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PORTSIDE  July 2012, Week 1

PORTSIDE July 2012, Week 1

Subject:

While Colorado Burns, Washington Fiddles

From:

Portside Moderator <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

[log in to unmask]

Date:

Mon, 2 Jul 2012 21:01:06 -0400

Content-Type:

text/plain

Parts/Attachments:

Parts/Attachments

text/plain (139 lines)

While Colorado Burns, Washington Fiddles

    Drought, wildfires, storms, floods - climate change
    is happening, but the real disaster is our Big
    Energy-owned politicians' inaction

by Bill McKibben

The Guardian (UK)
June 29, 2012

http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2012/jun/29/while-colorado-burns-washington-fiddles

In the political world, this was the week of the healthcare
ruling: reporters hovered around the supreme court, pundits
pundited, politicians "braced" for the ruling, "reeled" in
its aftermath. It provoked a "firestorm" of interest,
according to one magazine; it was, said another, a "category
10 hurricane".

But in the world world, there was news at least as big, but
without the cliched metaphors. News that can be boiled down
to a sentence or two:

You ever wonder what global warming is going to look like?
In its early stages, exactly like this.

Global warming is underway. Are we waiting for someone to
hold up a sign that says "Here's climate change"? Because,
this week, we got everything but that:

*  In the Gulf, tropical storm Debby dropped what one
meteorologist described as "unthinkable amounts" of rain on
Florida. Debby marked the first time in history that we'd
reached the fourth-named storm of the year in June; normally
it takes till August to reach that mark.

*  In the west, of course, firestorms raged: the biggest
fire in New Mexico history, and the most destructive in
Colorado's annals. (That would be the Colorado Springs
blaze: the old record had been set the week before, in Fort
Collins.) One resident described escaping across suburban
soccer fields in his car, with "hell in the rearview
mirror".

*  The record-setting temperatures (it had never been warmer
in Colorado) that fueled those blazes drifted east across
the continent as the week wore on: across the Plains, there
were places where the mercury reached levels it hadn't
touched even in the Dust Bowl years, America's previous all-
time highs.

*  That heatwave was coming at just the wrong time, as
farmers were watching their corn crops get ready to
pollinate, a task that gets much harder at temperatures
outside the norms with which those crops evolved. "You only
get one chance to pollinate over 1 quadrillion kernels,"
said Bill Lapp, president of Advanced Economic Solutions, a
Omaha-based commodity consulting firm:

    "There's always some level of angst at this time of
    year, but it's significantly greater now and with good
    reason. We've had extended periods of drought."

In the markets, all this news was taking its toll: prices
for corn and wheat were spiking upwards, rising almost a
third on global markets as forecasters suggested grain
stockpiles could shrink by as much as 50% as the summer
wears on. But in the political world, there wasn't much
reaction at all.

The Obama administration said it would grant Shell leases to
drill for more oil in the Arctic, and they auctioned off a
vast new tract of federal coal land at giveaway prices -
even though it's the carbon in that coal and oil that drives
the droughts and fires. Even that didn't satisfy the GOP, as
Mitt Romney demanded yet more pipelines and wells.

Amid it all, the CEO of the biggest oil company in the
world, Exxon, gave what may go down in the annals as the
most poorly timed - not to mention, arrogant - speech in the
firm's history: Rex Tillerson, speaking to the Council on
Foreign Relations, admitted what his company spent many
years denying, that humans were heating the planet. But then
he added:

    "We have spent our entire existence adapting, OK? So we
    will adapt to this. Changes to weather patterns that
    move crop production areas around - we'll adapt to that.
    It's an engineering problem, and it has engineering
    solutions. And so I don't ... the fear factor that
    people want to throw out there and say, 'We just have to
    stop this,' I do not accept."

Against the backdrop of the burning Rockies, it's pretty
clear this is not an engineering problem. Engineers, in
fact, have performed admirably. One day last month, Germany
generated more than half its electricity from solar panels.
We've got the technical chops to solve our troubles.

No, this is a greed problem. In the last five years, Exxon
has made more money than any company in history. For the
moment, Exxon and other's desire to keep minting money - and
our politicians' desire for a share of that cash - has
conspired to keep our government, and most others, from
doing anything to head off the crisis.

And unlike the healthcare predicament, this crisis comes
with a time limit. If we play politics for a generation,
then weeks like the one we've just come through will be
normal, and all we'll be doing as a nation is responding to
emergencies. As one scientist put it at week's end, the
current heatwave is "bad by our current definition of bad,
but our definition of bad changes."

Another way of saying that is: there are disaster areas
declared across the country right now, but the biggest one
is in DC.

==========

___________________________________________

Portside aims to provide material of interest to people
on the left that will help them to interpret the world
and to change it.

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