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To its shame, U.S. is playing a starring role in disaster

Post by Cheryl Tucker on Aug. 15, 2010 at 5:20 pm |
August 13, 2010 5:20 pm

This editorial will appear in Monday’s print edition.

If current climate-related events were turned into a Hollywood disaster movie, it might be called “Meltdown!” Some scenes:

• In Russia, the hottest summer on record has temperatures above 100 degree for the first time. Drought has devastated the wheat harvest and led to fires that are choking an entire region with toxic smoke that has contributed to a dramatic rise in Moscow’s mortality rate.

• Pakistan is experiencing its heaviest monsoons on record, killing more than 1,500 and leaving millions homeless. Record rains have also struck China, leading to deadly landslides.

• A 100-square-mile chunk has broken off the Petermann Glacier in northwest Greenland, and the Arctic ice cap is melting at an unprecedented rate.

Welcome to the future, brought to you by global warming.

According to climate experts, these scenes are just a preview of things to come. They say periods of drought will double in Russia, monsoon rains will increase in Southeast Asia as warmer air holds more water, China will experience more frequent flooding this century, and melting ice will cause rising seas to cover low-lying islands and coastal regions. You might want to visit Venice and the Florida Keys while you still can.

Climate experts are strongly urging sharp reductions in emissions of carbon dioxide and other gases that trap heat in the Earth’s atmosphere. These gases are spewed by vehicles, power plants, factories and other sources. Almost all industrialized nations have heeded the call, legislating caps on carbon emissions.

But one major nation has balked, and that’s been a big reason why talks aren’t moving forward on a global climate treaty. One guess which nation that is.

A global threat like climate change is an issue that the United States should be leading on. Instead, earlier this month Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid withdrew climate legislation in the face of strong opposition from Republicans and some Democrats.

With extreme weather events certain to become more common unless serious steps are taken soon, lawmakers’ failure to take action on emissions could doom future generations to an Earth that is a much more dangerous place to live.

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