Perhaps Sen. James Inhofe, an Oklahoma Republican, is correct. Perhaps President Barack Obama is exploiting the most recent national assessment of climate change to expand federal reach.
“With this report,” Sen. Inhofe told the Washington Post, “the president is attempting to once again distract Americans from his unchecked regulatory agenda that is costing our nations millions of job opportunities and our ability to be energy-independent.”
The president certainly isn’t above using this assessment, or any other report, for political purposes. Yet the kneejerk criticisms, even denunciations, by Sen. Inhofe, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and other of the president’s political adversaries are similarly politically driven attempts to distract the American public from the growing, threat that climate change presents.
That’s a disservice not just to citizens of this country today, but for those yet to come. The most recent assessment indicates that climate change is not some off-in-the-future problem but one that is already affecting our country. Not surprisingly, this assessment, the third in 14 years, underscores the conviction that human reliance on fossil fuels — including coal and oil — is a major contributor to climate change.
And yes, the report is a call to action to mitigate the potential damage and buy time so we can learn to adapt to a changing, more hostile, environment without catastrophic social and economic upheaval.
The assessment would be easier to ignore, as Sens. McConnell and Inhofe, who represent coal and oil and gas producing states, seem inclined to do, if there were not signs that climate change weren’t already taking a toll on our country.
Among forecasts is that droughts will become more severe in the Great Plains, including Kansas, further jeopardizing important crops. Deniers can call the extended drought in the Southern Plains a coincidence, and scientists acknowledge that it’s risky to associate any particular weather event with climate change. Yet explaining every natural disaster as a coincidence is hardly responsible governance.
The Northeast is enduring bigger storms and more flooding; there are more and deadlier forest fires in the Southwest and California, and Alaska’s permafrost is thawing. As for the Southeast, residents can look forward to warmer temperatures, more allergies and coastal flooding.
Even skeptics of federal regulation ought to recognize that combining stricter emissions regulations for power plants with incentives to encourage companies to create carbon-reducing technologies would be constructive steps, if hardly a solution.
Certainly, doing nothing on the assumption that climate change is a hoax is no solution. The very least our leaders ought to do is to take steps to prevent the situation from getting worse.