Sen. Joe Manchin, the ultimate Mr. Scrooge
We have enough to worry about with the Omicron variant, but now Ebenezer Scrooge — a miserly person — has arrived in the person of Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.). His decision to say “no” to supporting President Biden’s Build Back Better legislation — and all the climate change funding within — will affect holiday seasons for all of us, but especially today’s young, and for years to come. They are already feeling betrayed by governments, and now even more so.
In the U.S., nearly 70 percent of young people, 16-25 years of age, consider their future to be “frightening,” and about a third are uncertain about having children. About two-thirds feel that the government is not doing enough to avoid catastrophic climate change, and over 70 percent feel the government is not taking their concerns seriously enough. A child born in 2020 will face up to seven times the heat waves and other extreme events, compared with someone born in the 60s. What about a child born in the 2030s, 40s, or 50s? Climate change is now a mental health issue. Ask your child, your grandchild, how they are feeling.
Thanks, Ebenezer, for spreading gloom across generations.
The experts are making it clear that the future of today’s youth won’t be jolly. This year’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report states it bluntly — extreme weather and climate events are occurring everywhere; the magnitude of change is unparalleled; many of the changes are permanent, and humans are undeniably the cause.
The Build Back Better legislation was going to take the U.S. — and the world — in the right direction by massively reducing greenhouse gas emissions from the manufacturing, electrical, and transportation sectors. Tax incentives for purchasing electric vehicles and renewable energy ventures were also included, a new path worth celebrating in the new year. Alas, this is not to be.
Thanks to Scrooge, the future even looks challenging for Santa Claus, who may need to find a new home by 2035 as Arctic sea ice rapidly declines, and the reindeer that pull his sleigh may not be available: Some herds have already plunged by 90 percent because of a changing climate. The Christmas tree is also in trouble — and Santa might may be shedding his big red coat, as temperatures continue to rise three times faster at the North Pole.
Most of us suspect that Santa can’t really deliver gifts worldwide to 500 million households, so he needs help by ship, rail, truck, car, and pickup. Unfortunately, delivering those gifts is becoming more difficult because of increasing storm surges already threatening 60,000 miles of coastal roadways; droughts and floods affecting barge traffic on the Mississippi, and the growing risks to ports by rising seas. And millions of addresses will be changing as vast numbers of households move northward in just a few decades.
Let’s hope that the “ghost of Christmas yet-to-come” visits Sen. Manchin and the many others who side with him.
We have little time, and we all need to support President Biden’s Build Back Better legislation. Today’s young will likely experience a very different and irreversibly changed holiday season.
Sen. Manchin, like Mr. Scrooge, you need to change your ways and see the light — we need millions of people to see the light and go tell it on the mountain.
Mike Hoffmann is professor emeritus at Cornell University’s College of Agriculture and Life Sciences and a faculty fellow with the Cornell Atkinson Center for Sustainability. He is lead author of “Our changing menu: Climate change and the foods we love and need.” He has done a TEDx, “Climate Change: It’s time to raise our voices” and teaches an eCornell climate change leadership course.
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