Myopic Bush Sheds no Tears as our Arctic Disappears Email Print

Some time ago, David Letterman joked that one of the Top Ten George W. Bush Solutions for Global Warming would be to "Convene a blue-ribbon committee to explore innovative ways of ignoring the problem." It drew some well-deserved laughs, but in the end, the joke was on us, because, in effect, it was true.

Alarmed by an accelerating loss of ice in the Arctic Ocean, scientists are striving to understand why the speedup is happening and what it means for humankind.

If present trends continue, as seems likely, the sea surrounding the North Pole will be completely free of ice in the summertime within the lifetime of a child born today. The loss could point the way to radical changes in the Earth's climate and weather systems.

Some researchers, such as Ron Lindsay, an Arctic scientist at the University of Washington in Seattle, fear that the polar region already may have passed a "tipping point" from which it can't recover in the foreseeable future.

"Rapidly shrinking Arctic ice could spell trouble for the rest of the world" -- Knight Ridder 01/11/06

Denial for Dollars

It has been a longstanding position of conservatives to deny scientific discoveries unless they somehow either support the literal words of the bible or fatten the pockets of industry.

More so for the latter than the prior have those denials been threatening to the well-being of humanity. Sure, religious fanatics are rigorously in defiance of stem-cell research, genetic engineering, and other technologies that provide great potential in curing humanity's innumerable ills. But it's big industry that's left to write the national policy that dictates the level of poisons released into our food, breath, drink, playgrounds, beaches, and backyards -- and all in hopes of packing their already well-fed purses.

Most chilling of these anti-science initiatives are those that deny the clear reality of global warming and its apocalyptic long-term implications.

With leaders in the White House and their ilk in congress working ceaselessly to convince the public that global warming is 'junk science', they do nothing but ensure the devastation of the planet for future generations -- for their children -- for our children. In essence, they are killing our children for their short-term financial gain.

Motivated to Lie

Q: What country is the largest source of global warming pollution?  

A: The United States. Though Americans make up just 4 percent of the world's population, we produce 25 percent of the carbon dioxide pollution from fossil-fuel burning -- by far the largest share of any country. In fact, the United States emits more carbon dioxide than China, India and Japan, combined. Clearly America ought to take a leadership role in solving the problem. And as the world's top developer of new technologies, we are well positioned to do so -- we already have the know-how.  

The truth is that there is a cost associated with the preparations necessary to counter global warming And, "while the technologies exist, the corporate and political will to put them into widespread use does not. Many companies in the automobile and energy industries put pressure on the White House and Congress to halt or delay new laws or regulations -- or even to stop enforcing existing rules -- that would drive such changes. From requiring catalytic converters to improving gas mileage, car companies have fought even the smallest measure to protect public health and the environment. If progress is to be made, the American people will have to demand it."

Industry and the their associates who currently run the US government understand that moving away from oil, or filtering the air released from our factories, or moving to generally cleaner technologies is yet an additional cost that grinds into the bottom line.

They ignore the fact that both the Japanese and the Europeans are pioneering the type of `clean' technologies that will hopefully dominate in the decades ahead -- technologies that are many times cleaner and more efficient than those which dominate America's roads and factories. They resist the investment, myopic to the potential of significant long-term profits as would-be market leaders of these 'new' technologies - pure moral and ethical reasons for this pursuit aside.

Unfortunately, the influence of industry coupled with the greed and ignorance of corrupt leadership has grown increasingly sickening as evidence of the undesirable effects of warming pile on.

Of course the traditional concerns of man-made climate change seem to engage only those intimately familiar with the nuances of delicate ecosystems and their long-term effects on humanity. Thus, many scoff at the importance of preserving a genus of harlequin frogs, or the spotted owl, or various endangered lichens, or whatever. Once again, it is the importance of the -- the long-term implications that evade them -- that which destroys the Harlequin Frogs will someday affect us all in some sort of surreal, yet similar way.

Even now, there are literally hundreds if not thousands of species being eliminated or in danger of extinction due to the oncoming effects of climate change. But the way that warming has shown it's face in these events is often in concert with other factors.

For example, the Harlequin frogs mentioned above are dying because the increased evaporation of water in Central and South America are actually cooling the land enough so that a particular type of fungus is allowed to grow, that otherwise would not. It is this spreading fungus that is killing the frogs.

