THE END OF ENVIRONMENTAL SCIENCE?

I read two articles on a plane yesterday.   Both had the same message about the same place. One, a cover story in Discover Magazine, was headlined: “What You Need to Know about our Melting Planet.”  The other, featured in Rolling Stone, was a special report: “Doomsday Glacier: How Fast Will the Oceans Rise?”

The focus of both stories was the Thwaites Glacier in West Antarctica, one of the largest glaciers on earth and a place so far from civilization that a mere 28 people have ever set foot on it.  With scientific research revealing that warming oceans are melting ice sheets from underneath, one major ice shelf has disappeared and another is likely to soon follow the same course.  This means that the nearby Thwaites Glacier is also threatened with collapse, destabilizing the remaining ice in West Antarctica.

It may not happen right away, but when it does, sea levels in numerous parts of the world could rise between 10 and 13 feet.  So long South Florida.  Seek the high ground in New York, Boston, San Francisco and elsewhere.

Another article, published May 8 in Inside Climate News, looks at new scientific data indicating that the soaring temperatures in the Arctic are triggering “a huge seasonal surge in carbon dioxide emissions from thawing permafrost and may be tipping the region toward becoming a net source of heat-trapping greenhouse gases.”    (See https://insideclimatenews.org).  As scientist Donatella Zona said: “We need to….get the resources to expand the studies in other areas.”

The bitter irony is, according to a front-page story in the New York Times, “the Environmental Protection Agency has dismissed at least five members of a major scientific review board,” aimed at “replacing the academic scientists with representatives from industries whose pollution the agency is supposed to regulate.”  Six weeks earlier, the House had passed a bill to alter the composition of another such EPA board to include more corporate representation.  The Trump budget proposes a 40 percent reduction for the EPA’s primary scientific branch.  The latest science about climate change has already been removed from the website.

This is madness.  It’s a policy that implies, what we don’t know can’t hurt us.  If we just turn a blind eye to what fossil fuel emissions are doing to our planet, the problem will go away.  It reminds me of the stunning remarks of one of their titans, David Koch, who has said of climate change: “The Earth will be able to support enormously more people because a far greater land area will be available to produce food.”

As I write in a chapter on the Kochs in my new book, Horsemen of the Apocalypse: “At the Smithsonian’s David H. Koch Hall of Human Origins (which opened in Washington in 2010), the message of an interactive game was that in the event climate change become intolerable, we would simply build ‘underground cities’ and develop either ‘short, compact bodies’ or ‘curved spines’ so that ‘moving around in tight spaces will be no problem.’  Really.  And this is in a national museum that celebrates human knowledge.”

Well, the Kochs have achieved their wildest dreams under Trump: their personally-installed U.S. Congressman, Mike Pompeo, is now in charge of the CIA and another of their lackeys, Scott Pruitt, is running the EPA and denying that climate change is any threat whatsoever.  Drill, baby, drill.

I can hardly wait for Trump’s Mar-a-Lago golfing retreat in Florida to go underwater.  As for the rest of us along the coastlines, all hands on deck!

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