There is a widely held theory that former Vice President Al Gore lost his bid for the presidency in 2000 because of his insatiable, career-long desire to curb the effects of global warming by first and foremost informing the public on the world's climate crisis. At the time, there was overwhelming scientific evidence to support his claim that our planet was dramatically warming as a direct result of the release of manmade greenhouse gases into our atmosphere. However, like a cancer patient in denial who has been diagnosed but has yet to feel the symptoms of their illness, too many Americans failed to give him credence because they were not physically and financially reeling from the side effects of climate change. Twelve years later, our planet is still sick and this summer Americans are seeing and feeling the symptoms like no other time in recorded history.
Posthumously for the Gore campaign, a recent report said the ten hottest years since 1895 have occurred since they lost the election in 2000. The average national temperature has been rising in every state since 1970. This year has seen the warmest first seven months of any year on record for the United States. The national temperature of 56.4 degrees was 4.3 degrees above the long-term average. A NASA scientist recently told a Senate panel that he was "99% certain" recent warming trends that resulted in the Oklahoma and Texas droughts were caused by a buildup of carbon dioxide and other gases in the atmosphere from burning fossil fuels, not by Mother Nature herself. Half of all U.S. counties are now considered disaster zones, mostly due to drought. And on August 8th, federal scientists announced that July was the hottest month in U.S. history.
National interest in warming statistics has been overshadowed by more immediate concerns such as terrorism, war, and a poor economy. However this summer has marked the dawn of a new era where a poor economic climate will not only pale in comparison to, but will be exacerbated by, actual climate. Global warming is literally cooking our lakes, rivers and oceans as evident when it was recently reported that hundreds of thousands, possibly millions, of fish have died as a result of water temperatures reaching as high as 100 degrees in Iowa and Illinois at an enormous cost to the fishing industry there. "Those fish have been in these rivers for thousands of thousands of years, and they're accustomed to all sorts of weather conditions," said Mark Flammang, a fisheries biologist with the Iowa Department of Natural Resources. "But sometimes, you have conditions occur that are outside their realm of tolerance." Texas Republican Governor Rick Perry has been a champion for deniers by claiming that man-made climate change is a hoax by scientists, all the while his state saw record losses to their agriculture, livestock and timber industries, and its decimation of cattle herds and cash crops which often causes a significant rise in costs for food, clothing and other items. Bottom line: the effects of climate change will only become more devastating to our local, national and global economies.
To little befuddlement, Mitt Romney has flipped-flopped on climate change numerous times. While Governor of Massachusetts he enacted restrictions on carbon dioxide emissions on power plants in his state. But while running for President, he has said the "idea of spending trillions and trillions of dollars to try to reduce CO2 emissions is not the right course for us." He recently acknowledged that the globe is warming, but added, "we don't know what's causing climate change on this planet." This stance is equal to a man who has been diagnosed with cancer by 98% of the world's doctors but can't bring himself to accept such a diagnosis nor to take steps to heal his illness. And this is where the true irony enters, much of the states bearing the brunt of the global warming-induced droughts are deep red states such as Texas and Oklahoma. More rural, conservative areas of the country are expected to see the most immediate effects of climate change in the near future in the form of continued drought and other forms of extreme weather like heightened flooding and tornado outbreaks with increased viciousness.
While Democrats in Washington haven't been immune to dragging their feet in taking the necessary steps to address global warming, the partisanship line here is akin to that of tax cuts for the top 1% or gay marriage: it is the right side of the aisle that is consistently on the wrong side of this issue. Though to be fair, President Obama has yet to put the full force of the White House behind his past acknowledgements of the crisis, a campaign promise both in 2008 and as this year's incumbent, saying in April, "I will be very clear in voicing my belief that we're going to have to take further steps to deal with climate change in a serious way." Hopefully, we will see this come to fruition as the campaign heats up with the DNC Convention and the debates as platforms. It should be noted that the President recently pushed congress to pass a farm bill that would provide sweeping disaster relief to farmers effected by this summer's drought - something that deals with the effect, not the cause.
Regardless, the Obama Administration has overseen policies that have helped create hundreds of thousands of jobs in the clean energy industry. And the President enacted the largest expansion of land and water conservation and protected wilderness in a generation while nearly doubling America's generation of electricity from solar power since he took office. It is safe to say that a second term for President Obama would be a much more Earth-friendly, and in turn long-term economic-friendly, environment in comparison to that of a Romney administration.
Climate change is an issue of far greater concern than that of terrorism, war, the economy, gay marriage, abortion, education and gun control combined if for no other reason than it is the only issue that truly effects every single living thing on the planet. One can only hope that this will be at the forefront of the electorate's mindset when voting for all levels of government this November.