Pray to God … But Row Toward Shore

John Shimkus, Republican representative from Illinois, proclaimed recently, during a congressional hearing, that there is no need to worry about global warming because of a promise God made to Noah. With God protecting us from the awful consequences of climate change, there would be no cause for concern, the entire globe could just go on burning fossil fuels with guilt-free impunity.This theologically based laissez faire could become a real problem with the new Republican majority in the House.  Shimkus could very likely become the chairman of the powerful House Energy and Commerce committee, where he could impede efforts to limit carbon emissions or develop clean energy at this critical time, delegating this dilemma to the deity. Unfortunately the relationship between our current energy consumption and greenhouse gas pollution is as inseparable as it is problematic.

Wisconsin’s Republican senator elect, Ron Johnson, touted throughout his campaign that there is no consensus among scientists as to whether the planet is warming, or whether human generated greenhouse gasses are to blame. He is entitled to his own opinion… but not to his own facts (as Carl Sagan pointed out). The consensus regarding human generated global warming is clear. The problem is Johnson’s misleading message was bolstered by big bucks and he was able to inundate people with what they wanted, not with what they needed to hear. He is now in a position to negatively impact crucial international progress in greenhouse gas reduction.

It’s a real challenge getting accurate information to the public on which to base their opinions, particularly in this age of partisan commentary and fake “news.” Reliable information has become a casualty. The implications of an uninformed electorate can be scary. A great example is the reality of global warming in contrast with public perception. Atmospheric carbon at the start of the industrial revolution (just a couple centuries ago) was in the upper 200’s ppm (parts per million). It’s risen steadily growing along with temperature and human population.  Billions of tons of carbon have been pumped into the atmosphere ever since and we are now in the upper 300’s ppm and climbing. Many scientists fear that in the mid 400’s ppm the planet could well reach a tipping point, where it’s too late to reverse the warming trend. The consequences will be disastrous. We have the technology to meet this urgent and daunting challenge. But a Gallop poll shows that roughly half of Americans don’t believe this is a problem and this percentage, like average temperatures, is on the rise.

It wasn’t just Democrats that took a hit in this last election. With the influx of so many anti-conservation conservatives, the odds of climate change legislation making much headway through congress any time soon have gone down. It’s also been suggested that with renewed enmity toward government, the EPA will now have a more difficult time enforcing clean air and water regulations.

It wasn’t always this way.  Prior to Reagan, Republican administrations were more pro-conservation than today’s GOP. This was before the influx of ‘neo-conservatives.’ In 1970, Republican President Nixon sounded very much like what today would be a liberal when he called for “a strong, independent agency” to oversee environment. On December 2nd, 1970 the EPA was born. The mission of this “Environmental Protection Agency” would be to:

* Establish and enforce environmental protection standards.

*Conduct environmental research.

*Provide assistance to others combating environmental pollution.

* Assist the Council of Environmental Quality in developing and recommending to the President new policies for environmental protection.

Remember the ozone hole? A worldwide effort helped protect Earth’s atmosphere from the harmful impacts of CFC’s (chlorofluorocarbons), a human generated pollutant. Today it’s CO2, and the threat is even greater.  But the right wing has been remarkably successful at confusing people and even “swift boating” science, with such words as “cult,” and “myth,” in reference to global warming. This may help win elections, but is particularly reprehensible because it undermines our nation’s resolve, at a pivotal time in history, when action is direly needed.

The internet, while it can certainly spread nonsense, also makes it easier than ever to access accurate information. Politicians who claim there is no agreement among climate scientists are either incredibly inept, or are deliberately misleading the public. You don’t have to be a Google Guru to get a read on where the scientific community really stands on climate change:

*  The Union of Concerned Scientists  ( “Global warming is one of the most serious challenges facing us today. To protect the health and economic well-being of current and future generations, we must reduce our emissions of heat-trapping gases by using the technology, know-how, and practical solutions already at our disposal.”

*  The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (   “Most of the observed increase in global average temperatures since the mid-20th century is very likely due to the observed increase in anthropogenic greenhouse gas concentrations.”   IPCC defines “very likely” as greater than 90% probability of occurrence.”

* The American Association for the Advancement of Science:  “The scientific evidence is clear: global climate change caused by human activities is occurring now, and it is a growing threat to society”

For more information re/consensus from scientific, business, and religious leaders:

Global warming is the defining issue of our time. To ignore or deny this ominous trend  is irresponsible at best. My father-in-law had a theological perspective that reflected the can-do attitude of his time. “Pray to God, but row toward shore.” He was a World War II Army vet who went ashore at Normandy and saved the world. It’s time once again to take on a seemingly impossible challenge and save the world again, only this time from ourselves.

Keep encouraging politicians to do the right thing.  Also, lower your own carbon footprint.  Here are a couple web sites to help get on track:

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *