From The Progress Report -- August 12, 2011:
Our Climate Of Extremes
By Brad Johnson
In a speech this month at the Aspen Institute, Vice President Al Gore passionately excoriated the anti-science propaganda of the climate pollution industry. He denounced the decades-long effort by top carbon dioxide polluters to pollute the public’s knowledge of the growing threat of climate change. “There’s no longer a shared reality on an issue like climate even though the very existence of our civilization is threatened,” Gore concluded, after rejecting the denier memes as “the same crap over and over and over again.” As the planet’s climate grows increasingly disastrous, the world’s polluters are digging in. Top multi-national corporations, from Johnson & Johnson to Walmart, fund the American Legislative Exchange Council, a lobbying front group that touts the “benefits of carbon dioxide.” The Republican candidates for president are either long-time deniers of climate science — like Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN) and former Sen. Rick Santorum (R-PA) — or have cast aside their previous support for carbon cap-and-trade systems, like former Gov. Mitt Romney (R-MA), former House Speaker Newt Gingrich (R), former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman (R), and Tim Pawlenty.
EXTREME CLIMATE DISASTERS: With fossil pollution superheating the world’s atmosphere, it has been one of the most extreme years to date for climate in the United States in recorded history, and it was previewed by the extreme weather in 2010 that had the most FEMA disaster declarations ever . After the winter’s blizzards and the spring’s floods, it was the hottest July on record in Oklahoma and in communities throughout the United States. July was so hot “that just by plotting the location of each daily heat record that was broken, a nearly complete image of the contiguous United States is visible,” reports NOAA. “Almost 9,000 daily records were broken or tied last month.” And the National Resources Defense Council reported more than 2,000 “code orange” air quality alerts, or times when it is dangerous for children, older adults, or people with breathing problems to be outside, in the first seven months of the year. In fact, every state in the union saw record high temperatures in July. Texas is now in its worst-ever one-year drought. “Corn, soybean and spring-wheat harvests in the U.S., the world’s largest exporter, will be smaller than the government forecast last month after a damaging heat wave.” “Arctic sea ice is thinning, on average, four times faster than the models say, and it’s drifting twice as quickly.” The global oceans continue to store ever more heat. “The Arctic is all but certain to be virtually ice free within two decades,” Center for American Progress senior fellow Joe Romm writes.
EXTREME CLIMATE DENIERS: How did the right wing respond to the record-shattering climate disasters? “Record-breaking Heat Wave Was a Myth,” blared FoxNews.com. “Global Warming Theory Faces Sudden Collapse.” Fox News also attacked SpongeBob SquarePants for “pushing a global warming agenda,” and hosted denier Joe Bastardi, who cited “the first law of thermodynamics” and “La Chatelier’s principle” to argue that the greenhouse effect isn’t physically possible. Texas and Oklahoma are the states hit hardest by climate disasters this year. The oil-rich states are also dominated by politicians who deny the existence of global warming, and who rail against science-based policy to deal with our extreme climate. Governors Rick Perry (R-TX) and Mary Fallin (R-OK) have both issued calls for prayer as the official policy response to their historic heat wave and drought. But still the drought got worse. In a USA Today op-ed this week, Rep. Mac Thornberry (R-TX) reflected upon the “devastating” and “historic” Texas drought. He said that policy makers should ignore “flawed” climate science, then joined Perry and Fallin: “A prayer for rain, however, would be appreciated.”
EXTREME CLIMATE FUTURE: “If no mitigating actions are taken, significant disruptions in the Earth’s physical and ecological systems, social systems, security and human health are likely to occur,” the American Physical Society concluded in 2007. “We must reduce emissions of greenhouse gases beginning now.” Fortunately, some leaders are trying to prepare humanity to survive our increasingly catastrophic future. “The climate is clearly changing, with increasing evidence this climate change is leading to more frequent severe weather events,” Trevor Maynard, who heads the office of exposure management at Lloyd’s, said in a new report on long-range forecasting for the insurance industry. “As we suffer through severe droughts, more intense rainfall and flooding, and sea level rise along the coast, the nation’s drinking water, wastewater and stormwater infrastructure is coming under increasing levels of stress,” Rep. Lois Capps (D-CA) announced, with the introduction of legislation to “help drinking water, wastewater and stormwater utilities prepare for the impacts of climate-related risks.” “The weather is getting worse and more violent,” Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL) recognized at a recent hearing. “The federal government needs to do more to be ready to protect federal assets and provide disaster assistance on an increasing frequency.” Citizens are also rising up with greater urgency, blocking mountaintop removal, protesting at the White House, and organizing global events in September to get the planet moving toward a sustainable future.