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Tuesday, November 20, 2007

The Defining Challenge of Our Age: Robert J. Elisberg's article in the Huffington Post

(click here for link to the article in The Huffington Post)

Bush Fiddles While the World Burns

by Robert J. Elisberg

Last Saturday, the United Nations released its intensive report on climate change. Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon described global warming as "the defining challenge of our age."

Not "of the decade" or even "our life." And not any mere challenge of our age -- but the one that defines us.

"Today the world's scientists have spoken," he stated, "clearly and in one voice."

Not some scientists. Not leading scientists. But the "world's scientists." United.

When the Bush administration was asked in response how much global warming it considered acceptable, the president's chairman of environmental quality, James Connaughton, responded, "We don't have a view on that."

Mind you, it's not like global warming has crept up on anyone. It's been in all the papers. You can't have missed it. Headlines, articles, reports, Oscar-winning documentaries, Nobel Prizes. Cartoons.

But the Bush administration says, "We don't have a view on that."

Rajendra Pachauri, who headed the U.N. panel, has a view. "If there's no action before 2012, that's too late," the scientist told The New York Times. What we do in the next two to three years will determine our future."

"The sense of urgency when you put these pieces together is new and striking," insisted climate expert Martin Parry, co-chair of the panel.

The Bush administration? "We don't have a view on that."

No view. And the alarms, red flags and world experts come blaring, flying, resounding everywhere, like avalanches.

"It's extremely clear and is very explicit that the cost of inaction will be huge compared to the cost of action," urged Jeffrey D. Sachs, head of Columbia's Earth Institute.

Michael Oppenheimer, a Princeton climate scientist on the panel, reported, "Many of my colleagues would consider that kind of [Greenland ice sheet] melt a catastrophe."

The Bush Administration says, "We don't have a view on that."

The U.N. Intergovernmental Panel of Climate Change that put this report together was awarded the Nobel Prize in October. It's been studying the problem for five years. They've now released four reports on the subject. This latest is the most blunt.

But the Bush administration says, "We don't have a view on that."

Stop any bus and wake up some sleeping wino in the back, and he would have a view on that. How can the George Bush administration possibly not have a view on it?? It's the potential fate of the world.

If you were watching a James Bond movie, and 007 reported that Ernst Blofeld had a giant laser on the moon to blow up the world unless it paid him 10 billion dollars, and then M replied, "I don't have a view on that," there'd be a stampede rushing to the box office to get their money back.

But this is freaking real life.

To be fair, Mr. Connaughton of the president's environmental council did say that "the issue warrants urgent action." It's just that the Bush administration didn't "have a view" on what that urgent action should actually be." Which sort of defeats the point of urgent action.

But perhaps best of all is that the panel's U.S. delegation admits trying to make changes to the report -- and then explains it away as only a Bush official can. The group's leader, Dr. Sharon Hays, told the Times that the effort wasn't political, but merely "to make sure the final report matches the science."

Scout's honor. But then, why would anyone think otherwise?

Oh, sure, in 2002 and 2003, White House official Philip A. Cooney -- a former lobbyist for the American Petroleum Institute (shocking, yes, I know) -- with zero science background did edit government climate reports.

And oh, sure, over 120 scientists from seven federal agencies charged in January, 2007, that Bush officials have pressured them "to remove references to 'climate change' and 'global warming' from an expanse of documents, including communications with Congress.

And okay, yes, the head of NASA's institute studying climate, James Hansen, reported in 2006 that the Bush administration is restricting who he can speak to about the seriousness of global warming.

But other than that, the Bush administration only wanted changes in the U.N. report because they were concerned with science.

Okay, the administration's political base doesn't actually accept science, preferring instead "intelligent design" and personal faith to reality. But while the White House may not care about science, at least they do care about getting the science they don't care about right. So long as it matches what they don't care about.

The ancient Roman emperor Nero came to historical infamy for fiddling when Rome burned. Well, he was a piker when compared to President George Bush. Nero merely ignored one city when it was heating up.

"We don't have a view on that."

It helps if you open your eyes.

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