Episode 53: Gas and Heat Included

In the fifty-third episode of The Latest, we try to determine whether west coast wildfires are caused by climate change, gender reveal parties, or exploding Samsung phones. Noah Minnick, a New York City resident on September 11, 2001, joins the program for this week’s O.J. Simpson Twitter Update.

The Latest with Greg Ott
Episode 53: Gas and Heat Included


Those voices are discussing climate change, the long-lingering background presence that, like Google Chrome, is slowly but surely consuming each and every resource until grinding things to a halt.

As the United States juggles simultaneous outbreaks of hurricanes, derechos, and wildfires, many citizens throughout the country are asking themselves the very same question: will I need to bring an umbrella to work today, or a flame-retardant jumpsuit?

Taking its cue from the producers of The Walking Dead, the wildfires in California have returned this fall for yet another disappointing season that’s spun out of control and gone on for far too long.

The best coast has become the stressed coast, as the immunosuppressed head west in order to avoid eternal rest. 

At least 31 have died and thousands have fled the flames of California, Oregon, and Washington, three states under a significantly more menacing orange hue than the remaining 47. 

That’s also saying nothing about the eight simultaneous tropical storm systems currently brewing off the coast of the Atlantic, the 140 mile-an-hour derechos that pummeled the midwest in August, and the tragic rainstorm that got my pants a little wet last week because I forgot to close the window. 

Last wildfire season, I said on an episode of this program that our country isn’t prepared to deal with climate change: we’d be putting our heads in the sand if the shoreline wasn’t already littered with debris from a storm surge.  

Just a decade ago, John McCain’s 2008 presidential campaign ran on stronger climate change credentials than Barack Obama, in which the late Senator claimed that he “sounded the alarm on global warming,” acting on rumors that that Todd Palin’s Arctic Cat hadn’t gotten stuck in a snowdrift in quite some time. 

But like a sheet of Antarctic ice exposed to your F-150, that belief has slowly eroded, in large part thanks to right-alined corporate interests that have made a habit out of selling oil at the expense of remaining habitable. 

That’s not to say everyone has always been on the climate change electric train.

Al Gore was routinely mocked at the release of “An Inconvenient Truth,” which, alongside distancing himself from the Clinton family in 2000, should have been heralded as a sign of his strong instincts.  

In 2015, an Oklahoma Republican spoke on the floor of the senate with a snowball in hand to prove the indisputable, incontrovertible fact that winter exists in February.

And today, as the country literally burns, the president and his ilk continue to assert that wildfires — fueled by wind, extreme temperatures, and unusually dry conditions in areas that typically experience lots of rain — are as fake as his vitamin-D deficient tan applied by the world’s unhappiest makeup artist. 

A writer for The Atlantic asserts that we might be living in something called a plastic hour, in which a set of otherwise solid beliefs briefly becomes pliable and able to change. 

I think they may be right, especially when you consider Americans throw away 2.5 million plastic bottles of Mountain Dew, Mountain Dew Code Red, and Mountain Dew It’s Orange Who Cares I Want To Die In My Gaming Chair Drinking A Gallon of This, each and every hour.

When images of the west coast pop off your 4K TV, you can’t help but be reminded of Blade Runner 2049 — a dry and eerie future that’s just as lousy and uncomfortable as the sequel itself.

If 40% of the country wants to pretend that climate change doesn’t exist, the other 60% needs to start pretending the other 40% doesn’t exist, so we can pursue policies and elect politicians who want to protect that 40%’s right to believe that the earth is flat, 500 years old, and controlled by Jeffrey Epistein’s state, without having their apartment complex get burned to the ground for reasons other than their cotton candy e-cigarette exploding overnight in its charging cradle.

And yet, a climate change denier who spent the majority of his career questioning the very premise of climate change just got a top position at the head of the National Ocean and Atmospheric Administration. 

Residents in Oregon are setting up armed checkpoints and spreading disinformation claiming that Antifa was responsible for starting the fires out west.

And the President refuses to even state that climate change exists, reducing it to an impossibly abstract concept, like that that of him possessing a soul.

If we’re truly on the precipice of entering a plastic hour, let’s hope the clock starts the moment we set our clocks back this November — and that we stop wasting time pretending that seconds don’t cause minutes.