A Future in Flames
by Sebastian Stelios
August 27, 2009
The flames that recently engulfed the suburbs of Athens and several Greek islands in the Aegean Sea are finally dying down. Nearly 52,000 acres of forest have been destroyed but, miraculously, no one has died.
The news of this summer’s devastating Greek forest fires drew my mind back to a summer two years ago. In August of 2007, my Yiayia called me and told me sadly, “Kaiyete y Ellada” – Greece is burning.
That summer, Greece experienced one of the worst environmental disasters of the year. Over 3,000 fires blazed across the country destroying 670,000 acres of ancient forests, olive groves, and farm land; ruining more than 2,000 homes and other buildings; and taking the lives of 84 men, women, and children. Historic sites like Ancient Olympia experienced irreparable damage.
The intensity of the fires was largely attributed to three consecutive and unprecedented 105’C heat waves that struck the country and caused severe drought.
Dramatically intensifying summer fires, super-charged hurricanes, disappearing coastlines, and wide-spread famine and disease are what await us if we do not take immediate action to halt the rapidly warming global climate.
Our last chance to prevent runaway climate change will be at this December’s U.N. Climate Convention in Copenhagen. But, as the world’s leaders prepare to hammer out a new international climate treaty, the U.S. House of Representatives has passed a weak and ineffective global warming bill.
The Nobel Prize-winning Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change says that, in order to avoid the worst impacts of global warming, the U.S. and other industrialized countries must cut their emissions 25-40% below 1990 levels by 2020. The House of Representatives’ bill only calls for a 4% reduction by 2020 and gives billions of dollars to coal-fired power plants – the single largest source of global warming pollution in the U.S.
Now is not the time for complacency. The raging forest fires that we are witnessing in Greece, Spain, Australia, and southern California will only be the beginning if we do not pass serious legislation to stop corporations from pumping CO2 into our atmosphere. Unless the new climate bill is strengthened in the Senate, the United States will enter the U.N. Climate Convention without a strong commitment to fight global warming.
It is up to President Obama to get us back to the science-based targets he promised in his inaugural address and become a world leader in the battle against global warming. Otherwise, we all will face a future in flames.
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