Wednesday, October 01, 2014

Water, Water Everywhere, But How Much Is Too Much?: The Global Water Crisis – Part III

In one of his monologues, Jay Leno said, “According to a new U.N. report, the global warming outlook is much worse than originally predicted. That’s pretty bad since they originally predicted it would destroy the planet.” This actually seems to be the pattern of several of the more recent official reports on Climate Change that have been disseminated. Of course the entire subject of Climate Change is no joke, except perhaps when politicians are involved and they become the joke––that certainly was the case as described in this column in last month’s article.

It described how denying the reality of climate change is not new or unusual, especially for the so-called “Science Deniers.” However when the majority Republican party of the North Carolina legislature passed a law that banned the use of scientific evidence demonstrating that seas are rising much faster than previously anticipated (as a result of global warming), that was unprecedented. Headlines announced in a joke fashion, “North Carolina Outlaws Climate Change.” However the real joke became the politicians who passed this absurd legislation, and they quickly became the laughing stock of the episode.

What If?

In a way, we were very lucky. What if a similar situation was initiated at the national level, where Congress passed a bill that banned one or more of our federal agencies from utilizing the results of a legitimate, well documented scientific report for no other reason than unsupported ideological beliefs?

We are fortunate that our democratic system has in place a system of checks and balances that prevents that from happening. What? We don’t? Okay then. Let’s say we’re protected by our electoral process, one that insures we nominate and select only the best candidates, none of whom would ever approve self-destructive legislation of that nature. What? That’s not happening either?Well then, we are very blessed that our voting system does not allow corporations and individuals from (as some call it) bribing our politician’s to vote for individuals, or for legislation that would profit these moneyed self-interests, and in many cases actually damage national interests. What? You mean that Will Rogers’ statement from some 85 years ago: “We have the best Congress money can buy” still applies? Oh Yeah!

Well, at least let’s look at the bright side––nothing like the North Carolina type of legislative irresponsibility has happened yet in Congress––or has it? After all, Congress has so far lived up beautifully to its nickname––“The Do Nothing Congress.” Why would it jeopardize its claim to that proud sobriquet by doing anything at all, especially something stupid? In order to examine the possibility of that occurring in the case of climate change, if we could determine how our Congressional representatives are predisposed to vote on climate change issues, those statistics would certainly provide a clue as to the probability of Congress pulling a “North Carolina.”

Big Data

The most voluminous treasure of this type of statistical data is available on a website titled Climate Progress. If you are a statistics freak, you will be delighted with the overwhelming amount available––if you are a climate change disbeliever, not so much. Confidence in the numbers will also be determined by your political persuasions––Democrat, Republican, Independent. To the former: Probably irrefutable. To the latter: Maybe, maybe. To Republicans: Defamatory. In other words, to say it is one-sided would be an understatement, yet to ignore the numbers (that as far as I know cannot be found elsewhere) as part of a debate on the critical issue of climate change would be unjustifiable.

Little Known Facts

However, before we review this array of numbers, there is a very important distinction to acknowledge, one that has not been generally recognized or adequately publicized by the national media. This is the degree of divisive difference within the Republican Party on the issue of Climate Change. That has been documented by the Spring 2014 national Yale poll on the subject declaring the following: “The study finds that while Democrats are more convinced that human-caused global warming is happening and more supportive of climate and energy policies than Republicans, there are deep divisions within the Republican Party. In many respects, liberal/moderate Republicans – about a third of the Republican party – are relatively similar to moderate/conservative Democrats, while conservative Republicans often express views about global warming that are distinctly different than the rest of the American public.”

The poll continues: “For example, among registered voters: 88% of Democrats, 59% of Independents and 61% of liberal/moderate Republicans think global warming is happening, compared to only 28% of conservative Republicans.”

This would indicate that the so-called Republican Caucus as described below is a predominately Conservative group unrepresentative of liberal/moderate Republicans. This, at least to me, is a startling piece of information that I have not seen revealed elsewhere. It also lessens the demonization of Republicans in general as represented below.

Revelations Galore

The title of the Climate Progress report (obviously incendiary) is: “The Anti-Science Climate Denier Caucus: 113th Congress Edition.” Here is the opening paragraph:

“Climate change is happening, humans are the cause, and a shocking number — over 58 percent — of congressional Republicans refuse to accept it. 163 elected representatives from the 113th Congress have taken over $58.8 million from the fossil fuel industry that is the driving force behind the carbon emissions that cause climate change. They deny what over 97 percent of climate scientists say is happening — current human activity creates the greenhouse gas emissions that trap heat within the atmosphere and cause climate change. And their constituents are paying the price, with Americans across the nation suffering 430 climate-related national disaster declarations since 2011.”

