Earlier this week the White House released the latest National Climate Assessment Report, causing the rare flurry of attention in the mainstream press. The report summarized what anyone paying attention already knows; that climate change is happening now and impacting all parts of the country (and world), and those impacts can only get worse in a "business-as-usual" future.
As the introduction to the Report states: "Climate change, once considered an issue for a distant future, has moved firmly into the present.
Corn producers in Iowa, oyster growers in Washington State, and maple syrup producers in Vermont are all observing climate-related changes that are outside of recent experience. So, too, are coastal planners in Florida, water managers in the arid Southwest, city dwellers from Phoenix to New York, and Native Peoples on tribal lands from Louisiana to Alaska. This National Climate Assessment concludes that the evidence of human-induced climate change continues to strengthen and that impacts are increasing across the country.
Evidence for changes in Earth’s climate can be found from the top of the atmosphere to the depths of the oceans. Researchers from around the world have compiled this evidence using satellites, weather balloons, thermometers at surface stations, and many other types of observing systems that monitor the Earth’s weather and climate. The sum total of this evidence tells an unambiguous story: the planet is warming."
Nonetheless, few Americans seem to care. For stalwart conservatives it is little more than something to latch onto in order to denigrate Obama, liberal elites and the scientists "getting rich" from climate research. In other words the same tired old hash of distraction, misinformation and sheer willful blindness to the gathering reality that surrounds us.
We hear Charles Krauthammer smugly suggest that climate change is nothing more than a superstition, "like a Native American Rain Dance," or Senate GOP leader Mitch McConnell snark that he is sure Obama will "get loud cheers from liberal elites - from the kind of people who leave a giant carbon footprint and then lecture everybody else about low-flow toilets."
Apparently McConnell has an issue with low-flow toilets. But nobody is dancing, no one is cheering. Not even those whom McConnell characterizes as "liberal elites."
Everyone run to their corners
I am little surprised of the reaction. Climate change has long been a favored political and idealogical football used to engender doubt, distrust, ignorance and apathy about the warnings of what human development is doing to the planet. Sure, it's uncomfortable to hear, especially for those of us enjoying the comfort of that development - liberal and conservative elites alike.
Climate scientists have had their lives, livelihoods and families threatened simply for reporting what they observe. But this is something that can't be threatened, smugged or snarked away. Global warming is real.
One of the most disastrous consequences of the vehement dismissal of even considering solutions is that climate change is not an isolated issue - off by itself for someone else to deal with, if they be foolish enough, in the distant future, while real men deal with real issues like digging another well, draining another wetland, cutting down another forest. It effects every aspect of our lives - from infrastructure to human health, energy, agriculture and, yes, the economy.
To think that human endeavor is somehow external to the natural world, that our growing numbers and soaring rates of consumption have no impact on the viability and health of the ecosystems that sustain all of it is folly. Folly that will bring down all that the McConnells and Krauthhammers in this world claim to champion. They are fools.
What is superstition is thinking we can continue on this road with no consequence.
Image credit: Najwa Marafie, courtesy flickr