Congress Diddles while Earth burns

Carbon Dioxide emissions hitĀ  record levels in 2011, a record likely to be broken in 2012. Congress spends much of its energy involved in petty squabbles over relatively minor issues. Conservatives especially posture on the floor of House and Senate, refusing to start the difficult work of governing an increasingly diverse and complex nation. There are many serious issues before Congress, and none of them are moving in any perceivable direction.

Cardbon dioxide emissions by country

Carbon Dioxide emissions by country

Conservatives prefer to complain about the breakdown of society, or what they disparagingly refer to as moochers occupying the lower rungs of a wealthy society. They complain about the ubiquitous availability of birth controlĀ  or abortion, while the global population continues to expand at an unsustainable rate.

They bemoan the regulations that force corporations to adhere to pollution standards that keep our rivers and air clean, at least to some modest degree. Children are less likely to be stunted in their growth because of stringent standards imposed on the fuel industry, or standards that keep certain chemicals out of toys.

Our food supply is healthier than it might otherwise be because of groups like the FDA and EPA. Both agencies are in the sights of conservatives that want to declaw them, remove their powers or destroy them entirely.

Republicans want a world denuded of its plant and animal life, other than humans, who they want to breed until every corner of this very small planet is occupied by humanity. They willingly clear forests, leaving the ground open to the elements, ready for the first rains of summer to take the topsoil and deposit it in rivers and oceans, or blow away into an adjoining county or state.

Regardless of the evidence presented to them by thousands of scientists, geologists, climatologists, biologists, they steadfastly refuse to believe that humans are responsible for climate change. Giant storms like Hurricane Sandy that caused billions of dollars of damage, and destroyed people’s lives are dismissed as anomalies.

It is currently difficult to determine whether any particular storm system is caused by climate change directly, but the rapid increase in global temperatures undoubtedly plays some important part. Additionally, large and destructive storms are increasing in number and tempo. Across the globe, animals are disappearing, large and small.

Forests are attacked by pests that have increased their range. In the lush pine forests of Canada, beetles never found in those latitude are causing the destruction of forests on an unbelievable scale.

Conservatives claim that this is all due to natural cycles. When the overwhelming majority of scientists dealing with these problems tell you that there is a problem, that we need to deal with it, not to do so appears increasingly like an act of insanity.

Sea Ice over Weddell Sea

Sea Ice over Weddell Sea

According to a recent article in the Scientific American, Arctic sea ice is disappearing at an alarming rate, causing what they term an ice-albedo feedback loop. Albedo is the term used to describe how much solar radiation is re-radiated out into the atmosphere by a given surface. Any surface that is a light color radiates more heat than it absorbs.

When sea ice melts, the ocean absorbs more solar radiation, and heats up. During the fall, this retained heat radiates out into the atmosphere. The less sea ice there is, the more heat is retained, and the more radiates out during the fall. This has the effect of raising average temperatures. The recent rises in global temperature, especially over the Arctic, means that more sea ice is melting than in earlier years. This feedback leads to greater and greater loss of sea ice, and the increasing temperature in the Arctic.

This is not just about the loss of sea ice. The increasing temperature in the Arctic has a profound effect on the jet stream, especially during winters in the Northern Hemisphere. The jet stream, which carries with it frigid Arctic temperatures, dips down far more during warm Arctic winters, carrying frigid weather into North America, increasing the chance of snow and lower temperatures. The same effect is found in Europe, leaving much of the north dry and cold.

Conservatives cannot comprehend that this is not about a political ideology. Scientists are not doomsayers, they are not there to scare us into obedience to some dimly perceived conspiracy to take over the world. They are, like Cassandra, warning us about what is going wrong. That is why we pay them, to resolve problems. Cassandra was not popular, but she was correct in her warnings.

This planet cannot afford conservative ideology that ignores very real problems. Climate change will affect all of us, regardless of what we believe or do not believe, liberal and conservative, communist and capitalist. We need to find ingenious solutions to this planets problems before it is too late for all of us.

Many societies before our own have collapsed due to the destruction of their environment. There is ample evidence of the damage that humans wreak on their surroundings throughout history. We have the advantage of hindsight, by studying what went wrong with other societies, we can make different choices. With the obstinate petulance pervasive in Congress, nothing is likely to be done.

Time is running short for us, as the rapid increase in greenhouse gases shows. Al Gore recently reported that the Earth has reached a tipping point. We cannot afford to countenance the intransigence, the ostrich mentality of conservatives. This is not their planet, it belongs to all of us, and it is ours to destroy or preserve. The profits of corporations will vanish when there is nothing left to pillage from the earth.

Obama and his administration is quietly talking to the Chinese and others about reducing greenhouse gases while Congress postures, pontificates and struts and frets upon its crumbling stage. Obama is our last great hope. I can only hope that he delivers.

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