Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Missing the Real Scandal

So far this week, media pundits have been fast to declare winners and losers in the new "Scandal-mania" craze that's taken over The Beltway. And as usual, they're missing the real story. In reality, we're all losing.

How so? We're not paying enough attention to what truly matters while we continue obsessing over what doesn't. Case in point: this.

What does it take to grab us by the eyeballs? Chris Christie’s waistline is guaranteed wall-to-wall coverage. The next Jodi Arias is waiting in CNN’s wings. The Benghazi circus will be in town at least through 2016. Sure, disaster porn is always good for ratings, but though a Superstorm Sandy may momentarily raise the specter of climate change, daily bulletins on the parts per million of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere apparently aren’t Nielsen enough.

It’s not that people who know our planet’s hair is on fire aren’t trying to get our attention. The animated graph from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration‘s Earth Science Research Lab showing how atmospheric carbon dioxide has changed over the last 800,000 years should be as horrifying as any computer-generated imagery Hollywood has to offer. Along with the news that we had hit the 400 ppm mark on the CO2 curve for the first time since the Pliocene epoch came scary quotes from scientist after scientist calling this our last chance before the point of no return. Unless we act, children born today will see temperatures rise irreversibly and sea levels rise catastrophically. Weather patterns will be disrupted, deserts and drought will spread and—in the words of Lord Stern, head of the U.K.’s Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment—“hundreds of millions of people will be forced to leave their homelands because their crops and animals will have died … [W]hen they try to migrate into new lands … [they will be brought] into armed conflict with people already living there. Nor will it be an occasional occurrence. It could become a permanent feature of life on Earth.” [...]

Last week, Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) gave a floor speech urging his colleagues to “awaken to what carbon pollution is doing to our planet, to our oceans, to our seasons, to our storms. And I wonder, ‘Why is it that we are so comfortable asleep, when the warnings are so many and so real?’ What could beguile us away from wakefulness and duty? I was recently at a Senate meeting where I heard a member of our Senate community say, ‘God won’t allow us to ruin our planet.’ … [That] statement … is less an expression of religious thinking than it is of magical thinking.”

Last week, Senator Sheldon Whitehouse tried to capture the attention of his colleagues. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Searchlight Strong) has also attempted to do this. But alas, it's sexier and more politically expedient to bloviate on the new (and even the not-so-new) haute faux scandals.

While so many on Capitol Hill are fixated on the haute faux scandals, they're missing sight of the real scandal brewing at our front door. Yet away from DC, reality can't be avoided. And US Secretary of State John Kerry lamented the myopic view from Capitol Hill while preparing for an Arctic Council meeting in Sweden.

“I have to say that I regret that my own country — and President Obama knows this and is committed to changing it — needs to do more and we are committed to doing more,” Kerry said in Sweden at a joint press conference with Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt. [...]

The melting of Arctic ice is opening opportunities for energy development and shipping. But it’s also raising the prospect of ecological damage and new geopolitical competition as nations compete for access.

“And we come here to Kiruna with a great understanding of the challenge to the Arctic as the ice melts, as the ecosystem is challenged, the fisheries, and the possibilities of increased commercial traffic as a result of the lack of ice raises a whole set of other issues that we need to face up to,” Kerry said, according to a State Department transcript.

“So it’s not just an environmental issue and it’s not just an economic issue. It is a security issue, a fundamental security issue that affects life as we know it on the planet itself, and it demands urgent attention from all of us,” he said.

We've discussed the horrifying transformation of the Arctic Region here before. We just need to get Congress to notice.

What makes this even more infuriating is how we actually stand to gain from solving the climate crisis. We especially know this right here in Nevada, where renewable energy has helped reignite our state's economy. We need to kick our fossil fuel addition to the curb if we are to have any chance at future survival, and we need to shift to renewable energy to refuel and retool the economy.

Are far too many in Congress and the Beltway pundit circle missing the real scandal? Absolutely. That's why we need to act... And compel Congress (&/or The White House) to finally act. Inaction on the climate crisis is the real scandal here.

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