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Peter Neill

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Remember Climate Change?

Posted: 05/09/11 05:33 PM ET

Remember climate change? Remember Copenhagen, the climate summit, and half a million people in the streets? Remember the scientific reports? Remember the predictions? Remember the headlines? The campaign promises? The strategies to offset and mitigate the impact of CO2 emissions on human health, the atmosphere, and the ocean? How long ago was it? Six months? A year? More? It might never have been.

How can we meet challenges if we can't remember what they are? As far as the news media is concerned, the story is archived behind any new urgency no matter what the data. The subject of climate is no more. The deniers have prevailed through shrill contradictions, corporate funded public relations, personal attacks on scientists, and indifference to reports and continuing data that still and again raise critical questions to fall on deaf ears.

In the US Congress, any bill or suggested appropriation that contains the keyword climate is eliminated, most probably without being read. There is no global warming; therefore there is no need for the pitiful American financial support of $2.3 million for the International Panel on Climate Change. There is no problem with greenhouse gases, so there is no need for legislation that enables the Environmental Protection Agency to measure further such impact on animal habitat or human health. There is no need for support for the research and development of alternative renewable energy technologies. There is no need to protect the marine environment from oil spill disaster. There is no need to protect watersheds and drinking water from industrial and mining pollution. There is no need to fund tsunami-warning systems off the American coast. There is no need to support any part of a World Bank program to prevent deforestation in the developing world. There is no need to maintain NOAA's study of climate change implication for extreme weather. There is no need to fund further climate research sponsored by the National Science Foundation. There is no need to maintain EPA regulation of clean water; oh, and by the way, there is no need for the Environmental Protection Agency. Put it to vote today in the US House of Representatives, and they would blandly and blindly legislate that there is no need for the environment at all.

What do we need? Jobs, jobs, jobs, it is said. To that end, we can start by eliminating jobs that don't advance our political agenda, by ignoring scientific demonstrations and measurable conditions that foreshadow future job destruction, by promoting and further subsidizing old technologies that make us sick and unable to work successfully in our present jobs, by building the unemployment roles so that the ranks of the jobless will reach levels unheard of since the Great Depression, and by compromising the educational system that is the only hope for those seeking training or re-training for whatever few new jobs may actually exist.

What does this have to do with the ocean?

The health of the ocean is a direct reflection of the health of the land. A nuclear accident in Japan allows radioactive material to seep into the sea. A collapse of shoreside fishery regulation enables the final depletion of species for everyone everywhere. Indifference to watershed protection, industrial pollution, waste control, and agricultural run-off poisons the streams and rivers and coasts and deep ocean and corrupts the food chain all along the way. Lack of understanding of changing weather compromises our response to storms and droughts that inundate our coastal communities and destroy our sustenance.

There is a reason for knowledge. It informs constructive behavior; it promotes employment and economic development; it makes for wise governance; it improves our lives. Are we drowning in debt? Or are we drowning in ignorance? I can't remember.