This is going to sound bad, but I was kind of cheering for Irma.
The world was watching, hoping that at the last moment the strongest storm in recorded history would veer east and peter out in the Atlantic. But not me, I wanted her to hit. Hard.
Hurricane Harvey had the right idea. Sitting right over Houston, Texas and pissing a biblical amount of comeuppance onto the great state of oil production and climate denial.
I know, I know, it’s in poor taste to casually throw this around when people are at risk of losing their homes or even their lives. But since when does any of that matter?
Here is Donald Trump proudly declaring that he will pull out of the Paris climate accord and that climate change was a hoax perpetrated by the Chinese. The United States, the world’s economic and cultural leader, able to greatly influence this issue, an issue that holds in its fickle meteorological hands the lives of vulnerable millions, still voted the climate change denier in as President.
And please direct your attention to Governor Rick Scott of Florida, seen here wearing a man-of-action baseball cap during a recent hurricane press conference. Since coming into office Mr. Scott has consistently refused to admit that global warming is real and his administration has been accused of muzzling employees and scientist, “encouraging” them to stop using terms like climate change or global warming or even sustainability in any internal or public statements. Florida residents, in addition to voting for Trump, re-elected Scott for a second term over a centrist former Republican candidate who had climate change action as part of his campaign platform.
Question. When one proves themselves thoroughly unconcerned with the welfare of others, when they time and time again act not only passively but actively in ways that put their own petty considerations ahead of all others, do they at some point default the right for our sympathy?
During the lead up to Irma I felt myself beginning to slip into one of my classic “America is the root of all evil” diatribes. It’s a chronic condition, one my friends and family have had to learn to live with. And even though this latest boiling rant was hard to pin down, and despite once calling Florida home and having loved ones in harm’s way, I still could not help but think it.
Good for you.
Along with respected world leader, Syria, the US is the only nation to not support the Paris climate accord (Nicaragua also refused to sign but only because the deal didn’t go far enough). The United States is the largest CO2 emitter per capita of all industrialized nations and number two in the world in total emissions. More than half the members of Congress (elected and re-elected by American citizens) are on-the-record climate deniers.
You deserve this.
Hurricanes are not caused by climate change but are made more severe and more frequently severe by it. Warmer water and warmer temperatures, along with rising sea levels, all contribute to more devastating storm surges and flooding. The overwhelming majority of scientific and military experts predict paradigm-shifting increases in the numbers of victims of these climate-related disasters. The United Nations Refugee Agency predicts as many as 200 million climate refugees by 2050, with the majority coming from the poorest and most vulnerable nations.
It should be you.
In July of this year, India planted 49.3 million trees in one day as part of their commitment to reforest significant portions of their land and meet new emission targets. China, the world’s largest polluter by volume, is rolling out the largest green investment program in world history. Germany, a major industrial nation, has already gotten as much as 85% of its electricity in one day from renewables.
Markets eventually shifting themselves towards renewables and then waiting for these changes to work their way into the climate will take too long. The rest of the world has moved past the stage of selfishness and ideology and partisanship and has accepted that action is necessary. And yet despite the evidence and urgency you keep on resisting, keep on drilling and denying and obfuscating, your size and influence delaying a process that is already naturally slow and difficult to implement. What will it take to finally make you stop?
It has to be you.
Of course it’s callously frivolous to sit back and wish a hurricane to hit here instead of there. These hippie rants won’t accomplish anything. Except to maybe see things differently. To say out loud that continuing to myopically root in your own self-centeredness is not going unnoticed. That if there is a Lord, or a court of unanimous public opinion, you are being found guilty of an amalgamation of sin. That a ledger is being kept and that, either by eventual poetic justice or global moral judgement, there is some sort of price to pay.
I can’t do much of anything else, so I guess I’ll do this. I’ll hope that in an unfair world of devastating natural and unnatural wrath that the brunt of it is borne by those making it worse. That the most vulnerable and least guilty are best protected. That the world’s greatest climate villains pay their fair share.
I’ll hope that whatever warming water rises into your home and not into some more innocent other, that any raging winds knock on your door, time and time again, until one day it enters through that thick fog of indifference, and is finally made real.
Jason Najum is a freelance writer and editor. Follow him @jasonnajum