DAYTON, Ohio — The TV anchorman was angry. Finally, he stepped closer to the camera, glaring at the lens. He growled, “I don’t care that some of you don’t care if your neighbors are safe. We are going to do this anyway.”
With tornadoes popping up all over central Ohio, including a catastrophic EF3 bearing down on Dayton and its environs, local viewers were calling to complain that they were upset that the station had interrupted “The Bachelorette” to warn of a rare “tornado emergency.”
It is to be hoped that the complainers felt ashamed the next morning when they saw their neighbors’ flattened homes, ruined cars, schools and businesses without roofs, learned that a man trapped in his house had died and others were suffering from injuries.
Taking a break from the chaotic intensity of Washington D.C., I had come to my beloved Ohio to get my bearings. And then the air turned dark, the wind roared, lightning struck, the rain pounded and the sirens sounded. In a matter of minutes I was stunned and sickened at the devastation that claimed familiar landmarks.
The United States had just gone through a remarkably consecutive 13 days of nature’s most devastating storms — tornadoes. In less than two weeks, Americans from Kansas to New Jersey found themselves under tornado threats or struggling to put their lives back together after tornadoes struck.
It is a rare day when drought, flooding or wild storms don’t afflict millions of Americans. And the reason for more extreme weather is caused directly by climate change.
Sadly, a bipartisan effort to provide help to past victims of hurricanes, flooding and agricultural chaos by appropriating a promised $19 billion in federal aid is stalled because some Republicans are quibbling with congressional procedural traditions or want more money spent on the Mexican-U.S. border.
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But, even worse, like the irate viewers less interested in imminent threats than seeing a young pretty stranger choose a mate, this country officially has accepted the non-scientific dogma that weather is weather and man doesn’t play that vital a role so don’t bother us with this climate change “mumbo jumbo.”
Donald Trump’s inexplicable war against any recognition of the reality of climate change (accepted by 99 percent of scientists) is speeding ahead faster than a 140-mph tornado. The Trump administration is rolling back federal regulations to curb greenhouse-gas emissions, the major cause of global warming. Trump is working to impose his denial of climate change on other nations, even after he pulled the U.S. out of the Paris accord. He refused to sign a communique to protect the Arctic’s melting glaciers unless all references to climate change were stricken. Trump also announced he is creating a panel to “review” the evidence of climate change and refute the widely accepted modeling science for it.
Stunning the rest of the world, Trump’s new man in charge of that panel — a 79-year-old climate change denier named William Happer who is on the National Security Council — once compared the efforts to curb carbon dioxide emissions, which are blamed for increasing extreme weather, with Adolph Hitler’s assault on Jews. He later amplified that outrageous statement to add that demonizing carbon dioxide also equates with the “Soviet extermination of class enemies or the (ISIS) slaughter of infidels.”
When history judges whether the increasing loss of lives around the globe from flooding and dangerous storms, the devastating changes to agriculture, the loss of habitat and extinction of species, the inevitable changes in how human beings live and struggle to survive and the damage to Earth itself could have been prevented, the answer will be yes. And shaming fingers will be pointed at the United States and the haughty storks in charge who put their heads in the sand.
We have an ethical responsibility to be good stewards of our planet and to protect our neighbors from harm when we can but we are ignoring that duty.
Seeing tornado-shattered houses with shattered neighbors poking through rubble in desperate search of putting their shattered lives together is to be heartsick and angry.
Angry because it will happen all over again to other neighborhoods tomorrow and the next day and the day after that until facing and dealing with destruction is just a way of life. Angry because we have a government of, by and for big corporations which will grow ever bigger denying climate change until they, too, become extinct.