Feeling Angry and Helpless

I am angry. There simply is no doubt that human activity is causing a rapid increase in global atmospheric and oceanic temperatures. Changes in temperature that we are seeing now, and predicting to occur in the next 100 years or so, have been seen before in Earth’s history. However, those changes occurred over thousands of years, not decades. We’ve known this for at least of all of my 50 years on this planet.

In 1988 the World Meteorological Society and the United Nations Environmental Program created the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) to evaluate the state of climate science as a basis for informed policy making regarding climate science. This was not the beginning of research on anthropogenic climate change, this was after years of publications warning us of the potential for humans to greatly impact the climate. Countless scientific papers have been published and withstood the scrutiny of peers. The IPCC has presented the consensus of scientific opinion that Earth’s climate is being affected by human activities. All major U.S. scientific agencies have also agreed, concluding that evidence for human modification of climate is compelling. There has even been a scientific study to study the consensus of the scientific studies. Nearly 1000 peer reviewed articles published between 1993 and 2003 about climate change were reviewed to determine if there were any dissenting opinions among researchers. Seventy-five percent of the articles were about the causes, impact, and possible mitigation methods of climate change. Twenty-five percent were studies about paleoclimate and took no position on anthropogenic climate change. None of the articles disagreed with the consensus viewpoint. Certainly scientific consensus could be wrong, but that is highly unlikely at this point, and the peer-reviewed scientific process of developing consensus would support that conclusion. What is more likely, based on the history of other controversial and difficult scientific theories, is that more and more details will emerge that might modify our understanding about climate interactions and climate dynamics, the general thrust of the consensus will not change. The scientific community is quite conservative when it comes to accepting a theory. The controversy is simply a manufactured one by industry and then propagated by politicians and media speaking for that industry which has something to lose from an acceptance of anthropogenic climate change. Climate scientists have been repeatedly telling us for nearly all of my lifetime and our society has failed, no refused, to listen.

We are now seeing the immediate effects of climate change. Previously, it was dismissed as a future problem with abstract effects on human livelihood. Now it is becoming painfully obvious, from shifts in weather patterns resulting in feast or famine rain cycles—either torrential rainfall or drought, catastrophic wildfires, increased hurricane events and strengths, changes in animal migration, plant distribution, melting glaciers impacting communities located in coastal and those relying on seasonal glacial melting and reforming for drinking water, well the list goes on unfortunately. Finally, a majority of Americans “believe” in climate science (as if science is ever something to “believe” in), and more and more Republican politicians are coming around to accepting the scientific consensus. The mere fact that acceptance of the scientific consensus is split by party affiliation is evidence enough that this doubt was never about accepting the science, instead but a function of “politics” and accepting an alternative narrative to benefit corporate interest initially and then utilized as a wedge issue to divide and conquer the American voters. And it worked.

It cannot be that the majority of the Republican elected officials do not, or cannot understand the climate science. They aren’t stupid. The only explanation I can see is that they instead have hung on to the doubt to satisfy those funding their campaigns and to keep the support of those voters successfully divided and conquered so as to remain in power. This campaign to utilize manufactured doubt in climate science (and now all of science) is being done for one purpose only—short term profit and maintaining of political power. And this is what makes me so angry. A minority of powerful citizens have manipulated the media and political system for their short term benefit at the expense of EVERYONE ELSE ON THE PLANET. This is much worse than stupidity. This is either an act of narcissism, ignorance, or just plain evilness. As we now see the immediate and direct impact of climate change on the lives of specific communities, we are taking action to not mitigate the problem, or even reduce our impact, but instead reenacting outdated policy that will make the problem even worse. Let’s call it what it is—sedition.

And this is what makes me so angry. I’m fearful we have already reached a tipping point with climate change and nothing we could do (even if we could magically enact the use of only renewable resources tomorrow) can stop catastrophic changes that will greatly impact the lives of everyone on the planet and the minority of individuals that prevented us from taking meaningful, timely action will not be held to account. These few individuals stood in the way and we will all pay the price—except many of those that did stand in the way, because of financial advantage will be the last to pay the price and those with the least voice in our political system will be the first to pay the price (if they haven’t already).

Right now, I’m just angry and want my pound of flesh. And I feel helpless. Granted, I have done as much as I could have to adjusted my lifestyle so as to have no ecological footprint on the planet, but even if I had been able to live completely off the grid, it would not matter except for my own state of mind. The power of my one vote, my one voice, and my individual action steps have had no effect. I do not like living in this place of anger and helplessness. But, that’s where I am right now.

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