Raise Your Hand

Raise Your Hand

If you believe human activity is causing climate change, raise your hand.

That was the simple question that the eight candidates for the Republican presidential nomination were asked at their debate last month. Asa Hutchinson managed to get his hand halfway up before another candidate, Ron DeSantis, objected to the request by insisting “We are not school children,” adding “Let’s have a debate.” He proceeded, like an unprepared middle schooler, to dodge the question.

Later, Nikki Haley did acknowledge that climate change was real, but she pointed the blame at China and India.

The Republican Party does not believe in climate change and has no plans to address it. Indeed, measures put in place by the current administration to mitigate greenhouse gas emissions have been targeted for removal by Republican leaders.

What the GOP believes in are fossil fuels, like coal. Vivek Ramaswamy called the well documented warming of the planet “a hoax,” and there was no pushback from his colleagues on the stage—who happily criticized him on other issues.

The frontrunner and POTUS 45, who sat out the debate, has called concern about a warming planet “nonsense,” dismissing it on Fox News in April: “When I listen to people talk about global warming, that the ocean will rise, in the next 300 years, by 1/8th of an inch…The environmentalists talk about all this nonsense.” Elsewhere he has used 1/100th of an inch as the amount that sea levels will rise during the next three centuries.

He is wildly wrong, as he so often is, on both counts. And he is off by feet, not inches. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration predicts that with significant reductions in greenhouse gas emissions in the decades to come, sea level rise by 2100 could be kept to two feet. But If we merrily keep doing what we’ve been doing—i.e. the Republican “plan”—the increase for the United States could be more than seven feet from the current level by the end of this century.

In that case, kiss Mara-a-Lago bye-bye.

In fact, all of Florida is already reeling from the impact of superstorms. Last September Ian inflicted nearly $100 billion in damages on the state, whose governor, Ron DeSantis, doesn’t answer questions about climate change. The cost of Idalia may not reach that total, but it will be painful nonetheless coming as it does so close on the heels of Ian. Some insurance companies, like Farmers, has already limited their exposure or announced their withdrawal from the state altogether.

Insurance companies believe in climate change.

Billion-dollar-plus climate disasters in the United States, once relatively rare, are now quite common. There were 22 such events in 2020 and 20 in 2021. From 1980 to 2021 the annual average for billion-dollar climate disasters (in constant dollars) was 7.7. There have been 13 this year so far.

Examples of climate change are proliferating. Lake Mead and the Panama Canal are running dangerously low on water. The Antarctica ice sheet is melting and penguin colonies there are failing. Mosquito- and tick-borne diseases like malaria and dengue fever are wending their way north with the warming climate. Smoke from western and Canadian wildfires regularly darken our skies and afflict our lungs. This year is in the running to be the planet’s hottest ever recorded; July was the hottest month ever.

The worst effects of climate change will not be felt by our generation, but by those of our children and grandchildren. It’s time to raise our hands.