This American city of 5,000 people is under siege by an implacable enemy. Its food supply has been poisoned, its water supply affected, its main industry crippled, it loses big chunks of its territory every month or so, and several times the enemy has almost severed its only road out. The city has committed all its resources to the fight and regularly pleads with the state government for help, but the state is so besieged by other towns and cities, also under attack, that there is not enough to go around. Appeals to the national government are pointless because in the view of the national government, the enemy does not exist.
The city is Homer, Alaska, and the enemy is of course climate change. Here’s what Homer is up against:
- For nearly a hundred years, the average low temperature in February has been 19 degrees Fahrenheit; last February it was 30 degrees.
- Warmer winters mean more rain than snow, and rain is eroding the coast and threatening to cut the road.
- The lack of snow means the streams run shallower and warmer, threatening the area’s billion-dollar fishing industry.
- The warmer ocean waters in the area foster frequent blooms of toxic algae that poison the shellfish.
- Rising water is eating away the city’s seawall, which it has no way to replace.
Many of the towns competing with Homer for state help are in even worse shape — they are sinking into melting permafrost, or sliding into the ocean’s rising waters while being battered by more frequent and ferocious storms, and threatened by wildfires that now erupt almost year-round. The state is doing what it can but it is impoverished; once swimming in oil money with plenty for everyone, it is now watching the last dregs of North Slope oil trickle away through the aged and decrepit Alaska Pipeline.
Nor is Alaska the only state under siege. The residents of South Miami and Miami Beach, Florida, are regularly dealing with rising sea water bubbling up around their ankles in their city streets on days when their is no storm — “blue-sky flooding” is what they call it. It’s sea-level rise, caused by global warming, and for them it’s not theoretical, it’s here. Now. [Make that three years ago: see Miami Beach, October 9: Apocalypse Foretold]
Norfolk, Virginia knew it was in trouble five years ago, it was losing streets and waterfront property to the encroaching sea and was facing the prospect of more, more powerful, hurricanes. It pleaded with state government for help with the enormous costs of mitigation, and was told that any request containing the words “climate change” would not be considered.
All these thousands of people with their backs to the wall, fighting for their futures, their very survival, with an enemy toward which most of their political leaders maintain an attitude of amused disdain. There is no such thing as climate change, insist the legislators and governors of Florida, and Virginia, and South Carolina, and Washington, D.C. The President of the United States has said that climate change is a hoax, perpetrated by China to get an advantage in global trade, or something. The federal government is in the process now of defunding and dismantling the agencies and programs that research, and help fight, this enemy.
So the people in their thousands fight on, losing ground as slowly as they can, much like the people facing the tsunamis of opioid addiction and black lung disease and failing pension funds and closing clinics and cancelled policies. Fighting on alone until they die, while their government in Washington plays billionaire games with tax breaks and subsidies for people who don’t need them, partying madly at the all-you-can-eat, free-champagne Titanic buffet.