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On baseball's 'first pitch' and climate's long road ahead

Posted on 14 July 2020 by Bud Ward

This is a re-post from Yale Climate Connections

Forgive me, if you will, a sports analogy.

With the first call of “Play ball!” and the opening pitch of what will have to pass (or won’t) for the 2020 major league baseball season now scheduled to start in just a few weeks …

University of Minnesota public health specialist and frequent cable TV guest Dr. Michael Osterholm has emphasized recently and often that we are in the “first inning” of the COVID-19 pandemic.

What he has not yet made clear is whether we are in the top of the inning, with this other-worldly guest still at bat … or instead in the bottom of the inning, with the home team – AKA USA – at bat. Nor has he made clear whether there’s any score at this point, though many might suspect the good guys are not yet winning. And may indeed be trailing.

If all that is true – and who are we mere mortals to question it? – where then are we (this time the collective civilization, the world) in terms of the climate change crisis still aborning? Still in the minor leagues? Not yet past spring training, nor primed to come out of the dugout for the start of the contest? Be Still My Soul.

Experts on public health for all practical purposes are unanimous in agreeing that we – at the very least we in the U.S. and in a handful of other under-performing countries – have a long haul ahead in combating, and ultimately defeating, the coronavirus and its COVID-19 progeny. Just as experts on climate change science agree overwhelmingly on the fundamental causes behind our warming planet.

There too, the strong consensus points to our being in this battle for the long run. Not just innings, or even extra innings. Not just for the duration of this particular and unusual baseball season, nor even for the post-season and ultimate World Series we can only hope eventually will happen. Climate change is not a contest for a season, or even for a professional athlete’s entire career on the field. It’s for the ages.

“And miles to go before we sleep,” as Robert Frost reminds us.

My kids, and their kids and beyond will still have climate change on their lips and in their consciousness long after those leading the battle today will have said adieu. They may remember our many persistent, if inadequate, efforts. They for sure will remember those who have made no such efforts, even more so those who systematically delayed, resisted, and impeded progress by others.

We clearly do not know, cannot conjure up, the exact names, locations, or characteristics of those in the future who will bear the brunt of our own generation’s shortcomings in confronting climate change. That said, few will be surprised when it is the underserved who suffer the most. Just as we can’t know the names of those yet to bear the agonies of coming COVID-19 infections. What we do know in both instances is that serious efforts we undertake now and over the short term will redound to the benefit of those of us alive today, but even more to those yet to come in future decades.

Writing recently on these “digital pages,” meteorologist Jeff Masters, PhD, equated COVID-19 to our pop quiz, climate change to our final exam. One thing Masters did not specifically indicate is whether each or both are pass/fail, or letter graded.

On climate, it may well be that we face a pass/fail judgment. And we dare not count on future generations to be easy graders.

In the short run, let’s get behind and root for our favorite teams to excel in the coming abridged season, however long and successful, or not, it turns out to be.

In the long term, we’d better all get behind the only climate team we reasonably can have – Homo sapiens and all other sentient beings, human and otherwise, on this “only home” we all share. There is no Plan B.

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