The climate is not political.

In many ways, global warming is an equal-opportunity catastrophe. In many other ways, global warming disproportionately strikes those among us least responsible for the problem and least able to rebound from its horrors.

Now let’s get some baseline facts straight:

First, global warming has been growing ever more evident for decades now.

I first learned of greenhouse gases and the greenhouse effect in my undergraduate plant ecology course in 1970, but this phenomenon has been known since Joseph Fourier described the greenhouse effect in the 1820s.

Over the course of my career in forest health, I’ve witnessed the developing crisis that we now face, and it is real.

Second, global warming is a disaster of human creation (disproportionately American on a historic and per capita basis).

It troubles me that both the media and its audience talk about the effects of global warming as though they were caused by nature.

Please think about this for a moment. The climate was quite livable for thousands of years until we began stuffing the atmosphere and oceans with heat-trapping gases by excavating and burning fossil fuels.

Nature responds very rationally to pressures exerted upon it, including our burning of fossil fuels that could/should have been left underground. If we take into account our burning of fossil fuels as fast as we can excavate or drill for them, we’re left with nothing to blame but ourselves for the ever more frequent, severe and extensive climate-related disasters that we’re experiencing.

Third, it’s not too late to correct course, if we move immediately and aggressively, yes, with a smart Green New Deal. The alternatives to action are unthinkable.

Consider this encouraging story. In 2001, Frank Luntz (master messenger for the GOP) wrote a memo to the Bush administration advising that it tone down its coverage of climate change and sow doubts about the science.

Then, in 2017, the Skirball Fire in Los Angeles nearly cost Luntz his home and perhaps even his life. Global warming had suddenly become personal for Frank Luntz. He is now working with both Democrats and Republicans to promote bipartisan solutions to climate change.

The bipartisan Energy Innovation and Carbon Dividend Act of 2019 is now in the House (HR 763, with 62 co-sponsors, including Emanuel Cleaver from Missouri).

This policy would reduce carbon dioxide emissions in the United States by 40% in 12 years and by 90% by mid-century. It would be a huge first step!

Please visit the Citizens’ Climate Lobby Website to learn how you can help move Missouri members of Congress to support climate policy that will scale up to the size of the problem.

Dr. Johann N. Bruhn is an emeritus research associate professor in the MU Division of Plant Sciences, specializing in forest health. He is a member of the Climate Reality Project Leadership Corps, the Citizens’ Climate Lobby, the Union of Concerned Scientists, the Mycological Society of America and the American Association for the Advancement of Science. He can be reached by email at

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