When a new deadly strain of influenza is discovered, we humans move heaven and earth to develop a vaccine to combat it. We don't question the motives or the competence of the people who discover that strain, because they are the experts, they are scientists. They have spent their entire professional lives studying these things, and we therefore believe them.
When was the last time a politician said: "I don't believe in influenza"? Even Republican whack-a-doodle nutjobs know better than that. Well, most of them, anyway.
Suppose it were not a new strain of influenza, but rather a scientific fact that could render large stretches of our planet uninhabitable and cause the deaths of billions? What then?
Climate change is real. There is far more detailed evidence for climate change than there ever was for any new strain of flu. Yet, as a nation and as a species, we crawl under the blankets to avoid facing those facts. We face a threat that is more dire, by several orders of magnitude, than the worst flu bug we have ever imagined. Why is it that we are so helpless?
The answer, of course, is money. An entire generation of climatologists is as helpless as a newborn baby against the money wielded by those few who profit from the combustion of carbon. Money, cleverly deployed, can convince the scientifically illiterate that the vast majority of scientists who have spent their entire lives exploring climatology are all wrong.
If we had any sense we would not allow this. If necessary, we would confiscate the wealth of these few in order to transform our energy production to a carbon free model. We have the technology to do this, but we have not the political will. If we start tomorrow, the transformation will take many years.
Edit: This was meant only to suggest a higher progressive income tax rate, not a tax on net worth. I'm sorry I didn't make that clear.
I am not advocating class warfare. Any substantive answer to climate change will cause pain for everybody. The price of energy will certainly go up dramatically, and we must somehow bear that burden, rich and poor alike. There are no cheap and simple fixes. The wealthy must be persuaded to participate (read: be taxed) quite substantially; what we have is an emergency. We are all in deep, deep trouble. It's not just politics as usual; it is science.
If we had any sense we would start immediately to beef up our electrical grid in order to effectively distribute power to where it is needed. We would convert as rapidly as possible to carbon free sources of energy. Wind, solar, hydroelectric, nuclear, tidal, geothermal, whatever.
Electrical power must be the backbone of the solution. The bulk of our long distance transportation needs should be filled by high speed rail lines, rather than by airliners. Consider a trip from Chicago to Los Angeles. At 250 MPH by train (about the fastest currently available) it would take a few hours longer, but some of that time would be recovered by shorter delays at both ends of the trip. And it could be made a lot more comfortable.
There are in theory even faster trains possible, although at much greater initial cost. Vactrains have been proposed whose speeds are in the thousands of MPH. Because they don't suffer from atmospheric drag, they would use much less energy than conventional transportation methods. From the Wiki article quoted above:
Researchers at Southwest Jiaotong University in China are developing (in 2010) a vactrain to reach speeds of 1,000 km/h (620 mph). They say the technology can be put into operation in 10 years.Imagine a train trip from New York to L.A. in less time than our fastest jet. Maybe in the years to come we can hire the Chinese to build such a vactrain for us.
If we had any sense we would eventually make it illegal to burn coal or oil or natural gas for energy. This has to be the ultimate goal. On the way to that goal, we should discourage it through increasing taxes.
You might think that the fat's in the fire already, that it's too late. We're at 400 PPM CO2 in the atmosphere as we discuss this. We're going to have to live with that new reality, and with the climate change that results from it.
This is just despair. This view ignores the fact that the composition of the atmosphere is dynamic. If we stop adding CO2 to the atmosphere, the concentration will start going down. It will probably not diminish nearly as rapidly as it has risen in the past century or so, but we can start to reverse the damage we have done. Maybe the best we can hope for in the short term is to stabilize the damage we are doing to the planet. But as long as the CO2 concentration is rising, we are utterly failing as stewards of planet Earth.
The United States is the biggest culprit in this drama. We are the ones that are ruining the planet at warp speed. If we don't reverse that trend, whatever historians that might survive the inevitable catastrophe will blame the United States. Right now, we Americans are destroying the only planet suitable for human habitation. We are doing this in order to maximize the profits of the oil companies, the natural gas drillers, and the coal mine operators. A few thousand individuals are getting rich by destroying the habitat for 7 billion of us. But we are all at fault, every one of us who complains of high gasoline prices.
Tomorrow, President Obama will make a major policy speech regarding climate change. I am not at all optimistic that he will convey the urgency felt by rational people who understand the science. I really do hope I am wrong. I really do hope that he will call for an emergency program to deal with the coming disaster. But politics will certainly play a role, and the best we can hope for is to shift the needle of public opinion a little towards saving Earth. I think I have ample reason for pessimism, but I hope to hell I am wrong.
If we had any sense we would start tomorrow, Tuesday, June 25, 2013. We don't have time to waste. Republicans talk as though the only problem we have is federal spending. Earth itself is at stake, and they worry only about shrinking the government. They talk about the evils of bequeathing monetary debt to our grandchildren, but blithely ignore the overwhelming evil of bequeathing to them a dying planet.
If we had any sense we would listen to scientists and heed their dire warnings. I honestly don't know if we humans have enough intelligence to do that. For the sake of our grandchildren, I hope so.
Help Us Spread the Word About Climate Change
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After a hiatus of over 1 1/2 years, Meteor Blades has revived his excellent series. As MB explained, this weekly diary is a "round-up with excerpts and links... of the hard work so many Kossacks put into bringing matters of environmental concern to the community... I'll be starting out with some commentary of my own on an issue related to the environment, a word I take in its broadest meaning."
"Green Diary Rescue" will be posted every Saturday at 1:00 pm Pacific Time on the Daily Kos front page. Be sure to recommend and comment in the diary.