Shortly after Category-5 Hurricane Irma destroyed the first Caribbean islands, President Trump commented: “It looks like it could be something that will be not good, believe me, not good.” Duh, thanks Donald! For a second, I thought you were Madame Irma. She’s a French fortune-teller, by the way, in case you were thinking of making a career change Michelle wrote about last week.
It’s true. Irma was as bad as it looked. I live on this French-Caribbean archipelago in the Leeward Islands that you might have just recently heard about for the first time — Guadeloupe — and unlike the many other islands near to us, we’ve been incredibly spared by Irma, and I’ve been struggling most of this week about what my next post could possibly be about when my Facebook feed was full of nothing but heart-wrenching missing-person messages from the northern French islands, St. Martin and St. Barts. About 24 hours after Irma blew through St. Martin like a nuclear bomb, Governor Scott urged Floridians to follow evacuation orders ahead of Irma: “We can rebuild your home, but we cannot rebuild your life.” But you have to understand what it’s like; when you live on an island, there’s no evacuation route. Not by plane nor by boat. So this got me wondering: Could this have been avoided? What do we do to prevent this from happening again? Is global warming responsible or is it “no big deal”? I think global warming is a big deal, at least as big as the wreaked havoc, the sceneries of chaos, the destroyed Caribbean islands erstwhile known as paradise islands. Just follow the path from the Leeward Islands all the way up to Florida; it’s easy really: the track looks like a huge steamroller rolled over them.
Yet, another 24 hours later (48 before Irma reached Florida), on Friday September 8, US environmental chief Scott Pruitt said that now was not the time for discussion about climate change, even amid record-breaking hurricanes Irma, Jose, and Katia: “To have any kind of focus on the cause and effect of the storm; versus helping people, or actually facing the effect of the storm, is misplaced. To discuss the cause and effect of these storms, there’s the … place (and time) to do that, it’s not now.”
Yeah? When is it then? French President Macron on the other hand was quick to name the culprit for these repeated horrific weather events: global warming. Sure, Manu, go ahead and make another cutting remark to President Trump, blame it on the United States while you’re at it, they withdrew from the Paris deal after all! Residents of St. Martin won’t forget, however, that you yourself took days to send appropriate help and face the chaotic mess of the “morning after”. (Yeah, sure, okay, category-4 Hurricane Jose was on its way …) In truth, there is simply no way to be so affirmative but the question “what then?” must be asked and urgent measures taken. (By measures, I mean something besides trying to shoot the hurricanes down with your assault rifles to make them go away.) If all drivers began to drink, sure there would be more accidents but how can you say that this drunk driver wouldn’t have had an accident at that very same time if he hadn’t drunk? It’s impossible to say if there wouldn’t have been a Harvey, an Irma, a Jose, or a Katia without global warming. Earth only has the one history we know, right?
What is absolutely certain though, what has been documented for over ten years, is that global warming boosts the increasing strength of hurricanes. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) says that the yearly relative proportion of category-4 and -5 hurricanes has doubled in the 40-year data they have. That is the one history we have. No alternative facts allowed. But a president’s term is (thankfully) too short compared to the eras meteorologists need. The IPCC establishes reports once every seven years, which means President Trump will never see one on his Oval Office desk; talk about a conspiracy. It’s no wonder the man is a climate skeptic. The problem with politicians is that they’ll deal with these catastrophic events once they’re the imminent problem, and tomorrow they’ll worry about the drop in automobile sales, the day after tomorrow about the weakening of steel production, and so on and forth, although each time these industries rise again, they raise the CO2 emissions. One day or another, we’ll have to agree with ourselves and decide what’s what. We need to be smarter than we actually are. I’m not a praying person, so unless someone has the direct line to that hypothetical guy up there, I can sadly only rely on men to make changes — which might also be a problem. Like George Carlin said, “How do we save the planet when we don’t know how to take care of ourselves? Nothing’s wrong with the planet, the planet is fiiiine, the people are fucked up!” Every time I read about Climate Change Conferences, what strikes me the most is the word “fail”. You gather thousands of worldwide scientists and country leaders, there are those who agree that something must change and the others who agree that “meh, we might lose money with all this.” So, first they point a finger at other countries and when they realize a finger is pointed toward them too, they go pre-school, “okay, but you first.” They stuff themselves with petits fours rather than new ideas and they go back home on their huge planes and wait for the next conference in one or two years when they will have the chance to visit another city for free. This is a fail for the planet, but first and foremost this is a fail for all of us.
Because the bad news is global warming is real. The worse news is it’s irreversible. No matter what you do, no matter the efforts you put into it, you will never be twenty ever again. Or four billion years old. I don’t know if that prevents you from being happy, but it’s a reality. You know about those little 2°C (3.6°F) they bore us with? It’s true that it seems like nothing and it may be hard to believe that just by raising the global temperature more than two degrees, we may dramatically face higher seas, changes in weather patterns, food and water crises, and an overall more hostile world. But do you know how many degrees’ difference we are from the last Ice Age? The average global temperature change between today and then is as little as 9°F (5°C).
Have you looked outside lately? You have probably heard about hurricanes Harvey, Irma (biggest ever recorded), Jose and Katia, barreling through the Atlantic with 8 more potentials forming. But there’s more. Let me keep you up to date:
California, Oregon, Washington, British Columbia, Alberta, Montana, Nova Scotia, Greece, Brazil, Portugal, Algeria, Tunisia and the Sakha Republic of Russia (wherever that is) are on fire. Even Greenland and Siberia are on fire! Texas is under water, and India, Nepal, Pakistan, and Bangladesh experience record monsoons and massive death toll. Sierra Leone and Niger experience massive floods, mudslides, and deaths in the thousands. Italy, France, Spain, Switzerland, Hungary, Poland, Romania, Bosnia, Croatia, and Serbia are crushed in the death grip of a triple digit heat wave, dubbed Lucifer. Southern California continues to swelter under triple digit heat that shows no sign of letting up. In usually chilly August, the city of San Francisco shatters all-time record at 106 degrees, while it reaches 115 degrees south of the city. Northern California continues to bake in the triple digits. Then you have earthquakes in Yellowstone, Idaho, Japan and Mexico both with tsunami warnings. Beach lines are receded at least 160+ feet. And last but not least on September 7, the sun fired off a massive flare, the highest recorded solar flare in years, and a “strong geomagnetic storm watch” is in effect.
Other than that, the planet is absolutely fine. (I actually mistyped “gone”. Soon …)
I didn’t mention that icebergs are melting, because we all know they’re melting by now, and not many of us care about polar bears hanging tight to their ridiculously diminished pieces of ice. But we, too, try to hang on to our coconut trees and it’s no easy thing to do when they’re uprooted by 185-mph gusts.