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Kerry Trueman

Kerry Trueman

Posted: July 11, 2008 08:40 PM

Our Denier-In-Chief Punts While the World Pants


Is global warming a hazard to your health? Just ask 42 year-old Abdon Felix Garcia, a farm worker in Central California. Oh, wait! You can't, because he died on Wednesday after working in a vineyard in 108 degree heat. And he's just the latest casualty of the heat wave that's gripping California's Central Valley; three other farm workers have died under similar circumstances since May.

Meanwhile, the EPA issued a 588-page federal notice on Friday that, the AP reports, makes "no finding on whether global warming poses a threat to people's health."

That is, like, so bizarre! Because just three weeks ago,
Image by Holly Wong courtesy of United Farm Workers
2008-07-12-HeatWave.jpg
the folks at the EPA had concluded that it did, and called for the regulation of greenhouse gases under the auspices of the Clean Air Act.

Three weeks ago I was in Central California myself, to attend my oldest brother's wedding. The day before my departure, when my husband Matt thoughtfully added the weather for Paso Robles to my iPhone, he literally started to shake the phone as if it were broken.

"This can't be right!" he exclaimed; the forecast showed daytime highs ranging from 107 to 110 degrees. On the day of my brother's wedding, the temperature was predicted to hit 108 degrees, so the ceremony, which had been set to take place outside, had to be moved indoors. Why? Because, well, 108 degree heat can be hazardous to your health. Just ask -- oh, nevermind.

The LA suburb I grew up in, Woodland Hills (sounds so bucolic, doesn't it?), made the news recently when temperatures there hit a record 109 degrees. My memories of my Valley Girl childhood are filled with disasters: earthquakes, fires, floods, mudslides, Ronald Reagan's ascension from Screen Actors Guild President to Governor of California.

Sometimes the smog was so bad, when I was a kid, the city would issue an alert warning us not to play outdoors. That was normal. But 109 degree weather? Not even close.

In Central California last month, I couldn't get over how horribly dry and brown the hills looked, like the proverbial tinderbox. Grace, my fifteen-year old niece from lush, leafy Larchmont, couldn't either.

"What happens when lightening strikes?" she wondered. Well, Grace, you get hundreds of wildfires raging out of control, is what happens. And more every year, as the Santa Barbara Independent noted last week:

A 2006 study published in Science found that since 1986, the number of major wildfires has increased by 400 percent, and the amount of land these fires burned increased by 600 percent, compared to the period from 1970 to 1986.

Until recently it was often assumed that spiking population growth and expanding land use patterns were mainly to blame for any increase in the number of big fires. But the Science study, which was conducted by researchers at the Scripps Institute and the UC Merced, concluded that these factors have had "relatively little effect." Instead, the authors wrote, the change has come about mainly because summers have gotten longer, hotter, and drier. "The transition has been marked by a shift toward unusually warm springs, longer summer dry seasons, drier vegetation, and longer fire seasons."

Do greenhouse gases contribute to global warming? You can debate that point -- if you're a dumbass. But how can you possibly question whether global warming is a hazard to our health? From drought to floods to fires to a rise in pest populations and plant diseases, the world is reeling from the consequences of this fossil-fueled fever.

But it's the Bush administration that's delirious, determined to fight any attempts to regulate greenhouse gases on the grounds that it would damage the U.S. economy and cause too many job losses. So the White House forced the EPA to revise its earlier document, which not only supported regulating greenhouse gases under the Clean Air Act but noted, to the Administration's consternation, that there could be a "net benefit to society ... in excess of $2 trillion," as the Wall Street Journal reported Friday:
The White House on Thursday rejected EPA's conclusion three weeks earlier that the 1970 Clean Air Act can be both workable and effective for addressing global climate change. Instead, EPA said Friday that law is ''ill-suited'' for dealing with climate change...

...''One point is clear: the potential regulation of greenhouse gases under any portion of the Clean Air Act could result in unprecedented expansion of EPA authority that would have a profound effect on virtually every sector of the economy and touch every household in the land,'' EPA Administrator Stephen Johnson said in a preface to the 588-page federal notice Friday.

As opposed to global warming, which only affects some households? Like the families of the farm workers dropping dead in the fields? Or the folks who've lost their homes in the California wildfires? Or the farmers in the heartland who've lost their crops to floods?

Instead of taking action, the Decider's decided that we need to continue to debate this matter until someone who's even more of a Decider sets up shop in the Oval Office, according to the Guardian:

The US environmental protection agency (EPA) announced today that no action will be taken to regulate carbon emissions while George Bush remains president.

The EPA's decision to sit on its hands comes after months of wrangling between government scientists, who pressed for action in the wake of a landmark US Supreme Court ruling, and White House officials dead set against regulating pollution...

... the EPA forestalled environmental action today with a unique response. Rather than weighing in on how to regulate emissions, agency administrator Stephen Johnson extended the period for public comment on climate change until after Bush leaves office, effectively depositing the problem in the lap of the next president.

OK, so here's my public comment: on behalf of Abdon Felix Garcia and his fellow farm workers who've perished in the scorching Central Valley heat, may I state that global warming is, like, rilly, rilly deadly? Like, seriously? Mister Prezidon't, if you can't stand the heat, get out of the White House, already--you're killing us.

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