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Congress’ failure to curb global warming

It used to be one of the commonplaces one learnt in geography: Near the ocean, climates are milder than in continental interior areas, being less extreme in day-night temperature changes and in winter cold and summer heat. Various aspects of ocean physics and chemistry, its absorption and diffusion of atmospheric heat, for instance, and deep-water currents and salinity are reasons for this moderating influence on nearby climate.
In the U.S. southeast, this beneficial characteristic of maritime climate could be lost if global climate warming is not halted soon. According to a study report by experts at Oak Ridge National Laboratories, described last week in The Tennessean, eight southeastern states, from North Carolina to Florida down the Atlantic coast and from Georgia to Kentucky eastward, including Tennessee, could get he worst of climate warming in the decades ahead.
More heat waves that “ravage crops, shrinking wildlife populations, and damage to trees” would be in the offing, as would longer periods of above-normal summer temperatures.
This year, record local temperatures as we are seeing now are “expected to stay that way for the next several months.”
The southeast’s high vulnerability, the experts suggest, relates to its long coastline. With sea-level rise, stronger storms and hurricanes resulting from warmer ocean waters, the region has “the most coastline to lose in the United States.” And, through decreasing availability of water for vegetation and agriculture, it “could face the largest losses of crops in the nation.”
It doesn’t take Oak Ridge scientists to tell us the weather facts these days or to figure out their various unfortunate consequences.
In Jonesborough, whose website lists average and maximum-average July temperature at 77 and 85 degrees respectively the thermometer, some days, has started at 90 degrees in the morning hours and rainfall, given as averaging nearly six inches in July was less than half that amount. Indeed, it’s been famine or feast in these regards over many years.
Tennessee’s weather history and its economic consequences in the recent past, and its scientists’ alarming predictions for the near future are the sad context in which one must judge the failure by the U.S. senate last week to support climate legislation already passed in the House. The bill was modest enough, quite watered down from the President’s aspirations in beginning to cap the global-warming pollutants through a market-based carbon trading system. The “No”-party in Congress (so titled by foreign observers of the political scene in Washington), including all its Tennessee members, had opposed the bill in the House and now done so, likewise, in the Senate.
In an editorial on July 24, the New York Times’ Thomas Friedman noted the “bags of money” spent by the fossil-fuel industry to thwart the climate bill.
He also quoted from an e-mail he had received that day which asked of the climate-change deniers and lobbyists: “Have they no grandchildren?”
One could ask this question, as well, of Tennessee’s minority-party members in the Congress for opposing much-needed, legislative action to save the climate.