When Will It Be Time To Actually Do Something About Climate Change?

The response to the latest climate bill shows that few people on one side of the aisle seem at all willing to engage in discussion about how to stop the problem.

"The government can’t change the weather," said Florida Senator Marco Rubio last week, describing his opposition to President Obama’s State of the Union call-to-action on climate change policy. Given the staggering costs of droughts, heat waves, and superstorms, it would seem our political leaders would come quickly to some consensus on these seemingly urgent issues and take some kind of concerted action. So where do our political leaders get their information that has instead led to partisan gridlock?

The President appears to be relying on facts, as he said in his speech. "The 12 hottest years on record have all come in the last 15. Heat waves, droughts, wildfires, and floods—all are now more frequent and intense." These facts are buoyed by the costs in human life, higher food prices, and insurance payouts for the catastrophes he itemized. Moreover, the National Academy of Sciences reported in 2010 that 97% of 1,372 climate researchers agree that these fundamental changes in our climate are human-caused.

By contrast, Senator Rubio’s skepticism may be based on a very different set of numbers, such as 146 million. That’s the number of dollars spent in recent years by the Virginia-based Donors Trust and Donors Capital Fund to cast doubt on the causes of climate change. This money is more than double the contributions made to similar denial groups by the more widely publicized Koch brothers and seven times the funding provided by ExxonMobil during a similar period. In total, these funds can buy a lot of doubt about the overwhelming scientific consensus and the weather patterns that are changing before our eyes.

This battle of scientific fact versus special interest propaganda is not news, but that it continues to hamstring our leaders is more than a little disappointing. Senators Bernie Sanders and Barbara Boxer announced plans last week to try once more to draft laws that would benefit the environment and the economy, which should theoretically please both sides in this "debate."

"The legislation that Senator Boxer and I are introducing today … can actually address the crisis and … create millions of jobs as we transform our energy system away from fossil fuel and into energy efficiency and such sustainable energies as wind, solar, geothermal, and biomass," said Sanders.

Sanders and Boxer tried a similar bill in 2007, but this time split the measure into two. The Sustainable Energy Act would cut subsidies for the fossil fuel industry (in tough budget times, does anyone still think the taxpayer should subsidize oil and coal?) and give very modest support, compared to that enjoyed by fossil fuels for a century, to renewable energy from solar, wind, and geothermal.

The Climate Protection Act would put a price on carbon pollution from nearly 3,000 of the largest polluters covering about 85% of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions. Sixty percent of the funds generated would follow the Alaskan oil dividend model—providing a monthly rebate to every U.S. resident. $300 billion would pay down the national debt and the remainder would help to weatherize a million residences a year, creating hundreds of thousands of jobs that can’t be outsourced to China or India, while saving households substantial energy costs. A billion dollars annually would be spent to retrain workers to participate in these clean-energy jobs.

The famous Simon and Garfunkel lyric says, "A man hears what he wants to hear and he disregards the rest." These two measures won’t be passed easily as long as many in Congress keep looking for junk science and excuses to justify business as usual. But as Albert Einstein said, the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. If we want to avoid more of the human and economic costs of climate change in the future, it’s time to stop the insanity and demand meaningful change in the climate debate.

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  • CPO_C_Ryback

    Erlich? Did he predict the world would FREEZE to death?

    So much for "settled science." Duh.

  • StormOrphan

    Poor Little Marco doesn't even address one of the main causes of climate change over population he has four children.  Paul Ehrlich warned about the consequences of over population in 1968 in his book "The Population Bomb".  

    "The use of solar energy has not been opened up because the oil industry does not own the sun"
    Ralph Nader















  • DisqusSteve988

    The simple reason the wealthy individuals who control the USA do not want to discuss climate change is that the moment you do you open up a whole can of worms. The day we properly admit there is a problem we will have to ask, what are the underlying causes? Consumerism and perpetual economic growth will of course be singled out and this will lead to a whole set of questions about our way of life and economic system. Secondly it will be logical to suggest in a "democracy" we all should be given an equal "carbon allowance", something that will effect CEO's with their multiple homes, cars and jets a lot more than working class Americans. Logically, in a democracy the wealthy will pay the poor to pollute. That's without even considering how this would work out on a global platform with nations like the USA and say Bangladesh?! Sure we can actually benefit, short term, by reducing CO2 but long term those who have gained most from Consumerism stand to loose most and that's why they don't want us admitting there is a problem.

  • Camana

    I'm not sure Terry Tamminen  wants to discuss climate change. I submitted several sets of data to challenge his assumptions and I'm hoping that they are just tied up in moderation or maybe he will check the spam filter as I had 4 or 5 links. I hope he prints the data links.

  • Camana

    You guys are like the climate BORG. The same science free consensus drivel found at Mother Jones, Grist, DeSmog, Huffington Post, etc 

    Where's your data for this belief?  " Heat waves, droughts, wildfires, and floods--all are now more frequent and intense." In my research there was a 100+ year drought in the 13th century, did you miss that? Did you miss the 1950s drought that was clearly worse than recent drought on the Palmer Drought Index?

    Heat waves wer worse in the 1930s see here :


    Fewer Hurricanes here:


    Flat temperatures in the lower troposphere see here:


    Wildfires not getting worse here:


  • mememine

    Science is telling the truth when they claim to have full
    consensus that climate change is real and “could” cause a crisis. Not one single
    IPCC warning isn’t qualified with “maybe” and “could be” etc. Science has never
    said climate change “will” be a crisis or is “imminent”. Only it’s believers
    and media and politicians were the liars saying it “will” happen. And besides,
    would you deny what you are being paid to study the effects, not causes of an
    assumed to be real crisis? One would have to want this misery to be real and remain
    a believer.

    How close to unstoppable warming will they take us before
    they say a crisis is imminent, not just “likely”?