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Climate Change and a Change in Leadership: It’s Up to Us

On Monday of this week, nearly seventy environmental and health organizations sent a letter to President Obama, asking that he take a strong leadership role in addressing climate change. That was the day before the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) released a report that 2012 was officially the warmest year on record for the contiguous U.S. It was also one day before Australia experienced the hottest day on record, producing multiple wild fires. Climate change is, of course, global. And, of course, it’s related to “greenhouse gases” and “carbon fuels,” and therefore to the incredible power of the petroleum and related industries.

Generally, we pay attention to specific and dramatic incidents, easily captured by video for sound-bite “news coverage”: a deep sea drilling “spill”; a catastrophic hurricane or “super storm”; wild fires, especially when a house or two can be shown burning, or at least the shell of such as a background for an interview of the person whose house is still smoking; maybe a field of stunted, dead and dying corn, but that’s for a really slow news day; and of course, the occasional attention to nations in which drought and heat contribute to large numbers of starving and dying people.

As reported at EcoWatch, regarding the letter sent to Obama:

America has an opportunity to lead internationally, but this is going to take White House leadership at home as well.

For such leadership to develop, it will take pressure from the people. Lots of it, consistently, relentlessly applied. Even when, especially when, you’re ignored and/or derided.

Also released yesterday was another report related to similar concerns. Via Common Dreams, “Climate Change, Lack of Political Will Leading to ‘Global Perfect Storm’:

With this year’s World Economic Forum in Davos quickly approaching, the WEF released a new report Tuesday which paints a dire picture of the future in the face of climate change, the global economic recession, and a lack of political will to deal with an interrelated ‘perfect global storm’ ahead of us. …

The annual Global Risks report … urges that an impending global catastrophe is in the works due to severe income disparities, debt and steadily rising greenhouse gas emissions.

Asad Rehman, Friends of the Earth International spokesperson in Qatar, is quoted:

‘The blame lies squarely with the rich industrialized world, most notably the US. The Obama administration is succeeding in its efforts to dismantle the UN global climate regime and other wealthy nations have joined in, paralyzing the climate talks and forcing the world’s poor to pay the price.’

From the NOAA report, via EcoWatch:

‘2012 marked the warmest year on record for the contiguous United States with the year consisting of a record warm spring, second warmest summer, fourth warmest winter and a warmer-than-average autumn. The average temperature for 2012 was 55.3°F, 3.2°F above the 20th century average, and 1.0°F above 1998, the previous warmest year.’

The report notes that every state (contiguous) had an above-average annual temperature. Nineteen states had record warm years, and 26 had one of their warmest.

Common Dreams quotes Dr. Shaye Wolf of the Center for Biological Diversity:

‘More than 60 percent of the country is still in drought. And if things don’t change, the drought is going to continue to be a big story in 2013.’

Not surprising, but very disturbing, is the lack of media coverage related to climate change. From Media Matters:

Even In Record-Breaking Year, Broadcast Climate Coverage Remained Minimal.

In 2012, the U.S. experienced record-breaking heat, a historic drought, massive wildfires in the West, and Hurricane Sandy. Meanwhile, Arctic sea ice extent shattered the previous record low and the Greenland ice sheet saw the greatest melt in recorded history. According to the National Climatic Data Center, 2012 was the warmest year in recorded history for the contiguous U.S. Yet despite these illustrations of climate change, the broadcast news outlets devoted very little time to climate change in 2012, following a downward trend since 2009.

Among the specifics, Media Matters found that the “Sunday Show” climate coverage not only continued to decline, in four years those shows “have not quoted a single scientist” related to climate change.

Writing about Australia’s “hottest day on record,” Georgina Woods via EcoWatch quotes “Climate Change: Science and Solution s for Australia,” regarding the expected increase in “Heatwaves, fires, floods and southern Australian droughts,” then writes:

Sometimes, you make a decision at the moment of a crisis that determines your fate. Sometimes, crises are short-lived and you can get underwater, get to high ground, lock yourself in a cellar, ride out the worst.

Climate change isn’t like that. The lead times for cause and effect are much longer and more lingering. The decisions we’ve made, worldwide, for the last two decades are costing lives and livelihoods right now, as the effects of climate change intensify.

At Common Dreams, Jon Queally reports that Australia’s Bureau of Meteorology had to “add a new color–deep purple–to show areas that have exceeded all-time heat records.” Queally quotes The Guardian’s Damian Carrington who “put the heat and fires in a global context,” then concludes:

‘The two nations in which the fringe opinions of so-called climate sceptics have been trumpeted most loudly – the US and Australia – have now been hit by record heatwaves and, in the US, superstorm Sandy. The scientists are turning up the volume of their warnings, but whether this leads to loud and clear political action to curb emissions or more shouting from sceptics and the vested fossil fuel interests that support them remains to be seen.’

I know what I expect to see. Hope I’m wrong.

(Obama Poster via EcoWatch)

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