Friday, May 17, 2013

Scandal-mania vs. Better Judgment

This should really be obvious. Yet because too many in the Republican Party are taking their queues from the 21st Century Know Nothings instead of reality, we'll have to explain this yet again. No, wait, I'll let Jamelle Bouie explain this.

As time progresses and these scandals begin to die down, the odds that Republicans will capture some advantage diminish. Moreover, there’s a chance this scandal fever will backfire and harm the GOP’s standing. Already, Republican officials are warning against scandal overreach, and conservative elites are warning that these controversies — even if they’re substantive — aren’t a substitute for an actual plan to govern. “Democratic scandal does not take the place of a Republican agenda,” writes the National Review, “a purely negative message, however justified, will not produce the governing majority Republicans should be aiming for in the next two elections.”

Republicans should heed this message, because it’s exactly correct. Odds are good Americans won’t remember this eighteen months from now, and so — instead of trying to keep it floating as long as possible — Republicans should work to offer a real, workable policy agenda alternative to the public. As evidenced by the current impasse over immigration and the budget, it’s clear that the GOP still has a lot of work to do on that front.

As we discussed yesterday and again this morning, far too many Republicans in Congress seem quite comfortable with the idea of using the latest haute faux scandals as (even more) excuses to kill comprehensive immigration reform this year and destroy whatever possibility is left of them actually trying to govern at all. It's still too early to determine whether this actually happens on Capitol Hill. But now, it's definitely entering the realm of possibility as the G-O-TEA base seems hellbent on repeating the follies of 1998.

Yet while Scandal-mania continues to approach a fever pitch on Capitol Hill, the real scandal continues to torment our planet and our people. Earlier today, the world's top climate scientist spoke to BBC Radio 4 on the greatest global security threat of our time. And yes, it's not going away any time soon.

Suggestions that global warming has stalled are a "diversionary tactic" from "deniers" who want the public to be confused over climate change, according to the world's best-known climate scientist. Professor James Hansen, who first alerted the world to climate change in 1988, said on Friday: "It is not true that the temperature has not changed in the two decades." [...]

Prof. Hansen said the focus by some on "details" was a smokescreen. "This is a diversionary tactic. Our understanding of global warming and human-made climate change has not been affected at all," he said. "It's because the deniers [of the science] want the public to be confused. They raise these minor issues and then we forget about what the main story is. The main story is carbon dioxide is going up and it is going to produce a climate which is going to have dramatic changes if we don't begin to reduce our emissions." In 2008, scientists anticipated an upcoming slowing in temperature rises.

Prof. Hansen, who recently stepped down from his NASA post after almost 50 years to focus on communication, said the forecast impact of climate change was little affected by the recent slowdown in the rate of rising temperatures.

"Climate is a complicated system but there is no change at all in our understanding of climate sensitivity [to carbon dioxide] and where the climate is headed," he said. "Our understanding of sensitivity is based on the Earth's history, not on climate models, and we have good data on how the Earth responded in the past when carbon dioxide changed. So there is no reason to change the forecast for the long term." On 9 May, a new study of lake sediments from a remote meteorite crater in Siberia showed temperatures in the region were 8C higher the last time CO2 levels were as high as they are today. Last week, atmospheric CO2 concentrations reached the milestone 400 parts per million [ppm], for the first time in millions of years.

If anything, recent developments in the Arctic region and the horrifying broken 400 ppm milestone point to accelerating climate change. And that should frighten all of us. This is the real scandal that threatens humanity, not the petty bullshit dominating Congressional hearings and Beltway punditry circle jerks right now.

This week, we've also been reminded that 97% of scientists agree that climate change is human induced. It's not that often when 97% of scientists agree on anything. So yes, this is a huge deal.

And that's today's reminder of reality brought to you by the Department of the Completely Fucking Obvious. Oh, and in case any one is still wondering why this matters, here's another reminder from Mother Nature (& the USGS).

A new U.S. Geological Survey study finds, “Warmer spring temperatures since 1980 are causing an estimated 20 percent loss of snow cover across the Rocky Mountains of western North America.”

The USGS explains, “The new study builds upon a previous USGS snowpack investigation which showed that, until the 1980s, the northern Rocky Mountains experienced large snowpacks when the central and southern Rockies experienced meager ones, and vice versa. Yet, since the 1980s, there have been simultaneous snowpack declines along the entire length of the Rocky Mountains, and unusually severe declines in the north.” [...]

What’s most worrisome is that we now have three major trends driven by human emissions of greenhouse gases that threaten to significantly worsen drought and water problems in the West and Southwest:

Less precipitation in many areas

Less snowpack, as the USGS studies have found

Hotter temperatures

Last November, we observed the havoc climate change is already causing Rural Northern Nevada as farms & ranches are forced to confront continued drought. Expect even more of this as the climate crisis worsens. And expect even more of the state to be affected as we witness even more drought and extreme weather.

This should really be a "no-brainer". We must act for our own survival. And we must act to strengthen our economy! We win if we finally act on replacing our fossil fuel addiction with a green, renewable future. We lose if we continue to let our fossil fuel addiction cloud our better judgment.

So what will it be? Will we let the latest bout of Scandal-mania cloud our better judgment? Or will we finally act on solving the real scandal facing us?

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