I’m aiming this column mostly at grandparents, let’s say people aged 60 and older with grandchildren who are 10 to 20 years old. This week, as we celebrate the 238th birthday of our beloved country, I’d like you to roll the calendar forward 50 years.
You won’t be hanging around at that time, of course. Nor will I. But our grandchildren will still be on deck (or so we hope). Today I want you to picture your grandkids standing at your gravesite or thumbing through a family photo album. Imagine, as they think of you, that they ask this question: “I wonder what Grandpa or Grandma did, or even thought, about global warming way back then, when there was still time to do something about it?”
I won’t attempt to imagine the answers to that question. Instead, I’ll list some possible situations our grandchildren may face at that time, a half-century from now. For example, if they’ll be living in Florida, odds are strong their homes will be inland, far from what you and I today regard as the Florida coastline. Much of the coast will have been diminished, washed away by steadily rising tides.
Likewise with New York City, Boston, Los Angeles, Seattle and other coastal communities. “But by then, won’t the engineers have learned how to build dikes and coastal walls to hold back the sea?” Let’s be hopeful, and say yes. But do you know how much those seawalls will cost to design, build and be maintained? Guess who will foot the bills for all that? Not you and me. Our grandchildren, that’s who.
They may need every nickel they’ve got left, just to stay alive. Basic food costs may have skyrocketed because of the droughts and flooding that have become increasingly common as climate change batters our country’s agricultural production. Home insurance prices may go through the roof, as a result of the floods and tornadoes that, even in 2014, have grown in number.
Hundreds of reputable scientists have warned that global warming will bring increased air pollution, insect-borne diseases and longer allergy seasons. The growth in the number and severity of heat waves will result in more savage wildfires. Greater reliance on air conditioning may further strain our already burdened electric power system.
And so on. Before I go further, I’ll acknowledge that strong counter-claims exist, disputing many of the global-warming threats. Added to the argument is the knowledge that even if the United States today abruptly reduced its carbon-dioxide emissions, the worldwide benefits would be limited unless major polluters such as China and India also join in the effort.
So what shall we do? Nothing? Wring our hands, sit and hope? For many persons, the clinching argument against taking action is the enormous economic pain it will cause to all participants. Coal mines will be shut down. Industries will howl at the cost of installing CO2-reduction measures in their factories. Politicians from all parties will quake in their boots and then dig in their heels as anti-pollution measures are viewed, correctly, as threats to their constituents’ job security.
To all of these objections, the climate-change activists reply, “We agree with you. The cost of saving the planet will be enormous. But the price of inaction, of waiting too long, may well be the end of civilization as we know it, or hope to know it. We realize that anti-pollution efforts by the USA alone cannot be the full solution to global warming, but until or unless the United States leads the way, how likely will it be that other industrial nations will also join the fight?”
Today, I’m not saying that every American should immediately choose up sides on the climate change controversy. Our country is already divided on too many other issues. What I’m urging is that every thinking American resolve to learn as much about climate change as he or she can. If you own a computer or live near a library, you have access to hundreds of books and articles about our globe and its environment. If we keep an open mind and study until our eyeballs start to ache, we can become a self-appointed expert on this all-important topic. At that point, we can then decide what is the truth, and which policies (public and private) deserve our support. Then we can be fully confident about which wheels we should put our shoulders to.
On this Fourth of July, if you’d like to do something really patriotic, try this: Go to your computer; boot up “climate change” and start to read. Become a GWN – a global warming nut. Your grandchildren may not be watching you today, but in 2064 they may be asking the question I posed in my second paragaph (above).