Because of this complex relationship between global warming and its destructive consequences, it makes it very difficult to accurately and compellingly communicate the urgency of the issue to the public at large. It almost seems that some sort of warming-induced natural catastrophe is what it would take to bring people around. Unfortunately, by then it would already be too late.

Because of the lack of popular interest, those who know better often resort to tales of 'mass extinction' and 'global apocalypse' which offers the flatlanders fodder for retorts of 'Whacko Environmentalist'. The joke is made and the public resumes their daily lives.

In fact it is precisely because of the subtle complexity and potentially catastrophic implications of the topic that makes it crucial for our leadership to take the lead in countering this phenomenon. They should be the ones to make this an issue. They should be the ones to take aggressive, proactive steps.

Instead, they spurn the global community and mock the scientific community, rejecting without debate or compromise any meaningful emissions treaties (Read: Kyoto). In seeming acts of spite, they loosen regulations and encourage further extended use of fossil fuels while minimizing actions and funding for cleaner, more efficient technologies.

To boot, ignorant flatlanders point to an inch of snow in South Carolina as 'evidence' that global warming is a myth. The apparent bizarreness of the event -- a more telling signal of climate change -- is left ignored. So what can we point to when the misinformed belittle the real evidence of climate change and the assertion that such change is driven by societies actions?

We can start with these devastating tidbits regarding the Arctic, the terrestrial region most sensitive to global warming and most influential to the Earth's overall climate -- According to the National Science Foundation (NSF) (a congressionally chartered agency):

The [NSF], last month announced an urgent research program to determine what "these changes mean for both the Arctic and the Earth."

"The pace of Arctic change has accelerated," the foundation declared. "Because of the Arctic's pivotal role in the Earth's climate, it is critical - perhaps urgent - that we understand this system in light of abundant evidence that a set of linked and pervasive changes are under way."

The concern has heightened because last summer brought a record low in the size of the northern ice pack.

Global Warming Facts:

 * Prior to the 2005 record low in the size of the Northern ice pack, subsequent record lows were (not coincidentally) set in 2002, 2003 and 2004.

 * Since 1980, satellite observations taken each September, the warmest month of the year in the Arctic, show that the ice cover has been shrinking by an average of almost 8 percent a year.

 * During that time, the polar ocean lost 540,000 square miles of ice - an area twice the size of Texas. As a result, ships were able to sail freely, without the usual aid of an icebreaker, across the northern rim of Siberia last summer.

 * The central ice pack thinned by 40 percent from the 1960s to the 1990s. 40%! Imagine if your wages 'thinned by 40%'. Now there's a personal catastrophe to which most people can relate.

And on the "we-better-get-our-asses-in -gear-before-it's-too-late" front:

 * The Arctic melt will magnify the global warming trend that's been recorded for the last quarter-century, reshaping the Earth's weather systems and altering the pattern of ocean circulation -- all elements that will drastically change regional climates around the globe.

 * As ice on land also melts, sea levels will rise globally. "Places like New Orleans will become even less viable."

 * Since 1978, the Arctic atmosphere has warmed seven times faster than the average warming trend in the southern two-thirds of the globe.

(Go here for more information, including an animated tour of the Arctic)

And if none of that bothered them, then you can inform them that their duck hunting might be hurt by Global Warming. That's right -- the ducks will die before they get a chance to shoot them. That's sure to open their eyes.

A professor from the University of Montana had a simple message Tuesday in Arkansas: "If you like hunting ducks, support international efforts to prevent global warming."

Wildlife biologist David E. Naugle said that if global temperatures rise, duck breeding grounds in North America will dry up, greatly reducing duck populations.

He said the best way to solve the problem is to work with other countries to reduce carbon dioxide emissions.

"This is a global problem that's going to require global solutions."

Outrage MIA

These are such dramatic changes, it's hard to believe that society is not yet literally up in arms about the total absence of US government action, the complicity of our leadership with industry, and their transparent willingness to sacrifice the wellbeing of our children and future generations for short-term profits.

Fortunately, some of the naysayers are finally awakening -- and it only took a natural disaster that destroyed a US city and killed hundreds to accomplish that.

For decades, Kerry Emanuel, the meteorologist and hurricane specialist from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, was known as a cautious centrist on questions of global warming and hurricane ferocity.

Professor Emanuel asserted often that no firm link had been established between warming and the intensity and frequency of hurricanes.

