As I write this, I am about to take part in a celebration commemorating the founding of our Earth Network in the Loretto Community -- 25 years ago! Yes, that would be 1991, before most people were aware of and concerned about climate change. I am deeply proud that my religious community has been active on this issue for a quarter of a century, but those of us pausing to celebrate know that so much more needs to be done to save planet Earth from the worst of climate change.
"Nature" is giving us some graphic lessons in this just recently. There are devastating floods in Louisiana and rampaging fires in California, burning much more extensively because of a multi-year drought. And although I'm well aware that we cannot definitely link specific weather events to climate change, the extent of these disasters suggests that climate change is indeed playing a role -- at least in their size and scope. A wake-up call perhaps?
In fact, according to Astrid Caldas a climate scientist with the Union of Concerned Scientists, in an article entitled, "I've Seen Fire and I've Seen Rain: Floods, Wildfires, and Another Monthly Global Warming Record," the year "2015 saw the highest annual growth rate in CO2 concentration, the largest year-to-year increase in 56 years of research' according to the World Meteorological Organization."
CO2, carbon dioxide, is, of course, the central culprit in climate change.
In her article, she said bluntly, "Heavy downpours are on the rise in the U.S., for the straightforward reason that with global warming, air is warmer, and warmer air can hold more water vapor." She also says, "Climate change ... increases the risk of wildfires due to hotter and drier conditions."
But we rarely, if ever, hear about this issue from our candidates for office in 2016. Even Hillary Clinton, who is definitely on top of these issues and has expressed concern in the past, addresses them only occasionally on the campaign trail. I realize that no politician wants to alienate coal miners or oil drillers, but there are ways to propose new job possibilities by building new plants to manufacture solar panels and/or windmills in places like West Virginia and Kentucky.
I know that "solar" is a booming business right now, having recently installed solar panels on the roof of my house!
And of course, Donald Trump does not even believe in climate change! (This alone, in my book, disqualifies him from public office. Minimum requirement: accept the findings of reputable scientists, especially when they represent the views of 95 percent to 97 percent of those studying climate science.) And he blissfully advocates bringing back jobs galore in the fossil fuel industries: especially coal and oil.
He needs to be challenged on this -- and soon.
But the bottom line is this: We need to hear about this issue on the campaign trail -- early and often. Our response will determine nothing less than the future of our planet.