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Excerpt: "As individuals, there is a limit to what we can do in our own lives, but we can and should call for government action and ask our leaders to stand up to those who would deny climate change or undermine efforts to move forward with clean energy."

The sun rises beyond a pedestrian using a walkway between a parking garage and a medical office building March 28, 2012, in Lafayette, Ind. (photo: Michael Heinz/AP/Journal & Courier)
The sun rises beyond a pedestrian using a walkway between a parking garage and a medical office building March 28, 2012, in Lafayette, Ind. (photo: Michael Heinz/AP/Journal & Courier)

No One Wants to See the Full Climate Change Show

By Susan Casey-Lefkowitz, Natural Resources Defense Council

09 July 12


ith 2012 being another year of violent storms, wildfires, floods and extreme heat, we can argue whether this is a preview or the main feature, but no one wants to see the full climate change show. Some still debate whether a specific extreme weather event is due to climate change, but what is clear is that these kinds of events are our future if we don't change direction.

Last week, my family and millions of others lost electricity for days during a period of 100+ degree temperatures. The past week's extreme heat was coupled with power outages and damage to homes along a 700 mile swath of destruction from a band of "super derecho" violent thunderstorms that cut trees in half. People in the D.C. region are now seriously debating spending tens of billions of dollars on putting power lines underground. That is one of many un-anticipated costs of climate change.

We are very exposed as a country. The violent storms and extreme heat show how exposed we are, as do the many instances of coastal flooding, flashfloods, droughts and wildfires. We like having big trees in our yards. We like living on the shorelines, in the deserts and on the mountains. But how much longer can we live in places where we are prone to floods, fires, and extreme heat? And where will it be safe if we allow climate change to continue?

We can pretend that ice doesn't melt when it is hot. The North Carolina legislature tried this with a bill to force sea level rise forecasts to be based on past patterns instead of on forward-looking projections using climate change data. They met with disbelief that any leader could think that ignoring a problem would make it go away. With the US Geological Survey determining that the mid-Atlantic coast from North Carolina to Massachusetts is a ‘hot-spot' with sea levels already having risen 3-4 times faster than the global average over the last two decades, coastal communities are having serious conversations about what this means for their future.

Modern society is based on trust. For example, airlines have to be safe or people won't fly. Banks and the financial system need to be safe or people won't invest. Our energy choices also need to be trustworthy. I can't think of anything worse that taking away people's trust when it comes to their safety in their homes and daily lives. Yet we are on a business as usual path that depends on fossil fuels and does not do enough to curb climate change pollution.

To fight climate change, we need government leadership. As individuals, there is a limit to what we can do in our own lives, but we can and should call for government action and ask our leaders to stand up to those who would deny climate change or undermine efforts to move forward with clean energy. We can ask for limits to climate change pollution, acceleration of cleaner forms of energy and a halt to the expansion of dirtier fuels such as tar sands oil.

Indeed we need this call for government backbone now more than ever. We see the fossil fuel industry pouring millions into defending business as usual. We see them actively undermining the clean energy industry with attacks on wind and solar power such as attempts documented in a Guardian newspaper uncovered confidential memo from conservative think tanks to create false anti-wind “citizen” groups. We see the fossil fuel industry wasting taxpayer money in challenging efforts to curb climate change pollution. Most recently, in the face of these attacks, a court decision was necessary to uphold EPA's right to regulate climate change pollution and enact clean car standards.

Americans are innovative and resourceful and we can lead in a way that makes economic and environmental sense. Fuel efficiency standards have already done a lot to reduce our use of oil. But we need more. We need strong climate change pollution limits on existing and new power plants. We need to end fossil fuel subsidies. We need to stop expansion of dirty, expensive sources of oil such as tar sands and tar sands pipelines such as the Keystone XL. Instead we need to reduce our use of oil with better public transportation. We need to switch our grid to solar and wind and electrify our cars with these cleaner forms of energy.

