Dangerous Climate Picture Impossible to Ignore

The head of the National Academy of Sciences has indicated that we know more about the link between man and climate change than we do smoking and lung cancer.
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The headlines from the hottest year-to-date on record paint a dangerous climate picture, consistent with the overwhelming scientific evidence.

Scientists, skeptical by both nature and training, always urge a dose of caution when looking at any one event as evidence of climate change. They look at the totality of events and discover patterns that help determine how our climate is changing.

Global warming deniers, on the other hand, are eager opportunists, who will use single points of data, or single events (remember Snowmaggedon?) to claim that the patterns do not exist. Theirs is a world of scientific dishonesty and misinformation.

And it is the high level of professional skepticism--not the useless back-and-forth encouraged by deniers--that makes the overwhelming scientific consensus that climate change is real and caused by man all the more powerful. 97 to 98 percent of climate researchers support the fundamental conclusion of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). The head of the National Academy of Sciences has indicated that we know more about the link between man and climate change than we do smoking and lung cancer.

Scientists have warned us that climate change will result in more frequent and intense heat waves and wildfires, increased drought and flooding, and accelerated melting of glaciers and polar ice. With that prognosis in mind, let's review some of what has happened in 2010, which has seen the hottest January to July period on record.


Russia suffered both the worst heat wave and one of the worst droughts since record-keeping began more than 130 years ago. Some 25 million acres of land have suffered from drought damage, leading Prime Minister Putin to ban all exports of grain. Nearly another half million acres have been scorched by more than 800 wildfires and the death rate in Moscow doubled to 700 people per day as heat and smog descended on its streets.


The extreme floods slamming much of Asia may prove to be one of the biggest humanitarian disasters in memory. In Pakistan alone, 1600 lives have been lost and 20 million people have been affected by flooding, threatening to further destabilize regions that are critical to our national security. Torrential rains and flooding in China have claimed at least 1800 lives this year. In India, temperatures in May reached 120 degrees, killing dozens and damaging crops.


In Greenland, an iceberg covering 100 square miles - more than four times the size of Manhattan - broke off the coast of Greenland. It is the largest piece of Arctic ice to break free in nearly half a century. The good news: This new iceberg provides plenty of room for global warming deniers to start their own country. The bad news: Leading scientist warned Congress this month that we may have already crossed a 'tipping point' in the Arctic.


And here in America, the only person not running from the heat has been LeBron James. Up and down the eastern seaboard, we have endured day-after-day of record-breaking temperatures. Mega-storms have rocked many regions of the country, including my home state of Massachusetts, where in March we had two "50-year" storms in two weeks.

Flash floods have shocked communities in Iowa, Oklahoma, and Arkansas. The damage inflicted on Nashville was one of the most under-reported stories of the year. More than 20 people lost their lives in Tennessee and property damage exceeded a billion dollars due to the flood that submerged Music City.

Take a step back from these individual pieces and we see a mosaic that could not be clearer. Our world is experiencing extreme events that are consistent with the warnings and observations of scientists. In the United States, record highs now occur twice as often as record lows and the amount of precipitation falling in heavy downpours has increased 20 percent nationwide over the last 50 years. As carbon pollution increases, so does the risk of extreme events.


As several publications have pointed out in editorials, 2010 should be a climate wake up call. Following the warmest decade on record, it begs the question: when will the Republican deniers in the U.S. Senate finally get to work on clean energy and climate solutions?

Hiding behind the circus of stolen emails from climate scientist is no longer an option. Multiple reviews in the UK and here at home have exonerated climate scientists and reaffirmed that the science of human-caused climate change is robust. Today, the head of the IPCC, Dr Rajendra Pachauri was also cleared of a bogus attack and the story which smeared his good name found to be "untrue."

The fact is delay and denial in the Senate is costing the U.S. economy millions of jobs and billions in private investment.

This month Deutsche Bank, which oversees $700 billion in funds and devotes $6 to $7 billion to climate projects, announced their intentions to move billions of dollars in private sector energy investment projects from the United States to China and Western Europe. They placed the blame on Washington policy makers who have failed to act on energy and climate legislation that would provide a stable investment environment for clean energy jobs and technology to prosper. "You just throw your hands up and say ... we're going to take our money elsewhere," said Deutsche Bank's Kevin Parker.

And why are the clean energy investments and jobs flowing to China? This summer the United States' main economic rival announced both a reduction in carbon emissions and a plan to invest $738 billion in clean energy over the next decade.

Last year, the House came together, worked through our regional differences, and put together a plan for energy and climate legislation. The Waxman-Markey legislation will create millions of new jobs and provide the regulatory certainty for private capital to begin flowing to projects in the United States.

The American people need jobs now. Building wind turbines, solar panels, and high mileage vehicles will heat up our economy while helping to cool down our planet.

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