Like many of you, I had become anesthetized by the overabundance of TV specials on global warming, climate change, or whatever you want to call it.  I figured, at my age, what’s to worry about?  I’ll be long gone when NY City and Miami are under water.  It’s up to the young folks to deal with this issue, not me.

Then yesterday, I attended a lecture by political science prof David Robertson of UMSL and came home and watched the National Geographic documentary, “Six Degrees Could Change the World.”

Holy Burnt Toast, Batman.  We are really cooking our own goose by ignoring the damage we are doing to the Earth’s atmosphere.  The more advanced nations of Europe (what Donald Rumsfeld called “old Europe”) are pleading with us to wake up and smell the cinders.


But the Republicans in Congress, led by Sen. James (the sky isn’t falling)  Inhofe, continue to ridicule the science of climate change and obstruct any rational discussion of what needs to be done.  Ironically and maybe with a tinge of poetic justice, Inhofe’s state of Oklahoma will look like the Sahara in just a few decades.

Dr. Robertson explained yesterday that the men who set up our form of government meant to make it incredibly complex to avoid the usurpation of power by a tiny minority.  Of course those men of the Enlightenment assumed that members of Congress would live in the rational world.  I wonder what they’d think of idiots like Inhofe who defy scientific evidence and make bold claims based on nonsense.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) was set up by the World Meteorological Society and the UN.  They don’t claim to know everything about what’s happening to our planet, but I’m damned sure they know more than James Inhofe.  So I’ll go with what the IPCC tells me, thank you very much.

Surprisingly, the messiah of modern conservatives, Ronald Reagan, played a major role in getting an international agreement passed to save the ozone layer from CFC’s at the 1987 Montreal summit of world leaders.  What happened between then and today’s Republican party someone else will have to explain.  I suspect it has something to do with oil companies.

The 1992 United Nations Rio conference hammered out a framework for dealing with climate change and, specifically, with greenhouse gases.  President Clinton proposed a tax on BTU’s but withdrew it because of stiff opposition.  In 1995, there was another Rio conference.

In 1997, the Kyoto Treaty was signed by Clinton but the Senate never confirmed it.  (At the lecture yesterday, a Republican sitting in front of me asked Dr. Robertson why Clinton didn’t use some of his political capital to get that treaty ratified.  Dr. Robertson said Clinton was “busy being impeached.” – grumble, grumble from the Repub and “well he shouldn’t have been fooling around.”)

In 2001 and 2007, the IPCC issued reports calling for urgent action.  The fossil fuel industries will fight pick and shovel to protect their profits.  The craziness of the health care reform debate will look like a tea party (oops, sorry) compared to the fight against climate change legislation.  The states that President Obama picked up last year that had  been “red” states in the past are not going to help bring sanity to the discussion because they are also the states that profit the most from the use of fossil fuels.  Obviously, the coastal states are more in favor of reducing the amount of carbon we send into the atmosphere because they will lose not just shoreline but whole chunks of landmass.  

How will continued warming affect Missouri and the central states?  We are already seeing a change in what the Ag Dept calls “planting zones.”  Check the back of a package of seeds next spring and see how much earlier we can start our gardens.  Eventually, we’ll be more like Louisiana and the major “breadbasket” states will be in Canada.  Already the ice is open in northern Canada to the point cargo ships can pass through in the summer.  Eventually, that will be open year round and it will be cheaper to haul cargo that way from Asia to Europe instead of having to go through the Panama Canal.

According to the scientists, the tipping point beyond which we will not be able to stop the cycle of change caused by an overabundance of carbon in the atmosphere is an increase of  2 degrees Celsius in the Earth’s average temperature.  Since the industrial revolution of the 1800’s, we’ve increased it by .8 degrees.  Anything beyond 3 degrees is too catastrophic to even consider.  The Pentagon and CIA take the science of global warming very seriously and have already started studying what the national security implications are.  Not the least of these will be tens of millions of climate change refugees around the globe.  And some of those refugees will be Americans who are displaced and looking for a place to survive.  

Sadly, polling data shows that concern about climate change peaked a few years ago and has declined recently.  Dr. Robertson said that this is understandable given the economic problems we have and how many people are just trying to feed their families.  But the climate change deniers are certainly adding to the confusion.

Here’s the status of legislation now.   In June, the House of Representatives passed the American Clean Energy and Security Act to limit the amount of carbon dioxide companies can release into the atmosphere.  This week, the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee voted 11-1 in favor of its version of the House bill, the Clean Energy Jobs and American Power Act. The legislation, co-sponsored by Sens. John Kerry (D-MA) and Barbara Boxer (D-CA), has been met with intransigence by both Republican and Democratic senators.  The fossil fuel companies and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce are already spending millions on anti-climate change legislation TV ads and lobbyists.

The special interests fighting health care reform showed us that they are more highly motivated than progressive Americans who want universal health care.  The same thing will probably happen with climate change legislation because money talks.  I hope I won’t be around when the trees outside my window go into survival mode and reverse the photosynthesis cycle.

I’m hosting a showing of “Six Degrees Could Change the World” at the library in Union, MO, next Friday evening.  West County (St. Louis) Dems movie night on November 18 will feature a similar movie.  The public is invited to either or both.