The National Climatic Data Center (NCDC) just issued its September report -- and the West and Southeast continue to scorch: About 43 percent of the contiguous U.S. fell in the moderate to extreme drought categories (based on the Palmer Drought Index) at the end of September. Here is the U.S. Drought Monitor (darker = drier): Here are some of the drought records being set around the country:
It's said that when John Paul Jones' ship the Bonhomme Richard was in tatters, and captain of the British ship Serapis demanded his surrender, Jones cried out, "I have not yet begun to fight!" Upon which a petty officer said to himself, "There's always some dumb bastard who doesn't get the word." Both phrases live on in the Navy, the second one probably more relevant today. They both popped into my head when I read this scary coal-boosting op-ed piece from "up Nort'" in Minnesota.
Here’s a great 10-minute video on the ethical dimensions of climate change, by Donald Brown of the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection. Transcript here. (Thanks Calvin!)
So we've seen much of the so-called intelligentsia ignore the global warming issue when asked by the Atlantic Monthly to consider the greatest challenges to the American idea. But not all of those asked were so short-sighted. You would expect the one environmentalist they asked, Edward O. Wilson (essay below) to get it right. But what about a Harvard constitutional law professor and his policy analyst/linguist wife? Lawrence H. Tribe and Carolyn K. Tribe: "Our greatest national challenge is to reverse the profoundly misguided course the last two presidential elections have set, while doing three things ... Third, cooperating with the international community before it is too late to restore the degraded health of our fragile planet and to protect the well-being of all its inhabitants." Who else got it right, or partially right? John Updike, Anna Deavere Smith, and even Stephen Breyer: John Updike: "The American idea, as I understand it, is to trust people to know their own minds and to act in their own enlightened self-interest, with a necessary respect for others ... The challenges ahead? A fury against liberal civilization by the world's poor, who have nothing to lose; a ruinous further depletion of the world's natural assets; a global warming that will change world climate and with it world geopolitics. The American idea, promulgated in a land of plenty, must prepare to sustain itself in a world of scarcity." My point exactly!
I know -- let's use all our food and drinking water to make SUV fuel!
This is a guest essay by Danielle Deane. Deane is a Program Officer at the Hewlett Foundation, where she runs the New Constituencies for the Environment initiative. She is also a 2007-2008 Association of Black …
((equity_include)) One aspect of climate change is overlooked by politicians, commentators, and big NGOs alike: equity. The suffering that climate change will bring is going to be visited primarily on the globe’s most vulnerable populations …
Why does the public largely lack a sense of urgency on climate? Maybe because most opinion leaders also lack that sense of urgency. To mark its 150th Anniversary, the Atlantic Monthly (subs. reqd) ... ... invited an eclectic group of thinkers who have had cause to consider the American idea to describe its future and the greatest challenges to it. Now this one is real easy -- you don't have to be scientifically literate or read the work of James Hansen, you just have to have seen Al Gore's movie or maybe read Time magazine (reading the Atlantic itself is, however, no help, as previously noted). By far the greatest challenge to the American idea (i.e., unlimited abundance, supreme optimism about the future, global moral leadership, and our special place in the world -- OK, that one's a bit tarnished already -- is global warming. In fact, if we don't adopt something close to Barack Obama's extraordinary climate plan within the next few years -- and I suspect conservatives will block such an ambitious, albeit necessary, approach as too "big-government" -- then global warming will destroy the American idea, perhaps for a millennium or more. Global warming means we move from great abundance to oppressive scarcity, from optimism to pessimism (especially if we cross carbon-cycle tipping points that cause an accelerating greenhouse effect in the second half of this century), and finally, as I wrote in my book: For decades, the United States has been the moral, economic, and military leader of the free world. What will happen when we end up in Planetary Purgatory, facing 20 or more feet of sea level rise, and the rest of the world blames our inaction and obstructionism, blames the wealthiest nation on Earth for refusing to embrace even cost-effective solutions that could spare the planet from millennia of misery? The indispensable nation will become a global pariah. The Atlantic assembled a who's who of the intelligentsia -- who in the main, though very thoughtful, just don't get it:
Tuesday marks the release (yes, on recycled paper) of Fight Global Warming Now, the Step It Up 2007 team's handbook for grassroots action on climate (and most other issues) in our communities. It's a blueprint for success based on their own experiences. Step It Up 2: Who's a Leader is just around the corner (Nov. 3), and there is an increasing corps of leaders committing to turn up at the events: eight members of Congress and two presidential candidates: go here to find an event in your neighborhood to support. If you find your choices lacking (hello, North Dakota?) organize one of your own: like coal, it's easy, cheap, and high-impact.
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