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Climate Change is Causing Weather Disasters – And That’s the Good News

April 21, 2012

The New York Times reported this week on a poll showing dramatic majorities of the American public are convinced that recent weather extremes are attributable at least in part to global warming.  Sixty-nine percent of Americans agreed with the statement that “global warming is affecting the weather in the United States.”  Large majorities felt that global warming played a part in the warmth of last summer and the mildness of last winter.

To liberals, environmentalists, and the scientifically literate, global warming is not news.  The scientifically literate might cringe a little at the attribution of short-term weather phenomena to global warming.  But liberals and environmentalists surely prefer a little over-interpretation of global warming to the steadfast denial of the anti-intellectual, anti-scientific, anti-environmental, Tea Party-inflected, drill-baby-drill wing of the Republican electorate.

If the notion really sinks in that global warming is real and that it is not just a threat to Bangladesh and some low-lying Pacific islands; that global warming could wreck our way of life and that it has already made a good start at it – if all that sinks in, maybe then we can get serious about what to do about it.  The Times poll suggests that the broad center of American public opinion gets it, even if the hard core right doesn’t.

The solutions to global warming will be complex and multi-faceted.  But some of the facets are no-brainers.  One of those is slashing our use of fossil fuels.

This is a no-brainer because our heavy use of fossil fuels involves massive wealth transfers to some pretty unsavory characters who happen to have lots of oil – Saudi Arabia and Venezuela, for starters.  Our need for imported oil compromises our foreign policy in the Middle East – how would we react, for example, to an Arab Spring uprising that threatened Saudi oil production?  Our importation of oil ruins our export-import balance and weakens the dollar.

When I blogged about the success of President Obama’s “all of the above” energy policy, I mentioned that a down-side of that success is reduced pressure for continued development of renewable energy sources like solar.  Increased production of fossil fuels is only a short-term answer.  In the long run, there is no alternative to renewable energy sources.  In the short run, government subsidies are needed for development of renewables.


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