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The GOP's war on security: How their climate denialism endangers us all

Another year is declared the warmest on record. How fried must we be before the denialists open their eyes?


Sean Illing
October 22, 2015 11:22PM (UTC)

The climate crisis isn’t going away. In fact, it’s getting worse. According to a new report by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, 2015 will almost certainly be the warmest year ever recorded. The New York Times reports that “Global temperatures are running far above last year’s record-setting level, all but guaranteeing that 2015 will be the hottest year in the historical record.” And there's more:

“The combined effects of El Niño and greenhouse warming are already roiling weather patterns worldwide, probably contributing to dry weather and forest fires in Indonesia, to an incipient drought in Australia and to a developing food emergency across parts of Africa, including a severe drought in Ethiopia. Those effects are likely to intensify in coming months as the El Niño reaches its peak and then gradually subsides.”

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Obviously this is bad news. What’s happening in Indonesia and Australia and Africa and Ethiopia will happen here, too. It’s already happening in places like California, where an historical drought has depleted the state’s reservoirs.

It’s difficult to say with certainty what the causal connection is between climate change and these extreme weather events, but it’s clear by now that there’s a relationship. It’s also clear that the increasing volatility of the climate will impact every region and every country of the world, including the United States. “The warning is out,” says Richard Seager, a climate scientist at Columbia University. “The world has had time to plan for this.”

It might be too late for the world to meaningfully act against climate change – I honestly don’t know. But what’s undeniably true is that it’s a problem we have to confront one way or the other. We’ve yet to do that because the Republican Party refuses to acknowledge that the problem exists. The subject was scarcely mentioned at the Republican debates, and when it was, nearly everyone scrambled to deny it. By contrast, every single Democrat on the stage at the debate mentioned climate change in their opening remarks.

Despite the fact that the Pentagon considers climate change our greatest security threat, the GOP can’t decide if it’s even a legitimate problem. To listen to a Republican presidential debate is to hear that brown immigrants and Planned Parenthood and gay people and terrorists are the biggest threats we face. This is insane. As Elon Musk recently said in response to a question about the Syrian refugee crisis:

Today’s refugee problem is perhaps a small indication of what the future will be like if we do not take action with respect to climate change. Today the challenge is based on millions of people, but in the future, based on what the scientific consensus is the problem will be hundreds of millions and much more severe…In 20, 30, 40 years in the future, what do you say to your kids or your grandkids when they ask, ‘Why didn’t you do anything?’ What will you tell them?

Today’s report was the latest reminder that climate change is happening, whether we acknowledge it or not. One wonders how bad it will get before Republicans can agree that we should do something about it.

Climate Change Is Hurting The Economy

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Sean Illing

Sean Illing is a USAF veteran who previously taught philosophy and politics at Loyola and LSU. He is currently Salon's politics writer. Follow him on Facebook and Twitter. Read his blog here. Email at silling@salon.com.

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