The climate alarm is sounding more loudly than ever in these early days of 2013. Climate change, we are finding out, isn’t something that only our children and grandchildren and the global poor will wrestle with. We are staring it in the face right now where ever we live on this planet. Here in North America. Hurricane Sandy and the prolonged drought in the U.S. Midwest are a few of the close-to-home wake-up calls. We, and our children and grandchildren, are on a collision course with climate disaster. A new report, The National Climate Assessment, prepared for the U.S. Congress on the effect of climate change on that nation spells this out very clearly, as reported in the New York Times this week:
“Climate change, once considered an issue for a distant future, has moved firmly into the present,” the draft document says. “Americans are noticing changes all around them.
“Summers are longer and hotter, and periods of extreme heat last longer than any living American has ever experienced. Winters are generally shorter and warmer. Rain comes in heavier downpours, though in many regions there are longer dry spells in between.”
The report cites stronger scientific evidence—developed since the last report of this type was published in 2009—that human activities, especially the burning of fossil fuels, are the primary cause of these changes. It warns that if humanity fails to get a handle on emissions, the changes are likely to accelerate. And it cites numerous ways, from health problems to wildfires to extreme weather events, that climate change threatens human welfare – not in some distant land in some far-off time, but here in the United States, and soon. Click here to read the full article.
And yet Republicans resist the science. Texas Republican Lamar Smith, chairman of the House Science, Space and Technology Committee (!) had this to say last Friday:
I believe climate change is due to a combination of factors, including natural cycles, sun spots, and human activity. But scientists still don’t know for certain how much each of these factors contributes to the overall climate change that the Earth is experiencing.”
David Horsey tackled this reluctance to face reality brilliantly in the LA Times yesterday, Neo-Confederates in Congress Resist a Rapidly Changing World:
Today, there are quite a few very vocal neo-Confederates who think gun rights, states rights, the protection of white American culture and elimination of “excessive” taxation on the rich are the nation’s preeminent concerns. Their anti-bellum mindset makes it impossible for them to accept scientific reality — climate change, evolution, the true age of the planet — and political reality — America is becoming a more diverse, tolerant nation that does not share their fear-driven philosophy.
Horsey ends with a ray of hope:
Change is constant but our political system always lags behind until the force of change is too great to resist. The fact that those who are now clinging to the past have become so rigid, desperate and shrill is a strong indication that a big leap is drawing close. We have not found our Abe or Teddy or FDR or LBJ, as yet. Barack Obama is more a manifestation of a changing America than he is the agent of a revolutionary shift. But when the shift comes, leaders will rise to the moment and history will call them great.
That is a hopeful thought at a dismal moment in our democracy.
At this crucial moment in history, those of us who recognize it’s time that we ensure that there’s enough for everyone’s need, not everyone’s greed, need to heed the call to be Idle No More. The drumbeat of Mother Earth is calling us to action.