But in August, two weeks before Hurricane Katrina struck the Gulf Coast, Professor Emanuel wrote in the journal Nature that he had discovered statistical evidence that hurricanes were indeed affected by global warming. He linked the increased intensity of storms to the heating of the oceans.

"His paper has had a fantastic impact on the policy debate," said Stephen Schneider, a climatologist at Stanford. "Emanuel's this conservative, apolitical guy, and he's saying, 'Global warming is real.'"


[According to Emanuel:]

"There is no doubt that in the last 20 years, the Earth has been warming up. And it's warming up much too fast to ascribe to any natural process we know about."

"We still don't have a good grasp of how clouds and water vapor, the two big feedbacks in the climate system, will respond to global warming. What we are seeing is a modest increase in the intensity of hurricanes."

"I predicted years ago that if you warmed the tropical oceans by a degree Centigrade, you should see something on the order of a 5 percent increase in the wind speed during hurricanes. We've seen a larger increase, more like 10 percent, for an ocean temperature increase of only one-half degree Centigrade."

Q. So what are the implications of increased ocean temperatures?

A. [Emanuel] Not much for storms at the time of landfall. But if you look at the whole life of storms in large ocean basins, we are seeing changes. And even if that doesn't have an immediate effect, people ought to be concerned about this because it is a large change in a natural phenomenon.

Q. There are scientists who say of fossil fuel consumption and global warming, `We may not have all the evidence yet, but we ought to be acting as if the worst could happen'. Do you agree?

A. [Emanuel] It's always struck me as odd that this country hasn't put far more resources into research on alternative energy. Europeans are. France has managed to go 85 percent nuclear in its electrical generation. And the Europeans have gotten together to fund a major nuclear fusion project. It almost offends my pride as a U.S. scientist that we've fallen down so badly in this competition.

Finally, there are some courageous pioneers out there showing America what has to be done, and that it can be done not only effectively, but also profitably and productively.

Whole Foods leads the way. Their ability to 'do the right thing' and still pound out an impressive bottom line will create very favorable press for such efforts while pioneering a path that will hopefully be followed by many in the future.

[Whole Foods], the organic and natural food supermarket chain, announced that last month it purchased the largest number of wind-energy credits in the history of the United States and Canada.

The total: 458,000 megawatt- hours' worth of credits, enough to power 44,000 homes and more than the second- and third-largest corporate purchasers combined (John-son & Johnson and DuPont; Starbucks is now fourth).

That's enough wind power to offset 100 percent of the electricity Whole Foods uses in all of its 170-plus stores in North America, bake houses, distribution centers, regional offices and national headquarters.

Or, to put it another way: The purchase - in terms of the environmental benefit in displacing conventional fuels - is equivalent to taking 60,000 cars off the road or planting 90,000 acres of trees.


Whole Foods isn't going to suddenly sprout wind turbines on top of its stores.

Rather, Renewable Choice Energy buys wind-energy certificates, also called green tickets, from producers in Kansas, Minnesota, North Dakota and South Dakota. Those producers in turn guarantee that they will deliver the wind electricity onto the power grid on Whole Foods' behalf.

Green-e, the nation's leading independent certification program, verifies that no two certificates represent the same megawatt-hour of electricity.

Our Fault -- Our Responsibility

I obviously can't stress the importance of this issue and its inherent implications on the lives of our children, our children's children, and so on. If you can see things long-term, then you can see this clearly as a matter of life and death -- something we should not leave for future generations to deal with and suffer from.

This is our fault and thus, it is our responsibility to repair. So if you're for some reason unsure about the implications of man-made global warming, then do yourself, your children, and your grandchildren a favor and support any effort to counter the negative effects of global warming. I'm sure you're senator, congressperson, and president would like to hear from you.

In addition, try to spread the word in creative and entertaining ways.

"In December, the National Center for Public Policy Research distributed rolls of toilet paper at climate-treaty talks in Montreal printed with the phrase "emissions credit" in five languages - reflecting what it claimed is the value of such credits, which are earned by cutting greenhouse gases linked to warming."

On a personal level, you can try giving gifts that put the message front and center on a daily basis. For example, Check out these 'Global Warming' mugs. Hot drink goes in and the effects of global warming become all too apparent.

After global warming the disaster film ("The Day After Tomorrow") and global warming the comedy special ("Earth to America"), the next step was probably inevitable: global warming the coffee mug.

