Opinion

Ignoring the Climate Crisis was the Selfish Choice; It’s No Longer an Option

A backyard in Portsmouth, R.I., on Thursday morning, as the remnants of Ida moved through the region. (Frank Carini/ecoRI News)

As Rhode Island increasingly floods, tornado watches become more common, and severe storms like Henri and Ida turn off the power and crumble infrastructure, too many of the state’s elected officials are hooked on manufactured drama: the situation at a border 2,500 miles away; mask mandates; vaccination passports; the Green New Deal.

They claim that asserting immigrants are dangerous, mask mandates and vaccination requirements are unconstitutional, and that the climate is always changing and human activity has little to nothing to do with it is leadership. Enough of their constituents agree. It is a problem afflicting the entire country. We all suffer, as do future generations and much of life on the planet.

As the United States both floods and burns and a public-health crisis rages, a hateful minority attacks abortion and voting rights, cuts off unemployment and Medicaid benefits, wants to ban masks in schools, and hawks a malaria medication and a livestock dewormer to cure COVID.

We’re living in poorly written Margaret Atwood nonfiction.

The recently released Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s (IPCC) Sixth Assessment Report paints a bleak picture if we wait any longer to act. Among the findings of a report compiled by more than 200 authors and referencing some 14,000 scientific papers:

Climate change is intensifying the water cycle, bringing some regions more intense rainfall and associated flooding and others more intense drought.

Further warming will amplify permafrost thawing, and the loss of seasonal snow cover, melting of glaciers and ice sheets, and loss of summer Arctic sea ice.

Shoreline areas will see continued sea-level rise throughout the rest of the century, contributing to more frequent and severe coastal flooding and erosion. Extreme sea-level events that previously occurred once in 100 years could happen every year by the end of the century.

Changes to the ocean, including warming, more frequent marine heat waves, acidification and reduced oxygen levels, will impact both ecosystems and the people that rely on them.

“This report is a reality check,” said IPCC Working Group co-chair Valérie Masson-Delmotte, a French climate scientist. “It has been clear for decades that the Earth’s climate is changing, and the role of human influence on the climate system is undisputed.”

You wouldn’t know that from the lack of concern shown by many of those who make state law — the Act on Climate legislation is not the panacea but rather a good start — or by some elected officials who sit on municipal councils and boards.

ecoRI News reporter Caitlin Faulds recently filed a story about what the concerning IPCC report means to the Ocean State. She reached out to seven Republican lawmakers in the General Assembly and not one would discuss the matter. (A few Democratic lawmakers and one environmental organization also failed to respond.)

Perhaps they don’t believe responding to ecoRI News is worth the effort, but the climate crisis certainly deserves their rapt attention.

One Republican lawmaker said she had “not received the report. Will you please send it to me?” She was provided a link to the U.N.’s IPCC report but failed to respond.

Another likely missed the irony in his response. “I am buried in the midst of COVID related issues in my district and state in addition to the fallout from the recent tropical storm. I regrettably don’t have the bandwidth to tackle anything else at this time.”

Thirty Rhode Island lawmakers, mostly Republicans, voted against the Act on Climate law (51-21 in the House and 28-9 in the Senate), and earlier this summer I reached out to a handful of Republicans in the General Assembly to speak with them about how the Ocean State should address the climate crisis.

The only response I got was this: “It’ll be my pleasure, so long as we deal with all environmental issues, because this conversation doesn’t happen in a vacuum.” I said that would be fine, as well as a long discussion, but never heard back.

We have failed to tackle the climate crisis for decades, ignoring warning after warning so the few could profit and the selfish could avoid any responsibility. It set a pattern for how we respond to societal crisis — just look at the reaction to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic or the storming of the U.S. Capitol.

The first step to exacerbating the situation: ignore reality, attack the experts and blame the bogeyman — he is usually Black or Brown. Then, conspire, lie, laugh and prosper while facing no accountability for despicable actions.

The fast-evolving climate crisis and the delta variant are ploys by climate scientists and Dr. Anthony Fauci to get rich and make you eat veggie burgers. There was no insurrection; Antifa did it. COVID-19 is no worse than the flu; immigrants are bringing the disease over the border. My body, my choice when it comes to masks and vaccines; not so when it comes to abortion.

This insufferable cult scapegoats, disparages and condemns certain groups as it works relentlessly to create a dystopia. The foundation has been poured.

Frank Carini is the ecoRI News editor.

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