Paul Adair is a 21-year Germantown resident, retired scientist, writer, and lecturer.
Global warming has been in the news quite a bit over the last several months. By now, only the most anti-science partisans and general know-nothings cling to the myth that human-caused climate change is not happening. Last month, an important report was released by a panel of 300 respected climate scientists, covering in detail the toll global warming is having on our country.
The report, the National Climate Assessment, breaks-down the changes by region. Some of the greatest effects of increased carbon dioxide are occurring on the coasts, with more and stronger hurricanes, higher sea levels, and an increasingly acidic ocean. However, we in the Midwest are not immune to the effects. Climate change is having profound impacts on our own environment.
The Midwest will have more "extreme precipitation" events, a trend that has seen the number of such weather anomalies increase by 37% just since 1958. In addition to frequent flooding, our water quality will decrease due to these events maxing-out the capacity of sewage systems. Our air quality will degrade due to the effects of higher temperatures. There will be increased incidence of invasive species and algae blooms. With the higher temperatures will come more human deaths due to heat stress.
Despite the disastrous effects of global warming on our environment, economy, and way of life, many of our politicians are content to do absolutely nothing. Some, including our own Jim Sensenbrenner, are actively undermining the efforts of those who seek action to lessen the effects of global warming.
Last week, the House voted on the Defense Authorization Act. An amendment to that act prohibits the military from using the appropriated funds to "implement the US Global Change Research Program National Climate Assessment, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change's fifth Assessment Report, the United Nation's Agenda 21 sustainable development plan, or the May 2013 Technical Update of the Social Cost of Carbon for Regulatory Impact Analysis Under Executive Order 12866."
That is, the majority party in the House wants to ban our defense establishment from spending any funds to ready our country for the reality of global warming. The amendment passed on a largely party-line vote, with three Republicans voting against and four Democrats voting for the motion. Our very own Congressman, Jim Sensenbrenner, was one of the science deniers who voted to force the Pentagon to ignore the real-world threats of global warming.
Although somewhat vague in its language, the amendment could be interpreted to greatly tie the hands of the military in dealing with actual world realities. Does it mean that our Navy cannot adapt docking facilities to cope with a rising sea level and more frequent storms? Does it mean that military intelligence cannot consider global warming in assessing future threats (like the drought-caused civil war in Syria)? Does it mean that we must keep military bases hostage to uncertain fossil fuel supplies rather implementing renewable energy programs?
Climate change also dictates how and where our military needs to prepare for humanitarian disaster relief. And the Navy must prepare for operations in an increasingly ice-free Arctic. Pentagon planners certainly are not ignoring the reality of global warming. The 2014 Quadrennial Defense Review called climate change a "threat multiplier" that will "aggravate stressors abroad such as poverty, environmental degradation, political instability, and social tensions."
The US military consumes more oil than any other US entity, burning more than 12 million gallons a day. The ongoing efforts to improve fuel efficiency will improve operational efficiency and flexibility.
Not only does our arrogant Congress think they know more than the world's top climate scientists about science, they also presume to know more than top military leaders about running our defense. Clearly, more than half of the US congress has been bought and paid for by fossil fuel industry. These people are playing partisan games with the future of our planet- and now our military effectiveness- all for political expediency.
There is no hope for any action on one of the most significant challenges of our time from the current Republican-led House. Congress will continue to foot-drag on the issue until Washington resembles Venice. Until Florida joins Atlantis. Until California burns to the ground.
President Obama has decided to take one of the few courses of action open to him on global warming. On Monday, he announced new regulations on power plants. These plants must reduce their CO2 emissions by 30% by 2030. Power generation is the source of more than one third of US carbon dioxide emissions. This action is on the heels of bold administration action to boost fuel economy in vehicles.
Be ready to hear more hissy fits from the right on these recent actions by the President. Clearly, our Congress will do nothing. In fact, Congressional Republicans are taking every possible action to impede those who take climate change seriously. Mr. Obama is doing the right thing. The science couldn't be clearer. Global warming is happening today and is caused by burning fossil fuels. We must take action to lessen its effects.