People across the country know that the frequency and extremity of the storms, fires and heat of recent days are not the norm of the past but that with climate change they will be the norm of the future. With strong leadership, we can curb climate change pollution and reduce our use of fossil fuels. We can be a leader for similar actions around the world. That would be a show I was willing to see. your social media marketing partner


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+23 # granny6 2012-07-09 10:11
Greed will be the undoing of us all. As long as those who are pushing to cut all regulations win we will all lose. I don't have waterfront property, nor do I want it. I would love to be able to live "off the grid". If people would wake up and look to see who put ads on TV they would learn a lot. The oil industry trying to tell oil sands have no environment impact is ludicrous. They only one I can't figure out is why are they backing teachers. Unless it is a ploy to privatize our public education. That is when we will lose all control of our public schools. Only the rich will be able to educate their children. Is this what we face?
They will have to live in that world too.
Life as they know it will no longer exist for them no matter what they tell them selves. Mother Nature will get them in the end.
-6 # Archie1954 2012-07-09 10:37
Just wait, when Americans get too hot to handle it, the elites will be falling over each other to do something about it.
+14 # Helen 2012-07-09 10:45
An excellent article. We are all in this together. Will global warming even be discussed during the presidential debates? We need to insist upon it.
-30 # brycenuc 2012-07-09 10:53
Two years ago during the extremely cold winter in the East, the "warmers" were unanimous in their cries that one cold snap does not overturn global warming. Now they are insisting that one hot spell proves global warming. They can't have it both ways. Whether or not climate is really warming he indisputable facts are that carbon dioxide is but a minor factor in climate change and the "feedback" from it is negative, meaning that any increase is highly limited and there is no "runaway" as claimed. A more important indisputable fact is that we cannot reduce our fossil fuel use without severely curtailing our economy and civiliatation
+19 # AndreM5 2012-07-09 11:19
"They" have NEVER had it "both ways." You need to start with sufficient facts before you accuse or worse draw odd conclusions.

The facts of climate change are a significant increase in extreme weather events (that means hotter AND colder, wetter AND drier) while the overall temperature of the earth as sea increase. Increasing CO2 is an indisputable trend for 5 decades. Why is this so hard to hear?
+10 # ruttaro 2012-07-09 14:47
Both of those "indisputable facts" are absolutely disputable because they are either false on the face of it or false based on the premise. Let's take the second "indisputable" fact as an example of the false premise of your argument. We can easily reduce our use of fossil fuels and improve the economy by a) employing hundreds of thousands in building the new energy platform based on renewables and b) renewables will be much cheaper as we scale up, lessening dependence on foreign sources becoming increasingly contested which would mean we could scale back on military might to protect the sources. Moreover, the savings would not just be from less military spending and cheaper renewable energy but we wouldn't have the health costs incurred through pollution or the massive amounts we pay to clean up from spills and environmental destruction like mountain top removal for coal mining. And of course there is the final savings: life as we know it on this fragile, shared planet. Your conclusion is correct, i.e. "without severely curtailing our economy and civilization". If we stay dependent on fossil fuels with ever increasing amounts being burned, we will come to your conclusion. As to your first contention, CO2 is significant in global warming as a greenhouse gas. The amount we have pored into the atmosphere has tipped the balance so that natural sequestration is overwhelmed. CO2 is not the worst;methane is several times worse and now being released in Siberia.
0 # wise old owl 2012-07-12 12:56
Our "small" contributions of CO2 (around 90 Billion tons per year) have tipped the earth's natural cycles out of balance. Before we started altering our atmosphere, nature would put CO2 -and other gasses- into the atmosphere using volcanoes, and remove it from the ecosystem by pushing sequestered CO2 on the seabed floor under continental plates at tectonic plate intersections, until it could be reentered into the atmosphere via new volcano activity.

If you don't understand natural systems, its easy to "believe" that any falsehood you're told could be true.
0 # asbpab1966 2012-07-09 12:17
Snow in October is rare here in Rockland County, NY. But on Thursday, October 15, 2010, it snowed all day. If it weren't for the fact the the ground was too warm for it to stick, there would have been several inches. On Saturday, October 29, 2012, we had a major snowstorm which knocked out the power for days. And there has not been measurable snow since. We have had a number of very mild winters over the past half century, especially in the years ending with "2."

