Last Friday, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released another draft report about the climate crisis indicating that we're all pretty much doomed. And you know how I learned about it? From CNN's special Uh-Doy! anchor, Fredricka Whitfield, who proceeded to say on international television that sea levels might rise due to the melting of "ice bergs."
The loss of the world's ice bergs aside, some of the latest catastrophic predictions from the IPCC include massive increases in "flooding, drought, wildfire, insects, ocean acidification," and, "Many millions more people are projected to be flooded every year due to sea-level rise by the 2080s." It's important to note that the United States, China, Russia and the Saudis lobbied to change the language in that sentence. The original pre-doofus-lobbying language: "hundreds of millions of people," according to the New York Times.
What else (pdf).
• increases in malnutrition and consequent disorders, with implications for child growth and
• increased deaths, disease and injury due to heat waves, floods, storms, fires and droughts;
• the increased burden of diarrhoeal disease;
• the increased frequency of cardio-respiratory diseases due to higher concentrations of ground level
ozone related to climate change; and,
• the altered spatial distribution of some infectious disease vectors.
And as for North America, we have this:
Warming in western mountains is projected to cause decreased snowpack, more winter flooding, and reduced summer flows, exacerbating competition for over-allocated water resources.
In other words, if you live in Arizona, New Mexico and southern California, good luck to you. As it stands now, most of the water in that region is sucked in from the Colorado and other rivers, and at this exact moment in time those sources are rapidly disappearing. Why? Because you're not supposed to have water-slides and front lawns in the flipping desert, for one. Nevertheless, four of the top 10 largest American cities (Los Angeles, San Diego, Phoenix and San Antonio) are located in that arid region of the southwest. And they all fall within the bounds of what FOX News is calling a new Dust Bowl due to the climate crisis.
2,500 of the planet's top climate scientists are 90 percent certain that this is what's happening. Nearly 80 percent of Americans believe the climate crisis has already begun and that humans are at least partially to blame, according to the latest FOX News poll (the repeated references to FOX News are intentional).
On the flip side, however, we have a half-dozen or so scientists; Senator Inhofe; most of the right-wing bloggers; several FOX News television pundits, despite their network's polling; and old timey comedian Jackie Mason who have convinced around 14 percent of Americans (according, again, to FOX News) that the climate crisis simply isn't happening.
Meanwhile, these very same doubters appear to be the ones receiving all the attention from the media. It doesn't add up. The 14 percent of Americans who don't believe the overwhelming scientific consensus on the climate crisis are perpetually offered equal time with everyone the hell else. Let's put 14 percent into perspective. The website About.com conducted an interesting online poll some time ago.
The question: Is it possible "Bigfoot" comes from another dimension? 18 percent of those responding think it's possible. 18 percent believe there exists an inter-dimensional Sasquatch teleporting in and out of our plane of existence. So for every climate crisis skeptic you show me, I can show you a member of the psychedelic Bigfoot coalition and a handful of bearded cryptozoology "scientists" in kaki vests who egg them on -- like this guy for example (in fairness, the scientist in this article mentions nothing of Bigfoot's ability to transcend time and space).
Based on the fringe nature of the people who dispute the 2,500 scientists and most of the citizens of the world, there is no "debate," as Fredricka Whitfield from CNN called it, no matter how loud comedian Jackie Mason, Senator Inhofe and their shrinking 14 percent constituency happens to be. It's not about melting ice bergs, either. It's about melting everything. This is about reality -- as real as any threat facing America and the world. But I suppose it's hard to ignore the skeptics when they routinely flail around on the floor -- Dr. Gonzo style -- swinging aimlessly at invisible enemies.
So what do we do about it? First, the traditional media and our most excellent presidential candidates (and even, perhaps, this website) need to seriously prioritize the importance of this issue. Not just in terms of the dire consequences, but also in terms how we might benefit from a potential economic boom fostered by technologies that prevent or slow the effects of global warming.
Imagine being the president whose policies inaugurated The Green Industrial Revolution. This future president would be rapidly elevated to the oft-claimed, but rarely attained JFK We Will Go To The Moon Status. Given the severity of the crisis, a tech and engineering boom aimed directly at the crisis would make the dot-com era or the Industrial Revolution of the late 19th Century seem about as significant as Rush Limbaugh finding loose drug money under the cushion of his giant on-loan-from-God recliner. We're talking millions of new jobs and massive economic growth.
But we'll never get there, and all or most of the above calamities will grow larger in the window, unless we have leadership unlike anything we've witnessed in the past. Who will step up to this challenge? Senator Obama? Senator Clinton? Senator McCain from the new Dust Belt? Judging by their websites, I'm not counting on either Senator Obama or Clinton at this point, although anything can happen as we sluice towards 2008. Our best hope right now is either Al Gore or John Edwards. Or we could simply continue to pay the climate crisis lip service while the Japanese and the EU lap us on this thing. Again. They've already started; from Toyota's Hybrid Synergy Drive to Europe and the UK's remarkable home solar program in which homeowners literally sell energy back to the power companies.
Who will step it up? Who, I ask you, will stop those goddamn ice bergs from melting? The world is waiting...
UPDATE: Tuesday, April 10. Mikmik in the comments reminded me of the following link/resource. Grist's How to Talk to a Climate Skeptic. Considering the number of 14 percenters who lurked into the comments this time around, it's a valuable resource.