The risks we face

We are struggling with the aftermath of yet another terrorist attack.  Media is in full throat. The event is page one of national and international papers.  Cable news networks are in cry 24/7, regardless of whether there is any hard news to report or not.

Terrorist attacks, whether at home or abroad, are frightening and destructive to our national spirit and psyche.  The random nature of recent attacks gives everyone pause to consider the consequences of being in the wrong place at the wrong time.  The unexpected violence causes us to lose perspective relative to other hazards we face daily and which pose an even greater threat to our life and livelihood.

Possible terrorism attacks are a cause for vigilance and concern and figure prominently in our national debate.  Certain candidates in the thick of the presidential nomination fight continue to make outlandish demands that we suspend our rights of free speech and religious freedom in the name of preventing “radical Islamists” from destroying us all.

We badly need a dose of reality in our national conversation.  The worst terrorist attack in United State history on 9/11/01 left almost 3,000 dead.  This was a horrific event and should not be minimized in any way.    However, in the last ten years, the American death toll to domestic terrorist attacks is twenty-four people by one count.  Other sources may score a few more or a few less depending on definition but the magnitude will remain the same.

By contrast, approximately 32,000 Americans are killed by guns each year.  About the same number die annually in motor vehicle accidents.  Drug overdose deaths totaled over 47,000 in 2014.  Even lightening strikes, often held up as the ultimate remote chance of being killed, claimed forty-nine lives last year, double the number killed by terrorism in the last ten years. 

There is no shortage of things that put us at risk and we should not trivialize any of them.  However in the words of our President, “Not radical Muslim terrorism, not an unsecured border, not an ever-growing federal debt that now exceeds $18 trillion, not the fact that 109 million live in households on federal welfare programs.   These are not the greatest threats facing us today.  No challenge--no challenge--poses a greater threat to future generations than climate change.”

Costs and deaths resulting from climate change are more difficult to quantify than are some of the other threats cited above, but are no less real   Climate change occurs slowly and the impacts may only be apparent over an extended time span.  However, climate change is the phenomena that can wipe out or devastate an entire country or region and disrupt all life as we know it.

Climate change should be the subject of our national debate.  What better time for that debate than in the midst of a presidential election?   We need to tone down the inflated rhetoric about the threat of Muslims in our midst and ask all candidates the hard questions about how they will face the threat of climate change. 

This is the true risk of our time. 

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