We have had ongoing reports of the tragedy in Washington State where a massive mudslide has overwhelmed a small community. We still don’t know the extent of the human tragedy involved. The terror and suffering is beyond most of our ability to comprehend. What makes this tragedy doubly painful is that there were scientific studies that predicted the likelihood of this event. There were even ten homes built in this area after the report was made.
There is some question of how widely this information was disseminated. Did local officials fail to warn the residents? Did officials and residents of the area fail to comprehend the risk involved? Did some just not accept the findings of the report? I’m sure there will be some who will attempt to look to answer some of the question involved. Whatever investigators find, we can only hope that the survivors can return to some kind of normal life in the future.
Risk management is something with which we all deal. Life is often about dealing with probabilities. Whether one wears seatbelts or not is a decision that involves a choice in the risk you are willing take. Buying homeowners insurance involves a choice with a small risk in terms of having a fire but a great risk in terms of lose if a fire occurs. Building a home in a flood zone may involve an almost certain risk of flood damage. It is so great that the government must provide the subsidized policies. Whether it should or the level of subsidization is the subject of another discussion.
Climate disruption is another example of science providing us with information that we can choose to act on or ignore. There is a very strong consensus of the best climate scientists in the world that our climate is changing and that it is the result of our burning fossil fuels. We already are dealing with the effects climate disruption and if we continue as we have the risks will intensify. These are risks we have already created but more importantly, if we fail to act, we pass far greater risks to our children and grandchildren.
The risks presented to our future are many. Increased droughts and floods are but two. The atmosphere now holds more moisture which increases extreme rain events and flooding. Changing weather patterns increases the risk of droughts like California faces now. The fire season in the west is now three months longer. Extreme heat waves are more likely which can threaten people’s lives. Record hot days now double record cold days. Lose of biodiversity is occurring at a rate one hundred to a thousand time faster than before. Food and water shortages will increase political instability in many areas of the world. Rising sea levels also present risks of this same instability. These risks have been acknowledged by our military planners.
We as a nation and a civilization have to decide how we will manage the risk climate disruption presents. Are we going to act intelligently using the best information science gives us or are we going to ignore or deny this information? Are we going to believe the fossil fuel industries lies and deceptions? Are we going to do nothing because of a political philosophy that hates government action? Are we going to fail to act because we think “end times” are near forgetting that people have believed the end times were going to happen for the last two thousand years? The first Christians expected the “end times” in their life time. Maybe the current predictors are as wrong as the first century Christians. Are we going to ignore the warnings like the people in Washington State? Have the climate change deniers ever considered the possibility they are wrong and we will pay a terrible price for their chose of ignorance?
Are we going to recognize the psychopathic behavior of the oil, gas, and coal industries for what it is? Their actions are with total disregard for all life on earth for the single purpose of increasing their own wealth. Are we going to continue to elect politicians who choose ignorance and put their political beliefs ahead of the welfare of all of civilization? Are we going to take the easy way out and continue living a life without concern or action?