Last week the New York Times obtained a draft report from the International Panel on Climate Change that summarizes all the other reports the organization has issued this year. The summary, quoted in the Times, says, “Continued emission of greenhouse gases will cause further warming and long-lasting changes in all components of the climate system, increasing the likelihood of severe, pervasive and irreversible impacts for people and ecosystems.”
Pretty stark. There’s even stronger language about catastrophic effects if warming is left completely unchecked, including mass extinctions, extreme sea level rise, and huge shortfalls in food supply. Each report is more strongly worded than the last. I get the feeling the committee is figuratively grabbing us by the lapels and shouting, “Are you paying attention, people?”
The full report — probably with toned-down language after reviewers from all nations get through with it — will be available in November.
Are we paying attention?
In one of those excruciating juxtapositions of news you get these days if you do pay attention, on the same day I read a piece in Grist called “Meet the climate deniers who want to be president.”
Grist looked at what the 13 Republicans presidential hopefuls have to say — or what they don’t have to say — about climate change. Author Ben Adler had a cute way to divide them up — Flat-Earthers, Born Again Flat-Earthers, Do-Nothings, and Dodgers — but essentially in the sharp swerve to the right the Republican party has taken in the past few years, every single one of the potential Republican presidential candidates either denies the existence of, the effects of, or the serious nature of human-caused global warming.
Not one Republican presidential candidate is paying attention to the scientific consensus about what is arguably one of the biggest challenges humanity has ever faced.
It didn’t have to be this way. In 2008 prominent Republicans supported cap and trade legislation, and former Republican Representative Bob Inglis from South Carolina — a voice in the Republican wilderness — still talks about a carbon tax to anyone who will listen. As Inglis points out, there are conservative ways to approach carbon reduction. But today’s Republican Party would rather bury its collective head in the sand.
I used to think as I got older I would get more conservative — isn’t that the way it’s supposed to work? But now I thank goodness I am not in the least tempted to become a member of the Republican Party, because I believe history will not be kind to a political party that has transformed itself into one of the biggest obstacles standing in the way of taking meaningful action on climate change.
Anne Macquarie blogs about clean energy and climate change in Nevada at nevadanscleanenergy.org.