by MICHAEL STAFFORD, The Cagle Post | Opinion
As Americans go to the polls in a few months to select our next president, one issue -- the economy -- will be foremost in voters' minds. Environmental concerns are taking a back seat this election cycle.
That's a shame. One hundred years from now, historians will be writing about what we did, or didn't do, to combat climate change and secure the environment, not about the federal deficit or the latest employment numbers.
The reason for this is simple -- we've run out of time to take action to reduce the carbon emissions driving climate change across our planet. As author Alan Weisman has observed, "by tapping the Carboniferous Formation and spewing it up into the sky, (humanity has) become a volcano that hasn't stopped erupting since t he 1700s." We have, quite literally, changed the very composition of the atmosphere.
Today, these changes are accelerating in ominous ways. At the same time, we have gained new awareness of the potential consequences for humanity -- which range from bad, to worse, to completely catastrophic.
Of the two major political parties in the United States, one- the GOP-- lives in a state of climate denial. In this topsy-turvy world, the broad scientific consensus on climate change is a hoax, denialist researchers more adept at publishing newspaper opinion pieces than peer-review journal articles are considered experts, and the claims of think-tanks funded by the coal and oil industries count for more than the views of NOAA and the National Academy of Sciences. Meanwhile, over the past two years, Congressional Republicans have been gripped by an unprecedented ecocidal fervor, launching repeated attacks on the EPA (including on its attempts to regulate greenhouse gas emissions) as well as attempts to roll back a litany of environmental protections.
The national GOP has essentially erased any mention of climate change from the party platform; local Republican legislators in places like North Carolina have tried banishing it by legislative fiat instead.
Today, the energy industry is pouring political contributions into conservative PACs and Republican coffers. This is in addition to the huge sums they already spend in their ongoing disinformation campaign designed to confuse Americans about the science of climate change. Muddying the waters, and the minds, has never been so expensive.
Throughout the Republican primary, Mitt Romney took great pains to parrot conventional "movement conservative" (read "energy industry approved") views on environmental policy and climate change. He's stated that he "would get the EPA out of its effort to manage carbon dioxide emissions from automobiles and trucks," and opposes heightened fuel efficiency standards set to take effect in 2025. His energy plan adopts a "drill, Baby, drill" approach sure to please oil, gas, and coal industry executives.
During his acceptance speech at the Republican convention in Tampa, he dismissively quipped: "President Obama promised to begin to slow the rise of the oceans and heal the planet. My promise is to help you and your family."
Romney's comments reflect a false dichotomy between prosperity and protecting the environment -- a meme often advanced by the GOP. In reality, securing our ecological future is critical for the long-term health of our nation. [MORE]