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Head-In-The-Sand Approach to Climate Policy Doesn’t Work, Either

Today’s guest blog post is by the Chair of the AAA Task Force on Global Climate Change, Shirley Fiske. Dr. Fiske is also a Research Professor in the Department of Anthropology at the University of Maryland, College Park.

The Chairman of the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology argued last week in the Washington Post that we should not undertake climate policy because of “uncertainty,” while also claiming that cutting carbon dioxide doesn’t make any difference.  Hmmmm…..Who in this country lives a life free of “uncertainty”? And what part of the country isn’t feeling effects of increased carbon dioxide?  Farmers and ranchers in West Texas, New Mexico, and the Midwest face a great deal of uncertainty about the future, due to drought , excessive rains, and extreme storms – or is it climate change?

And despite the Chairman’s claims to the contrary, we do know how the climate has changed with increases in carbon dioxide – over long history.  Scientists have shown that increases in carbon dioxide are strikingly correlated with increases in temperature, through swings of geological epochs, not just the last 15 years of “steady” temperatures as heard in the hearing.    We also know that, at Mauna Loa at least, carbon dioxide has reached the highest point (400ppm) in human existence.

Because there’s no federal policy on climate change, states, counties, and people across the US are left on their own, trying to figure out how to adjust to and pay for increasingly disastrous coastal storms and flooding, more frequent severe tornadoes, and fires in the “urban-wildlands interface.” Some will be forced to relocate, others will be driving or walking on flooded roads because they cannot use flooded subway systems. Others will have to move entire towns just to keep their livelihoods and lives together. Climate change is linked to economic disasters in linear and non-linear ways.

Although the idea of restricting carbon emissions at the federal level has been conflated with increased energy taxes in the minds of some partisans, it makes no sense to ignore the obvious warning signs and impacts across the country. By failing to take a leadership role with climate effects, we are we leaving state and local people out to dry, as communities in forested areas are smoked out, aquifers are depleted, and winter storms destroy communities in Alaska and the mid-Atlantic region. Congress needs to re-energize climate policy by thinking about how it is going to assist those localities and people and area most vulnerable to long term changes in the weather.  It’s in Congress’ best economic interest to manage one of the country’s largest vulnerabilities – climate change.

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