going to get worse.” “Antarctica just hit 65 degrees, its warmest temperature ever recorded.” Yet, the most we get from Republican Senators, including our Idaho Senators, is a ho-hum response and no action.

This is not just an academic issue–scientists sitting around trying to justify their existence. We see evidence of climate disaster all around us. Massive wildfires have ravaged California, Australia and even Siberia. The heated atmosphere is disrupting weather patterns, bringing searing heat to temperate regions, as we recently witnessed in the Pacific Northwest, and causing unimaginable deluges to the U.S. southern states and elsewhere around the world. Violent weather has become commonplace. The oceans are heating up, which promises to compromise the world’s food supply. We will see more wars being fought over scarce resources. Mass migrations of people fleeing areas where food can no longer be produced because of heat, drought or massive deluges, will dramatically increase. The present situation at our southern border will pale in comparison.

We have it within our power to salvage a livable planet for our grandchildren and their offspring. It will take a herculean effort and massive financial investment, but it can be done. If we don’t use our best efforts to avert further climate disaster, future generations will curse us for handing them an unbearably hot and hostile planet. Historical accounts will identify the short-sighted culprits who deprived them of a livable world. The rogues’ gallery may well include Senators Crapo and Risch. Future Americans will wonder why these officials wasted their time on Earth, failing to take the action scientists identified as essential to save the planet.

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7 thoughts on “Couldn’t we at least try to leave our descendants a livable world?”

  1. Once again, Thank You for sounding this alarm bell again! These things need to be said over and over.

  2. This Blog should be required reading for every US Senator and member of the House of Representatives. While I’m not optimistic that will render significant changes it might stimulate a few leaders to come forward and and start a serious movement on what is the most critical problem facing our world. Even with our best efforts it will take a long time to slow or change our our climate disaster. And there is no way the United States can do it alone. The best we can do is be an example and a leader and get the other countries involved and make fighting climate change the highest priority in the world.

  3. Well said. As a Philmont ranger, when the scouts I was mentoring carelessly threw trash into the fire, I would toss in a few coins. I told them we couldn’t leave camp until they showed me the coins (which they could keep) and all the trash they collected from the ashes. Unfortunately, there are not enough coins available to get these Republicans to do the right thing for the future of the planet – and nothing but personal financial rewards seems to motivate them.

  4. Can you name one study or legitimate sceintist who will go on record and state unequivocally that if Western democracies were to implement even the most stringent environmental proposals concerning global warming whether or not those efforts would reduce global warming? Without the developing world volunteering to reduce their emissions, it doesn’t matter what first-world economies do to reduce global warming.

    Population collapse is real and it’s coming to first-world countries. Conversely, it is the opposite in the developing world. As India, China, and third world countries continue to massively increase their populations rest assured they will not be devastating their economies to combat global warming. No, they will continue to build coal-fired plants, and continue to burn anything they can find to heat their huts and homes and power their industries.

    You know overall how seriously global warming is when the enlightened elite refuses to even discuss the only currently viable solution for immediate CO2 reduction which is nuclear energy. If global warming is ‘the most important issue of our time’ then these same elites would not be trying to cobble together hodge-podge non-workable global solutions that involve carbon offsets, and ridiculous amounts of money spent on crony green companies. No, if global warming were truly the threat that is reported governments would be researching and upgrading nuclear solutions and use nuclear as a bridge until green energy solutions can become viable.

    If a ship is sinking, it’s still going to sink if only a few people are really working hard bailing the water that’s coming in. If the majority of the passengers aren’t bailing or trying to plug the hole in the boat it’s going to sink. That is what the current global picture looks like with regard to climate change policies. The riches countries are being asked to take the greatest hits to our economies while China and India and the third world will only talk and make token gestures, but won’t make the cuts necessary to actually reduce CO2 levels that scientists say are needed.

