This week there was a major successful shareholder rebellion against Exxon over Exxon’s climate change policies. The rebellion was led by giant financial firms and not environmentalists. As a result, Exxon is being forced to change some of its policies. I doubt this will be the only shareholder rebellion. These financial firms may well be reacting to predictions of the backbreaking financial costs of climate change.
This week President Trump unilaterally did the opposite of those giant financial companies and pulled the United States out of the Paris Accord. I guess he needed a win, but a political win at any cost is a loss. Even if we view this purely through money colored glasses we just got mugged. Our shot at becoming the world’s leader in the energy revolution that is rapidly accelerating has just been cut off at the knees. China will likely now reap the rewards of the innovator, while we reap the losses of the ostrich with its head in the sand. It is a travesty that our current administration seems incapable of looking at history for ideas on how to act in the face of catastrophic threats such as global warming and how to garner the benefits of being a true world leader.
Is global warming real? Nothing is 100% certain in science, and yet every second of the day we accept that a scientific consensus of less than 80% is enough to act on. This is true for an entire host of critical things from military weapon systems to medicine to software to agriculture to court rooms. The scientific consensus for human caused global warming is very high at 97%. The Republicans use this 3% “lack of scientific consensus” on global warming as an excuse to ignore the highly likely scientific hypothesis that we are polluting ourselves out of our ever-loving future. This is the Republican Party’s less than 3% doctrine.
Global warming is considered a scientifically indisputable fact. Ignoring the causes, over 99% of climate scientists agree that global warming is happening. It is also a scientifically indisputable fact that human activity is contributing at some level to climate change. Greenhouse gases cause climate change and we emit these gases. So the only thing in question is whether we are a major cause or a minor cause. Surveys have found that less than 3% of climate scientists believe that human activity is not the major cause of global warming. These are the facts despite disinformation attempts to cast this all as myth.
I recall the prior Republican administration using a “1% doctrine” to justify the war on Iraq. If there is only a 1% chance Iraq could have a nuclear weapon then we need to act now… We don’t want the smoking gun to be a mushroom cloud… That 1% figure was a nonscientific estimate which could have just as accurately been stated at 10% or even 50%. The Republicans were willing to wage war on an unscientific 1% chance of a nuclear Iraq, but are not willing to try to avert a far greater global crisis on a less than 3% scientific chance that cutting back on our pollution won’t help save us. Even if our pollution turns out to be nothing more than a minor contributing factor, how can we not act? How can we not want to pollute less? How can we abandon our responsibility to the future?
In 2014 the Pentagon reported that climate change poses an immediate threat to national security, with increased risks from terrorism, infectious disease, conflict, and food shortages. Today, military leaders are calling on the Trump administration to view climate change as a security risk.
In the face of all this elected Republicans continue to use their less than 3% doctrine as an excuse to pollute more, pull out of the Paris Accord, and let “the world go to hell,” and I assure you this reference to hell is not a metaphor. Our coastlines are already flooding, causing great economic damage. Florida and much of the East Coast are already economically effected. We are experiencing an unprecedented extinction of species only comparable to the time when the dinosaurs vanished. We may lose the ability to feed the world sooner than predictions as our world population continues to grow unabated and too much farmland becomes wasteland. All of this could tax our military and our economy to the breaking point.
We the American people bear much of the blame for this problem. We are the second largest source of industrial greenhouse gas emissions only exceeded by China. Surveys show that about 50% of the American people believe pollution is not a contributing factor to global warming. This is happening in the face of science, government, and industry considering it an incontrovertible scientific fact that our industrial greenhouse gas emissions are a contributing factor. Even many of the biggest fossil fuel companies believe pollution is a contributing factor and support the Paris Accord. As long as 50% of the American people think it’s okay to pollute as much as they want, elected Republicans will continue to act as they have defying all vestiges of rational conservative thought, and as if in some Kafkaesque farce, promoting the very lies that are keeping those same 50% of the American people in the dark.
Sometimes leaders must act regardless of public opinion. Confronted by this avoidable global crisis, the majority of elected Republicans are more than deserting their responsibility to protect we the people; they are on the verge of inflicting irreparable harm. As a bestselling techno-thriller / sci-fi novelist, I can easily imagine our or children or our children’s children considering the acts of these “leaders” crimes against humanity and conducting trials.