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Opinion | “Once in a lifetime” is happening far too often in our lives

Joey Kennedy

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Earlier this week, I listened to Dr. James B. McClintock speak to students in the University Honors Program at UAB.

McClintock, the renowned Endowed University Professor of Polar and Marine Biology at the university, once again showed, with ample evidence, what climate change is doing to polar ice in both the Arctic (Northern Hemisphere) and in Antarctica, where he does most of his research. The ice is melting, invasive species are encroaching in areas they’ve never been found before, and ocean acidification is causing untold damage.

Ocean levels are rising, and that’s not because big rocks are falling into the water, as Alabama U.S. Rep. Mo Brooks absurdly claims.

Climate change and warming are real. They’re happening as we speak. Yet, the Trump administration and Alabama leaders are gladly turning back environmental regulations that would at least slow this alarming trend. We have cast aside international climate treaties.

We can see the result of too little action too late this week, as Hurricane Florence closes in on the East Coast around Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Georgia. This massive storm looks like none the Carolinas have ever seen.

Alabama is sending emergency management officials to the area to help out, and that’s great. Our friends on the middle- to lower-Atlantic coasts will need it. Alabama Power, too, is sending teams to help in the coming recovery. They do a wonderful job post-disaster. No doubt, other first-responders from Alabama will follow or are on their way.

These are the appropriate reactions to a certain tragedy. It’s sad, though, that we don’t learn an important lesson: Being proactive before these deadly storms form and strike is smarter and cheaper. The low-information climate change deniers, however, are in control, and there is just no consistency on battling the greenhouse emissions that are causing the problems.

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The United States was making progress under previous administrations, but President Donald Trump, who once called warming a “Chinese hoax,” has reversed many of the regulations that mattered.

Add to that the administration’s feeble response to previous hurricane disasters, especially in Puerto Rico last year, and Florence’s landfall and aftermath are likely to be much worse than they have to be.

This “Crazytown” administration, which has the full support of most Alabama Republicans on the state level and all of them in Congress, even shifted nearly $10 million from the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s hurricane response fund to Immigration and Customs Enforcement earlier this summer. That money was moved by the Trump administration so that ICE could afford to keep immigrant children in cages at ICE detention camps.

That’s a humane disaster on two levels. We’re warehousing children and families who only want to escape danger and death in their own countries, while making sure FEMA lacks the resources to adequately respond to a hurricane emergency like Florence.

Trump just called his administration’s efforts after Puerto Rico was devastated by Hurricane Maria last year “an unappreciated great job.” Trump was seen tossing paper towels to Puerto Ricans (U.S. citizens, by the way) in the wake of that storm, and much of the island was without power for more than 11 months. At least 3,000 people died. FEMA’s response in Puerto Rico was even worse than that after Hurricane Katrina in 2005.

About Hurricane Florence, the vocabulary-challenged Trump said the storm is “tremendously big and tremendously wet.”

So now our friends on the East Coast have much more to worry about than just a deadly storm. FEMA on Wednesday said, “This is going to be a Mike Tyson punch to the Carolina coast.” The National Weather Service weighed in: “This will likely be the storm of a lifetime for the Carolina coast.”

Another storm of a “lifetime.” Another wildfire of a “lifetime.” Another flood of a “lifetime.”

How many times in our “lifetimes” are we going to see these once-in-a-lifetime catastrophes before we get smart?

Listen to McClintock and the overwhelming number of women and men of science on climate change and warming. They have the facts, and they’re not hiding them. They know of what they speak, and they’re speaking out.

We ignore these warnings at our peril, time and time again, but that’s exactly what Trump and most Republicans are doing.

We can’t stop hurricanes once they’ve formed, no matter how hard televangelist Pat Robertson prays. But with smart, science-based policies, we can begin to help the Earth heal from this onslaught we’ve created. Then maybe our children and their children won’t be faced with so many terrible, “once-in-a-lifetime” calamities.

Joey Kennedy, a Pulitzer Prize winner, writes a column every week for Alabama Political Reporter. Email: [email protected]

 

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