Three massive hurricanes at one time.
Massive wildfires throughout the west.
8.1 earthquake in Mexico.
ALL AT THE SAME TIME.
Add that to shrinking ice caps. Global temperature rise. Warming oceans. Shrinking ice sheets. Glacial retreat. Decreased snow cover. Sea level rise. Declining Artic sea ice. Extreme events. (see, NOW.) Ocean acidification.
Global Warming “Fast Facts” from National Geographic:
• Average temperatures have climbed 1.4 degrees Fahrenheit (0.8 degree Celsius) around the world since 1880, much of this in recent decades, according to NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies.
• The rate of warming is increasing. The 20th century’s last two decades were the hottest in 400 years and possibly the warmest for several millennia, according to a number of climate studies. And the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) reports that 11 of the past 12 years are among the dozen warmest since 1850.
• The Arctic is feeling the effects the most. Average temperatures in Alaska, western Canada, and eastern Russia have risen at twice the global average, according to the multinational Arctic Climate Impact Assessment report compiled between 2000 and 2004.
• Arctic ice is rapidly disappearing, and the region may have its first completely ice-free summer by 2040 or earlier. Polar bears and indigenous cultures are already suffering from the sea-ice loss.
• Glaciers and mountain snows are rapidly melting—for example, Montana’s Glacier National Park now has only 27 glaciers, versus 150 in 1910. In the Northern Hemisphere, thaws also come a week earlier in spring and freezes begin a week later.
• Coral reefs, which are highly sensitive to small changes in water temperature, suffered the worst bleaching—or die-off in response to stress—ever recorded in 1998, with some areas seeing bleach rates of 70 percent. Experts expect these sorts of events to increase in frequency and intensity in the next 50 years as sea temperatures rise.
• An upsurge in the amount of extreme weather events, such as wildfires, heat waves, and strong tropical storms, is also attributed in part to climate change by some experts.
All happening NOW.
And yet, the White House leads the Republican party in their absolute refusal to belief in ANY of it.
Why? How can they be so blind?
It’s called MONEY.
“It wasn’t always so. A Republican president – Richard Nixon – signed into law the Clean Air Act, approved the Council on Environmental Quality and established the two federal agencies most focused on climate change today: the Environmental Protection Agency and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. In Nixon’s day, environmental protection enjoyed bipartisan support. At the signing of the Clean Air Act in December 1970, which passed Congress with near unanimity, Nixon hailed it as “a historic piece of legislation that put us far down the road toward a goal that Theodore Roosevelt, 70 years ago, spoke eloquently about: a goal of clean air, clean water and open spaces for the future generations of America.”
The election of Ronald Reagan in 1980 kick-started the conservative backlash to the environmental movement. The new administration slashed funding for regulators, laid off renewable-energy researchers and famously removed the solar panels installed on the White House roof by Jimmy Carter. The ultraconservative House Republican Study Committee issued a “special report” titled “The Specter of Environmentalism,” which cast activists as “extremists” trying to block mining operations while snatching private land away from its owners. Reagan’s Interior secretary, James Watt, called the environmental movement a “left-wing cult” and said his job was to “follow the Scriptures, which call upon us to occupy the land until Jesus returns.”
Yet even Reagan saw the wisdom in signing the Montreal Protocol to protect the ozone layer, one of the great success stories in the environmental movement. It took a new generation of hard-line Republican politicians, led by House Speaker Newt Gingrich, to make the environment a partisan issue while positioning the GOP as the party of the fossil-fuel industry. Oil, gas and coal companies had typically divided their campaign donations evenly between the two parties; now they began funneling tens of millions of dollars to the GOP – two and three times more than Democrats received – and into front groups and sham think tanks working to undermine climate science. Flush with cash, the Republican leadership “started running the Congress from the top down,” Waxman recalls. “Committees had less and less say over policy, decisions were made at the level of the speaker, and a lot of legislation was being drafted behind closed doors with special interests.”
Republicans cloaked their agenda in the language of “deregulation” and “balancing the budget”; a New York Times editorial called it a “masterpiece of legislative subterfuge.” It was only natural, then, that in 2000, the GOP picked as its standard-bearers George W. Bush, the scion of an oil-money family, and Dick Cheney, a former CEO of an oil-services company.
