The Bush administration would rather distract us with the "war on terror," gay marriage, flag burning or an invasion of Spanish-speaking immigrants than address real crises like the climate changes that threaten our future.
Bush is willing to set aside civil rights and the rule of law to conduct a borderless war against a bunch of terrorists that on their biggest day managed to kill 3,000 Americans. At the same time, Bush ignores the scientific consensus that human activity is contributing to global warming that will brew more hurricanes like the one that wiped out New Orleans, ravaged the Gulf Coast and killed more than 1,800 people. Yet Bush remains in denial that climate change needs to be addressed.
Speaking not as the people's choice for president in 2000, but as a father who is concerned about the future of the planet, Al Gore has struggled over the past six years to inject climate change into the public policy debate. His documentary, An Inconvenient Truth, looks into the facts about climate change and presents the stark reality: We are sitting on a ticking time bomb. The vast majority of climate scientists estimate that we have perhaps a decade to reduce the use of fossil fuels and reverse the trend toward extreme weather, floods, droughts, epidemics and rising sea levels.
The burning of fossil fuels such as coal, gas and oil and clearing forests have dramatically increased the amount of carbon dioxide in the Earth's atmosphere, which traps solar heat and causes temperatures to rise.
As a result, glaciers are melting and plants and animals are being forced from their habitats. The number of Category 4 and 5 hurricanes has almost doubled in the past 30 years. Last year South America experienced its first hurricane. Changes in the Gulf Stream could have dramatic effects on weather in the Northern Hemisphere, particularly in Europe. Malaria has spread to higher altitudes as temperatures rise and mosquitos spread. The flow of ice from glaciers in Greenland has more than doubled over the past decade.
If warming continues, we can expect deaths from global warming to double in 25 years, to 300,000 people a year. Global sea levels could rise by more than 20 feet with the loss of shelf ice in Greenland and Antarctica, devastating coastal areas worldwide. Heat waves will be more frequent and more intense. Droughts and wildfires will occur more often.
When Gore screened his movie for the Senate, no Republicans showed up. House Republicans are so hostile, Gore told radio host Taylor Marsh (TaylorMarsh.com), that a few years ago, after Rep. Sherwood Boehlert, R-N.Y., let Gore use the Science Committee room to present his slide show on which the movie is based, Boehlert was theatened by GOP leaders with the loss of his chairmanship.
Last year, shortly before Boehlert announced he will not seek re-election, he asked the National Academy of Sciences to report on climate change. House Energy and Commerce Committee chairman, Rep. Joe Barton, R-Texas, had launched an investigation of three climate scientists. Boehlert said Barton should try to learn from scientists, not intimidate them.
The academy, after reconstructing global average surface temperatures for the past 2,000 years, said the data are "additional supporting evidence ... that human activities are responsible for much of the recent warming."
Boehlert said the report, released June 22, shows the value of having scientists advise Congress. "There is nothing in this report that should raise any doubts about the broad scientific consensus on global climate change," he said.
According to the Associated Press, other research showed that global warming produced about half of the extra hurricane-fueled warmth in the North Atlantic in 2005. Natural cycles were a minor factor, according to Kevin Trenberth and Dennis Shea of the National Center for Atmospheric Research. Their study is being published by the American Geophysical Union.
Meanwhile, the energy industry produces "climate skeptic" scientists -- Al Franken has dubbed them "biostitutes" -- as part of a disinformation campaign that resembles the tobacco industry's long defense of cigarettes. While no climate skeptic has managed to publish a challenge of climate change in a peer-reviewed scientific journal, Gore noted that a database search showed that 57% of newspaper and magazine articles on the subject questioned the fact of global warming.
NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory and the University of Kansas reported in February that the massive glaciers of Greeland are deteriorating twice as fast as they were five years ago. If the ice sheet, which is two miles thick and broad enough to cover an area the size of Mexico, thaws entirely, sea level would rise 21 feet, inundating most coastal cities and displacing a billion people.
The Bush administration, reflecting the views of its sponsors in the energy industry, has maintained that the threat is not severe enough to warrant new pollution controls that the White House says would cost 5 million Americans their jobs.
But the Apollo Alliance (apolloalliance.org) is a progressive coalition of labor, environmental, business, urban, farm and faith groups that promote green industry and jobs. The alliance notes that the Bush administration already has watched 3 million jobs leave the country as Wall Street moves factories to take advantage of cheaper labor overseas. The name is homage to President John F. Kennedy's Apollo Project, which put men on the moon in under 10 years. The Apollo Alliance proposes that the federal government invest $300 billion to help US industry retool factories and develop more energy-efficient technology such as windmills, solar panels and hydrogen fuel cells.
A green industry initiative could create 3 million new, clean-energy jobs to free America from foreign oil dependence in 10 years, the alliance says. While $300 billion is a little more than what we've spent on the invasion and occupation of Iraq so far -- and what the Republican Congress proposes to spend on tax breaks for the rich in the next decade -- we really have no choice. But first, we must face the truth.
Republicans are encouraged by a June 6 special election for Congress in San Diego, where a GOP lobbyist won the seat vacated by jailbird Randy "Duke" Cunningham by positioning himself as tougher on immigrants than his Democratic opponent. House Republicans have broken off talks with Senate leaders on a compromise immigration reform bill. They prefer to hold a series of "hearings" that will fan anti-immigrant hysteria leading up to the mid-term elections.
We agree with the AFL-CIO, whose member unions in February adopted a resolution that proposes viable immigration reforms that will benefit all workers. To be effective, the labor federation declared, comprehensive immigration reform must do three things: 1) reform proposals must provide a clear and well-defined path to permanent residency for those workers already here and contributing to their communities; 2) our laws must include uniform enforcement of workplace standards to ensure a more just and level playing field; and 3) to achieve a blanket standard of workplace rights, we must reject outdated "guestworker" programs that exploit foreign workers and drive down wages in the US.
But this immigration "crisis" is a sham. Americans might resent immigrants, but these workers didn't send good industrial jobs to Mexico or China -- corporate executives did. Immigrants wouldn't be depressing wages here if American workers had a reasonable opportunity to organize and demand their rights. Go to the House hearings and ask how these Republicans reconcile their support for "free trade" with xenophobic efforts to criminalize undocumented immigrants who can't support a family on wages even lower than the $4.50-a-day standard in Mexico. -- JMC
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