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Going, Going, Gone
Photo credit: Stein Glacier on Aug. 20, 2015. (C: James Balog and the Extreme Ice Survey/GSA Today/The Geological Society of America)

By Andy Rowell

President Trump opens his eyes, but he does not see. Trump listens, but he does not hear. He speaks, but he makes no sense. How can the most powerful man be so completely ignorant about climate change? How can it be that as the evidence about climate change gets stronger, politicians like Trump seem to get more ignorant?


That is a question that is perplexing climate scientists and others fighting climate change.

Every day comes news that we are in deep, deep trouble. The Guardian reported this morning that "Climate change is rapidly becoming a crisis that defies hyperbole," with impacts "occurring faster in many parts of the world than even the most gloomy scientists predicted."

The newspaper reported on three recent studies which reveal there has been a "massive under-reporting" of the impacts of climate change:

  • The first paper, published in Science found that current warming (just one degree Celsius) has "already left a discernible mark on 77 of 94 different ecological processes, including species' genetics, seasonal responses, overall distribution and even morphology—i.e. physical traits including body size and shape."
  • A second paper, published in Nature Climate Change this February concluded that 47 percent of land mammals and 23 percent of birds have already suffered negative impacts form climate change. In total, nearly 700 species in these two groups are struggling over climate change. Entire ecosystems—some the size of states within the U.S.—are changing. Some are not surviving.
  • A third study in PLOS Biology found that more than 450 plants and animals have undergone local extinctions due to climate change. As some struggle to adapt they may go extinct altogether.

Trump might not read the left-leaning Guardian or the scientific press, but he should be reading the Washington Post. Earlier this week the Washington Post reported on a recent paper by the Geological Society of America which "presents dramatic before-and-after photographs of glaciers around the world over the last decade."

The majority of the photos were taken by renowned photographer James Balog as part of the Extreme Ice Survey, which was featured in the 2012 documentary Chasing Ice. The videos and still photos show glaciers in fast retreat. For example, the Mendenhall Glacier in Alaska retreated 550 meters between 2007 and 2015.

Balog told the paper, "I do think that our most dominant sensory apparatus is our vision. So when you can deliver an understanding of the reality of what's going on through vision, rather than numbers or maps, that also has the unique ability to touch and influence people."

The paper's authors argue that photographic records "provide an outstanding avenue for education, because they display a record of ice that may never be seen again."

But Trump is ignoring the photographic evidence. If he will not listen to the scientists, maybe Trump will listen to the security experts.

Sherri Goodman, a former U.S. deputy undersecretary of defense and founder of the CNA Military Advisory Board, is speaking this week in Sydney at the Breakthrough Institute at screenings of The Age of Consequences documentary, a film about the security threat posed by climate change. It is said to be a must-watch film. As the Toronto Star noted about the film, "the election of a climate denier Donald Trump underscores the urgency of this documentary."

As the ice retreats, whole ecosystem change and species die out, sea levels rise and storms increase and droughts get worse, we will all be living with the consequences of a climate denier in the White House, a man who looks, but does not see. Even as the glaciers disappear before his eyes.

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