Biggest Election Issue? Planet's Survival

Climate Change Is Real and We Must Act To Save World

Biggest Issue is Earth: The changes ravaging the planet are the biggest issue facing voters this November.
getty images
Biggest Issue is Earth: The changes ravaging the planet are the biggest issue facing voters this November.

By J.J. Goldberg

Published May 27, 2012, issue of June 01, 2012.
  • Print
  • Share Share
  • Single Page

Many smart folks I know are having trouble deciding how they’re going to vote this November. They list the pros and cons on each side and find the uncertainties canceling each other out. How do we keep Iran from going nuclear? Will the Supreme Court overturn Roe v. Wade? Whom do you trust to protect Israel? How do we get the economy moving? And what the heck is a derivative, anyway?

Actually, it’s not that complicated. There’s really only one question that matters this November: Do you want to leave your grandchildren a habitable planet?

It sounds melodramatic, but the question is real. The answer may well be decided by whoever wins the presidency in November. Depending on the outcome, unemployment could end up the least of our problems.

The question seems to confuse a lot of people. That’s partly because the consequences seem improbably vast, and it’s not at all obvious how we’d go from here to there. The disaster, if it comes, will emerge only gradually over the course of a century. But that doesn’t mean we have a century to deal with it. What happens in 2100 will depend on decisions made in the coming decade. Later will be too late.

Scientists have been warning for several years, most recently at an international climate conference in London in March, that the planet is approaching a tipping point. The cumulative effects of the Industrial Revolution, of burning coal and oil and pumping fumes into the air, have raised the average annual temperature of the atmosphere by about 1.4 degrees Fahrenheit above pre-1850 levels.

The results are just now becoming visible in sharp worldwide increases in extreme weather and in the rapid melting of polar ice. Unprecedented droughts in Russia and Argentina and biblical-scale flooding in Australia and Iowa have decimated global wheat production, sparking food riots that turned into revolutions in Tunisia and Egypt. Desertification in East Africa has touched off mass migrations northward, creating illegal immigration crises in Southern Europe and Israel. Warmer, moister air over the Gulf of Mexico has increased the frequency and severity of thunderstorms and tornadoes over the Midwest.

As recently as two years ago, most scientists were unwilling to link individual natural disasters to carbon emissions. It’s now becoming conventional wisdom.

If worldwide carbon emission isn’t dramatically slowed by the end of this decade, scientists say, the carbon already in the atmosphere will push temperatures steadily upward. Widespread havoc will ensue, but three catastrophic events are particularly worrisome: the melting of the Arctic icecap, the death of the Amazon rainforest and the thawing of the Siberian tundra permafrost. Each one will set off its own cascading series of after-effects, together boosting the average global temperature to as much as 6 degrees above pre-industrial levels by 2100.


The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.





Find us on Facebook!
  • Can you relate?
  • The Forverts' "Bintel Brief" advice column ran for more than 65 years. Now it's getting a second life — as a cartoon.
  • Half of this Hillel's members believe Jesus was the Messiah.
  • Vinyl isn't just for hipsters and hippies. Israeli photographer Eilan Paz documents the most astonishing record collections from around the world:http://jd.fo/g3IyM
  • Could Spider-Man be Jewish? Andrew Garfield thinks so.
  • Most tasteless video ever? A new video shows Jesus Christ dying at Auschwitz.
  • "It’s the smell that hits me first — musty, almost sweet, emanating from the green felt that cradles each piece of silver cutlery in its own place." Only one week left to submit! Tell us the story of your family's Jewish heirloom.
  • Mazel tov to Chelsea Clinton and Marc Mezvinsky!
  • If it's true, it's pretty terrifying news.
  • “My mom went to cook at the White House and all I got was this tiny piece of leftover raspberry ganache."
  • Planning on catching "Fading Gigolo" this weekend? Read our review.
  • A new initiative will spend $300 million a year towards strengthening Israel's relationship with the Diaspora. http://jd.fo/q3Iaj Is this money spent wisely?
  • Lusia Horowitz left pre-state Israel to fight fascism in Spain — and wound up being captured by the Nazis and sent to die at Auschwitz. Share her remarkable story — told in her letters.
  • Vered Guttman doesn't usually get nervous about cooking for 20 people, even for Passover. But last night was a bit different. She was cooking for the Obamas at the White House Seder.
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.