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!
  • "Dear Diaspora Jews, I’m sorry to break it to you, but you can’t have it both ways. You can’t insist that every Jew is intrinsically part of the Israeli state and that Jews are also intrinsically separate from, and therefore not responsible for, the actions of the Israeli state." Do you agree?
  • Are Michelangelo's paintings anti-Semitic? Meet the Jews of the Sistine Chapel: http://jd.fo/i4UDl
  • What does the Israel-Hamas war look like through Haredi eyes?
  • Was Israel really shocked to find there are networks of tunnels under Gaza?
  • “Going to Berlin, I had a sense of something waiting there for me. I was searching for something and felt I could unlock it by walking the streets where my grandfather walked and where my father grew up.”
  • How can 3 contradictory theories of Yiddish co-exist? Share this with Yiddish lovers!
  • "We must answer truthfully: Has a drop of all this bloodshed really helped bring us to a better place?”
  • "There are two roads. We have repeatedly taken the one more traveled, and that has made all the difference." Dahlia Scheindlin looks at the roots of Israel's conflict with Gaza.
  • Shalom, Cooperstown! Cooperstown Jewish mayor Jeff Katz and Jeff Idelson, director of the National Baseball Hall of Fame, work together to oversee induction weekend.
  • A boost for morale, if not morals.
  • Mixed marriages in Israel are tough in times of peace. So, how do you maintain a family bubble in the midst of war? http://jd.fo/f4VeG
  • Despite the escalating violence in Israel, more and more Jews are leaving their homes in Alaska to make aliyah: http://jd.fo/g4SIa
  • The Workmen's Circle is hosting New York’s first Jewish street fair on Sunday. Bring on the nouveau deli!
  • Novelist Sayed Kashua finds it hard to write about the heartbreak of Gaza from the plush confines of Debra Winger's Manhattan pad. Tough to argue with that, whichever side of the conflict you are on.
  • "I’ve never bought illegal drugs, but I imagine a small-time drug deal to feel a bit like buying hummus underground in Brooklyn."
  • 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.