Climate change hits home

During the life of this site, I've done my best to avoid directly addressing issues of partisan disagreement in American politics.  Science and human exploration are pursuits that affect all of us and I think we can all wonder at the advances we've made and will continue to make.  But, as I write this, a fleet of military helicopters are in the midst of evacuating my neighbors here in Boulder, Colorado.  People I know are facing the loss of their homes and their property.  Some have lost their lives.

This is a tragedy to be sure, but the true travesty is that this is not an isolated event.  From floods to super-storms to record-breaking forest fires, we as a nation (and world!) are experiencing a level of violent weather previously unknown.  Is some of it coincidence?  Surely.  Could the climate be changing on its own?  Of course.  But, can we seriously wash our hands of any involvement?  Absolutely not.  Our planet is changing and we're its dominant species.  Worst of all, these changes are costing the lives of people all over the globe.  It is unconscionable not to act, and yet we have done just that.

Even if you believe, in the face of near-unanimous scientific consensus, that there is nothing we can do to affect our planet's future, there are steps we can take to mitigate future disasters.  Modernizing our bridges, roads, levees, and tunnels is an obvious first step.  Not only would this improve our day-to-day quality of life; strengthened infrastructure could  save untold lives in the climax of a crisis.

Saving lives will cost money - whether it's seat belts, life boats, or sea walls, it always does.  But every time we make our lives and the lives of our fellow citizens safer, we improve the opportunities for everyone.  Disasters strike across all societal delineations. You only need to watch a few minutes of this week's news coverage to see that college professors and farmers alike are being evacuated.

If we act now, perhaps the next big storm will be more a wonder of nature and less a humanitarian crisis.  Delay further, and we are certain to have many more hours of horrifying television in front of us.

I'll be back soon with some comments on last week's space news.