Here are ten ways climate change is being allowed to imitate terrorism, as we downplay its importance and focus our attention elsewhere.
- Disguise--Hijackers present themselves as ordinary passengers on an airplane. Car bombs arrive in unmarked vehicles. Climate change comes disguised within the variable nature of weather.
- Unorthodox, improvised weapons--Whereas al Qaeda hijacked commercial airliners with full tanks of jet fuel, climate change hijacks the normally beneficial warming power of carbon dioxide and methane to melt ice caps and increase weather extremes. With 220 feet of sea level rise currently parked on Greenland and Antarctica, ice caps are a massive weapon to steadily unleash against coastal cities. The 40% increase in atmospheric carbon is also driving ocean acidification, a form of chemical warfare.
- Indifference to life, including one’s own. Climate change trumps the suicide bomber’s inhumanity. What could be more indifferent to life than an elemental process that has no life to begin with?
- Use the enemy’s infrastructure and technology against it. Al Qaeda used our flight schools to train its hijackers, then turned our airliners into missiles. Climate change uses our crowded highways as factories for the production of global warming molecules. It uses the energy needs of every building to do its work. The more we express our power through carbon-based fuels, the stronger and more destructive climate change becomes.
- Maximum destruction with a minimal budget. Climate change doesn’t need a budget when our economy is doing all the work necessary, busily transferring carbon from underground fuel deposits up into the atmosphere. It was the ticket-buying passengers who unwittingly paid the bill for al Qaeda’s 9/11 flights, and it’s all of us who are sponsoring climate change through utility bills and payments at the pump. Our good intentions are essentially being hijacked to achieve a completely unintended result.
- Terrorists are not connected to any nation. Molecules in the atmosphere driving climate change are unconnected to anything other than the laws of physics.
- Promote and exploit polarized political atmospheres. Though it should be seen as a common enemy for all people to rally against, climate change has been turned into a divisive issue. An actively cultivated resentment and distrust of the messengers has allowed climate change to gain critical time and momentum.
- Maintain the element of surprise. The common and usually false refrain after disasters occur is that “nobody saw it coming.” Even though the mechanism of global warming has been known for a century, and the science is clear about the huge risk we’re taking, many still refuse to “see it coming.”
- An effective terrorist is patient and in it for the longterm. There is no more patient enemy than an elemental process. An overdose of carbon dioxide molecules lingers in the atmosphere for centuries.
- Terrorists seek to destabilize the existing world order, to eventually impose a new one. Climate change over time will disrupt and destabilize not only civilization but most of the natural world as well. Time and inaction are on its side. The destabilizing effect of climate change--as the predicted food shortages and dislocations feed discontent and put governments under increasing stress--will do the terrorists’ work for them.
The 21st century, then, is playing out like the long form of 2001, when increasingly urgent warnings of peril were given low priority, culminating in the tragedy of 9/11. The mimics of terrorism, like terrorists themselves, thrive when our attention is elsewhere.
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