The Big-Ass Elephant in the Room

Can you guess what the big-ass elephant in the room is this election cycle? If you guessed climate change, you guessed right. It never made it as a debate topic because both sides agreed not to bring it up. In fact, it has been missing from the political public discourse for quite some time now. We’ve done the economy to death. We’ve done foreign policy to death. We’ve brushed up against women’s reproductive rights, although that topic has pretty much been ignored as well. But, hell, we haven’t even brushed up against climate change. One would think that, in the wake of Hurricane Sandy’s devastation, this topic would now be front and center. It isn’t, and I’m relatively certain it’s not going to come up. It is indeed the big-ass elephant in the room.

Back in 1988, we had the hottest summer on record. James Hansen, NASA’s climate change expert, testified before congress. Dan Quayle and Lloyd Bentsen discussed climate change during their debate. In fact, it has been a topic during every election cycle until this year. In 2012, we had the hottest year on record. Let me repeat that: The hottest year. Not just the hottest summer. (Although, for the record, this summer was the third hottest summer on record.) The subject of climate change has been part of the election conversation since 1988…until this year. Suddenly. Everyone on the political circuit is mute. They’ve been deaf for a long time, but we can add mute to the list now. Someone said it’s the Voldemort of the 2012 election. You know, the “thing” that shall not be named. Of course, if you’re waiting for the GOP to bring up the topic of climate change, you could be dead by then. The GOP is in denial. Hell, many of  their biggest benefactors — like the Koch Brothers — have poured millions into climate change denial. Of course, that’s because they are among the biggest polluters on the fucking planet.

The GOP wants you to believe that there’s still dissent among scientists that climate change is real and is caused by humans. Nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, 97 percent of scientists actively publishing in the field agree that climate change is human caused. Let’s not forget that this is the party that wants you to believe that George Washington rode around on a goddamned dinosaur. I’m surprised that any of these morons knows what the hell a fossil is. This is the party of Senator James Inhofe (R-OK), who wrote the book The Greatest Hoax: How the Global Warming Conspiracy Threatens Your Future. In it, Inhofe postulates that man is arrogant to think that he can change the seasons and affect the climate. Damned straight. Only God can do that. Inhofe is wrong about that. Christianity is the hoax, and the GOP uses it to control what the American people think on almost every topic imaginable. The GOP has done a hell of a job dumbing down the population by minimizing the importance of scientific fact and maximizing the credibility of right-wing Christian mythology. I’m pretty sure that soon we’ll be hearing that God told Mitt Romney that drilling for oil in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and approving the Keystone XL Pipeline is a great idea. And if Mitt Romney is elected, that’s exactly what he intends to do.

We all know that the economy is the number one concern for the American people. That’s why Mitt Romney offers both the approval of the pipeline and drilling in the Arctic as a way to create thousands of jobs and gain our energy independence. The job creation numbers being thrown about as gospel range anywhere from 118,000 to the ridiculous figure of 435,000 (by 2035). Let’s have a little reality here. The U.S. State Department numbers are very different. Based on information from the pipeline builder, TransCanada, the projected number of jobs created would be between 5,000 to 6,000 workers over the three-year construction period. Some of those jobs, of course, would come from local labor markets. Realistically, therefore, we are looking at about 500 to 900 jobs. Now that the whole “thousands of jobs” myth has been busted, I’m wondering if Americans who favor the Keystone XL Pipeline actually understand the environmental devastation associated with it. I’m guessing the answer would be a big, fat “No.” I’ll be as brief as I can and I promise not to overburden you with a lot of what the GOP calls “scientific mumbo jumbo.”

The term “tar sands” refers to the sand mixed with thick, tar-like oil that reside in great quantity under the forests of Alberta, Canada. Producing one barrel of heavy crude oil from these tar sand deposits requires several very nasty steps:

  • strip mining the forest
  • extracting four tons of earth
  • contaminating two to four barrels of fresh water
  • burning large amounts of natural gas
  • creating vast holding pools of toxic sludge

The 36-inch pipeline will then carry the crude oil (heated to more than 150 degrees and pumped through at high pressure) from Hardisty, Alberta through Saskatchewan, Montana, South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas, and Oklahoma to terminals in Nederland, Texas. That’s nearly 2,000 miles of pipeline. If you don’t already see an environmental disaster in the making, you’ve been dumbed down further than I thought. So, here are some more facts about the pipeline. Scientists calculate that the safe level of carbon in the atmosphere is 350 parts per million. That level has already been well exceeded, and that’s why we are already facing drastic climate change. The only way to limit future climate change is to drastically reduce our level of greenhouse gas emissions. That won’t happen with the Keystone XL Pipeline. Greenhouse gas emissions from tar sands crude will be up to 80% greater than oil refined in the U.S. I actually found all of this information on a great labor site. They provide much more detail, and I encourage you to read it. Here’s the really important part of the whole Keystone XL issue: If we add this unconventional fossil fuel to the mix, it is essentially “game over” for the environment according to James Hansen. There will be no way to effectively reduce greenhouse gas emissions and limit the devastating effects of global warming.

