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Politics and climate change

Twenty-one families lost loved ones, drowned in their homes or swept away in vehicles when the torrents of 1,000-year floods hit West Tennessee early this year.
In Nashville alone, property losses came to $1.5 billion, this sum “not including damage to roads and bridges or public buildings [nor the] contents inside public buildings and residences.”
One-third of Tennessee was designated major disaster area due to the 2010 floods. The 2009 growing season had seen crops disastrously reduced, and disaster designation declared, in 28 counties as well.
The season before that, 55 counties had suffered drastic harvest and farm-income losses, for reasons of “exceptional drought.”
Tell the Tennesseans affected that, as one Republican Congress member asserted about the climate anomalies in our warming world, “It’s a debatable proposition whether that’s a good thing or a bad thing.”
Tell that, to their faces, to the thousands of people in Siberia, their livestock slaughtered for lack of fodder this summer, their villages burnt to ashes in wildfires spawned by the worst heat wave in Russia’s 1,000-year history.
Tell it to the millions of people in Pakistan whose cattle and crops, homes, schools and livelihoods were destroyed by the worst flooding in that country. Tell it to China, where floods and mudslides this summer, following torrential rains, caused significant loss of life and severe disruption to several hundred million people.
According to registries that track natural disasters worldwide, these have increased nearly threefold over three decades, annually averaging roughly 110 in the 1970s but 275 in the 1990s. In 2008, they reached 750. By far the most ­— 82 percent — of the major natural catastrophes that occur around the world now are weather related.
Fatalities from them run to the hundreds of thousands every year and economic losses to the hundreds of billions, according to the Worldwatch Institute Vital Signs 2010.
Representative Joe Barton (R-TX), author of the “possibly good thing” quote, is not alone in denialist views and action on climate change.
The gases whose excess emissions are at fault are merely “a natural by-product of nature,” coming “from any cow in the world” we hear from other members in his party.
One paints the scientific community’s alarm as “the greatest hoax perpetrated on the American people;” another asserts that the “infallible word of God” in the Book of Genesis guarantees continuance of the Creation, no matter what we humans do.
Branding it as a “national energy tax,” the party, through unanimous opposition, helped defeat the Administration’s modest bill to begin lowering the climate-destabilizing carbon emissions.
From January 2009 through June 2010, trade associations and companies in the energy industries spent $1,800 in lobby expenditures, every day, for every single U.S. senator and representative in order to defeat this modest climate-ameliorating legislation.
As Tom Friedman noted last December, on climate change and other serious challenges we face, “We need citizens who will convey to their leaders that they are ready to sacrifice and will not punish politicians who ask them to do the hard things.
“Otherwise, folks, we’re in trouble.”