Climate change, the biggest crisis, reveals the biggest lie
I have accused some people of making up stuff, most recently the rightwing supermajority of the United States Supreme Court. But I must confess to something. I do a little makebelieving myself. I have to. It’s part of my job.
I can’t be a member of the American pundit corps without pretending, at least implicitly, that the truth is out there, waiting for me to reveal it to you.
But the truth is not waiting for me. It’s not waiting for anyone. It’s going to do what the truth is going to do. Meanwhile, it’s right there, in front of you, “hiding” in plain sight. It has always been evident. It has always been close to us. It doesn’t need to be revealed. The lies concealing it, however, do.
Fortunately – well, I hope there’s some good fortune in it – circumstances are forcing us to see through the biggest lie toward the biggest truth.
What circumstances? Well, you know, it’s hot!
“Heat warning and advisories were in effect Tuesday for more than 90 million Americans,” according to Wednesday’s edition of USA Today, “as record-breaking temperatures swept the south with little relief in sight.”
By midweek, those 90 million Americans suffering from extreme heat rose to 100 million, across 15 states, with another 80 million – that is, “nearly a quarter of the population,” per USA Today – “expected to see air temperatures or the heat index above 105 degrees through the weekend.”
The heat is taking a toll, in particular, on cities. They are scrambling to open “cooling stations.” Electricity-use soared, notably in Phoenix. Authorities are inspecting workplaces for “heat-related illnesses.” Hospitals are stressed. “Some patients were being cooled off in ice-packed body bags,” according to USA Today. Some prisons are in trouble. “More than two-thirds of Texas’ 100 prisons do not have air conditioning.”
We know why the heat is so historic. “While hot weather is a staple of the summertime and periodic extremes can and do happen, the effects of human-induced climate change on the atmosphere are playing a major role in pushing events into record territory,” wrote the Post’s Matthew Cappucci
A warming planet has produced what are called “heat domes,” Cappucci said, “or a sprawling ridge of high pressure that’s bringing hot, sinking air.”
“It has proven to be as stubborn as it is intense, refusing to budge as the Lower 48 deals with its impact for the fourth week in a row. While the heat has simmered back a few degrees in California, it’s building once again over the southern Plains, and shows no signs of going anywhere any time soon.”
And it’s not just the heat. “The recent record temperatures, as well as extreme fires, pollution and flooding we are seeing this year are what we expect to see in a warmer climate,” Cornell climate scientist Natalie Mahowald told the Associated Press. “We are just getting a small taste for the types of impacts that we expect to worsen under climate change.”
I said the truth doesn’t need to be revealed.
I said it’s the lies that are concealing the truth that need to be revealed.
But I don’t mean climate-change denialism. Indeed, the Republicans, whose embrace of climate-change denialism had once been a core tenet, seem to be moving away from that position. The Associated Press said Thursday that House Speaker Kevin McCarthy proposed planting a trillion trees.
Even if we planted a trillion trees – a big if, if you take McCarthy seriously (I don’t) – that won’t reveal the lie that’s concealing the truth, which is this: we’re all part of the interconnected web of life on this planet. No one is truly alone. No one suffers from the heat alone. We are, in truth, united.
Even if, by some miracle, we somehow overcome climate change, this lie would still endure. The idea that we are individuals who are born alone and die alone will endure. And as long as the lie endures, there will be some crisis or another. Climate change just happens to be the biggest one of all.
And with that bigness, perhaps we shall see biggest truth – that we’re all human, that we all suffer, that we are all given a limited amount of time to exist, that we are all given this precious gift at birth, and that we can, by working together, in concert, at least stop hastening our collective demise.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m not naive. But crisis has a way of pushing people, a way of driving politics, in unpredictable directions. No one knows the future. In that uncertainty, at least, we can have some measure of hope.
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