Albert Einstein said the definition of insanity is doing something over and over again and expecting a different result.

By that criteria, several elected leaders — including ours — are a bit wacky. The burning of fossil fuels got us into this climate change mess, and, rather than recommending a change to solar- and wind-powered energy, Australian and U.S. leaders urge that we keep doing the same thing.

It is difficult to ignore that the climate is changing. The last 10 years have been the hottest decade since records were kept, according to a report in The Washington Post. This is on a planetwide basis, not on the basis of local weather. Some places — such as Alaska — warmed much quicker than the Midwest. The climate is warming on average and is not reliant upon any specific area. Snowballs in the Senate chamber don’t prove anything except ignorance.

The recent wildfires in Australia and California, by all scientific reckoning, were enhanced by a warmer and drier climate. The floods of last spring in the Midwest were not caused by climate change, but the fast melting of snow and increased rainfall added to an existing problem. Already, the predictions are that this coming spring (and summer) will see more flooding of farmlands along the Missouri River.

The ice sheets of Greenland are melting. Because of an ice-free Arctic, the Northwest Passage is about to become a reality. Even in Antarctica, a major ice shelf has broken off and wildlife (penguins and small fish) populations are, according to the National Geographic Society and many other organizations, decreasing and may soon be no more. England and other European countries that depend upon an acceptable climate will suffer if and when the Gulf Stream diminishes and eventually ceases to flow because of change in the degree of salinity as a result of a changing climate. Carbon dioxide levels in the upper atmosphere are higher than they have been in the last 800,000 years.

It does absolutely no good to act like the proverbial ostrich and hide one’s head in the sand. The sand may be too hot to stick one’s head in, anyhow. Practically all meteorologists and scientists agree that climate change is real. I, akin to many U.S. senators, am not a scientist, but I can read what the real scientists have written and I can use the internet for information. What I have found is undeniable. But there are those who deny reality. Denial of reality is nothing more than ignoring facts.

The prime minister of Australia and the president of the United States are trying to protect the economic interests of the fossil fuel industry. No doubt that coal, oil and gas are plentiful and that many workers are employed in getting this stuff to the surface and to fuel power plants and internal combustion engines, but we must change. Otherwise, the planet will become uninhabitable for those same workers who — it is promised — will be retrained.

At the World Economic Forum, President Trump bemoaned the purveyors of “doom and gloom” and compared climate change realists to the failed crystal ball soothsayers of the past. Greta Thunberg, the 17-year-old climate activist, in response, stated that the time for talk is past; it is now time for action. The future, if we continue to emit global warming gases, will indeed be doom and gloom.

I have, at most, a couple of decades left and will not live to see the devastation to, and destruction of, this planet from the effects of climate change, but my children may and my grandchildren definitely will. Change is hard, but the impact of not changing is even harder.

Persons wiser than me have stated that we have 10 years to diminish emissions and to address other climate change issues. We are not doing that. Instead, we seem to be embracing insanity.


About opinions in the Missourian: The Missourian’s Opinion section is a public forum for the discussion of ideas. The views presented in this piece are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Missourian or the University of Missouri. If you would like to contribute to the Opinion page with a response or an original topic of your own, visit our submission form.

Ken Midkiff, formerly the director of the Sierra Club Clean Water Campaign, is now chair of the city’s Environment and Energy Commission and serves on the board of directors of the Great Rivers Environmental Law Center.

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