Maybe you missed the expiration date for our civilization during all the other news that broke this week, but here it is: according to the Trump administration the world will warm a catastrophic 7 degrees Fahrenheit (~4 degrees Celsius) by 2100. The Trump administration plans to take zero action.
So, that’s it. Put a fork in us, we’re done.
But if you wanted to know how campaigns here in Connecticut and around the country have been responding to such dire news, you’ll have to look hard. Like a lot of other things that are desperately important, like aging infrastructure, struggling schools, stagnant pay, and widening income inequality, the slow-motion environmental disaster we’re all living in has been lost in the noise.
It’s not hard to understand why. The daily indignity and outrage of the Trump administration, whether you’re for or against it, is hard to ignore. We’re caught up in so many fierce all-or-nothing fights over the Supreme Court, immigration, women’s rights, racial justice, and so much more that the slow-but-irreversible changes in the environment barely register.
It won’t register right up until climate change is another tornado touching down in rural Connecticut, or floodwaters pouring into your basement, or wildfires consuming your whole town. We ignore the environment, and then we pay for it.
The issue has barely come up in the race for governor this year, which is a shame because the governor can do a lot to help set environmental policy in the state. There was a climate change-focused forum back during the primaries, but no Republicans attended. Ned Lamont, Joe Ganim, and Oz Griebel talked about protecting the state’s Green Bank, electric buses, congestion tolls on highways, and energy efficiency. Bob Stefanowski has said very little about the environment, so it’s impossible to know what he thinks.
Lamont has by far the most detailed environmental plan, which would do things like rolling out internal carbon pricing for state and local government, making the state carbon neutral by 2050, and banning common plastics like straws.
These plans aren’t nothing, and they have potential — except maybe the straws thing. But in the face of what’s coming it all seems so … small.
If the planet really is going to warm 7 degrees, which means the seas will rise about six feet or so and the weather will become much hotter, much less predictable, and more extreme, what can we do to lessen the impact? Can we prepare? Is there any hope that we’ll be able to head off even a little of this?
Maybe. The Trump administration’s offhand comment about the planet warming was the worst-case scenario, and was used to justify delaying or not implementing some of the Obama administration’s environmental standards.
That means that if we do take drastic action, the impact won’t be quite as catastrophic. It’s still possible to save ourselves from some of the mess we’ve made. It won’t be easy, but it’s not impossible.
We’ll have to change a lot about ourselves, though, and how we live. We may need to stop driving single-passenger vehicles, for instance, and we may need to contract the suburbs and live closer together so transit works better. We may need to use less power, consume fewer resources, and pay more for what we do use. We’d need to pay much more in taxes to build an entirely new kind of infrastructure that pollutes less and can withstand the changes to come.
We’re going to have a miserable time doing that voluntarily. If we do, though, then that doomsday scenario gets less and less awful. If we don’t, the planet will force us to do it anyway — just much later and more painfully.
What a bunch of selfish, greedy old men rule our country. A baby born now has a pretty good chance of actually seeing the dawn of the 22nd century, but our leaders are so willing to steal from that child and everyone younger than they are just to push up profits and reap some short-term political gain. When the waters rise and the land boils, the ones who caused this will be safely dead.
And that baby born in 2018 will wade through a warm, shallow lake where a town used to be, and wonder how we let it all go so wrong.
Susan Bigelow is an award-winning columnist and the founder of CTLocalPolitics. She lives in Enfield with her wife and their cats.
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