Ken Midkiff: World leaders cannot ignore long-term threats like global warming – Joplin Globe
A few of my acquaintances — who have been vaccinated and boosted — express some glee when various websites report an anti-vax person contracted COVID-19 and died. While those of us who are in favor of vaccinations and booster shots at first feel exonerated and express, “That’s what you get,” after those initial, somewhat harsh, feelings have subsided, we recognize that those dead anti-vaxxers are sons and daughters, children, parents and grandparents, and are, or were, human beings. Feelings of glee are replaced by sympathy.
Not so with global warming. If scientific predictions are correct, there won’t be anyone left alive to mourn the human race. It is doubtful that cockroaches and rats will regret that there are no humans left, while missing our food.
So far, except for isolated droughts or excessive rainfall, we in the middle of the United States have pretty much escaped the worst symptoms of global warming. However, both the East Coast on the Atlantic and the West Coast on the Pacific have borne the brunt of global warming. From record numbers and severity of wildfires (caused by prolonged drought and high winds) to rising water levels in Florida, Georgia, and the Carolinas, and the number and worsening of hurricanes, it has finally been recognized that whatever is happening, it is not normal.
Communities in California and the Pacific Northwest have been wiped out. Charleston, South Carolina, has been inundated by seawater that cannot be attributed to rainfall — flooding on nice days is common. The plans to protect from rising ocean levels seem to be very costly, and as yet nothing has occurred.
One of the problems in confronting global warming is that politicians, not even those on the East and West coasts, don’t treat global warming as a threat to the continuation of human life. Global warming, however, is not local, it is a planetary event. Granted, some areas will be affected more than others. Alaska has experienced rapidly rising temperatures that in turn have led to the melting of the Arctic permafrost, releasing more greenhouse gases. Alaska has experienced a rising temperature on a level that far exceeds Missouri, but global warming is a threat to all who call Earth home.
We have been warned. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change of the United Nations’ most recent report urges that immediate steps be taken to fend off the impacts of global warming. Composed mostly of scientists, the panel warns that those steps be taken now, before it is too late.
But the world’s dependence upon fossil fuels (which, when burned, emit greenhouse gases) seems to be continuing and even escalating. For example, one of the sanctions against Russia for its invasion of Ukraine is to ban Russian oil and gas. But, in an attempt to avoid a shortage of fossil fuels, the response has been for other countries to take up the slack. In short, those promises of vast reductions of fossil fuels at the recent climate change summit, were, in Greta Thunberg’s words, just so much “blah, blah, blah.”
So there it is. We rightly mourn the passing of an anti-vaxxer, but ignore predictions that the Earth will at some point in the near future become uninhabitable by humans and other critters. Recently, I viewed the movie “Don’t Look Up,” which, according to the director, was a thinly veiled substitute for global warming. The destruction of the Earth, even in the beginning of the movie, was only a few months away and, by the end of the movie, was happening. The responses of politicians, however, was spot on. They were more concerned with getting reelected and did not respond to the immediate threat until it was too late.
Not so with global warming. It will not occur in the next few months, it is much more gradual. But so far, the responses from politicians have been akin to those in the movie. Ignore it or shoot it, it will go away or become nonharmful.
While, certainly, world leaders must respond to immediate threats (such as Russia’s invasion of Ukraine), they must also take action against a long-term threat. Otherwise, our obituaries will not be written, because cockroaches and rats don’t write.