Apparently, it’s not all bad news on the global climate front. Just ask Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

Human activity, especially burning coal and oil, is driving a faster increase in temperature than at anytime in human history. It’s not only a threat to our long-range existence, it’s already causing environmental disasters right now. These events are projected to hit catastrophic levels over the next two decades unless the developed world can turn away from a carbon based economy.

Meanwhile the government Pompeo represents, the one with the world’s biggest economy, won’t even admit there’s a problem, wasting precious time.

But the secretary says it’s not all bad news, folks. At this rate of warming there will be some awesome shipping lanes where a polar ice cap used to be, giving a big boost to global trade. And not just that – retreating arctic ice will make it possible to extract more oil and gas from parts of the world that have been inaccessible.

Pompeo’s observations, made at the Arctic Council meeting in Finland this week, are technically true, which doesn’t make them less outrageous. This was the conference that the United States insisted would have no mention of climate change in the official joint statement of the nations and indigenous groups that attended. For the first time since the international organization was formed in 1996, it issued no statement of its priorities.

Score a win for Pompeo and a loss for the planet. While he’s right that warming will likely make it easier for a ship to travel between the Atlantic and Pacific oceans, that’s not all it will do.

The loss of polar ice is projected to have a series of cascading effects that will accelerate warming, and make parts of the planet uninhabitable. As ships navigate the Northwest Passage, multiple meters of sea level rise will swamp island nations. Equatorial temperatures will climb beyond the limits of human endurance. Severe storms, droughts, wild fires and famine will overwhelm the abilities of governments to cope, leading to political collapse, civil wars and a refugee crisis that dwarfs anything the world has ever seen.

It is the height of arrogance to only acknowledge climate change when you are tallying up its few benefits. The forces that open shipping lanes will also create disastrous  consequences that should be calculated on the same balance sheet.

Ninety-one leading climate scientists signed on to a UN report last year that delineated what’s at stake: Human activity is warming the planet, causing environmental damage and untold human suffering. It’s happening now and it’s going to get much worse soon if we don’t act.

Compared to that, cutting the time it takes a ship to reach China doesn’t really sound like such good news, after all.

 

 

 

 

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