In spite of this, our future energy policy amounts to importing vast supplies of Canadian tar crude and drilling in the arctic, another bad idea. I won’t go into detail about the whole arctic drilling issue. You can read more about that here. Not only does this guarantee a monumental environmental disaster, but this short-sighted energy policy ensures that we remain addicted to fossil fuels for years to come, moving us further away from renewables. It’s the fastest, most expedient solution to a problem at the greatest environmental cost.

Just because it isn’t America’s biggest concern, it doesn’t mean we should ignore it

Yeah. Yeah. I know. We keep hearing that Americans’ concern over global warming has waned. I wonder why? Maybe it’s because nobody is talking about except for the scientists. The GOP doesn’t want to touch it, and the Democrats have been complicit in taking it off the table. Just because Americans haven’t made it a primary issue this election cycle doesn’t mean it should be ignored. The fact is that climate change is here right now. At this point, it’s not even a question of reversing it. All we can do is limit it.

We’ve just had much of the East Coast shut down as a result of the devastation left by Hurricane Sandy, a “Frankenstorm” whose science is tied to climate change. (Sorry, but Hurricane Sandy had nothing to do with us gay people. Believe me, I can’t make this shit up.) We’ve had the summer sea ice in the Arctic melt at an alarming rate, demolishing all previous records. No doubt the oil companies are starry eyed about this huge melt providing an incredible opportunity to do that drill, baby, drill thing…but someone needs to remind me again why that’s a good idea in light of all this unprecedented loss of ice. This summer’s drought turned much of the Great Plains and Midwest into a disastrous dust bowl. The 2012 drought has resulted in a 12% loss of the corn harvest and an increase in food prices for all of us. Most frightening is the fact that what was once an occasional event is expected to become the new norm. And there’s no longer denial that climate change added mightily to the factors that caused the Colorado wildfires this summer.

I understand that the economy is the primary concern. Americans are notorious for only being able to digest what has a direct cause and effect on their lives (like losing a job or their home). But a new poll shows that idiot America might just be waking up where climate change is concerned. As of September 2012, American’s belief in the reality of global warming has risen from 57% (January 2010) to 70%. (If you’re interested, you can see the full study here in PDF format.) One expert has even suggested that the candidates might actually be able to increase voter turnout and win people over by discussing climate change, and I’ve got to believe that success comes down on the Democratic side on this issue.

But it’s not merely about helping the Democrats win. It’s time for climate change to get some respect in this country. It’s clear that the GOP has done nothing but discredit the scientific community for years over this issue because the fossil fuel brigade is squarely in their political court. The Green Party is more than happy to talk about climate change. They take it seriously. For the Greens, it’s not just a political issue. The Democrats need to take a leadership role on global warming, step up to the plate on legislation critical to saving the environment, and restoring the importance of scientific fact to this equation.

It’s not just about us. It’s about our children, our grandchildren, and future generations. And it’s not just about America. Global warming is, well, global. We need to start talking about it now and taking steps to change the way we think and act because, in spite of what the Christian terrorists tell you, the world is not going to end on December 21, 2012. By the way, the Mayans called. They want their calendar back.


Writer’s Note: After this piece was published, New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg endorsed President Barack Obama, citing climate change as the reason. Bloomberg did not make an endorsement in 2008.

Categories: Christianity, Climate Change, Climate Denial, Democrats, Elections, Global Warning, GOP, Green Party, Koch Brothers, Koch Industries

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2 replies

  1. While the focus of this (necessary) tirade is important, it belies the fact that climate change (and our deniability of and gross mistruths about same) is (are) only a symptom of the country (and the world) gone wrong. The cause can easily be said to be complacency: too many people settle for what they have and are repeatedly told by the “people in charge” that this status quo is the best they can expect. As long as people fail to engage in critical thinking and the subsequent corrective actions that would be demanded as a result, the contributory assorted (and sordid) maladies of a broken two party system, a faulty and biased supreme court, Citizens United, corporate greed, plutocracy, adverse wealth distribution and the public’s insatiable appetite for instant gratification and endless forms of entertainment will be the rule of the day. When we face a catastrophe the size of Sandy, and the headlines are more about sports scores and the philanderings of Hollywood celebrities, then it is clear that our humanitarian priorities are either completely upside down and backwards or missing, altogether. We are awash in platitudes and panaceas…anti-intellectual sugar pills. If you don’t believe this,just listen carefully to the glibness and shallow disdain that comes from the mouth of Joe Biden.

    The real and ultimate elephant in the room is the entropy of thought and the apathy which attends it. And no politician will EVER discuss this societal failure in public because their re-election chances would be demolished in a heartbeat. .

    This entire POTUS campaign is a facade. It is a superficial parade of sloganeering, falsehoods, popular gripes, rumor mongering, false allegations,outright lies and the utilization of fear tactics and emotional bullying. Truth evasion , like tax evasion, is a career path and full time job in U.S. politics (and elsewhere, I should suspect). it is the only way to get elected to office and avoid dealing with substantive matters that ruin lives, despoil the planet and create human misery on a grand scale.

    This is not to say that the Sandy event was not a tragedy: it surely was and surely will be for months or even years. And there will be more like it, all over the globe, and politicians will continue to helicopter over the devastation and wring their hands make promises and slash budgets and still send drones over Pakistan… and then urge people to go back to business as usual, as when, after 9/11 W told everyone to “go shopping”. The sucky part is, we did. .

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