The first few flakes of snow in the air on an autumn day have shocked us all. It had been decades since we have seen snow in winter, much less in autumn. Maybe this is the sign that we have been waiting for, an indication that our planet is no longer heating and is possibly even returning to normal, whatever that is.
God knows it has taken a disaster to get a coalition of countries to act. 188 million people have died thus far from climate-change events: 150-degree heat in many places, seas four feet above year-2000 levels, tornados and hurricanes, continual wildfires. But maybe that is ending.
We are now getting 80% of our energy from wind and solar. The tax on carbon has all but eliminated coal or oil as a source of electricity, and natural gas is sure to follow. Half of our cars are electric and the $5 per gallon tax on gasoline plus the huge incentives for new electric car buyers means that the remaining fleet will be emission free soon.
How we got to this happier place is a story in itself. There was at the nadir U.S. president who denied climate change, pandered to oil interests, and systematically eliminated environmental protections in order to keep the money from rich donors flowing in. He was a bloated, narcissistic, ill-informed and clown-like buffoon who was booted out after four years in office in favor of a mild-mannered but principled man. This man served only four years himself, but reversed some of his predecessor’s ill-conceived environmental directives. Meanwhile, the world continued to heat up, seas continued to rise, and violent weather continued to increase. No global agreement on radical changes in fossil fuel use could be reached due to the financial power of the global energy companies, especially those with interests in Saudi Arabia and Russia, and the insatiable energy needs of China in particular.
But then the collapse of the West Antarctic ice sheet raised sea levels suddenly by several feet. Miami and much of Florida, lower Manhattan, New Orleans, and most coastal communities in the U.S. were inundated. Damages ran into the trillions. Americans had had enough, but so had the rest of the world. Dutch dikes were overrun. The great steel sea-barriers protecting Venice and London proved to be inadequate and Venice could not be saved. London along the Thames was in ruins. Wall Street firms had to move. The world’s economy was a shambles.
America took the lead again, convincing a coalition of almost all major economies to impose punitive sanctions on any country that did not cut their carbon emissions by 10% per year. The new president was a young progressive woman who brought in her own team of fact-based experts. She embraced the totally unproven concepts of modern monetary theory, described by some as financial witchcraft and by others as America’s way of paying its bills by impoverishing the rest of the world thanks to its reserve currency. Nonetheless, she borrowed trillions of dollars for infrastructure projects, restored and increased foreign aid, and used her first term, when her party controlled both houses of congress, to pass legislation that restructured and simplified the U.S.’s entitlement programs and tax codes.
The world economies slowly recovered but the U.S. jumped ahead with 6% annual growth for four straight years. And now snow …