The Democrats are holding their TV debates this week, but Isabelle Alter is not watching. The debates commence at 8 p.m., but the little girl’s bedtime is 7. Today, July 31, 2019, Isabelle turns 2 years old.
The Democrats aren’t talking to her, nor are Republicans. They want to talk to voters about today’s issues. On behalf of Isabelle, who is my granddaughter, I’d like to hear a few more words about all of our tomorrows. That is, if we don’t completely cheat ourselves, and our kids, out of everyone’s tomorrows.
The Democrats can talk all they want about economics and insurance and immigration. They’re all important. But their importance diminishes when the clock’s ticking, and the climate’s changing right before our eyes and nobody’s doing enough about it.
At Tuesday night’s opening debates, we had Bernie Sanders mention the “criminal acts” committed by the fossil fuel industry. He said, “We’ve got to take on fossil fuel if we care about our children.”
On behalf of Isabelle, I thank you, Bernie.
And then there was a sentence or two about how “fire seasons are 80 days longer in the west now.” Imagine that. They’ve now set aside a season for anticipating fires out west, and it’s 80 days longer — longer! — than it used to be.
Meanwhile, there’s a brand-new study from Nature magazine, in which scientists say we’re now going through climate change unlike anything the earth has gone through for at least 2,000 years.
Sometimes, the study says, the climate has naturally changed — parts of the world cool a little, other parts briefly warm — but it has never changed as it’s changing now, with temperatures surging in the same direction everywhere at the same time.
The study says 98 percent of Earth’s surface is experiencing its hottest period in 2,000 years — and the planet is as hot now as it’s ever been in at least the past 125,000 years.
Do we really need another scientific study to confirm this?
The Democrats held their first debate several weeks ago, in Miami, which is one of the world’s most vulnerable cities. Last month, Miami New Times declared:
“A new report from the Center for Climate Integrity confirms what most of us already knew: the seas are rising, and Miami is pretty much screwed…By the end of the century, entire communities could be swallowed.”
This round of Democratic debates is in Detroit, which has its own problems. Detroit was the heart of the world’s car industry. Now it’s struggling with deindustrialization. How do you weigh jobs versus the existential future?
According to the Union of Concerned Scientists, “Summers in Detroit will feel more like Missouri than Michigan…and rainfall could increase by 25 percent by the end of the century, flooding basements and streets and leading to sewage overflows…and exacerbating problems that led to Toledo’s loss of drinking water in 2014.”
Outside the Detroit arena where the Democrats held their debates this week, thousands of environmental activists filled the streets and called for the Dems to put climate change at the top of their political agenda.
Say this for the Democrats: at least they acknowledge the danger. The man in the White House is still in denial. He makes jokes about climate change. Even Isabelle Alter knows better than that.
A former Baltimore Sun columnist and WJZ-TV commentator, Michael Olesker is the author of six books, most recently “Front Stoops in the Fifties: Baltimore Legends Come of Age” (Johns Hopkins University Press).