We have, for decades, been dealing with global warming as if it were some kind of theory. As we did with tobacco and asbestos and various chemical carcinogens, we delayed action on the grounds that there was some doubt about the link between human activity and the earth’s warming. It was not until many thousands of people had died from exposure that we took steps against these other items.
That time has now arrived for global warming. Millions of people have been put at risk, and many, many thousands of people have been driven from their homes in Houston. We now know for sure that it happened because of the carbon dioxide and other chemicals that we have pumped into the atmosphere. Why are we sure? Because the water in the Gulf of Mexico is warmer than it has ever been, and it was because of that warm water that Hurricane Harvey kept pumping itself up with water that it then rained in unheard of amounts on Southeast Texas.
There is only one reason that I can think of for people to continue to deny the relation between human activity and global warming. It is because the people who deny it are trying to avoid paying for the damage we have all done. They have been willing, up to this point, to deny the obvious in order to save themselves a few bucks. That is harsh, but I can’t find any other reason to deny the almost universal scientific opinion that we are warming the planet.
Now, however, six million of our fellow citizens are being put in jeopardy. The altitude of Houston, Texas, fourth largest city in our country, is fifty feet. Given the predictions on the rise of sea levels, we are going to lose a major part, if not all, of this great city, and along with it the refineries that produce fully one third of the refined products of oil. If you don’t really care about the sufferings of millions of fellow humans, you will care about the enormous amount of money it will cost to recover from the effects of the damage we are doing.
Global warming is not a theory anymore. It is a reality, and it has started to rip our world apart. We will lose a third of Florida. We will lose most of Manhattan. We will suffer storms and droughts and devastating temperatures and forest fires. Very, very soon, substantial portions of our country will be uninhabitable.
The real, profoundly disturbing thing here is that we are not owners of this globe. We are its stewards. We owe it to our children and to the generations that will come after us to at the very least leave them a world that is livable. We are deliberately failing that duty, for no greater reason than that we don’t want to pay for it. If we continue to refuse to take steps to repair the damage we have done, this generation will go down as a moral disaster. Frankly, I’m not sure we don’t deserve that title already.