The reports keep coming in: record hurricanes and flooding, record temperatures, record forest fires, record droughts, record glacier melting, record CO2 levels in the atmosphere, record ocean acidity, record sea levels, wide-spread pollution-related diseases, record species die-outs, etc. Not all of these phenomena may be proven as attributes of human-caused global warming, but one would have to live in total isolation or have ulterior motives not to acknowledge the scientific evidence for global warming nor, in historical perspective, relate it to mankind's activities.
We have learned that some of our fossil-fuel corporations have studied and confirmed global-warming effects but suppressed their findings - much like the tobacco industry suppressing their studies about smoking causing cancer. Virtually all denial of global warming emanates from the industries identified as the primary cause. Their reasons for denial have everything to do with their continued existence and the potential costs involved if the polluting industries could be held responsible for damages related to global warming. (This past week the cities of San Francisco and Oakland have filed suit against major oil companies for present and futures costs relating to rising sea levels.)
Trump, in his speech announcing the USA pullout of the Paris Climate Agreement, makes this very clear, pointing out the "draconian financial and economic burdens imposed upon our country". He evidently believes that by simply withdrawing from the agreement we can escape the responsibility for the costs of environmental deterioration.
But the responsibility does not go away. There is a long history of environmental damage and neglect that becomes a "draconian" accumulating debt that will burden future generations. It is not a debt that can be paid-off with money alone. By now, the debt is so large it could bankrupt any country trying to pay it off. The damage from Hurricane Katrina has not yet been restored or the losses paid off. Where will the hundreds of billions of dollars come from just to repair damages from Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria - not to mention compensation for loss of lives. When the dots are connected incriminating the air polluters as contributing to the cause, they will fight responsibility to the end. The government could not pay the bill even with revolutionary austerity in the nation's budget.
In fact, there is little expectation that things will be fully repaired, just as we have neglected our decaying infrastructure of bridges, roads, transportation, water systems, schools, etc. I've been told of one Harvey victim who suffered major loss being offered $500 by FEMA. And why should everything be put back as it was, with the prospects of ever greater storms and flooding, or permanent loss of land?
Our government and society are not prepared or structured to bear the "draconian" costs if the predicted consequences of climate change come about. We could not maintain the pretense of being the world's superpower extending its military and financial arm across the globe. To adapt to the predicted environmental challenges would require fundamental adjustments to the basic patterns of our material-based life styles, The country cannot continue on the dream of endless growth where the reality of mindless growth leads to our demise.
Once the full fury of predicted environmental catastrophes is upon us, we would have to enter into a state of emergency exceeding by far the efforts required during World War II. Large-scale mobilization would be needed to clean up recurring disasters during hurricanes and floods. Extensive sea walls would be needed to protect vital sea coast and harbors, such as the Dutch have built for centuries. Eventually, existing sea coasts and their cities may have to be abandoned and new facilities and cities built inland. Mass migrations of environmental refugees throughout the world would result in extensive homeless encampments, suffering and diseases, as we see in Bangladesh and elsewhere today, exacerbated by diminishing food supplies from loss of farmland, inclement weather, and dying fish populations from ocean acidity.
We must come to the realization that we - our country, our world - have arrived at a most crucial point in civilization. We are approaching an existential crisis. It is a no-compromise situation. Where is the leadership for these times?