In 1964, I was at the New York World's Fair and saw a fusion reactor demonstrated. Why don't we use fusion to generate electricity? Certainly the technology over nearly half a century must have made it practical by now. If not, why not?
+6 # AndreM5 2012-07-09 12:23
Because fusion is very hard to achieve unless you happen to be a sun or a nuclear bomb. But these are a little hard to contain in a vessel for the purpose of boiling water.
+5 # ruttaro 2012-07-09 14:49
Thorium might be a much better alternative but nothing would be cheaper than solar, solar thermal, geothermal and wind integrated into a new super grid. It only takes the political will to start the transition.
+6 # happycamper690 2012-07-09 13:48
As AndreM5 points out, we already have a functional fusion reactor beaming its energy down on us at a rate that can accommodate all of our energy needs. So simple. Just collect it. It is mostly pollution free (energy has to go into building collectors and distributing the output) and without cost. It's the only energy source we need.
+9 # Buddha 2012-07-09 16:16
Amazing what Americans will swallow though. I had a friend say to me with a straight face, 100% serious, that Obama's EPA mandate that by 2014 coal plants have to conform to CO2 and mercury emission targets is going to skyrocket the price for electricity 12-fold! Now we can argue whether such a mandate will end up, prorated, costing very much, but 12-fold? The level of ignorance and self-delusion it requires to believe this is it is no surprise that people with a high school education can convince themselves that they know more about physical chemistry and climatology and Climate Change than a PhD who has studied these fields their whole life...
+7 # Old Man 2012-07-09 17:26
Just think of all the products that are made out of oil, millions and it's polluting our world. If we don't have the entire world on board then I'm not sure we can solve this problem.
Lets put a deposit on very Oil produced product and see how fast the world would cleans up. Recycling is a must, Waste Management won't take Styrofoam, pretty picky for being in the recycling business.
Corporation's that produce this crap for profit should be made to recycle what they produce.
There is 7 gals of oil in every car tire.
I what to know why I see driving across country fields of truck and car tires just setting there waiting to catch on fire.
Why is it we have to deal with all this corporate crap and have to clean-up after them. They're killing us all.
+2 # ruttaro 2012-07-10 05:59
Old Man, if only every American who thinks Obama is a socialist would reason as you do they would see that what you ask at the end is the form of socialism that is indeed, as you say, killing us. The fossil fuel industry passes the cost of cleaning up their messes on the taxpayers. They pass on the cost of health problems due to their use of dangerous chemicals spewing into the air, the water and the land. The plastic they make that contains just about everything we buy is floating in all the oceans, its combined area is the size of the Earth's entire land mass. Although the technology is here to make biodegradable and more environmentally safe products, the incentive to do so is not. What is that incentive? Make these corporations pay for the waste they create and we pay for. If more Americans could understand this, we might see a real honest competitive market where waste material would dramatically decrease, our health would increase, and our planet might have a chance. But so far, the lobbyists who call themselves defenders of capitalism are all too happy to fight for socialism when it comes to paying for their waste and pollution. Rather than force them with regulations which they will happily add to the cost of what we buy, we should add a clean-up pollution tax on their corporate profits. That way, their stockholders can foot the bill.
+1 # waldemar 2012-07-09 23:14
Not only has no one mentioned climate change/global warming in connection with these storms, but no one's mentioned the NEED to become less dependent on a single source of energy. Our grid was collapsed by Mother Nature, & no one's pointing out how easy it was and how vulnerable it makes us. We need to develop alternative sources for our energy needs, and build some redundancy into the distribution system. And we need to figure out how to live off the grid when it comes to that, because it will more & more often....
0 # wise old owl 2012-07-12 13:10
The deniers -now- say they don't deny that the earth is warming, only that the warming is caused by humans (their arguments have "evolved"). After all, the earth has been warming and cooling for eons, they say, and it always will. Of course, they (willfully) fail to recognize that more than ~2M years ago, not only were there no actual humans around to suffer the consequences, but the location of land masses on the earth's surface was so different than it is today that no comparisons to today's climate are in any way meaningful. They also (willfully) fail to understand that the rate of change occurring today is orders of magnitude faster than any historical precedent.

They attempt to pit the environment (that we all depend upon for survival itself) against the economy (a man-made construct that concentrates wealth at the top by taking it away from everyone else).

What they/we need is an understanding of how the economy -that we design for ourselves- can be made to support sustainability to maintain a healthy planet for us all.

What amazes me is how successful "they" (the monied elite who don't want to change anything) have been at getting "regular Joe's" to support their own destruction.

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