Two years ago, the first case of Covid-19 was identified in the U.S. Since that fateful day, 860 thousand Americans have lost their lives to the virus and millions have been sickened. Unfortunately, politics played a role in many of these casualties. We can’t afford let this happen when it comes to the climate change crisis and sea level rise flooding.
At the national level, President Biden took office a year ago. One of his stated goals was to pass the Build Back Better bill, which includes $555 billion to address climate change. Included in the legislation are projects that would promote renewable energy and clean transportation to help the country dramatically reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 2030.
Unfortunately, Build Back Better has been all but killed by Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va, who has strong ties to his home state’s coal industry. Clearly his decision was made for his own political survival, not for the survival of the planet we all call home.
We’re seeing political shenanigans at the state level, too. In Florida, for example, Gov. Ron DeSantis has invested hundreds of millions of dollars in projects to protect real estate and critical infrastructure from sea level rise flooding. Among the projects being funded are new sea walls, pump stations, and stormwater sewers, along with the restoration of crumbling canal banks. This is good for the low-elevation state that’s extremely at-risk from global warming-fueled rising tides and more powerful hurricanes with stronger storm surges.
Unfortunately, Gov. DeSantis undermined his responsible approach to sea level rise flooding by injecting clearly partisan political venom when it came to addressing the root cause of sea level rise flooding: the burning of fossil fuels that release greenhouse gases into the atmosphere.
During the December news conference to announce his sea level rise infrastructure improvement initiative, the governor wouldn’t use terms like sea level rise and climate change, both of which could inflame his supporters — many of whom believe they’re hoaxes or minor problems. When a reporter asked Gov. DeSantis about global warming, he said, “What I’ve found is when people start talking about things like global warming they typically use that as a pretext to do a bunch of left-wing things that they would want to do anyways. And so we’re not doing any left-wing stuff.”
It’s pretty clear that the governor defines “left-wing stuff” as any actions that would reduce the nation’s reliance on fossil fuels.
Scientists say the only way to avoid the worst-case scenario of over eight feet of sea level rise by 2100 is to dramatically cut back on fossil fuel consumption. Gov. DeSantis’s approach to building defenses against sea level rise flooding but ignoring the root causes driving the tides ever higher, essentially dooms all of Florida’s coastal communities but especially those south of Lake Okeechobee to being potentially wiped off the map by the end of this century.
If the Covid-19 pandemic has taught us anything, it’s that playing politics with scientifically established facts during a global crisis is dangerous. For example, a National Public Radio analysis found that the counties that have suffered the greatest number of Covid-related deaths were those that were the most susceptible to misinformation from hyper-partisan politicians and media outlets. Basically, despite scientific evidence that vaccination saves lives, the misinformed residents chose not to get vaccinated and they paid with their lives at a number many times higher than those who got jabbed.
It has to be noted here that Gov. DeSantis has consistently downplayed the use of proven methods of reining in Covid-19 — vaccines, boosters, masks and social distancing — and pushed treatments that can be used AFTER people become infected. An LA Times analysis published during the heat of the delta outbreak late last summer, determined that his approach came at the cost of thousands of unnecessary deaths.
Taking a similar, non-scientific, politically-charged approach to climate change will have disastrous consequences for humanity today and for many generations to come. Without action to reduce the release of greenhouse gases today, we will certainly see a worsening of the droughts, wildfires, heat waves, extreme storms, and sea level rise flooding that have plagued the nation lately for decades to come.
The bottom line here is if we want to save our real estate and our way of life, we need to reach a consensus based on scientific fact, not political maneuvering, and invest in policies that will yield real results, real fast. If we don’t, we’re going to learn the hard way that when we try to gaslight the Earth, which is subject to basic laws of physics, we’re the one who will gets burned.