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The Yahoos are in Charge


One of the major talking points issued by the Republican Party to its newly elected members of Congress is that they should always say in interviews that they are worried about the impact of government deficit spending on their grandchildren.

It sounds good: “I’m worried about what continued deficits will mean for our grandchildren.”

But it’s a lie.

If these Congress members were genuinely worried about their grandchildren–and ours–they’d be doing something about putting the brakes on climate change, and that is not anywhere on the Republican agenda. In fact, most Republicans claim they don’t even believe in climate change.

Forget that the city of Norfolk, VA, is getting ready to give up on its coastal residents, because the sea is moving in on their homes. The state’s attorney general may be trying to develop a fraud case against one global warming scientist at the University of Virginia, but the townsfolk of Norfolk, and their elected government, have seen the future and have pretty much decided that trying to build barricades to keep out the rising ocean would be throwing money down a rathole. They know that the ocean is going to keep on rising.

Note: The oceans of the world have risen nearly seven inches since 1870, and over the last decade the pace of rise has doubled over earlier years. It is now predicted that instead of rising another foot or two over the rest of this century, as predicted only a few years back, we can expect to see sea levels rise by six or seven feet by the end of the century. But even that prediction may end up being far too conservative. The pace of melting of the ice cap over Greenland keeps accelerating way beyond what scientists had predicted. The same is true of the west Antarctic ice. If both those ice masses were to melt away, the sea would rise by a total of 36 feet, which would pretty much drown New York, London, Shanghai, Hong Kong, Singapore, most of Holland and Bangladesh, and the Florida peninsula.

The earlier predictions of the pace of climate change did not factor in methane from the polar regions, but it is now becoming apparent that the permafrost regions that cover most of Siberia and much of northern Alaska and Canada have been entombing billions of tons of frozen methane, and now as the frozen ground starts to thaw for the first time in tens of thousands of years, that methane, which is 20-25 times as potent a global warming gas as carbon dioxide, is being released. Lakes in Siberia and Alaska are now releasing methane so rapidly that it reportedly looks like some of them are a-boil. Methane releases in the arctic have jumped by a third over the past five years, and will continue to increase rapidly, dramatically speeding the pace of climate change around the globe and particularly in the arctic, which is bad news for the remaining ice up there.

But it would not just be coastal dwellers around the world who would suffer from catastrophic melting, and it’s not just a matter–monumental in itself–of moving displaced populations to higher ground. Such changes in the earth’s ice caps and in ocean levels would wreak much wider havoc everywhere in terms of altered rainfall, changing ocean currents, and of course often reduced crop yields (most climate projections show key breadbasket regions in Russia, the US and China suffering drastically lower rainfalls).

In a few decades, whole regions encompassing many countries and hundreds of millions of people–perhaps billions of people, particularly in Africa and Asia–will face not hunger but starvation because of climate change.

That will certainly impact our grandchildren and their progeny much more than the American national debt ever will.

Yet the same people who profess to being so concerned about their and our grandchildren’s welfare don’t care a whit about the threat to their well-being and even survival posed by global climate change.

It’s not just that the polar bear and the walrus will go extinct if the North Polar ice sheet disappears. It’s that perhaps a third to a half of all living things are going to die off within the next century as things continue to heat up.

That is not simply an aesthetic loss. It’s not just a matter of saying, “Gee, I miss hearing those meadowlarks and the knocking of woodpeckers in the morning.” When you lose that many of nature’s critters, you will find that your whole world is turned upside down.

Case in point: Right now, my front yard is a scene of devastation. In short order, I have had to cut down a towering oak tree, a huge old horse chestnut tree, and a giant English Elm. The trunks and branches litter my lawn, waiting for me to get to work with a chain saw and splitter. Each tree was killed by a different pest that never used to be a problem in eastern Pennsylvania, but thanks to climate change, which has made this region noticeably warmer even in just the 13 years I have lived here, those pests, which attack the trees and introduce fungi and other diseases as they bore under the bark, have begun to decimate local tree populations, mine included.

It infuriates me to hear these know-nothings who are running Congress pretend they care about the future and about future generations.

If they did, they’d have a care about what is happening to this world, or at least to this country.

It makes me equally furious to see President Obama, who knows better, pour ever more money into the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and into warmongering with Iran and North Korea, when the real enemy is climate change.

The destruction of our forests, or our birdlife, or our tidal wetlands are all far worse than any destruction of an aircraft or a building. The forces that are producing that destruction — rampant, greed-driven production and marketing of useless junk, wasteful gas-driven automobiles, and the construction of oversized, oil or gas-heated homes — are far more of a threat to our nation, our society, and our future as a people than any terrorist or terrorist organization could hope to be. Besides which, even the Pentagon warns that in a world beset by rampant climate change, desperate wars over things like food and water will become far more commonplace.

And yet the focus of American government these days is on combating terrorism, …and of course reducing the deficit.

What a sad joke on all of us and on our grandchildren!



Dave Lindorff is a founding member of ThisCantBeHappening!, an online newspaper collective, and is a contributor to Hopeless: Barack Obama and the Politics of Illusion (AK Press).

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