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Blog: Ignoring Climate Change, the 400-Pound Gorilla in the Presidential Race

A prescription for the next U.S. president.

Given the importance of climate change, many of us here in Eagle Rock are quite disappointed that the two candidates for the nation's next president seem to be going out of their way to ignore the growing climate change crisis. 

Both candidates have not only consistently ignored discussing the systemic causes of multiple, extreme climate disasters that have beset our nation—and the world—but have said little or nothing about what we must do to reverse the Earth’s fever. 

I admit that President Obama has done a great deal about pollution. But perhaps he fears the wrath from the "denial community," whose mantra is, “Wait, wait, wait.”   

Our country has recently been through hell. Unprecedented droughts, fires, record temperatures and floods have been the climate equivalent of your neighbor beating the odds by winning the lottery—twice. Weather-related damage to the economy, of which Hurricane Sandy is the most recent installment,has been the most costly in history. 

Climate change has horribly spiked winds stirred by higher sea temperatures, sent oceans surging because of higher sea levels, and brought devastating rains because there is more water vapor above our warmer seas. Scientists are starting to suspect that loss of Arctic ice is making the jet stream do odd things as well, resulting in record snowfalls in places such as Virginia.

Even though growth in green energy has produced more jobs than dirty energy, even though increased domestic oil production has never lowered gas prices, even though a large majority of citizens want to see emissions decrease and the climate stabilized, the president and his challenger are trying to outdo one another on who is more aggressive about “Drill, baby, drill.”

Still? Still!

At the last of the three presidential debates, climate change wasn’t even mentioned as a national security threat, never mind that Secretery of Defense Leon Panetta has acknowledged that "It is, big time."

Solutions are not hard to find. More than words, we need political will. 

This is America! At the outset of World War II, we built thousands of warplanes, ships, and tanks in a matter of months. At this time, we don’t need that level of mobilization to make the shift from fossil fuels to renewable energy, although we need more than chump change to tackle the problem. The nice thing is that the costs won't fall through a black hole. Rather, we'd get a handsome return on our investments that would, with time, grow into the trillions.

In past blogs, I have harped on other ways to reduce emissions—with a free market solution that would, at the same time, lower taxes and/or the national deficit. This is the “carbon fee and dividend” approach advocated by the Citizens Climate Lobby. It is better than cap and trade, as it is more predictable, transparent and less subject to manipulation.

It has been recommended by scientists, economists and by many from both the political parties—just not by those in bed with Oil and Coal, who scream bloody murder. Murder? As Bob Dylan sang, "The executioner's face is always well hidden."

This carbon fee approach tells oil, gas, and coal: “You may not pollute our air for free any longer.” Green energy gets a level playing field and fees would be 100-percent returned to the taxpayer as lower taxes.

Innovative local projects, such as the “Fuels from Sunlight Hub” led by the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, is an example of state-of-the-art research that also will provide viable replacement fuels when the cost of fossil fuels is “levelized.” These economic benefits will spill over to the business community in Eagle Rock.

Our climate has, since pre-industrial times, increased by just 1.5 degrees F, and yet we have seen the deadly droughts, floods and other disasters that climate scientists had predicted decades ago. What's alarming about these events is that are even more severe and have arrived sooner than predicted. 

Mother Nature will not suffer fools. Given the educational level here in Eagle Rock, we ought to follow Mother Nature’s lead. A “business as usual” approach to fossil fuels will be “game over” for our comfort, our agriculture and food (and wine), our forests, our fisheries, our water supplies, and a large fraction of the species on our planet. We are predicted (and on a ghastly track!) to arrive at 10+ degrees F unless we stop the burning of fossil fuels. Seeing the extremes caused by 1.5 degress, 10+ degrees is simply unimaginable; let's just call it "fatal," for short.

Granted, it may be seen as politically expedient to simply ignore the issue. That is IMO wrong.

The denial community will come up with endless objections, endless, pointless speculation, and endless delay. 

Would anyone be surprised to find them making excuses were Florida one day to be covered with ocean water? Fox News is already artfully dodging Sandy's lessons.  

The predictions of  the deniers, such as the brilliant but timid Robert Lindzen, have simply not occured. Those of the climate scientists (or 97 percent of them) have largely succeeded. Go with winners, not whiners. Why waste our time with the debunked debunkers?

After all, when you or your child has a serious health crisis, do you wait until all the bloggers and politicians agree on the diagnosis and your best treatment? Or do you follow the advice of your doctor if s/he specializes in your problem, and if s/he is the best you can find. 

For our nation's health (and its citizens) I recommend this approach for our "body politic."

Instead of taking comfort in politicians gleefully pointing to all that oil in the ground (like doctors who ignore a dark spot on your lungs and report instead how strong your heart is), instead of relying on politicians playing their hunches or pounding the Bible, instead of trying to educate and placate the last denier (we don’t have that many kalpas), all our citizens should insist that the next President convene a panel of our very best minds—only Nobel Laureates, thank you—in climate science, meteorology, chemistry, physics, biology, economics, agriculture, engineering etc. (I assume Nobel Laureates come from both political parties, so such a requirement would be inherently bipartisan.)

The president must task the panel to inquire into these issues: With regards to climate and energy policy, what does our best science say? What does the evidence say? What are the dangers, the consequences to our collective health and to the economy of our country? What are the best solutions, the costs vs. the benefits, and the magnitude of the necessary corrections?

The president must then ask the panel: “How much time do we have to take your advice. One year? One decade?" And: "What is predicted to happen if we don’t?”

If our president and Congress value their country, their mission and their legacy, they must follow the panel’s recommendations. While we still have time.

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

jayres November 02, 2012 at 01:08 AM
Not one mention of global warming at the debates tells me that environmentalists are more irrelevant than ever. The inconvenient truth, I guess, Jan!
Jan Freed November 03, 2012 at 07:46 PM
More than inconvenient; perhaps fatal. All the more reason to write our Congresspeople and our editors.
Jinx November 03, 2012 at 11:25 PM
tell it all to china - the land more than twice our size in space and population and without environmental regulations or carbon emitions limits.
Jan Freed November 04, 2012 at 01:16 AM
And are they waiting for us? China does have a horrible pollution problem, but they are also doing a great deal of mitigation as well. There are local officials there that oppose regulation, like some officials here. I think we should, together, go hell bent for leather to save the planet. They will lose millions of acres of arable lands, as we will, and they know it. They have some pretty smart cookies over there, educated here, many of them.
Ajay Singh November 04, 2012 at 05:52 PM
Jinx—if by "space" you mean land surface, the U.S. is actually slightly larger than China. The U.S. is 3,717,727 square miles. China is 3,704,426 square miles.

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