Tuesday, May 21, 2013

No Act Of God

In case you missed it, on Monday, a massive tornado - likely an EF-5 on the enhanced Fujita scale - ripped a 15-to-20 mile long path, up to two miles wide, through suburban Oklahoma with sustained winds at or near 200 mph. Already, this tornado is being classified as one of the worst in history.

As a staff filled with those who've lived many years in the Midwest, the damage in Oklahoma is worse than anything we can ever remember seeing. We have friends in Oklahoma, and Paul has a longstanding relationship with the award-winning weekly newspaper the Oklahoma Gazette. For many of our Nebraska readers, there are also still many longstanding ties to Oklahoma, the longtime collegiate rivals of the Nebraska Cornhuskers.

In short, this disaster is personal for us.

So it's with a great deal of anger that we read about the recent comments of imbeciles like Minnesota state Senator Glenn Gruenhagen, or Texas Congressman Lamar Smith, and his asinine opinion piece in the Washington Post on Sunday. Frankly, we don't have much time today for people like writer Andrew Leonard either, who before the body count in Oklahoma even reached above 25, was already waving the gutless white flag of surrender and delay on climate change.

Most scientists - and indeed most people in the world - agree that climate change is real. Whether man caused climate change, or has simply increased its rate of acceleration matters very little to the potential 100 million people, worldwide, likely to be killed by climate change related disasters in the next 17 years.

There are those who will point out that climate change has not been definitively linked to tornados - and we won't argue with that. However, as Greg Sargent notes today, "Why not use this as an occasion for an argument over climate change? ...Why shouldn’t major events such as tornados or mass shootings prompt policy — or, yes, political — arguments over how we should respond to them? Policy matters. How we collectively respond to disasters matters. What lessons we draw from disasters about larger questions — such as whether climate change is linked to extreme weather, and if so, what should we do about it — matters."

The folks who make their living on facts and numbers even more than we do - insurers - are VERY certain about climate change. And those businesses and insurance companies worldwide, are incredibly concerned about climate change.

For insurers, costs have risen from hundreds of billions of dollars annually to more than a trillion dollars last year. $70 billion in damages alone was just from Superstorm Sandy. Want to know why your homeowners or business insurance went up last year? Don't just blame President Obama. Blame the clowns in Congress for refusing to increase energy efficiency long ago, and for continuing to coddle the ignorant climate deniers while continuing to subsidize carbon-creating corporations with more than a trillion dollars of U.S. taxpayer money. Blame the multi-national corporations too, with their eyes on the next fiscal quarter, instead of the next quarter century - which is actually very bad business.

From agriculture to fishing, the world's food supply is also in serious danger. Estimates from organizations like DARA and Oxfam International say the political costs around the world over the next two decades will be mindblowing. Imagine a worldwide depression, including every nation, with no potential end in sight - and heat waves all year long. Then you've gotten somewhere into the ballpark of what experts think things may look like.

As we have tried to make clear many times before, weather is not the same thing as climate. That said, a repeated pattern of increasingly bad weather around the world IS a measurable sign of climate change. And the deadly storm in Oklahoma is just another example of this phenomenon.

It is long past time, regardless of the initiating cause, that every human on Earth do whatever possible to stop rapid climate change, NOW. This isn't some kind of act of God, that is beyond the influence of humankind.

It's long past time to stop placating the doubters and act.