There’s been a rather startling juxtaposition of climate change stories in the news in recent days.
USA Today wrote about a new scientific report on the long-term consequences of continuing to consume all of the fossil fuels available to us (“Study: Fossil fuel burn-off will submerge U.S. cities”).
Over the next 100 years, the authors predict something over one inch of sea level rise per year.
For those of us living on islands, this isn’t a comfortable prospect. In the lifespan of a standard 30-year mortgage, that could mean that many oceanfront properties could become uninhabitable.
Despite that unpleasant prospect, one of the authors, Ken Caldeira, thinks we can deal with those relatively near term impacts. It’s the longer term that he looks at, the next thousand years.
“Most projections this century are two to three feet of sea level rise, which we can deal with,” Caldeira said. “But 100 feet basically means abandoning London, Rome, Paris, Tokyo and New York.”
And, of course, we seem to be feeling some of the impacts of climate change already, with fewer days of tradewinds over the course of the year, more hot, muggy weather, and more frequent threats from tropical storms. Sea level rise is still to come.
So that’s the view from one side.
On the other side have been several news stories detailing the Republicans’ political agenda, which has reportedly moved from opposing measures aimed at reducing greenhouse gas emissions, to active attempts to subvert any international climate change agreements.
An article by Joe Romm was cross-posted on several sites in the past few days (“In Radical Shift, GOP Leaders Actively Embrace Catastrophic Climate Change“).
…for most of the past quarter-century, most of the GOP leadership has at least given lip service to the idea that global warming is a global problem that needs a global solution. Not only have they abandoned that public position, but they now apparently believe the role of the “exceptional” and “indispensable” nation is to actively work to undermine the world’s best chance to save billions of people — including generations of Americans — from needless misery.
See also, Jonathan Chait, writing in New York Magazine, “The Republican Plot to Destroy an International Climate Agreement,” which covers much of the same ground.
Why would Republicans try to persuade the rest of the world to keep pumping carbon dioxide into the atmosphere? One reason is that, while other countries transitioning to low-emission fuels may not cost American consumers anything, it definitely costs American fossil-fuel companies. People who own large deposits of coal and oil want to sell it abroad. The Republican climate-change strategy has been hatched by a group of Republican politicians and fossil-fuel lobbyists so tightly intermingled there seems to be no distinction between the interests of the two. (“In the early months of 2014, a group of about 30 corporate lawyers, coal lobbyists and Republican political strategists began meeting regularly in the headquarters of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, often, according to some of the participants, in a conference room overlooking the White House. Their task was to start devising a legal strategy for dismantling the climate change regulations they feared were coming from President Obama.”) Beyond the straightforward self-interest of coal and oil companies, there is the ancient right-wing distrust of international agreements in general. Plus, of course, Republicans continue to follow a policy of across-the-board opposition to the whole Obama administration agenda. Destroying an international climate agreement means denying an Obama legacy; what more do they want?
And focus on the GOP agenda isn’t new.
For example, Lisa Friedman, writing at www.eenews.net in early July, GOP senators vow to block U.S. from complying with global climate deal.”
Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.), speaking after a hearing in which he and other GOP lawmakers questioned Obama’s authority to enter into even a voluntary U.N. climate deal, said he expects to follow up with legislation. But, he acknowledged, there is probably not much congressional opponents of reducing carbon emissions can do to stop the Obama administration from signing onto the agreement expected in Paris this December.
“They’re going to tell [the international community] that they don’t need to have ratification. I can’t stop him from doing that. But we can stop us from living with an agreement that we’re not a part of,” Inhofe said.
His solution to meeting the U.S. pledge? “Just don’t do it.”
This is apparently the message being conveyed to leaders of other countries. If the Republicans win the White House, they’ll make sure that the U.S. abrogates whatever agreements are entered into by the Obama administration.
It’s akin to the letter sent by a group of members of Congress to Iranian leaders vowing to scuttle the nuclear deal if they are given a chance.
Pretty spooky stuff, in my view.
Especially after our recent taste of what a warmer ocean means for us in the years ahead.