A planetary emergency
On the cover of the newest issue of Commonweal is Richard W. Miller’s article “‘Global Suicide Pact’: Why Don’t We Take Climate Change Seriously?” Miller lays out the scientific evidence for climate change – the impacts we are already experiencing and the likely effects of the warming our current course will to bring about. It’s not a cheerful prognosis. And it’s hardly overblown. “That there will be large destructive changes from the continued warming of the planet is certain; indeed, it is already happening. Yet we cannot know with certitude precisely how large and rapid these changes will be,” Miller writes. “What is clear, though, is that so far we have substantially underestimated the problem.” That is, things are already worse than scientists predicted they would be.
The picture is deeply unsettling. But it isn’t hopeless: “It is still possible for us to shift rapidly to clean energy” and avoid truly catastrophic levels of warming, Miller explains. “But doing so will require dramatic political action.”
In related news, I see that Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum spoke at the Gulf Coast Energy Summit this weekend and said, “The dangers of carbon dioxide? Tell that to a plant, how dangerous carbon dioxide is.”
Maybe Santorum’s proud ignorance isn’t all that significant in the big political picture – he’s just a long-shot candidate, after all. But then there’s Oklahoma Senator Jim Inhofe, the GOP’s ranking member on the Senate Committee on Environment & Public Works. The “welcome” notice on his site says, “We must use the best science available.” And yet this is a man who has said, “Catastrophic global warming is a hoax. That conclusion is supported by the painstaking work of the nation’s top climate scientists.” Which is, to put it mildly, not accurate. Inhofe has a history of saying outrageous and dim things about global warming, and he just published a book titled The Greatest Hoax: How the Global Warming Conspiracy Threatens Your Future. (Good to know he’s focused on the really significant threats.) And it’s not some tragic accident that Inhofe ended up on the environmental committee; his “skepticism” is why he’s there. So it’s hard for me to be optimistic about that dramatic political action Miller says is necessary. Can anything make people grow up and stop snickering about Al Gore every time it snows? Will Santorum’s dopey jape about carbon
monoxide dioxide (whoops) embarrass his supporters as much as it should? The forecast doesn’t look good.
Read Miller’s article, and then let us know: What can be done?