THE BLOG

Republican Confusion

04/22/2015 11:40 am ET | Updated Jun 22, 2015
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Republicans need to get their act together regarding climate change.

On the one hand, you have U.S. Senator James Inhofe of Oklahoma speaking for a faction of his party. He maintains that climate is God's work, and that human beings are therefore powerless to alter it in any way. From that perspective, California's drought, officially the longest on record, is a product of natural climatic variability and nothing more.

On the other, you have others in the GOP who are typified by California State Assemblyman Travis Allen and former Hewlett Packard chief and current presidential aspirant Carly Fiorina. Their take on the California drought is that it is not really a drought at all but a condition resulting from water mismanagement by liberal Democrats, who are environmental extremists. Under this scenario, these environmentalists in state government created artificial drought conditions by diverting badly needed water from human use to accommodate an endangered fish, and by blocking construction of new dams and other storage facilities.

So which is it? Humanity totally at the mercy of nature's wrath, or humans of a certain political affiliation the sole culprits behind extreme climatic events?

As you might have guessed, the answer is neither. Climate change is not a theological or partisan issue but a scientific one. In the case of the California drought, most climatologists contend that all of society is contributing to the exacerbation of the dry spell through the burning of fossil fuels. They explain that while human-generated global warming cannot be conclusively established as causation of a lack of rain, the higher temperatures are clearly adding to the severity of the drought. Among other things, the excessive heat accelerates the evaporation in reservoirs, lakes, streams, and other repositories of potable water.

If a concerted societal effort is not made to reduce greenhouse gas emissions stemming from human activity, the scientific prognosis is grim. It forecasts that soaring temperatures will trigger even more severe and protracted droughts in California's future.

There is even some indication that the higher temperatures from the greenhouse effect could disrupt atmospheric patterns and create firmly entrenched high-pressure systems that block normal rainfall formations from reaching the Golden State.

Republican assertions that the drought is really a manifestation of water mismanagement are red herrings. State water experts say the unbuilt dams touted by Republicans as solutions had funding issues and, in any event, would add little to the state's consumption capacity. Besides, where would the water to fill these storage sites come from in the course of an extended drought?

Shakespeare got it right in his play Julius Caesar when the character of Cassius declares to Brutus, "The fault is not in our stars but in ourselves that we are underlings."

Just remember that when it comes to climate change, the immortal bard's words apply to all of us, regardless of political persuasion.