The results of global-climate chaos include death, malnutrition, homelessness, global migration, the extinction of species, and eventual worldwide economic and social displacement.

“You shall not stand idly by the blood of your neighbor.” (Leviticus 19:16)

One of the key elements in contemporary marketing is picking a name. One of the brilliant choices in that area was naming anti-abortion forces as “pro-life.” The “pro-choice” name emerged thereafter. Those of us who believe deeply in a woman’s right to choose lost key ground because of the name choices. Another serious error in naming came in describing changes in our weather as “global warming.”

It is true that global warming accurately depicts what is gradually happening to the temperature in our atmosphere as a result of changes resulting from human production of carbon dioxide through car exhausts, coal-burning to generate electricity and other engines. This is worsened by cutting down forests, which are major producers of oxygen. But what the term global warming misses is that global warming is causing a rise in sea levels, an increase in the force of storms, shifting ocean currents, excessive rainfall and flooding, and disastrous droughts. This could more accurately be called “global climate chaos.”

Tsunamis, such as the one that hit Japan in 2011, are often caused by earthquakes, but the warmer water of the oceans exponentially increases their impact. The result over time is thousands of deaths. The burning surrounding Paradise, Calif., in fall 2018 that resulted in hundreds of lives lost, and tens of thousands homes and businesses destroyed, was made nearly unstoppable by drought. The flooding of Bangladesh and dozens of small islands is inevitable as the seas continue to rise because of melting of glaciers and ice caps. The results of global-climate chaos include death, malnutrition, homelessness, global migration, the extinction of species, and eventual worldwide economic and social displacement.

In this light, how do we understand the federal government’s efforts to roll back measures to reduce global warming and its decision to abandon the Paris accords? Quite simply, those decisions are ruining lives and killing people, and the damage is steadily becoming more widespread. While as an upper middle class person who lives on high ground, I am well-insulated from that mayhem, in a shrinking global world, all of us are neighbors. And what does Jewish tradition say to us about that? “You shall not stand idly by the blood of your neighbor.” (Leviticus 19:16)

Global-climate chaos has been creeping up on us for a century and more. It is easy to ignore any crisis that progresses so slowly. And when the causes are complex and the global resistance to change is huge, it is easy to feel helpless and hopeless. But lives are at stake. Literally.

What can we do? Publicly support candidates who recognize the need for global action against climate chaos. Change our electricity sources to wind and solar power. Drive cars that get better gas mileage. (Do I really need a large SUV?) Turn the heat down in our houses. Donate to causes that help to reduce pollution and deforestation in the developing world. Get involved in lobbying and letter-writing. Talk with friends about climate chaos. There’s not much I can do alone. But together, we can make a difference.