The world is facing probably the greatest crisis in human history, and the Bush administration stubbornly refuses to admit it. The United Nations has convened a meeting of world leaders at Bali to try to work out a way to slow down the emissions of carbon dioxide that are warming the global climate, but the United States delegation is thwarting every attempt to reach an agreement. See this article in today's New York Times for the latest examples of American obstinacy. At this conference Vice President Al Gore told the delegates, “my own country, the United States, is principally responsible for obstructing progress here in Bali.”
Two points need emphasis.
First, the data showing a warming climate are unequivocal. So far, 2007 is the second warmest year on record (only 2005 was warmer). The last ten years are the warmest decade on record. No responsible climate scientist now denies that warming is occurring.
Second, the overwhelming consensus among atmospheric chemists, climatologists, and geophysicists is that human activity is a major cause of this warming. This is where the argument gets sticky. While climate skeptics now generally acknowledge the fact of warming, they like to throw out all sorts of red herrings about the cause. They say that solar variation explains warming, that water vapor is a more significant greenhouse gas than carbon is, that carbon build up follows rather than causes warming, that there's apparent warming on Mars. These claims--each containing a germ of truth--are all irrelevant and misleading, raised to cloud the ineluctable facts that carbon dioxide has been shown repeatedly to have a greenhouse effect and that levels of carbon dioxide have risen dramatically since the beginning of the Industrial Revolution. Scientists alarmed at the prospect of global warming all understand that warming can result from multiple causes, and they further understand that there's one cause of the current warming trend that we must do something about: that is emissions of carbon dioxide.
Two excellent web sites provide the necessary background for an informed awareness of global warming. Real Climate is an ongoing discussion among scientists about all aspects of climate change. Grist is an on-line magazine covering a wide range of environmental issues, with a terrific set of essays on "How to Talk to a Climate Skeptic".
It's often said that the Bush-Cheney administration is beholden to corporate interests and routinely does the bidding of big business. This is only partly true, especially when we consider the list of American corporations that are pleading for our government to take climate change seriously, including General Electric, Sunoco, DTE, and DuPont, to name a few. The truth is that on this issue, at least, the administration is controlled by fossil fuel interests, especially big coal. Coal-burning power plants are the largest single source of atmospheric carbon, and the coal producing companies of this country do not want anything interfering with their obscene profits.
Global warming threatens our children and grandchildren with agricultural collapse, starvation, pestilence, drought and flood, possibly the end of civilization as we now enjoy it. The Bush-Cheney mafia are determined to ignore it as long as they are in office. But their days, finally, are numbered. We should be asking every candidate for federal and state office where s/he stands on this, the fundamental issue of our time. Any candidate without a firm, scientifically defensible position on the need for substantial reductions of carbon emissions does not deserve our vote.
And please go to this site to let the world know that Bush does not speak for you.