The month of September 2016 marks the first time in human history that CO2 levels in the atmosphere topped 400ppm in all recorded areas. In fact, CO2 levels have not been that high since dinosaurs ruled the earth. And that’s not even the bad news. According to scientists, the human race may never see carbon dioxide levels drop below this dangerous threshold.
Just three years ago, CO2 levels passed the 300ppm threshold, and predictions suggested the 400ppm level was many, many years down the road. Sadly, they were very wrong.
As 350.org points out, and as their name suggests, the safe limit of carbon dioxide in the earth’s atmosphere is 350 parts per million. Passing into the 400ppm zone puts the planet at extreme risk of accelerated warming and catastrophic weather events.
Again, that’s not even the worst news.
At a time when we’re surpassing dangerous carbon dioxide pollution levels and the evidence of climate change is visible all over the United States, we’re still a country ruled largely by climate change deniers. Worse still, we don’t seem all that concerned by that fact.
While the majority of Americans continue to believe in science, they are represented by a member of Congress that believes in the fossil fuel industry instead of climate experts. As a result, the climate suffers and Americans claim to fret over the issue while electing people who publicly admit that they do not believe there is a problem.
The problem goes deeper still when you consider the climate positions of the Republican Party’s ticket for this year’s presidential election.
Donald Trump, the GOP’s presidential nominee, has stated time and time again that he does not believe in climate change. During the first presidential debate, he claimed to have never said that it was a hoax perpetrated by the Chinese, and his campaign staff scrambled to delete his Tweet saying exactly that as the debate was going on.
As The Huffington Post points out, Pence kind of believes the climate is changing, but he firmly believes that there is nothing we can do about it. During a recent interview on CNN, Pence claimed that both he and Trump believe that the climate is naturally warming and that it is ridiculous to believe that the policies of the United States can ever change the climate. Before becoming Trump’s running mate, Pence had referred to climate change as both a “myth” and a “theory.”
The Libertarian ticket, though currently polling at below 10% nationally, doesn’t fare much better on the issue of climate change. Their nominee, former New Mexico governor Gary Johnson, does actually accept the science showing that the planet is warming due to human activity, but he said recently that the sun will engulf the earth in a few billion years anyway, so why bother preserving the planet?
It is worth noting that Johnson’s Libertarian ideology is in favor of limited government and privatization of vital services, and he believes that if any action is taken on climate change it should come from private industry. But it seems highly doubtful that companies like Koch Industries and ExxonMobil will suddenly advocate for a reduction in fossil fuel use.
On the whole, the Democratic Party seems very willing to accept that climate change is happening due to human activities and that we should take action. However, as President Obama has shown, the Democratic Party is all too willing to make concessions to the fossil fuel industry and has given them unfettered access to federal lands for energy exploitation, thus helping to increase our carbon emissions.
And this all goes back to the main point of how the majority of Americans — Republicans, Democrats, and everyone else — believe in climate change and yet vote for politicians who are more than willing to let the fossil fuel industry pollute as they wish. It is hypocritical to say that you care for something while voting for a leader at any level who has made it clear that they will destroy that which you love.
The sad reality is that Americans are too shortsighted when it comes to issues like climate change, and they are still operating under the impression that the problems are still decades away. But as the latest science shows us, the problems are here right now, and they are getting worse with each passing month of inaction.
Image credit: Donald Trump speaking at CPAC in Washington D.C. on February 10, 2011, by Gage Skidmore via Wiki Commons