The article then enumerates that “Despite the overwhelming scientific consensus and high costs to taxpayers, there are still elected officials in Congress who refuse to accept that climate change is happening. Over 56 percent — 133 members — of the current Republican caucus in the House of Representatives deny the basic tenets of climate science. 65 percent (30 members) of the Senate Republican caucus also denies climate change. What this means is that they have made public statements indicating that they question or reject that climate change is real, is happening, and is caused by human consumption of fossil fuels.”

But there is a further problem described: “This refusal to accept overwhelming scientific evidence is not just a symptom of the rank-and-file backbenchers. Members of GOP leadership and the committees that make critical decisions on national energy policy and air pollution have even higher concentrations:
  • “90 percent of the Republican leadership in both House and Senate deny climate change.
  • 17 out of 22 Republican members of the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology, or 77 percent, are climate deniers. (If you want to see a hilarious take off on this, watch Jon Stewart tackle the House Science Committee).
  • 22 out of 30 Republican members of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, or 73 percent deny the reality of climate change.
  • 100 percent of Senate Environment and Public Works Committee Republicans have said climate change is not happening or that humans do not cause it.
  • In total, climate deniers, or 163 members (as described earlier) have taken $58,897,095 in dirty energy contributions while other members, or 363, have taken $35,210,844 in career contributions. On average, deniers took $346,975 from dirty energy while other members and Senators took $96,999.”
It thus seems obvious that if the Yale Poll is considered, the Congressional Caucus in both Houses might very well be more conservatively inclined than its general Republican constituency, and therefore more disinclined to believe in the reality of Climate Change. That is certainly corroborated by the overwhelming majorities of climate deniers in the major House and Senate Committees.

Here’s The Answer

Of those in the Energy and Commerce Committee, an eminent denier is Rep. David McKinley, a Republican from West Virginia. He was kind enough to cooperate in answering the question I posed in the beginning of this article when I inquired, “Well at least let’s look at the bright side––nothing like the North Carolina type of legislative irresponsibility has happened yet in Congress––or has it?

I also inquired why a “do-nothing Congress” would do something stupid? Rep. McKinley responded in true denier form by proposing an amendment to a Pentagon spending bill that “would prohibit spending on climate change research and the social cost of carbon analysis.” More specifically, it forbids the Department of Defense (DOD) from in any way utilizing the findings and recommendations of the latest National Climate Assessment, or the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s fifth assessment on Climate change, both strongly advancing the reality of Climate Change. (You might know that a few years ago the DOD had identified Climate Change as a Homeland security threat).

As described in Salon, “These are two landmark comprehensive reports reflecting the work of hundreds of the world’s top climate scientists and experts––or, as McKinley referred it, ‘ideology.’ In doing so it renders all that knowledge and understanding effectively irrelevant to national defense.”

Ideological Idiocy

Unsurprisingly, when the House of Representatives passed the Pentagon’s budget in June, it included this amendment, passed mostly along partly lines, barring the Department of Defense from implementing its climate change initiatives. In essence, it pulled another North Carolina farcical type of legislation that now made a laughing stock of that House, since it too basically outlawed the reality of Climate Change. Fortunately, the bill never made it through the Senate, and would have been vetoed by the President in any case.

What made this action particularly egregious (and stupid) is the fact that three months earlier, the Department of Defense issued its mandated Quadrennial Review. It provides one of the most comprehensive explanations of the dangers of Climate Change to the security of our country. It states:

“Climate change poses another significant challenge for the United States and the world at large. As greenhouse gas emissions increase, sea levels are rising, average global temperatures are increasing, and severe weather patterns are accelerating. These changes, coupled with other global dynamics, including growing, urbanizing, more affluent populations, and substantial economic growth in India, China, Brazil, and other nations, will devastate homes, land, and infrastructure. Climate change may exacerbate water scarcity and lead to sharp increases in food costs. The pressures caused by climate change will influence resource competition while placing additional burdens on economies, societies, and governance institutions around the world. These effects are threat multipliers that will aggravate stressors abroad such as poverty, environmental degradation, political instability, and social tensions – conditions that can enable terrorist activity and other forms of violence.”

Had the Climate Deniers in Congress read this before their irrational and irresponsible vote, they might have heeded the old adage, “Ignore at your peril.”

Next month: the re-redefinition of “underwater.”


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