Procrastination is a human habit that normally is just an annoyance. Yet, it can turn lethal.

Take the June 24 collapse of the high-rise condominium complex in Surfside, Florida. It may have been procrastination that killed at least 32 people and left more than 100 still missing.

Reporting by The New York Times found that years of wrangling over the estimated need for $15 million in repairs came to an end only when the Champlain Towers South came down.

Wrangling over big problems until disaster occurs is not an unusual event in human affairs. America resisted entry into World War II until Japan bombed Pearl Harbor.

The question now is whether procrastination will destroy some or most of the Earth before people organize themselves to roll back climate change before a Pearl Harbor-level event.

Last summer’s raging wildfires in the West got the Biden administration’s attention, but most Americans treated them as dramatized illustrations of the daily news. Life went on for most with little disruption. Besides, the pandemic was raging and the world seemingly had bigger fish to fry.

Now a heat dome hangs over the West, which produces much of the nation’s food. If one of the worst droughts in history persists, it could put a big dent in what’s in our grocery store aisles.

Idaho, for example, is a big dairy, beef and barley state. Yet, regional hay growers dependent on water from the Big Wood River are now short of the necessary supply to grow the hay and corn that feed the dairy cows and beef cattle.

Barley growers, whose crops go to beer makers, are chopping down their plants before they mature because irrigation flows have stopped.

Water shortages in California, which are severe, will affect the whole nation even more

The New York Times reports that producers of everything from rice to nuts to melons are letting fields lie fallow. Some are selling water to other farmers because it’s more lucrative than producing food.

The question now is whether high prices for ordinary staples and shortages of food will drive consumers to take action? Will people care when milk, beer, hamburger and tomatoes become hard to get? Or will they simply ignore what’s before their eyes in the hope that the problem will go away by itself?

Yesterday was the time to get electric vehicles on the road and solar panels on rooftops. Yesterday was the time to free up electrical capacity for the charging stations those vehicles will need.

Even so, we still must try to roll back the blistering effect of fossil fuels on the atmosphere—today.

Success will depend on when enough Americans quit procrastinating, recognize the climate threat and lead the charge to stop it.

“Our View” represents the opinion of the newspaper editorial board, which is made up of members of its board of directors. Remarks may be directed to

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