The last real effort Republicans made to work with Democrats on climate change brought together some of the biggest names in Congress: Republican senators John McCain and Lindsey Graham, Democrat John Kerry and Independent Joe Lieberman. McCain and Lieberman had introduced cap-and-trade legislation on three different occasions, and McCain, during his 2008 presidential campaign, had said, “We stand warned by serious and credible scientists across the world that time is short and the dangers are great.” But facing a far-right primary challenger, McCain abandoned the effort early on, and the so-called Kerry-Graham-Lieberman coalition collapsed in spectacular fashion amid bickering with the Obama administration and outside conservative pressure. Their bill was never put up for a vote.
In the years since, the GOP has only descended further into the madness of anti-science denialism. And it’s not enough to say Republicans have retreated on the issue to protect themselves against well-funded primary challengers. Today, denying climate change is a winning stance, the sure path to loads of campaign cash, plus a way to wage ideological war on the Democratic Party. With the GOP takeover of Congress, the most ardent deniers have been rewarded with leadership positions on the committees that oversee our nation’s climate policies.
Look no further than Texas Republican Lamar Smith, the chair of the House Science Committee, who has received nearly $700,000 from oil and gas companies (more than any other industry) and launched a crusade to intimidate scientists at NOAA and the Union of Concerned Scientists over climate research. Since Smith took over in 2013, the Science Committee has issued more subpoenas than in the preceding 54 years. Jim Inhofe, chair of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, has gone even further, seeking to block the Obama administration’s efforts to limit methane emissions and regulate the impact of fracking on water supplies. But what else could we expect from a man whose biggest funders include Exxon and Koch Industries, who brought a snowball to the Senate floor to disprove global warming and who believes climate change is the “greatest hoax ever perpetrated”?
Rep. David Jolly of Florida is one of the rare Republicans to speak out on climate change. Talking to me from the speaker’s balcony one recent morning, he traced the current inaction to the deep sense of divide and party anger in Congress. “I have colleagues who tell me the climate-change science is not real,” Jolly says. “They say it with conviction, and I think it’s simply because this issue generationally was introduced in a highly toxic political climate where both sides of the aisle dug in their heels and hardened their positions. And so because of that, I think that legacy has stayed within our party.”
As the evidence piles up that climate change is real and man-made, and an existential threat to the planet’s future, Americans of all ideologies are coming around. A 2016 poll conducted by researchers at Yale and George Mason University found that three in four registered voters believe the Earth is warming, and more than half believe humans are causing it. The poll’s biggest shift occurred among conservative Republicans: The number of those saying the climate is changing jumped by 19 percent from two years earlier. ExxonMobil CEO Rex Tillerson accepts the prevailing research. Even Charles Koch has begun to see the light. A top executive at Koch Industries caused a stir this past spring when she said, “Charles has said the climate is changing. So the climate is changing. I think he’s also said, and we believe, that humans have a part in that.” In a subsequent interview with The Washington Post, Koch himself didn’t dispute the facts of climate change. “There is some science behind it,” he said. “There are greenhouse gases, and they do contribute to warming.”
Yet Koch is largely responsible for the one factor that helps explain why so many Republicans cling to their denier talking points (from sunspots and midcentury global cooling to “I’m not a scientist”). The GOP has come to rely on (and fear) the spigot of campaign cash from the fossil-fuel industry. The Koch brothers and their donor pals have pledged $889 million to push their conservative agenda in 2016. “The Republican voters have moved, the Republican icons have moved, but the Republicans elected won’t move,” says Tom Steyer, the billionaire environmentalist. “Isn’t that interesting? You have 889 million reasons to go against the facts, the voters and their icons.”
Oil and gas companies know that they’ve all but lost the war of public opinion on the truth of climate change. So instead they have trained their firepower on a single party in a single place in hopes of blocking progress. “They came to the key strategic choke point: Congress,” says Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.). A leading voice on the climate front, Whitehouse has delivered nearly 150 speeches on the Senate floor, urging action and calling out “the Web of Denial,” the network of secretly funded groups that peddle doubt on climate change. “They put a choke chain on the Republican Party that they gave a couple of hard yanks to say, ‘Line up with us.'”
It’s a strategy born of desperation, but a clever one all the same. “They punished the Bob Inglises,” Whitehouse says. “They silenced the McCains. They got [Senate Majority Leader Mitch] McConnell totally in their corner with the floods of money they’re pouring in to support his candidates. And once they had accomplished that, they were able to take what is essentially dirty, traditional, special-interest pleading and make it look like part of the partisan wars.”
* * * *
Sorry for the lengthy post, but I consider our environment/climate one of the biggest issues (if not THE biggest) facing not only our country, but our planet. It deserves some face time.
I hope the Democratic party can find a spokesperson who can rise about the mud and rhetoric and drive home reality and science. Otherwise….