Sunday, August 16, 2009

Pols find walking and chewing gum too hard

Current chart and data for atmospheric CO2
A blogging friend pointed out a scary Bloomberg headline:

Climate Change Measure Should Be Set Aside, U.S. Senators Say

Aug. 14 (Bloomberg) -- The U.S. Senate should abandon efforts to pass legislation curbing greenhouse-gas emissions this year and concentrate on a narrower bill to require use of renewable energy, four Democratic lawmakers say.

"The problem of doing both of them together is that it becomes too big of a lift," Senator Blanche Lincoln of Arkansas said in an interview last week. ...

"Doing these energy provisions by themselves might make it more difficult to move the cap-and-trade legislation," said [Peter] Molinaro, [head of government affairs for Dow Chemical Co. which supports the measure.] "In this town if you split two measures, usually the second thing never gets done."

Thought for Food summed up what this means:

Imagine for a moment that some how, some way, the White House and Congress cobble together a civilized public health care system. Within a decade, Americans are healthier than they’ve been in a generation. Preventative care available to everyone has led to fewer ER visits and fewer instances of chronic, avoidable diseases, like diabetes, heart disease, and some forms of cancer. We have more money in our pockets because we’re not paying for inefficient, privately-controlled health care. More and more of us are spending it on healthier, fresh food, and the obesity epidemic is finally turning a corner.

Guess what? We’re still fucked. Because the Senate decided one crisis is enough.

As far as the galloping climate crisis goes, maybe we should be happier if they don't enact health care reform. More of us would then live less long; given the detrimental effect every living American has on the planet's carrying capacity, slightly fewer of us might be a gift to the world's other peoples.

Yup, the system is looking more and more broken. The unrepresentative, sclerotic Senate is the obvious culprit -- too many old guys who represent hardly anyone have too much say over everything. But the House isn't really much better; Congresscritters need to run every two years and they welcome the campaign cash that listening to lobbyists can win them.

Scientists have for quite a while felt as hemmed in by idiocy as do those of us who are confronting birthers and deathers raving against health care reform this summer.The Reveres published an essential essay over a year ago and brought it out again last month. Just one excerpt from Why the Right Wing attacks science:

Refuting the arguments of environmental skeptics is usually easily done but the volume of their assertions is so large and so indifferent to counter-argument that cutting off the heads of the [Conservative Think Tank] hydra has become a major distraction for environmental science and a significant cost in time and money. ...

Yes -- refuting the right is a major time sink. The folks at Real Climate pointed out the good that going over the arguments yet again can do:

However there is still cause to engage -- not out of the hope that the people who make idiotic statements can be educated -- but because bystanders deserve to know where better information can be found.

Unfortunately, on health care and on climate change, opting out is impossible. Giving up means people and the planet die. Human beings seem hard-wired to resist our own extinction, though not necessarily to be sensible about how we try to do it.

All of this is to introduce a new widget I'm adding to my already crowded blog side bar. This one, from CO2 Now, (as is the large illustration at the top of the post) reports a running tally of the number of parts per million of carbon dioxide currently in the earth's atmosphere. Thanks to human industrial activity and the burning of fossil fuels, that CO2 level is now the highest it has been in the last 2 million years. Climate scientists think humans can avoid the most devastating results of global warming if we can get the CO2 level below 350 parts per million. We haven't been that low since 1988. As I write this, the widget reports 387.81 ppm.

That's what the bill the Senators can't get their minds around is about. It's not perfect, but if the U.S. doesn't contribute to reducing carbon emissions we can't very well expect anyone else to. One more thing to batter the politicians about ...

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