The mug is decorated with, naturally, a heat-sensitive world map. When it's filled with a steaming beverage, the shorelines retreat, reflecting an extreme version of what scientists say will happen as melting ice and warming water raise sea levels.

Take action now.


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Global warming is the biggest issue of our lifetime. And our grandchildren will hate us for ignoring it.

The loss of Arctic ice is only one part of the massive global changes that are taking place. The Antarctic ice sheets are breaking up. Glaciers are receding at a record rate...and that is record for all of known geological history, not just recorded history. And the Siberian permafrost is thawing...becoming only seasonally frozen. The scale and rate of these changes is mindboggling.

Do you live on a coastline...almost any coastline? Your home will be flooded, quite possibly within your lifetime. Tokyo, London, Amsterdam, New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Seattle...all face flooding of varying severity. Southern Florida? Gone. Forget New Orleans.

Richer nations will have the resources to adapt, at least to some degree. Poorer nations will not. US agriculture will be devastated. Canada, Russia and the Scandanavian nations are most likely going to benefit the most, though it is hard to predict regional effects with certainty (local coolings can occur within the context of global warming). Tropical diseases will become common in the temperate zones...already are! West Nile? Yep, moving North just as predicted by global warming scientists.

We are in the midst of global warming. It is not something we are facing in the future. We face it NOW. It is not controversial any more than evolution is. It is HAPPENING. Predictions made 15 or 20 years ago are coming to pass. Some industries are starting to take very real hits from it. The insurance industry is facing the financial burden of increased storminess. We won't have a record number of hurricanes every year. But what we saw this year was phenominal. Hurricane ZETA!!! Unheard of! My wife, a climatologist, was amazed when we hit gamma. The insurance industry realized 10 years ago it had something to fear and was one of the first industries to start lobbying for real action on global warming.

The American ski industry. THey are starting to be scared. There are fewer and fewer days in the ski season on average, and that is lost money to the ski industry. SO they are starting to act, trying to run their industry more ecologically and starting to lobby for real action on global warming.

One tiny industry, the Vermont maple syrup industry, is facing extinction as the conditions for maple syrup production are moving north into Canada. Probably not much we can do for them. No more Vermont maple syrup in the near future.

But of course the economic impact will be much greater than a handful of industries. Hurricane Katrina was a hint as to what can happen and WILL happen more and more. Agriculture will shift north. American farming may not survive as deserts expand, though it is hard to say exactly whether America will be drier or wetter.

Is it sane to ignore all this? A truck is barrelling down the road right at you. Do you say "let's study it more?" No. That is insane. Ignoring global warming is about as insane.

If only Al Gore had been allowed to take office. I heard him speak on global warming and he understood it on all levels and understood the critical need. I heard him with my wife and a fellow climatologist (who also was a Green supporter) and both of the climatologists I was with found Gore's speech dead on. The Green was very impressed and came as close as I ever heard her to expressing regret at what Nader did in 2000.

Well, looking on the bright side: at least the Northwest Passage will finally be opened up!

Read the Progressive Democrat

by mole333 on 01/13/2006 09:50:14 AM EST

and I'm a big Gore fan, too.

Bought his book when it was hot off the press.  And that's not the only issue he's right about.

He's speaking on Monday about our current Constitutional crisis.  Here's a preview of his remarks, according to an aide:

"We are at a point of constitutional crisis," the aide said, relating how Gore has articulated his speech. "The president who has violated the law is acting above the law. It's a wakeup call for Congress, the American people and the courts. If we continue down this road we will have a different constitution.

"Nixon's quote about if the president does it it is legal, it's kind of like Bush saying, if it's about national security, it's legal. This is going to be called transpartisan; it's not about who your party is, it's about what America stands for."

Gore, the source said, will talk about the framers of the constitution.

"You can't defend freedom while abandoning it at home," the source said, speaking of Gore's planned remarks. "The founders thought about this. They didn't want a king, that's why they didn't set up a system to anoint a king. We have checks and balances in this country and we cannot abandon them."

Sounds right.

Taxes shall be levied according to ability to pay. That is the only American principle. FDR

by btyarbro on 01/13/2006 10:28:37 AM EST

Excellent post. If it was a diary, I would have Recommended it with all my heart.

that said, I ask your permission to go with this line of thought into a full post of my own -- I don't want to take away your thunder. I would also give you props!

Let me know.

