Climate chaos is now – no joke!

There’s an old joke about an outspoken man of Christian faith who repeatedly refused to evacuate as a dangerous storm approached.

First, a bus came through his community, picking people up as a booming loudspeaker urged residents to leave. “No, no,” said the man, even as water was starting to fill his street, “the Lord is my protector; my faith tells me I’ll get through the storm unharmed.”

Next, with the street completely flooded, a rescue boat passed by the man’s house, offering to pick him up and transport him to safety. “No, no,” insisted the man, though the water was already lapping at his ankles by this time. “The Lord is my protector, and my faith tells me I’ll get through this storm unharmed.”

More time passed, and the man was forced to climb onto his roof in order to escape the ever-rising water. As it reached waist-level, a helicopter spotted the man, and dropped a rescue rope to him. “No, no,” screamed the man over the roar of the helicopter noise. “The Lord is my protector, and my faith tells me I’ll come through this storm unharmed.”

The storm continued relentlessly, and eventually the man was swept away and drowned. Finding himself face-to-face with St. Peter at the Pearly Gates, the man could not contain his annoyance. “Tell the Lord that I have a bone to pick with Him,” he barked. “I spent my whole adult life as an outspoken man of faith, yet the Lord let me drown.” “Let you drown?” retorted Peter. “You stubborn fool. You wouldn’t follow the commonsense the Lord gave you and evacuate on your own, so we sent you a bus, then a boat, and finally even a helicopter, and still you refused to open your mind to the obvious reality of your situation.”

The point of the story is easily applied to the leadership of all the “great powers” of the Earth. Climate-driven chaos is upon us, and indeed enveloping us – heat waves, droughts, floods, glacial and permafrost melting, sea level rise, pestilence, crop failure, ever more potent storms, species extinction… – all are happening NOW. Moreover, climate breakdown-related disasters are not merely more frequent; each new climate crisis is deemed “unprecedented” and “record-breaking.” Despite the frequent invocation of the phrase by politicians and media, there is in fact no “new normal.” Normality suggests stability, and climate chaos means the end of stability.

Still, stubbornly foolish (so-called) world leaders respond not with alarm and urgent action commensurate with the enormity of the crisis, but with weak and largely ineffective policy measures, usually accompanied by pseudo-“bold” promises to get serious about cutting heat-trapping emissions two or three decades down the line.

Like the joke’s man of faith, we no longer have time to ignore reality, or profess that our “faith” (in what?) will save us. “Business as usual” is a self-imposed death sentence.

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