“Wow, the water sure looks high.”
My wife said this as we were visiting our hometown of St. Augustine, Fla, this summer. We were on Matanzas Bay, separated from the water by a low sea wall. The water was a couple of feet below the wall’s rim. A storm surge at high tide would easily push tons of sea water into our beautiful city.
This was driven home by a report from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) that declared that July 2015 was the warmest month on record for the globe. Climate change is a reality, it’s man-made and it will have serious consequences. There is no scientific controversy. Even the Pentagon, as early as 2004, acknowledged the risks of climate change, and it continues to prepare today.
This is not a future catastrophe, because effects can be seen today. Severe drought in California, fires in Washington State and water depletion in Nevada are some of the effects felt here domestically. Rising sea levels, caused by melting glaciers, could inundate cities such a as St. Augustine. Miami is already seeing seawater flow into its sewers.
That climate change will have political ramifications is shown by the forced migration of people fleeing the Syrian civil war. Thousands of refugees have fled to Europe, many dying at sea, in the hopes of finding safe haven. Though there are many reasons for the conflict, climate induced drought may be one.
A paper published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences argues that the drought of 2007-2008 exacerbated a poor political and environment situation in the region. The cities in Syria, already packed with refugees from the Iraq conflict, saw a further influx of refugees from the Syrian countryside where the land had dried up. In the cities, there was no work and there were few resources for them, precipitating conflict that is forcing migration from Syria.
So if there is no scientific controversy, and the effects can lead to people dying, why so little action? The controversy is political, not scientific. Politicians and their supporters in the fossil fuel industry have waged a campaign to attack climate change science, using tactics similar to those tobacco companies used to attack the link between cancer and smoking.
Some call climate change a “hoax,” as U.S. Sen. James Inhofe, R-Okla., has done, as if hundreds of scientists around the world, including those at NOAA and NASA, are conspiring to lie. Others have tried to silence those raising the alarm, as the governor of Florida is accused of doing.
Others just try to confuse the issue, claiming that the science is unclear. Recently, I received an unsolicited book at my office entitled, “The Mad, Mad World of Climatism (sic)” that attacked climate science. The book turns out to be sponsored by the Heartland Institute, an organization backed by the fossil fuel industry. If an ordinary college professor is receiving free material, there is money behind climate change denial.