Of the many issues great and small that have rebounded in and out of the news cycle this election season, only one is immediately and monumentally crucial. In fact it's not science fiction to assert that the future of humanity depends on who becomes the next President of the United States.
If we get Donald Trump, we're ruined.
If we get Hillary Clinton, we still have a fighting chance.
The world's scientists have amassed oceans of data that prove beyond a doubt that our planet and its human population stands at grave risk due to climate change. The world's governments agreed at last year's Paris climate talks that we have an ever-shrinking window of time to address the Earth's warming and avert the worst when it comes to sea level rise, severe heat and drought, super storms and other extreme weather events. NASA scientists now warn that we seem to be entering a period of accelerated warming with the planet heating up faster than has been experienced in the past 1,000 years.
Even Pope Francis took the unprecedented step last summer with his release of an encyclical that acknowledges climate change as the undisputed, most urgent issue facing the world's people. Laudato Si! lays out how the poor of the world stand to suffer first and worst from global warming's extreme consequences, with rising tides and monsoons predicted to create hundreds of millions of climate refugees within just the next few decades.
And yet American voters stand on the edge of putting a man in the White House who recently told the Miami Herald he is "not a big believer" in human-made climate change.
Bizarrely, Trump thinks climate change a "very expensive hoax" planted by the Chinese. "This very expensive GLOBAL WARMING bullshit has got to stop," he tweeted in January of 2014. His energy plan would eliminate the Obama administration rules that cut carbon pollution from coal-fired power plants. Trump would ax laws that regulate the production of oil and gas. He has vowed to withdraw the United States from the first-ever, worldwide climate agreement struck in Paris last year.
Trump has put infamous climate denier Myron Ebell in charge of his EPA transition team. And, as noted by Michael Finnegan in a recent LA Times article, the candidate's climate position even stacks him against top energy companies: Exxon, Chevron, Shell and BP scientists all acknowledge that the burning of fossil fuels causes global warming.
Consider the future of the climate crisis if we elect Hillary Clinton:
She has vowed to follow in President Obama's footsteps in sharply curtailing the use of fossil fuels that burn the gases that cause global warming. She fully applauds the Paris Agreement and idea that America must continue to play a leadership role in guiding the governments of the world toward ever-sharper emissions cutbacks. Clinton backs a continuation of Obama's Clean Power Plan that will help accelerate our transition away from the use of carbon-burning fossil fuels; she embraces the clean-energy revolution that is now underway. She would appoint a Supreme Court that wouldn't stand in the way of any of the above.
Many climate activists - notably Bill McKibben of the climate group 350.org - say the Paris agreement and other steps now being taken are still too timid and won't be enough to avert the worst of the calamity that is coming our way. But neither he nor his original pick for the presidency, Bernie Sanders, doubt that a Trump presidency would be an outright disastrous when it comes to the climate, taking us way past the point of no return.
You may have your problems with Hillary Clinton on other matters - so be it.
But don't kid yourself about the stark decision we now face.
It sounds like science fiction, but you know it's not. Could the fate of the planet and generations to come be in the hands of American voters this exact election season? The answer is YES.