AuthorLueders, Bill

We live in the age of the phoney crisis. Hordes of immigrants are coming to kill your family. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez wants to get rid of planes and cows. Without easy access to bump stocks, the Second Amendment has been effectively repealed. We're doomed!

Amid this cacophony, it's almost possible to forget that we are facing actual existential threats. The fate of the planet will hinge on what we do, or don't do, in the next decade or so. The damage that Donald Trump is inflicting on our democratic institutions will take decades, perhaps generations, to repair. And the omnipresent danger of unparalleled catastrophe looms ever larger, as the hothead-in-chief abandons the Iran nuclear deal, exports nuclear technology to Saudi Arabia, and torpedoes arms-control treaties with Russia.

There is so much genuine crisis all at once that we are forced to perform triage. This is what war medics are trained to do, and it's a ghastly business. It may involve letting one severely injured but saveable soldier die so that several others with critical but lesser injuries can live. Do we rely on nuclear power to help remove the immediate pressure to burn fossil fuels, even though it carries its own awful risks? Do we focus on plastics clogging the ocean as the meltwater from the polar ice caps washes entire cities away?

And what a dirty trick it would be if we were to make serious strides toward lowering carbon emissions only to have madmen obliterate the planet in less time than it takes to watch Dr. Strangelove.

These existential threats must be addressed with equal urgency. Nuclear weapons could deliver absolute horror more immediately, but global warming requires the most immediate response. In fact, it is already too late.

The planet's climate is changing for the worse and will continue to do so no matter what we do now. That's not an argument for resignation. What we do now can still make a huge difference. But we have blown our chance to avoid catastrophic impacts.

Indeed, they are already occurring. The world is becoming hotter, weather events are more destructive, and species are dying off at alarming rates.

Some members of The Progressive's staff attended a conference held on Earth Day, April 22, in Madison, Wisconsin. Among the speakers was Dan Vimont, a professor of atmospheric and oceanic sciences at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and director of the Nelson Institute Center for Climatic Research. (The center is named for Senator Gaylord...

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