It’s 104 degrees outside. The grass is dead or dying, trees are turning brown, and gardens are frying. Out west, there are dozens of wildfires, and to the north and east, flooding.
In Europe, they’ve hit an all-time high temperature after keeping records for over 300 years. According to NASA, global temperatures are rising, oceans are getting warmer, ice sheets are shrinking, glaciers are shrinking, sea levels are rising, and extreme weather events are occurring with greater frequency. Now we see the Colorado River and Lake Mead drying up.
Some of us look at all that and say, “Sure, it’s summer, it is always hot!” Some ask, “What about 1936 and the Dust Bowl? That was worse than this and it went away. This is normal weather changes.” Others of us - including 99% of climate scientists and now even some TV weather folks - are saying, “Yes, this is the real deal; climate change is real and getting worse.”
I fall into that latter category. If you’re inclined to do some research, you might run across this quote from NASA: “It is undeniable that human activities have produced the atmospheric gases that have trapped more of the sun’s energy in the Earth system. This extra energy has warmed the atmosphere, ocean, and land, and widespread and rapid changes in the atmosphere, ocean, cryosphere, and biosphere have occurred.”
That is a strong statement, and while they may consider it undeniable, there are many who do just that: They deny that human activity is the cause. There’s good reason for that denial, since those in the extraction industry - particularly ExxonMobil - have withheld valuable information and research they have had for decades. They don’t want to deal with the consequences that might reduce their extraordinary profits. Since the end of the pandemic, and blaming inflation for gas price increases, their profits have skyrocketed.
According to CNN business July 29, 2022: “Exxon’s profit, excluding special items, came to $17.6 billion in the second quarter, nearly double what it made in its very profitable first quarter as oil and gas prices started to soar in the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Second-quarter profit was up 273% from the same period a year ago.” We all know they are in business to make money, but that’s incredible - obscene? And, according to “Scientific American,” they knew decades ago,: “Since then - 1988 - Exxon has spent more than $30 million on think tanks that promote climate denial, according to Greenpeace.”
Regardless of belief about changing weather patterns and their cause, it all begs the question, “What are you going to do about it?” Congress has finally come to an agreement to take steps that many consider only a step “in the right direction,” not a total solution. That package includes a lot of steps and offers some hope of long-term mitigation. Immediately come the naysayers, such as Washington Post columnist Marc Thiessen, who complained about its name - I agree with that part of his concern - “The Inflation Reduction Act,” which proposed actions to impact climate change. It does, by the way, reduce inflation slightly according to some sources, but for our topic, it does address climate issues by funding clean energy sources, providing for capping methane losses, providing clean manufacturing, and clean farming tax credits, and more.
Are we better off doing nothing? Continuing to debate the relative pros and cons of action while continuing with inaction? I don’t think so. Climate is a very complicated topic and no one person has all the answers. But if you can make things better for your kids, to make an investment that might be the difference in their lives, would you? I know I would. Let’s do that.
Robert Lee is a retired social worker with interests in history and politics.