With one exception, I'm not particularly worried about the damage Republicans can do in the new Congress, now that they're about to take over control of the House. A Democratic Senate and President will prevent them from enacting any batshit crazy laws.
What's the exception? Acting on much-needed global warming and energy policy legislation.
This is a policy area that can't wait for voters to come to their senses in 2012 and kick the do-nothings out of office. Obama is doing what he can administratively, but it'd be a heck of a lot better for the United States and the world if a majority in both houses of Congress were in touch with climate change reality.
Since Christmas I've been collecting stories about weather disasters and global warming on an ever-expanding series of browser tabs. The truth is there to see, but unfortunately almost all Republicans are members of the Head in the Sand club.
On December 25, Judah Cohen explained in "Bundle Up, It's Global Warming" how nastier blizzards and global warming can go hand-in-hand.
The earth continues to get warmer, yet it’s feeling a lot colder outside. Over the past few weeks, subzero temperatures in Poland claimed 66 lives; snow arrived in Seattle well before the winter solstice, and fell heavily enough in Minneapolis to make the roof of the Metrodome collapse; and last week blizzards closed Europe’s busiest airports in London and Frankfurt for days, stranding holiday travelers. The snow and record cold have invaded the Eastern United States, with more bad weather predicted.
All of this cold was met with perfect comic timing by the release of a World Meteorological Organization report showing that 2010 will probably be among the three warmest years on record, and 2001 through 2010 the warmest decade on record.
How can we reconcile this? The not-so-obvious short answer is that the overall warming of the atmosphere is actually creating cold-weather extremes. Last winter, too, was exceptionally snowy and cold across the Eastern United States and Eurasia, as were seven of the previous nine winters.
On December 28, it was noted that snow storms in the Northeast were heavier than any seen in over half a century.
New York commuters and travelers face further disruptions today as winds hinder efforts to clear roads and runways following the heaviest December snows in six decades...The snowfall was the fifth-largest on record for the city, Sanitation Commissioner John Doherty said on Dec. 26.
On December 30, Climate Progress presented "The 2010 Climate B.S.* of the Year Award" (*Bad Science, and also what the initials usually mean). Here's the finalists, with an excerpt from the description of the winner.
Fifth Place. Climate B.S. and misrepresentations presented by Fox “News.”
Fourth Place. Misleading or false testimony to Congress and policymakers about climate change.
Third Place. The false claim that a single weather event, such as a huge snowstorm in Washington, D.C., proves there is no global warming.
Second Place. The claim that the “Climategate” emails meant that global warming was a hoax, or was criminal, as Senator Inhofe tried to argue. In fact, it was none of these things (though the British police are still investigating the illegal hacking of a British university’s computer system and the theft of the emails).
First Place goes to the following set of B.S.: “There has been no warming since 1998” [or 2000, or…], “the earth is cooling,” “global warming is natural,” and “humans are too insignificant to affect the climate.” Such statements are all nonsense and important for the general public to understand properly.
The reality is that the Earth’s climate is changing significantly, changing fast, and changing due to human factors. The reality of climatic change can no longer be disputed on scientific grounds – the U.S. National Academy of Sciences calls the human-induced warming of the Earth a “settled fact.” The evidence for a “warming” planet includes not just rising temperatures, but also rising sea levels, melting Arctic sea ice, disappearing glaciers, increasing intense rainfalls, and many other changes that matter to society and the environment. The recent and ongoing warming of the Earth is unprecedented in magnitude, speed, and cause.
Also on December 30, the New York Times had a story, "E.P.A. Limit on Gases to Pose Risk to Obama and Congress," that talked about how Republicans are determined to reward their oil industry contributors with efforts to derail policies aimed at preventing further disastrous climate change.
Representative Fred Upton, the Michigan Republican who is set to become chairman of the powerful House Energy and Commerce Committee, said he was not convinced that greenhouse gases needed to be controlled or that the E.P.A. had the authority to do so.
“This move represents an unconstitutional power grab that will kill millions of jobs — unless Congress steps in,” Mr. Upton wrote this week in a Wall Street Journal opinion essay.
His co-author was Tim Phillips, president of Americans for Prosperity, a conservative group financed by Koch Industries and other oil companies that has spread skepticism about global warming and supported many of the Tea Party candidates who will join the new Congress.
On January 1, the Guardian reported that "Australia faces 'Biblical' floods," the worst in 100 years.
Army helicopters dropped supplies to stranded towns, police patrolled in boats looking for looters, and families were warned of the risk from giant saltwater crocodiles and poisonous snakes being washed into urban areas.
An estimated 200,000 people have been affected by the floods, the worst in a century in some parts of the north-eastern state.
The cost in damage to infrastructure is expected to run into billions of pounds.
“In many ways, it is a disaster of biblical proportions,” Andrew Fraser, the Queensland Treasurer, said in the flooded city of Bundaberg on Saturday.
And today, January 2, Climate Progress explained why we can expect to see more disastrous snowstorms and flooding as human-caused global warming bites the civilizations that have caused it.
One of the most basic predictions of climate science is that global warming will cause more intense precipitation. As Dr. Kevin Trenberth, head of the Climate Analysis Section at the National Center for Atmospheric Research, explained it, “there is a systematic influence on all of these weather events now-a-days because of the fact that there is this extra water vapor lurking around in the atmosphere than there used to be say 30 years ago. It’s about a 4% extra amount, it invigorates the storms, it provides plenty of moisture for these storms and it’s unfortunate that the public is not associating these with the fact that this is one manifestation of climate change. And the prospects are that these kinds of things will only get bigger and worse in the future.”
Last year appears to have been the hottest year on record — and it saw an astonishing amount of intense rainfall from Nashville’s ‘Katrina’ to the great Pakistani deluge.” And so it should be no surprise that the year ends with another unprecedented deluge of “biblical proportion.”
Since most Congressional Republicans consider themselves to be all godly and Christian'y, hopefully some of them will start paying attention to the commandment that is being communicated through nature:
Thou shalt take steps to combat global warming, or humanity -- thou art screwed.