There are powerful and ridiculous issues that dominate our news week to week. For example, in the past few weeks:
- The announcement last week by Pres. Obama that Osama Bin Laden had been caught and killed.
- The Royal wedding
- Donald Trump’s rise as a potential GOP candidate due to his questioning of Obama’s citizenship as an American.
- Pres. Obama’s release of his birth certificate
- American Idol eliminations
- NBA Playoffs
- GOP plans to destroy Medicare
- Pres. Obama’s plan for reducing the deficit
- The Arab Revolutions
This is not intended to diminish the importance of any of the meaningful issues above but what do any of the above matter in the long run if the Earth becomes a dangerous and inhospitable place to live?
No tree-hugger chest pounding here, just a practical consideration that if we can’t prioritize Climate Change, that is, the future survival of our race and society on this planet, all other issues that are important today could pale in the future compared to Climate Change.
Tonight, the overflowing Mississippi River is anticipated to crest, plunging many more homes and communities underwater, inflicting suffering and possibly death to our fellow citizens in several states and adding huge amounts of debt for the communities, states and this nation which will need to repair the damage.
We’ve seen one of our major cities destroyed in the aftermath of an enormous hurricane.
Each winter seems to break records for cold, or snowfall and each Summer seems to break records for heat and heat-related deaths.
Droughts have become more widespread globally, the lack of potable water is growing and the resulting problems with smaller nations growing sufficient food for their populations are increasing.
The rainforest continues to be swiftly slashed and the southern and northern ice caps are melting at faster-than-predicted rates.
Yet, while the seas rise in coastal areas around the world and weather related disasters multiply in their frequency and lethal force, we as a society have moved on from the days of “An Inconvenient Truth” and addressing climate change as a priority.
The landscape of the American psyche is not unfamiliar. The public responds to that which is most provocative and evocative in the short term over that which is a long term issue needing to be solved.
For a while there, a few years back, the public was gripped by the threat of global warming and the urgency to reverse it before it’s too late. With oil industry execs in the White House at the time, that momentum was successfully ignored and the public moved on to other issues.
In fact, according to a CBS News/New York Times Poll from April 15-20, climate change isn’t even on the list of issues that matter to Americans:
“What do you think is the most important problem facing this country today?” Open-ended
Economy/Jobs – 39%
Budget deficit/National debt – 15%
Health care – 6%
Fuel costs – 5%
War/Iraq/Afghanistan – 4%
Partisan politics – 3%
Moral values/Family values – 3%
Other – 20%
Unsure – 5%
I’d suggest that today more Americans would actually support greater pollution if it would reduce gas prices in the short term by 20-40 cents.
Climate Change isn’t as “sexy” right now as it was and to a national audience out there that has been conditioned by tv and society over their lifetime to have full permission to gratify themselves above all else, this is not surprising.
Politics and the news have been transformed into highly polished circus sideshows, meant to get the rubes in the tent and spending their money. That’s not to say that there aren’t quality politicians and news out there, just that what works best in both fields has little to do with substance and doing what’s best for the public.
The world of politics is important, it genuinely impacts us and deserves our participation and attention. There are many other issues that are critical too. The thrust here is to say that we as a society need to be able to walk and chew gum at the same time, even when that gum has lost a lot of its exciting flavor.
There is an inordinate amount of focus on the short term and short term problems and so little focus on the long term.
Climate change is one of those long term issues where there is no quick finish line and the benefits will nebulous because there’s no way to quantify things that don’t happen.
Imagine though if America and the world had begun to tackle Climate Change decades ago and Katrina never happened, many incidents of torrential rains and flooding, droughts and other weather related destruction just didn’t occur. The benefits to our nation and the world, over decades and centuries would be incalculable.
Yet, like most of the long term issues we face as a nation, making long term commitments is very difficult for America mainly because of politics. For example, if the GOP ran in 2012 on “Drill, baby, drill!” and “We’ll lower gas prices!”, the Dems would have a losing hand by running on “Shared sacrifice on reducing carbon emissions can help us prevent ongoing destruction to our country and planet from Climate Change”.
Promoting what’s best for our nation in the long run over what would gratify Americans most in the short term would simply be bad politics in today’s US.
So, here we are, in conflicts over birth certificates and how much credit Bush should be given for Bin Laden’s killing…fiddling while Home burns.
From the LA Times:
The greatest increase in surface air temperature has happened in autumn, in regions where sea ice has disappeared by the end of summer. This suggests that the sea is absorbing more of the sun’s energy during the summer because of the loss of ice cover. The extra energy is being released as heat in autumn, further warming the Arctic lower atmosphere. Over land, the number of days with snow cover has changed mostly in spring. Early snow melt is accelerated by earlier and stronger warming of land surfaces that are no longer snow-covered.
These processes are termed “feedbacks.” Snow feedbacks are well known. The sea-ice feedback has been anticipated by climate scientists, but clear evidence for it has only been observed in the Arctic in the past five years.
Sea levels are expected to rise by 35 to 63 inches by 2100, far more than the 2007 projection of 7 to 23 inches made by the IPCC, the report says. Temperatures from 2005 through 2010 have been the highest since records began in 1880, the study shows.
The melting will not only affect sea levels; it has the potential to alter sea currents that regulate climate, the report warns:
All the main sources of freshwater entering the Arctic Ocean are increasing — river discharge, rain/snow, and melting glaciers, ice caps, and the Greenland Ice Sheet. Recent calculations estimate that an extra 7700 km3 of freshwater -– equivalent to one meter of water over the entire land surface of Australia -– has been added to the Arctic Ocean in recent years. There is a risk that this could alter large-scale ocean currents that affect climate on a continental scale.
Just because the MSM has decided an issue isn’t important enough to talk about anymore, that doesn’t mean it’s true nor that we should allow them to influence us on caring about it. All of the problems we face now would become hugely inflamed by the growth of Climate Change. The deficit, jobs, gas prices, food prices, the price of water becoming an issue, etc.
It will be a huge task to push Climate Change back up the ladder as an important concern to Americans. If we can’t, it will be an unavoidable concern down the line which will affect everyone but one which no amount of effort will be able to reverse.