Sunday, October 19, 2014

Censure a remedy for powerful political climate change deniers

 

CCOutOfOrderSAs those who don’t exclusively get their news locally already know, September 2014 “is now the hottest on record, according to NASA”1 That jaw-dropping reality goes along with NASA’s conclusion that “Earth Just Experienced the Warmest Six-Month Stretch Ever Recorded.”2 I could go on with an endless litany of grim facts (benchmarks) from scientists proving every day that we are headed for disaster.

But one thing the public must be wondering: If things are this bad, why isn’t our media apoplectic with alarm, politicians pounding the pavement with their local solutions for addressing this crisis, or folks with their hair on fire over this?

Good question.

Actually a lot of your friends and neighbors were out in the streets, their hair on fire as it were. The People’s Climate March (PCM), beginning in Rochester with the People’sClimateMarch/WesternNY, was a massive demonstration that is finally starting to sink in. Social experts are stating that because of the march “The Climate Change Movement Is Not Wishful Thinking Anymore”3 and may actually be “a burgeoning social fact” [ibid] Burgeoning, beginning to grow or increasing rapidly; flourishing.

What may be the most immediate result of the PCM comes from Todd Stern, Special Envoy for Climate Change at the US State Department: “Todd Stern says that mounting public pressure could rapidly force GOP to address global warming, and urged people to demand action. Climate change denial will switch from being a litmus test for major Republican politicians to a liability in the near future.” More:

Stern said that mounting public pressure would eventually force American politicians' hand on global warming. The People's Climate March in New York City last month, he noted, was a start. Hundreds of thousands of people flooded the streets of Manhattan calling for action—any action—on climate change. The event took place 48 hours before world leaders, including Stern, gathered at the United Nations to lay the groundwork for climate treaty talks. "It's a basic rule of politics that politicians listen to the voice of potential voters," he said. "When politicians come to believe that not listening could be detrimental to their political health, they listen." Will Climate Change Denial Become a Political Liability? U.S. Treaty Envoy Thinks So (October 15, 2014 Inside Climate News)

Climate Change denial could become a political liability? Wow! Kind of unbelievable given the dreary assumption that climate deniers may flood the Mid-term elections. Yet historic social conditions thought to be so entrenched as to be impossible to transform have changed with amazing rapidity. Recent examples include the acceptance of gay marriage. Nowadays you don’t going around in colleges blurting that you’re a knee-jerk bigot on this issue.

But, before we get too giddy, drunk with success, let’s face a very unpleasant denier obstruction, one that goes to the heart of our collective inability to address Climate Change. What do we do with the denier-in-chief: Senator James M. Inhofe of Oklahoma, the ranking Republican on the Senate Armed Services Committee?

Just this week the US Department of Defense made it crystal clear that Climate Change is not only happening but is a prime concern of our military.

The Department of Defense Must Plan for the National Security Implications of Climate Change The responsibility of the Department of Defense is the security of our country. That requires thinking ahead and planning for a wide range of contingencies. Among the future trends that will impact our national security is climate change. Rising global temperatures, changing precipitation patterns, climbing sea levels, and more extreme weather events will intensify the challenges of global instability, hunger, poverty, and conflict. They will likely lead to food and water shortages, pandemic disease, disputes over refugees and resources, and destruction by natural disasters in regions across the globe. In our defense strategy, we refer to climate change as a “threat multiplier” because it has the potential to exacerbate many of the challenges we are dealing with today – from infectious disease to terrorism. We are already beginning to see some of these impacts. (October 13, 2014) White House Blog

Climate Change for the US Military is a ‘threat multiplier’, which is to say the military must view all global military issues through the lens of Climate Change.

But how can our military act on Climate Change if a key figure in the Senate Armed Services Committee says “It is disappointing, but not surprising, that the president and his administration would focus on climate change when there are other, legitimate threats in the world.” (Emphasis added) (Pentagon Signals Security Risks of Climate Change   (October 13, 2014) New York Times)

Climate Change isn’t a ‘legitimate’ threat? Really? The worldwide public, our military, our government, and most scientists agree that Climate Change is something we ought to plan and protect ourselves from, but a few powerfully political ideologues say no. So we’re screwed?

Is there no accounting for powerful deniers who block the rest of us from protecting ourselves? Censure might send a signal that Climate Change denial, just as slavery, is off the table at the US Congress.

In 1954, the censure of Senator Joseph R. McCarthy [5] effectively shut up the rabidly irresponsible senator. Perhaps Congress should consider other well-placed censures so ’we the people’ can get on with addressing the most important crisis of our age.

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