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Rev. Thomas, the former General Minister and President of the United Church of Christ, is now a professor and administrator here at CTS. Follow his timely, provocative writings on the issues of our day.

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Dumb, Dumber, and Dumbest

Punxsutawney Phil did not see his shadow on Tuesday, suggesting that there will be an early Spring.  Perhaps this will persuade the Republican candidates for President that the planet is warming since this is about the level of thoughtfulness undergirding their assessment of climate change. 

Ted Cruz, the big winner in Iowa, announced this fall that “Climate change is not science, it’s religion.”  That will be news to the scientific community where 97% of the published, peer reviewed scientific papers on climate concur that man-made climate change is occurring.  Or to the United States military that is engaged in full scale planning for the security and supply chain problems climate change will cause.

Marco Rubio must be elsewhere than in southern Florida when a full moon, high tides, and rain cause the streets of Miami Beach to flood.  With his eye on the presidential prize, Rubio responded to questions about climate change saying, “We’re not going to make America a harder place to create jobs in order to pursue policies that will do absolutely nothing, nothing to change our climate.”  Rubio has a point.  Global warming will not be stopped by our actions today; we’ve already squandered that opportunity.  But it can – crucially – be slowed.  Rubio went on to say, “America is a lot of things, the greatest country in the world, absolutely.  But America is not a planet.”  Huh?

And then there’s Trump.  “So I am not a believer, and I will, unless somebody can prove something to me, I believe there’s weather.”  I guess we can all agree with him that there is weather.  He goes on to say, “I believe there’s change, and I believe it goes up and it goes down, and it goes up again.  And it changes depending on years and centuries, but I am not a believer, and we have much bigger problems.”

What might those bigger problems be?  Washington?  Taxes?  Regulation?  Terrorism?  Same sex marriage?  Migration?  Planned Parenthood?  Obamacare?  Reasonable people can argue the relative challenges of some of these problems, assuming of course that all of them are actual problems.  But it would be difficult to make the case that any of these things poses the kind of existential threat to the planet that climate change poses. 

Last week a group of distinguished scientists affiliated with the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists issued their annual assessment of global threats symbolized in the hands of the Doomsday Clock which stands at three minutes to midnight.  Their report focused primarily on the issues of climate change and nuclear proliferation -.  http://thebulletin.org/sites/default/files/2016%20doomsday%20clock%20statement%20-%20final%5B5%5D.pdf.  While the scientists noted some positive steps in 2015 – the Paris Agreement, the Pope’s encyclical, Laudato Si, the fossil fuel divestment movement, and the election of more climate friendly governments in Canada and Australia, their overall assessment was that the global response is marked by “the continued inadequacy of efforts to control the greenhouse gas emissions that are causing climate change.” 

While the scientists did not move the Clock hands closer to midnight, they made it clear that this is “not good news.”  Rather it is “an expression of dismay that world leaders continue to fail to focus their efforts and the world’s attention on reducing the extreme danger posed by nuclear weapons and climate change.  When we call these dangers existential, that is exactly what we mean:  They threaten the very existence of civilization and therefore should be the first order of business for leaders who care about their constituencies and their countries. . . . The probability of global catastrophe is very high, and the actions needed to reduce the risks of disaster must be taken very soon.  That probability has not been reduced.  The Clock ticks.  Global danger looms.  Wise leaders should act – immediately.”

Meanwhile, Dumb, Dumber, and Dumbest travel on to New Hampshire.  Voters will be reminded that climate change is a religion, that we should believe in weather, and that America is not a planet.  Of course, the scariest aspect of all of this is that no one in this triumvirate is actually dumb.  They are shrewd, calculating ideologues placing self-interest before the planet’s future.  Their vision of the future includes rising sea levels causing coastal calamity, increasingly violent and destructive storms, widespread droughts, famine, mass movements of refugees, increased global conflict over water and other essential resources.  The good news is that in this draconian world the billionaire class will have lower taxes, there will be an impregnable wall across our southern border, ISIS will be carpet bombed, preferably with something nuclear, gay couples will have their civil rights denied, women will have limited to no access to reproductive care, and health care will be denied to the impoverished and the working poor. 

What a wonderful world. . . .

                       John H. Thomas

                       February 4, 2016

            

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