Advertise in Print | Subscriptions
Published May 30, 2011, 04:24 AM

Climate change harder to deny

WASHINGTON — “Climate change is occurring, is very likely caused by human activities, and poses significant risks for a broad range of human and natural systems.”

WASHINGTON — “Climate change is occurring, is very likely caused by human activities, and poses significant risks for a broad range of human and natural systems.”

So says the National Research Council of the National Academy of Sciences, the country’s preeminent institution chartered to provide scientific advice to lawmakers.

In its report, “America’s Climate Choices,” a panel of scientific and policy experts also concludes that the risks of inaction far outweigh the risks or disadvantages of action.

The most sensible and urgently needed action, the panel says, is to put a rising price on carbon emissions, by means of a tax or cap-and-trade system.

Accepting change

None of this should come as a surprise. None of this is news. But it is newsworthy, sadly, because the Republican Party, and, therefore, the U.S. government, have moved so far from reality and responsibility in the approach to climate change.

Seizing on inevitable points of uncertainty in something as complex as climate science and on misreported pseudo-scandals among a few scientists,

Republican members of Congress, presidential candidates and other leaders pretend that the dangers of climate change are hypothetical and unproven and the causes uncertain.

Not so, says the National Research Council.

“Although the scientific process is always open to new ideas and results, the fundamental causes and consequences of climate change have been established by many years of scientific research, are supported by many different lines of evidence,” the council says.

Global problem, national issue

Given the global nature of the problem, the report says, U.S. action cannot be sufficient, but “strong U.S. emission efforts will enhance our ability to influence other countries to do the same.”

What happens when Congress asks a question and gets an answer it does not like?

The response from Texas Rep. Joe Barton, senior Republican on the House Energy and Commerce Committee, provides a clue.

“I see nothing substantive in this report that adds to the knowledge base necessary to make an informed decision about what steps — if any — should be taken to address climate change,” Barton tells the New York Times.

He is right, of course — there essentially is nothing new, and that is the point.

Every candidate for political office in the next cycle, including for president, should be asked whether they disagree with the scientific consensus of America’s premier scientific advisory group and, if so, on what basis they disagree, and if not, what they propose to do about the rising seas, spreading deserts and intensifying storms that, absent a change in policy, loom on America’s horizon.

Tags: