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JOURNAL: Harrington: Global warming is no joke

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Five years ago, Superstorm Sandy made landfall and decimated my hometown. I was stuck inside my home as the second-costliest storm in United States history displaced my neighbors, destroyed landmarks and flooded New York City. The effects of this storm reached as far as Wisconsin, causing waves upwards of 33 feet on Lake Michigan in our own city of Milwaukee.

The devastation from this hurricane was heartbreaking to witness, and this past hurricane season has been a painful reminder of that horrible storm. Yet there are still people who deny the existence of climate change and its effect on the weather patterns around the planet.

The hurricanes that struck the American South and the territory of Puerto Rico were not the acts of a vengeful god, nor were they the normal storms that strike this area of the globe each year. The frequency and raw power of storms of this caliber are frightening and can only be explained by global warming.

Climate change is, as former Vice President Al Gore so famously declared, “an inconvenient truth.”  For most of us, it is an inescapable reality. However, our current president, along with a dishearteningly large contingent of our Congress, view the concept of climate change as a matter of opinion. President Donald Trump once claimed climate change to be a hoax constructed by the Chinese in order to damage the United States’ ability to compete in the global market.

It should be terrifying to live in a world where the highest authorities in the nation deny science. The horrific disregard for environmental protections by this government, our withdrawal from the Paris Climate Accord in particular, will undoubtedly be regarded as major setbacks in the fight to preserve our planet.

For every corporation that announces a new eco-friendly product, dozens more continue to deplete our ozone, destroy our rain forests or dump endless tons of garbage into the oceans.

This is not an open secret anymore. We’re denying the inescapable truth that our planet is dying, and we have nobody to blame but ourselves. Big business, greedy megalomaniacs and ineffective governments are clear offenders, but we cannot pin the blame solely on these faceless institutions. Everyday people are equally at fault.

Buying a reusable grocery bag won’t stop the destruction of the rain forests or regrow the Great Barrier Reef, but it is something. Putting pressure on those with power through protests and demonstrations is tangible, and educating children about environmental issues and the danger they pose on the fate of this planet is invaluable.

The time for debate is over. Denying climate change isn’t a political issue, it’s out-and-out ignorance. To say the geological anomalies of the past few years, such as Superstorm Sandy, are normal occurrences is part of the problem.

The world will not come to an end if people buy eco-friendly cars, nor will lives be ruined if support is bolstered for clean and sustainable energy. The wallets of millionaires and politicians will take a hit around the globe, but that’s a worthwhile victory in my eyes.

Global warming isn’t an American issue, and although our president chooses to live in ignorance and mock the concept, the effects of climate change are very real and very dangerous. Climate change is a global concern and it will take the cooperation of both the most powerful among us and everyday citizens.

This issue is not about liberals vs. conservatives or the U.S. economy vs. the Chinese economy, it’s about mankind vs. extinction. Elon Musk isn’t going to save the day and whisk us off to some other planet after ours is ravaged by what we’ve done to it. Our only hope is enough people recognizing this threat before it’s too late.

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