Courtesy of MCT
Arguably the most divisive issue in American society over the past two decades has been global warming. American politicians stand on one of two sides when it comes to the issue: belief or neglect.
Long before the 2006 release of former Vice President Al Gore’s documentary “An Inconvenient Truth,” skeptical politicians labeled the idea of “man-made global warming” as ridiculous and unfounded, despite overwhelming evidence against their claims.
In 2003, Sen. James M. Inhofe, R-Okla., spoke to the Senate about the legitimacy of global warming, saying, “With all of the hysteria, all of the fear, all of the phony science, could it be that man-made global warming is the greatest hoax ever perpetrated on the American people? It sure sounds like it.”
Despite years of mounting scientific evidence proving mankind’s effect on Earth’s warming climate, some prominent politicians still remain skeptical on the existence of climate change. In a campaign speech back in August 2011, former Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney said, “Do I think the world’s getting hotter? Yeah. I don’t know that, but I think that it is. I don’t know if it’s mostly caused by humans.”
While the number of global warming skeptics is dwindling, I still find myself in disbelief that a citizen holding political office in this country can make a logical argument claiming Earth’s warming climate is not man-made. The scientific data speak for themselves. Earth’s atmosphere is made up of greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide that trap sunlight to keep the planet temperate. Prior to industrial advancement, Earth regulated its carbon dioxide levels naturally, but human development beginning in the 1760s has since disturbed this cycle, resulting in massive amounts of carbon dioxide being pumped into Earth’s atmosphere, according to the Environmental Protection Agency.
Since 1959, the Mauna Loa Observatory in Hawaii has collected data on the measurements of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. The first measurement at Mauna Loa from more than 50 years ago showed the Earth’s atmosphere held 315 ppm (parts per million) of carbon dioxide, but measurements as recent as January show a concentration of 395.55 ppm, according to the Earth System Research Library. Data derived from ice cores drilled from Earth’s poles show that in the last 400,000 years, Earth’s carbon dioxide levels never exceeded 300 ppm.
So where has the extra carbon dioxide come from then? The EPA says fossil fuel emissions are the No. 1 culprit, from coal-powered industrial plants to gas-powered automobiles. Many environmental scientists contend that the extra carbon dioxide has thickened Earth’s atmosphere, increasing average global temperatures, melting ice sheets and increasing sea levels.
Earth’s two main ice sheets reside at the planet’s poles, but the Greenland ice sheet in particular is losing mass at a far quicker rate than the sheet in the Antarctic, according to data from NASA. Data from scientists at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory show that the Antarctic and Greenland ice sheets were losing more than three times as much ice in 2012 as they were in the 1990s.
As sea levels rise, the EPA warns that coastal regions such as Florida, New Orleans and Northern Europe will fall underwater, displacing millions. .
Political neglect within Congress on the reality of global warming will lead to dangerous, irreversible consequences for American and world populations if the leaders in Washington do not start reversing course soon. During his second inaugural speech, President Barack Obama re-established global warming as a serious issue on his political agenda, saying, “We will respond to the threat of climate change, knowing that the failure to do so would betray our children and future generations.”
The president further addressed climate change and America’s need to start passing legislation now to save future citizens.
“I urge this Congress to pursue a bipartisan, market-based solution to climate change … But if Congress won’t act soon to protect future generations, I will,” Obama said in his inauguration speech.
The only way to reverse direction in America and start combatting global warming begins with the American people. Naivety, neglect, ignorance and incompetence can no longer be accepted as leadership qualifications for political candidates. In the global race for energy independence, America cannot afford to elect officials with such a strong disregard for overwhelmingly accurate scientific data. Each United States citizen needs to stand up for one another and elect politicians who will not look the other way while climate change remains a serious threat. As a whole, the American population must step forward and set an example for the rest of the world to follow, leading with a green fist to preserve the well-being of all humans, in the present and the future.