Your dose of climate fearmongering

Paul Krugman is now accusing global warming denialists of treason:

Still, is it fair to call climate denial a form of treason? Isn’t it politics as usual?

Yes, it is — and that’s why it’s unforgivable.

… the deniers are choosing, willfully, to ignore that threat, placing future generations of Americans in grave danger, simply because it’s in their political interest to pretend that there’s nothing to worry about. If that’s not betrayal, I don’t know what is.

I’m all about calling ‘denier folk’ ignorant, disingenuous, greedy, or even just a**holes, but calling them treasonous is “politics as usual.” Unless you’re willing to say it’s treasonous to oppose universal health care, higher CAFE standards, more funding for FEMA or a even ban on abortion. It wouldn’t take much to argue that failing to enact each of those policies would place “future generations of Americans in grave danger.” So, call me old fashioned, but I think the label ‘treason’ should be reserved for actual treason, like giving our military secrets to another country.

Aside from his wee bit of hyperbole, Krugman painted a convincing and terrifying picture of what’s happening to our climate:

The fact is that the planet is changing faster than even pessimists expected: ice caps are shrinking, arid zones spreading, at a terrifying rate. And according to a number of recent studies, catastrophe — a rise in temperature so large as to be almost unthinkable — can no longer be considered a mere possibility. It is, instead, the most likely outcome if we continue along our present course.

Thus researchers at M.I.T., who were previously predicting a temperature rise of a little more than 4 degrees by the end of this century, are now predicting a rise of more than 9 degrees. Why? Global greenhouse gas emissions are rising faster than expected; some mitigating factors, like absorption of carbon dioxide by the oceans, are turning out to be weaker than hoped; and there’s growing evidence that climate change is self-reinforcing — that, for example, rising temperatures will cause some arctic tundra to defrost, releasing even more carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.

Temperature increases on the scale predicted by the M.I.T. researchers and others would create huge disruptions in our lives and our economy. As a recent authoritative U.S. government report points out, by the end of this century New Hampshire may well have the climate of North Carolina today, Illinois may have the climate of East Texas, and across the country extreme, deadly heat waves — the kind that traditionally occur only once in a generation — may become annual or biannual events.

That kind of nightmare scenario is why we should take preventive steps and reduce our carbon emissions. America is still the #1 polluter and consumer of energy, so reducing our footprint would help regardless of what other countries decide to do (but we should push them in the same direction).

The Waxman-Markey Cap & Trade legislation is a good first step, but it can’t be the only one. We need to seriously consider the sacrifices we’ll have to make to keep our planet from turning into an uninhabitable oven. We’ll need highly efficient or clean energy alternatives to basic American luxuries. Everything from cars to clothes dryers. Perhaps we’re looking toward a future where we just can’t produce and consume so much stuff, like all the crappy plastic garbage from China you see in Wal-Mart.

And look at it this way, even if we’re wrong and climate change is just a load of BS, at least our air will be cleaner. People in LA might even be able to breathe outdoors.

4 Comments

  1. Jordan

    As a recent authoritative U.S. government report points out, by the end of this century New Hampshire may well have the climate of North Carolina today

    Maybe that will stem the tide of New Englanders moving down here…

    Perhaps we’re looking toward a future where we just can’t produce and consume so much stuff, like all the crappy plastic garbage from China you see in Wal-Mart.

    Or one where Americans are replaced by Chinese and Indians consuming junk.

    People in LA might even be able to breathe outdoors.

    Funnily enough, they can. A majority of their smog problems are caused from overseas industrial pollutants from China. Spend two weeks in a major city or town and India and you’ll have all sorts of interesting particulates flowing from your nose.

    I think what’s important for the US, if we’re still calling ourself a world leader, is to be one in this arena. I said before in the education post as well. I wouldn’t call the masses treasonous or even ignorant but there need to be alternatives to the lifestyle that we’ve led since the beginning of the 20th century.

  2. Chris

    Well, we can either start living alternative lifestyles, or we can wait until we’re forced to. To be honest, I don’t have much hope that we can be organized well enough to do anything substantial to stem the global warming tide. It might already be too late anyways.

  3. Jordan

    It might already be too late anyways.

    I saw a blurb on my rss reader the other day about that – maybe you saw the same article / post?

    Given the vast irresponsibility shown by previous generations last century who truly knows what will happen. Maybe the end is something we truly desire – why else would we enjoy apocalyptic movies / tv shows?

    Right now, the History Channel is rerunning parts of its popular series The World Without Us. It’s amazing the amount of detritus we’ll be leaving behind. But over the years, it’ll all be subsumed and eventually it’ll be like we were never here.

  4. Biff

    Yeah! It’s not our fault! It’s our parents fault. Why should we do anything? Besides, I’m A Celebrity, Get Me Out Of Here! is on.