U.S. Failure To Act Swiftly on GW Imperils the U.S. And The World


 By Sherwood Ross


America’s failure to get serious about GW recalls the story of the German bureaucrats who, as the Soviet tanks rolled into Berlin in April, 1945, were busy working on Hitler’s paperclip requirements for the third quarter of the year. If they had only looked out their window they would have known the Third Reich was kaput.

If nothing else, Hurricane Sandy gave Americans an opportunity to look out their windows to recognize there’s been a sea change in the weather. The giant storm killed more than 100 people, unhoused tens of thousands, forced the evacuation of hundreds of thousands more, turned off the lights for eight million souls, and inflicted an astounding $50 billion worth of damage. It even set back scientific research by drowning thousands of laboratory animals being used in clinical experiments in East Coast laboratories.

As the Nov. 5 issue of Bloomberg Businessweek reported, the number of natural disasters inflicting damage of $1 billion or more since 1996 more than doubled compared with the previous 15-year period. Like Dorothy in “The Wizard of Oz,” the American public now believes, “I’ve a feeling we’re not in Kansas anymore.” A Pew Research Center poll last October found two-thirds of Americans think there is “solid evidence” the earth is getting warmer. This ain’t the America those of us over 40 grew up in and we know it.

Only this week, AP reported from New Bataan, The Philippines, “A powerful typhoon that washed away emergency shelters, a military camp and possibly entire families in the southern Philippines has killed almost 350 people with nearly 400 missing, authorities said Thursday.”

More bodies were retrieved from hardest-hit Compostela Valley and Davao Oriental provinces and six others impacted by Tuesday’s storm, the Office of Civil Defense reported.

At least 200 of the victims died in Compostela Valley alone, including 78 villagers and soldiers who perished in a flash flood that swamped two emergency shelters and a military camp.

“Entire families may have been washed away,” said Interior Secretary Mar Roxas, who visited New Bataan on Wednesday. The farming town of 45,000 people was a muddy wasteland of collapsed houses and coconut and banana trees felled by ferocious winds.(Italics added.)

In an essay titled, “It’s Global Warming, Stupid,” assistant managing editor Paul Barrett of Bloomberg Businessweek points out that Munich Re, the big German reinsurance firm, published a new report saying, “nowhere in the world is the rising number of natural catastrophes more evident than in North America.” From 1980 through 2011, Barrett says, weather disasters caused losses totaling $1.06 trillion.” (If the U.S. doesn’t care about the Filipinos, it should realize its greenhouse gases are imperiling its own.)

Ominous as changing weather patterns have become, there is every prospect the lack of leadership in D.C. will make them worse. A major GW trigger will be the Keystone XL oil pipeline to tap the tar sands of Alberta, Canada.

If built, “Essentially, it’s game over for the planet,” said James Hansen, the head of NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies. He is quoted by reporter Jane Mayer in the Nov. 28th, 2011, issue of “The New Yorker” magazine as making the statement to environmental activist Bill McKibben.

Building the pipeline would hasten the extraction of exceptionally dirty crude oil, using huge amounts of water and heat, from the tar sands, which would then be piped across the United States, refined, and burned as fuel, releasing a vast new volume of greenhouse gas into the atmosphere, reporter Mayer writes.

“The tar sands’ oil deposits may be a treasure trove second in value only to Saudi Arabia’s, and the pipeline, as McKibben saw it, (and) posed a powerful test of America’s resolve to develop cleaner sources of energy, as Barack Obama had promised to do in the 2008 campaign,” Mayer wrote. McKibben is a scholar-in-residence at Middlebury College, Vt.

The very idea of pumping more toxic greenhouse gas into the atmosphere when people’s homes and lives are being washed away from New York to New Bataan is appalling. But anything can happen when a threat of this magnitude was virtually blacked out during the presidential debates and your myopic bureaucrats don’t look out the window.

Sherwood Ross formerly worked for major dailies and wire services. Currently he runs a public relations firm “for good causes.”Reach him at [email protected].

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