Kicking and screaming, the leaders of the world came together in Paris and took a collective baby step towards saving the planet for life as we know it. Or at least some of them did.
Oblivious to their near isolation, the Republican leadership remains willfully enslaved to medieval see-no-evil-unless-it's-a-Democrat ignorance. During the 5th GOP debate Tuesday night, climate change was the elephant in the room nobody mentioned, except for John Kasich... "And when I see they have a climate conference over in Paris, they should have been talking about destroying ISIS because they are involved in virtually every country, you know, across this world."
They're like a bunch of kids sticking their fingers in their waxy ears and chanting la-la-la to keep out the sound of scientists screaming that unless Man changes his ways, global warming could destroy the planet for life.
If there's been any movement on the Republican front, it is at best to stop talking arrant crap and to start saying – nothing. That's when they can hold back. Some can't: Marco Rubio, who should know better because a) he's from Florida, where cities are already watching their drains work backwards as sea levels and b) he himself denied in September be in a climate change skeptic, toed the GOP line, said on Monday, "The president just signed this unfunny joke of a climate deal." If there's an unfunny joke in the room, it isn't the deal.
Whatever arrogances they do have, most world leaders haven't suggested rejecting the science jes' because they find it inconvenient to their financiers. Even China and Wall Street have come around. Ahead of the COP21 meet in Paris, French President Francois Hollande, put the goal of the conference magnificently. The "future of life" itself is at stake, he explained.
Life itself! Lacking that, all we would have is the afterlife. Until 2013, a majority of Republican voters believed in that more than they believed in global warming.
Yet finally, the GOP faithful seem to be waking up. In recent months, acceptance of climate change among Republican voters has been surging, apparently because extreme weather events are happening in their backyards as California and the western United States shrivel and unprecedented rains and snows blanket other parts. It's about time: Until this year, polls show, more Republicans believed in the devil than in climate change.
The devil you know
Yes, surveys show, until recently, more Republicans believed in the devil than in climate change. A 2013 Yale survey found that only 52 percent of adults self-identified as Republican or Republican-leaning independent said they believed in climate change. A different survey that year showed that 65 percent of Republicans believed in the Evil One. (Among all Americans, the degree of faith in Satan was 57 percent.)
Fast-forward two years, to 2015: more than 70% of Republicans now admit climate change is real and needs handling.
The rising-sea-change in their attitude is apparently because extreme weather events are happening in their backyards as California and the western United States shrivel, and unprecedented rains and snows blanket other states.
So, a vast majority of Americans now "believe in the science behind global warming" – but only 43 percent believe there is "scientific consensus" about climate change, according to a recent poll conducted by ABC News with the Washington Post.
Actually, there is scientific consensus: over 97 percent of scientists not only agreed that climate change is a thing but that humans are causing it – and that was in 2013.
It is arguably the Republican leaders' fault that Americans accept that climate change is a thing endangering their survival, yet are so skeptical about the science. From Jeb Bush, who admits that climate change exists but doubts the "convoluted" science, to Donald "It's Just weather" Trump to Ben "Climate Change is Irrelevant" Carson, they have to bear blame for this skepticism. Ted Cruz raised the bar by basically calling just about every scientist on Earth a liar, and was treated to a savaging by a U.S. Navy admiral who knows the difference between an abalone and a train wreck.
Carly Fiorina's candidacy seems to be a non-issue by now, but week she too demonstrated a mind-boggling mind-set, saying earlier this month that ISIS is a greater threat to America than climate change and had the gall to call Obama delusional for thinking otherwise. (ISIS is trying to conquer the planet, not destroy it).
It is a terrifying thought that man is fouling his own nest to the point of unsurvivability. And no, we can't go anywhere else: Man has neither the technology nor the means to move to another planet. It would be nice to continue to deny these things, but doing so is insane. It means dooming our children.
When our lives are threatened, under normal conditions, we take shelter. Once the danger has passed – be it tornado or terrorist or possessed person requiring exorcism – we resume our usual routines. Not this time: our usual routines are toxic to the planet. Unless we all change our ways, we will render parts of the planet uninhabitable within the lifetime of our children. It's already happening.
GOP leaders, your people have crossed into the light. More of them finally believe in climate change than in the devil. It is time for the GOP leaders to follow their lead. And if they don't, anybody who votes for people who cherry-pick their facts and fictions, and who base their stated opinions on wishful thinking and denial, will share the blame for the damage if the Republicans keep their promise to derail the COP21 agreement.
By the way, in the original Hebrew Bible, the satan is an angelic adviser of God and is not evil per se, notes Haaretz's etymologist Elon Gilad. In any case, proof of his existence remains nonexistent. What can be proven is that average world temperatures have risen since the start of the industrial revolution.
Ruth Schuster is a Senior Editor at Haaretz who edits the Science and Archaeology sections.
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