It's the Climate Changing

It's the Climate Changing, Stupid

Earth Meanders
By Dr. Glen Barry

There has never been a more critical political issue than climate change, yet both candidates for U.S. President are virtually silent on the matter. I am appalled at the lack of attention paid to the issue of climate change in the American campaign for President.

The conventional wisdom sold to us by corporate greens is that Kerry is an environmental crusader. What a lie. Yes, President Bush has turned his back on the Kyoto protocols. But Kerry did so first, voting against Kyoto when Clinton was president.

The world needs a visionary and statesman like leader. On issues of war and peace, there is virtually no difference between the candidates. Neither candidate is green, just as neither is for peace. We are witnessing an unprecedented failure to lead.

There exists a complete and utter failure to grasp what is at stake with rapidly progressing climate change - the survival of civilization, continued maintenance of the Earth, and danger of authoritarian responses.

Health care, Iraq, gay marriage and abortion are dreadfully important issues. Yet they pale in significance to the threat posed by climate change and ecological collapse which may make much of the World uninhabitable and incapable of supporting advanced, affluent human societies.

Because of failed American leadership on climate change, there exists a great deal of ignorance and apathy on the subject amongst the public.

Firstly, the term "climate change" is more accurate than global warming. Though on average global temperatures are rising, the most serious impacts will be lack of consistent climatic patterns and increased weather extremes.

One recent major finding is that much of the increased heat has been absorbed by the oceans, making it likely if not probable that hurricanes - which are strengthened by warm ocean water - are becoming more powerful.

The best science based estimate is that fossil fuel emissions must be reduced by 70% in order to avert global ecological and social Armageddon. Yet both candidates shamelessly pander over modest and overdue gasoline price increases. Cheap gas is killing the Earth.

The technology already exists to stabilize the climate. Recently scientists identified 15 technologies that are ripe for large-scale use. They recommended a portfolio of energy efficiency, solar energy, wind power and limited nuclear energy; and the preservation or enhancement of "natural" sinks for carbon dioxide such as rain forests, as well as the conservation tillage techniques on farms.

First climate skeptics doubted the science. Now they say we must adapt, it is too late to mitigate the effects. The oil and coal industries daily perpetuate a crime against humanity - seeking to emit every last bit of carbon dioxide before embracing a clean energy economy.

Russia is the wild card on which the modest, yet important and historical, Kyoto process depends. But it is preocccupied and quite likely to kill off the international treaty - which took more than 10 years to negotiate - by delaying its decision to the point where it is too late for countries to adopt in time to cut emissions.

Tony Blair has recently claimed the mantle of climate change leadership, such as it is, warning that climate change has the potential to unleash a global human and economic catastrophe if left unchecked. Mr. Blair spoke of the need recently for a "green industrial revolution" - it remains to be seen whether outputs will equal rhetoric.

Things are playing out as I and other ecologists intuited they would some decades ago. The great civilizations are in their death throes - striking out at terror which is really just their own reflection, and denying their dependence upon the natural world. Humanity is pressing up against real biophysical restraints in terms of climate as well as water, forest and ocean ecosystems.

Climate change is the most immediate manifestation of disregard for ecological systems upon which all life depends. It is a matter of prudence as a society to respond with utmost urgency to implement a clean energy economy.

The result of failure to adjust to climate change will be societal ruin. Shall we proceed, evolve or die? Around the World we must vote, as if our life depends upon it, for who you think will best address climate change and related social justice and equity issues.


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September 2004

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