A boomer’s warning: the climate change calamity

When we were little baby boomers growing up, “climate change” meant the weather would be different tomorrow than it was today. Now though, it means a whole lot more. And in this Boomer Opinion piece, contributor Alan Paul of Hawthorne, New Jersey, argues that it must be not just taken seriously, but dealt with, for the sake of the generations that follow ours.

We used to have a stately, elderly oak tree growing in the center of our backyard. Some years ago, owing to an especially violent thunderstorm, a massive branch from this majestic tree, with all the length and heft of a medium-sized tree itself, came crashing earthward. While it badly damaged a favorite Adirondack chair and demolished some cherished shrubs and plants, the branch thankfully fell about eight feet short of the deck at the rear of our house.

The next day I called Rob, our reliable and amiable but quasi-burned-out Hippie tree-guy. He came in with his crew and cleared out the Godzilla branch in a couple of hours. Maybe six months later, on an unusually windy mid-October evening, a second monster branch from that very same tree, fully as ponderous and intimidating as the first, gave way to gravity, crushing the roof of our utility shed but otherwise landing mostly in our neighbor’s yard.

I called Rob again, and he showed up later that day in a faded Grateful Dead t-shirt, unfashionably distressed jeans, and cowboy boots, with a red bandanna knotted purposefully around his thick, wavy-gravy head of salt-and-pepper hair.

“What the hell is going on here, Rob?” I asked, exasperated. “Is it me, or are we having an unusual number of very windy days this year?”

“Not you, man,” he said gravely, while perusing the best angle from which to attack this latest tree-beast. “She’s really pissed…”

“Who’s pissed?” I inquired.

“Gaia, man … Mother Earth. She’s really bummed out about the way we’ve been treating Her. And She’s letting us know about it. Don’t ya remember that commercial back in the day: ‘It’s not nice to mess with Mother Nature’? It’s comin’ true, man, and we’re payin’ the price. Big time.”

The year that this occurred, 2010, was coincidently (or not) one of the worst years on record for natural disasters, worldwide. The globe was ravaged that year by severe droughts in some areas and equally devastating floods in others. One of the worst droughts in U.S. history descended upon Kansas, wheat supplier to the world.

Bread riot in Egypt.

The political climate in Egypt that year was especially volatile, and some historians, looking back at that tumultuous period in the hub of the Middle East, point to the scarcity of flour for bread, as a possible cause. Huh? It’s true. People took to rioting in the streets because there was no bread and the government, such as it was, fought back. Interestingly, the Arabic word for bread, ”aish,” is also their word for “life.” Most of Egypt’s wheat flower for bread-making comes from— you guessed it — Kansas.

As I write this today, the phenomena that I witnessed seven years ago are much more commonplace today. Just look at a deadly hurricane season like none other in history, and a wildfire rampage desecrating parts of California. How can anyone alive today fail to see this as virtually undisputed evidence of a downward spiral of climactic conditions gripping our planet? This is not just my opinion. And, dare I say it, it is not opinion at all, but the clear consensus of the overwhelming majority of climate scientists who have spent the better part of the last few decades studying what was once the “global warming theory.”

Alan Paul

Twenty years ago, there was some room for debate. Today, however, there’s not. Climate change is happening. It is being caused, in large measure, by human beings releasing more and more massive amounts of deadly greenhouse gasses like carbon dioxide and methane into the atmosphere each year. And this climate calamity is occurring much more rapidly than was originally predicted.

What I believe is this: God wants us to take care of this planet by whatever means are necessary. But if we don’t, God won’t necessarily save the planet for us. I certainly don’t trust that our political leaders are capable of agreeing on anything; not even an existential threat like this. What I am therefore left with is believing in scientists to do what is required and convince everyone else that we have to ensure our planet’s livability, for our grandchildren, their children’s children, and beyond. If anyone in power will only display the courage to let them.

God, Gaia, and Science together should be able to ensure a future for the human race, right here on our home planet. All the rest of us really have to do is get out of the way.

Some of retired editor and writer Alan Paul’s other work is available on The Frog Blog.

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10 Comments

  1. Alan, I’m sorry, but 2017 is not “a deadly hurricane season like none other in history.” According to the NOAA, 2017 was the 7th most active hurricane season (10 hurricanes) since 1900. The most active was 2005 with 15 hurricanes and 3,900 dead; the deadliest was 1900 with 8,000 dead. 2017 death toll still unknown due to Puerto Rico but about 1,000 so far. Climate is changing, yes; always has, always will. There were record droughts and floods before records were kept. Climate change killed the dinosaurs and humans had nothing to do with that. Our part is the current climate change is still in debate by various scientists; it’s already claimed that some scientific bodies falsified their data.

    1. Thanks Alan for a very good article on climate change. The future of this planet depends on all of us doing our daily share of helping Mother Earth, including everything you said. In addition, I would like to add one more solution to this crisis, voting in responsible people who understand the problem and will do something constructive about it, and not ignore the science and red flags. That doesn’t include exiting from the Paris Accord, reinstating coal as a viable fuel which pollutes our atmosphere, water and lungs, and taking away standards which were put in place to monitor pollution. It means voting for reliable people who can foresee the future now, who trust the proven scientific evidence, and take the necessary steps to prevent catastrophic environment changes on our planet. Our children, grandchildren and future generations depend on this. Let’s not wait until it’s too late.

      1. Thank you Sharyn. As you so succinctly point out, our current leadership in Washington (or lack thereof) makes it more important than ever to stand up for what it right and true. No fake news here.

    2. Denver, there is far more debate about what exactly killed the dinosaurs than there is about climate change and its primary causes. While our part in the current climate change may be debated by a handful of “various scientists,” the overwhelming majority find little reason for debate. According to Tom Karl, of the NOAA’s National Centers for Environmental Information: “There certainly is variability (in average temperature) from year to year, and one can find periods in the record where there are small changes, but over the long term, the world is still warming at an alarming rate.” There are no serious studies in which it was found that some scientific bodies falsified their data. Why exactly would scientists want to falsify data on climate change? What would they have to gain?Science isn’t opinion, Denver; that’s why it’s called “science.”

      1. A scientific fact starts life as an opinion, postulated as a theory, proven or disproven by testing. Google “scientific opinion”. But my main point was that you declared 2017 as a “deadly hurricane season like none other in history” when it clearly wasn’t, documented by NOAA and others.

        1. My information on that point was purely anecdotal, relying on meteorological reports throughout the hurricane season. My point was not necessarily that it was the worst hurricane season of all time. Rather that it was an unusually severe one. One of the markers of climate change is the severity of meteorological events, not necessarily the number.

  2. Climate change is going to happen regardless of how we think we are controlling things. If it was not for climate change most of us would be living underwater now. Proof being the marine fossils found high in the mountains. Rather than trying to change the climate we as humans need to adapt to the changing climate. One way is to cut the pollution we are spewing into the earth and atmosphere. Our oceans are afloat with plastics and poisons, our grounds and food supply filled with pesticides and herbicides.

    1. Normal climate change occurs over geologic time. What we are experiencing now is an anomaly. Cutting pollution is exactly the point, Diane. The alternative (doing nothing), virtually ensures that many living creatures become those fossils long before our time. Thanks for your comment.

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