The Lessons of “Snowmageddon“

When “snowmageddon” buried the nation’s capital in February, Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-Ok) cheered on his grandchildren in building an igloo on the Capitol grounds, and couldn’t have been prouder of them in mocking Al Gore. But Sen. Inhofe is jeopardizing his grandchildren’s future.

By every scientific measure, greenhouse gases are heating the Earth rapidly and forcing us all to participate in a game of climate Russian roulette. In fact, Russia is one of this year’s biggest losers.

Temperatures 25 degrees hotter than normal, causing apocalyptic wildfires, have turned central and western Russia, including Moscow, into a ghoulish hell to rival J.R.R. Tolkien’s Mordor. Death rates are double the norm from the heat and smoke, and thousands have already died.

20 million Pakistanis are now homeless because of flooding from monsoon rains. Flooding in China has killed thousands. Desperation, starvation and diseases like cholera are inevitable. Crops in Russia, China, Pakistan and many other countries have been devastated, causing suspension of grain exports and price spikes. Millions who struggle to feed themselves in a normal climate will be unable to afford enough food to survive.

Climate disasters are mounting in on virtually every continent. Record-breaking heat in our East and South, unprecedented flooding in Tennessee and Iowa, and a chronic, deepening drought in the Western U.S. have given us just a taste of the misery other countries are now enduring.

This summer’s events fit exactly the scientists’ projections of more frequent and more intense extreme weather events due to global warming. Notwithstanding the Kool Aid being broadcast at Fox News, even “snowmageddon” fits into the models of a human-caused climate crisis.

Last year, the lead article in the Lancet, one of the world’s most prestigious medical journals, written by 29 distinguished medical scientists, called the climate consequences of the greenhouse gas phenomenon, “The biggest global health threat of the 21st century,” and will “put the lives and well being of billions of people at increased risk.”

The report goes on to state that, “Even the most conservative estimates are profoundly disturbing and demand action. Less conservative climate scenarios are so catastrophic that adaptation might be unachievable.” The authors said, “What is needed now is a public health movement that frames the threat of the climate crisis for humankind as a health issue.”

Many of the same politicians who supported preemptive war in Iraq don’t believe in preemptive rescue of their fellow men from climate disaster. Then-Vice President Dick Cheney said if there was a one in 100 chance Saddam had weapons of mass destruction, the invasion was worth it. So far, we’ve spent $2 trillion on that 1 in 100 chance. Those same people seem to be unwilling to spend a fraction of that addressing what our best scientists say is a 98 in 100 chance that CO2 is turning the climate into a global weapon of mass destruction.

A skeptical but still qualified and honest investigation of climate science could lead one to challenge the scientific community’s consensus on the odds of imminent disaster, but not defiantly dismiss it as an impossibility or a hoax. The “see no warming, hear no warming, speak no warming” posture can only come from ideological rigor mortis or ulterior motives.

With every passing day, the deniers seem more and more absurdly detached from climate science, wallowing instead in climate witchcraft. Taunting them now might bring some satisfaction, were it not for the fact that through their obstructionism, they have grabbed the steering wheel of this country’s energy policy, which is rapidly becoming a ship not just of fools, but a ship of the selfish and cruel.

It’s one thing to turn your back on the suffering of the masses halfway across the world and rationalize that it is not your problem. But to listen to the scientists’ warnings of the risk we are subjecting our own children and grandchildren to, and proudly dismiss even the possibility, is criminal neglect of future generations.