Political Cortex -- Brain Food for the Body Politic

by Tom Ball on 01/13/2006 01:08:32 PM EST

I'm fine with you using it. Or I can turn it into a diary myself by adding some excerpts from another global warming comment I recently made on Daily Kos. Let me know which you prefer.

This also reminds me that I have a couple of good articles on Science and the Republicans that I should submit at some point to Political Cortex. They deal with both evolution and global warming in the context of right wing denial of science.

Read the Progressive Democrat

by mole333 on 01/13/2006 02:55:48 PM EST

It's all you. And I would love to read the other stuff you have packed away.

Political Cortex -- Brain Food for the Body Politic

by Tom Ball on 01/13/2006 04:14:35 PM EST

this is not just the biggest issue of our lifetime. It may ultimately be the biggest issue ever.

Political Cortex -- Brain Food for the Body Politic

by Tom Ball on 01/13/2006 01:39:43 PM EST

and the time is now to "bring this on."

Hellooooooooo, Democrats.

You listenin'?

I'm bookmarking this, sending it to all my reps, Senators, and political contacts.

Thanks for the work.  Education is a tough business.

Taxes shall be levied according to ability to pay. That is the only American principle. FDR

by btyarbro on 01/13/2006 09:17:19 AM EST

They have. Remember Al Gore? He was and is a major advocate of action on global warming.

And this is from the Democratic Platform in 2004:

But in President George Bush's government, where polluters actually write environmental laws and oil company profits matter more than hard science and cold facts, protecting the environment doesn't matter at all. Even though 133 million Americans already live with unhealthy air, the Bush Administration bowed to energy industry lobbying and rewrote rules to allow 20,000 facilities to spew more smog, soot, and
mercury into the air. Even though public water systems in many cities are polluted, they have taken environmental cops off the beat and pushed to allow more arsenic in our water. Even though the President promised more than five billion dollars for our national parks, he has delivered a fraction of that, leaving trails closed, historic structures collapsing, and our parks losing luster. And even though overwhelming scientific evidence shows that global climate change is a scientific fact, this administration has rewritten government reports to hide that fact...

International leadership to protect the global environment. We know that America's fight for a healthy environment cannot be waged within our borders alone. Environmental hazards from around the globe reach America through the oceans and the jet streams encircling our planet. And climate change is a major international challenge that requires global leadership from the United States, not abdication.

We must restore American leadership on this issue as well as others such as hazardous waste emissions and depleted fisheries...

According to the League of Conservation Voters, in 2004 Democrats voted on average for the environment 85% of the time (not good enough, but certainly not IGNORING the issue) while Republicans voted for the environement an average of 10% of the time. Democrats successfully blocked Dominici's Amendment to the Energy Bill that would have gutted ALL government environmental policy, though they were unable to block Bush's Energy Bill in its awful entirety.  Democrats tried several times, against the Republican majority, to block increased dependence on oil and increased use of alternative fuels. They tried, and partly succeeded, in blocking massive cuts to environmental spending.

Democrats aren't ignoring the issue. Perhaps they need to do more, but give them some credit. They have successfully blocked drilling in the Arctic refuge for years, despite being in the minority.

Read the Progressive Democrat

by mole333 on 01/13/2006 10:07:21 AM EST

I know.  Just like Gore "lost."

In my pre-alert morning response, I should have clarified my view.

I think this should be front and center for the Democrats in 2006.  Somehow we lost the thread since Gore.  (Not that we haven't been busy with other things.)

But this post would be a good wake-up call to those Democrats who can't yet seem to get a handle on unifying a message.

It's clear we are the good stewards of the environment.  It's clear that Republicans are about exploitation.  But that's not a message.

The Democratic message needs to be loud, clear, and understood. I thought this post was spot on in terms of Democratic strategy, clarity, and passion.

Taxes shall be levied according to ability to pay. That is the only American principle. FDR

by btyarbro on 01/13/2006 10:21:30 AM EST

And the difficulty with teaching -- and you would know better than I -- isn't so much the delivery of information from the teacher as the voluntary reception, digestion, and processing of the information that often creates the frustration.

The same applies here. There are plenty of people willing to 'teach' the importance and urgency of the global warming issue, yet so few are willing to absorb it and make it a priority.

That is frustrating.

Political Cortex -- Brain Food for the Body Politic

by Tom Ball on 01/13/2006 01:00:22 PM EST


Taxes shall be levied according to ability to pay. That is the only American principle. FDR

by btyarbro on 01/13/2006 01:28:55 PM EST