    1. Lynn:
      Just because many countries have done little or nothing to limit greenhouse gas emissions does not mean the U.S. should turn up its toes and watch the world burn. The United States I know and love would rise to the challenge. We are the preeminent economic power on the face of the Earth. Practically every country wants to sell goods in America. Access to our markets should be conditioned upon a foreign nation’s climate policies and practices. We have any number of mechanisms that could be used in either a carrot or stick fashion to bring other nations into line. The E.U. will be a likely partner. We are already discussing one option with the E.U.–a border adjustment tariff. Here are two articles about it:

      https://www.washingtonpost.com/business/energy/this-tariff-could-be-bidens-best-climate-change-tool/2021/05/21/340f3782-ba6f-11eb-bc4a-62849cf6cca9_story.html

      https://www.reuters.com/business/sustainable-business/eu-us-sow-seeds-climate-cooperation-dodge-coals-end-date-draft-statement-2021-06-15/

      There are many other levers of persuasion we can and must use to get other nations to do their part in limiting emissions–withholding or granting aid, crushing Iran-style sanctions, limiting their access to the international banking system. Our very existence depends upon a concerted effort to bring emissions under control and no card we have should be off the table.

      And, yes, nuclear should be included in our domestic portfolio. From a practical standpoint, it would not play a major role, but it certainly should play a part.

      Jim

    1. Thanks for your comment, Joe. I’m more a hair-on-fire type when it comes to the threat climate change poses to our planet. Here is my post from May 2019. The situation has only gotten worse since then. Jim
      The next great mass extinction is upon us!!! Ho-hum.
      The United Nations just released an alarming report that should knock the socks off of all of those who still wear them. The report, which was approved by the U.S. and 131 other countries, says the Earth is headed into a mass die-off of plant and animal species. Up to one-eighth of the planet’s species are in danger of extinction unless humans make dramatic changes in their planet-fouling behavior.

      The report points to a number of factors that have seriously degraded the environment and threatened global biodiversity in recent decades, including deforestation, overhunting, invasive species, overfishing, pollution, pesticides, and ruinous farming and mining practices. The nearly 7 billion people engaged in these activities have altered the natural world at a rate “unprecedented in human history.”

      Climate change poses the most serious danger to the world’s species in coming years. The report says that about 5% of Earth’s species will face extinction if the average global temperature rises another degree Celsius. Plants and animals that cannot adapt will perish.

      The report concludes that “around 1 million species already face extinction, many within decades, unless action is taken.” The panel’s chair wrote that “the health of ecosystems on which we and all species depend is deteriorating more rapidly than ever. We are eroding the very foundations of our economies, livelihoods, food security, health and quality of life worldwide.”

      It may be that many of these plants and animals are not grand specimens–pesky insects and nondescript plants–but they still play a crucial role in maintaining life on the planet. Many lowly insects pollinate crops, break down feces, recycle and enrich soil and provide a food source for grander species which then provide a food source for even grander animals. Many of the lowly plants are also a critical food source for animals and even ingredients in medicines and other useful products for humans.

      What makes our dire situation more discouraging is that the report does not tell us something that we did not already know. Scientists have been concerned for years about what is called the Sixth Extinction. About four years ago, I read an excellent, but frightening, book with that title.

      The book’s author, Elizabeth Kolbert, writes: “Over the last half billion years, there have been five major mass extinctions, when the diversity of life on earth suddenly and dramatically contracted. Scientists are currently monitoring the sixth extinction, predicted to be the most devastating since the asteroid impact that wiped out the dinosaurs. This time around, the cataclysm is us.”

      The present extinction is the result of human activity and we are doing precious little to head it off. Rather than making a concerted effort to bring a halt to practices that cause great harm to species which play a critical role in the food chain, we continue merrily along our destructive course. Instead of taking the drastic action needed to reduce pollution and curb planet-killing greenhouse gases, we argue about whether climate change is a hoax.

      The time for taking action to keep this planet from turning into a hell hole is running perilously short. We need to get with it and blunt the present extinction to the greatest extent possible. Continuation of a ho-hum attitude is not an option.

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