American Cities Fight for Their Lives — Alone

The city of Homer, Alaska, achingly beautiful, is fighting for its life against a relentless enemy. Like several other American cities, it is losing its war. The government in Washington insists it’s not happening.

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. Continue reading

The Luxury Cruise to the End of the World

crystal serenity

This is how you watch the end of the world — aboard the Crystal Serenity, marinating in luxury.

Sorry, you missed it. But if you had known about it — I don’t know why you didn’t get the memo — and if you had $120,000 lying around ($22,000 for steerage) you could have joined 1,000-plus passengers served by 700 crew on the first luxury cruise from Seward, Alaska to New York City via the Northwest Passage through the Arctic Ocean. Once solid ice, the Northwest Passage became navigable in theory in 2007 because of climate change.

According to the brochure, the good ship Crystal Serenity is “an abomination—a massive, diesel-burning, waste-dumping, ice-destroying, golf-ball-smacking middle finger to what remains of the planet, courtesy of precisely 1,089 of its richest and most destructive inhabitants. And it’s all made possible by runaway climate change, the existential global crisis that these same people and their ilk have disproportionately helped to create.”

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US Climate Migrations About to Begin

Too close for comfort: rising waters of the Gulf of Mexico are turning the residents of Isle de Jean Charles, LA, into the first U.S. climate refugees. (Photo by Karen Apricot/Flickr)

Too close for comfort: rising waters of the Gulf of Mexico are turning the residents of Isle de Jean Charles, LA, into the first U.S. climate refugees. (Photo by Karen Apricot/Flickr)

Does the Congress know about this? The Federal Department of Housing and Urban Development in January approved grants of about a billion dollars to communities in 13 states to help the deal with climate change — a problem that according to a majority of the leaders of Congress, and a majority of the members of the Senate, does not exist. Among those grants was one for $48 million to help move an entire Louisiana community to higher ground as rising seas obliterate its land. This is a first for America. It is hardly the last. Continue reading

The Worst Reporting on Climate Change. Ever. (So Far.)

boiling frog

If the warming is siow, the frog is happy. (Photo by Purple Sloq/Flickr)

In describing our progress toward a well-educated and -informed citizenry, served by a free and fearless press, seeking a smoothly functioning democratic republic, do you believe in devolution, or are you a destructionist? That is, do you think we are rotting away from within, or is God punishing us? It’s probably too late to have that discussion; when you’re in a sinking scow, you can lament the lack of a luxury cruiser only so long, then you have to shut up and swim.

The low water mark (to twist the metaphor) of our society’s deteriorating journalism, its increasingly muddled grasp of scientific discoveries, and its atrophied ability to speak its own native language — not to mention its suffocating narcissism — was expressed in a single news story recently whose pungency and brevity would have been admirable if the perpetrators had intended it. Continue reading

Charades in Paris

sea level rise

“A rising sea today submerged the hall in which COP21 negotiators were debating what to do about sea level rise.” You think that’s fantasy? Take a look at what COP21 is actually, really doing.

Charades: an absurd pretense intended to create a pleasant or respectable appearance. Paris: site of the 2015 conference of COP21 (or, if you insist: Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, 21st Session). Yes, it’s the 21st time the participants have gathered to congratulate themselves for finally getting serious about climate change, with the promise that this time they will not only be serious about it, they will actually do something about it.

Of course they haven’t been; and of course they won’t. The only principle to which they have been committed, leaders of the industrialized and developing nations alike, is the first principle of industrialized politics: always appear to be doing something, but never do anything.  To do something about climate change would negatively affect one or more of the Leaders’ industrial patrons on whom most of them depend to stay in office; but a Leader must always appear to be doing something about something lest the starving, choking, drowning peasants rise up and ruin the business plan. Continue reading

Beware the Tides of March

Blue Sky Flooding

US Highway 80, only access to Tybee Island, Georgia, underwater on October 27. It was the worst flood since a Category 2 hurricane in 1935. No rain, no wind, just an implacably rising sea.

When I first published Brace for Impact, six years ago, I did not give climate change its own chapter. I thought it was a slow-moving threat multiplier, that would exacerbate the effects of more immediate damage done by by polluters, industrial agriculture, peak oil and the like. Boy, has that changed. The onslaughts of drought, heat, savage storms and sea level rise have accelerated beyond the expectations of scientists just a few years ago, and as we come around the turn to the home stretch, climate change is neck and neck with the various other existential threats to the industrial age. The finish line, of course, being the place where we are all finished. Continue reading

A Tsunami of Climate Refugees is Drowning Europe

refugees-greek-sea

Can you imagine what it would take for you to take your family on a vessel like this to cross an angry sea to a foreign country, just to stay alive? This boat is bound for a Greek island from North Africa.

One of the most desperate and destructive diasporas in history is rolling out of the parched regions of Africa and the Middle East, over Europe, toward extinction. They are being called refugees from war, but the wars they are fleeing have their origins in the desperation of people who have no food, and they have no food because of the savage droughts being inflicted on their countries by global climate change. Hence, it is perfectly legitimate, and more importantly it is honest, to call them climate refugees.

(Among all 423 current candidates for US President, only Martin O’Malley demonstrated a grasp of this reality when he said that climate change is responsible for the rise of ISIS. He was almost universally ridiculed for saying it, and this tiny, lonely spark of sense fell on wet ground and was instantly extinguished.) Continue reading

Blue Water Rising: It Could be Worse

Scientists are increasing their projections of how high sea level is going to rise, and how fast. (Photo by Mike Licht, NotionsCapital.com)

Scientists are increasing their projections of how high sea level is going to rise, and how fast. (Photo by Mike Licht, NotionsCapital.com)

The good news is that the mainstream media are beginning to report the bad news about climate change and rising sea levels. Witness these headlines from just the past few days:

  • Florida leads nation in property at risk from climate change” — The Miami Herald
  • U.S. Flood Risk Could Be Worse Than We Thought” — Time
  • Climate Change Will Cause Increased Flooding In Coastal Cities” — Forbes
  • The world’s most famous climate scientist just outlined an alarming scenario for our planet’s future” — The Washington Post

The bad news is that even now, the pundits cannot stop using the weasel words, false equivalencies and unsourced generalizations that give the politicians and other willfully ignorant people enough room to act as if nothing important is happening. Continue reading