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Friday, February 17, 2006

Ignoring Global Warming

The Republicans continue to stick by the long discredited argument that "the verdict is out" on global warming. The overwhelming majority of scientists conclude that not only is global warming occurring, but it's a gigantic problem looming the future.

We are already beyond the point where ignorance of global warming can be tolerated. The GOP wants to ignore it because their entire party is supported by industries that profit off the destruction of our planet. They want to burn every last drop of oil, use up every last bit of our coal reserves, and build as many nuclear power plants as possible. Fortunately for them, their decision to align themselves with the religious right has guaranteed that virtually none of their constituency cares about scientific findings. To those Christians who believe in the Rapture, there's no point to fight global warming because the world is about to end anyways. The real problem, as they see it, is gay marriage. This would all make for an ironic story in some novel of the future, but unfortunately for us, it's the reality of the beliefs of the ruling party.

We've been told that the real effects of global warming won't be felt for years, likely the end of our lifetime. While this might provide comfort to some, it's also just another saying that you don't mind giving the death penalty to your children and grandchildren. Even this fleeting bit of false comfort could possibly be coming to an end. Global warming seems to be speeding up beyond scientists' expectations. Greenland's ice caps are now melting twice as fast as they were five years ago.

The Greenland study is quite shocking. Over the past 20 years, southeast Greenland has seen its temperatures rise 5.4 degrees. Eric Rignot of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory at the California Institute of Technology makes the problem clear in the most simple way possible: "Climate warming can work in different ways, but generally speaking, if you warm up the ice sheet, the glacier will flow faster." That's right folks: you increase the temperature by recklessly abusing the planet with harmful fossil fuel smoke, and ice melts. It's not rocket science.

We probably can't prevent some of the harmful effects of global warming, but we sure can try our best to save this planet. The #1 thing that simply must happen ASAP is for this country to implement some sort of reasonable fuel efficiency standards. As I have pointed out before, SUVs are subject to very low fuel efficiency standards and gigantic SUVs like the Ford Excursion are subject to none at all. Even the standards for regular cars are far too low. The innovations in Hybrid car technology show that we can drive much more efficient cars right now, but the unholy alliance between the oil industry and auto manufacturers has thus far prevented large scale production of Hybrid vehicles. Only the power of the United States Government can change these things.

I predict that one day, after environmental disasters begin to befall parts of this world and kill thousands, global warming will become a top priority in Washington. Both parties will suddenly spring to action as environmentalists and major legislation will be enacted to help fight the problem. But this day will likely come too late to make any real difference. I hope I'm wrong. I hope that a great leader from the Democratic party can really give this issue the attention it deserves and force a public debate on the safety and health of our children. Those of us in the reality-based community must continue to speak about the importance of this issue, inform others, and push our leaders. Otherwise, we will be willing accomplices in this massive crime being perpetuated upon the planet by energy corporations and the Republican party.

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