Day 25: To America’s Daily Newspaper

Today was my first day on a strict no-coffee regimen. It didn’t work; mid-afternoon I had five sips of my wife’s cappucino. But in general I’ve had a splitting caffeine-withdrawal headache all day, and I was totally not in the mood for literary composition. Which makes it a perfect day to write to USA Today.

I didn’t have a damn thing to say today that I haven’t said before, and probably better. But there it is: another take on the time-lag problem inherent in the relationship between America’s dysfunctional politics and the planet’s soon-to-be dysfunctional atmosphere.

Why is it never the right time to do something about global climate change? The answer is simple: the time between action and effect is too long. If we immediately reduced greenhouse emissions to a tenth of their present levels, the planet’s atmosphere would continue to warm for another thirty years or more before showing any change. If the “lag” is five times the term of a U.S. Senator, and fifteen times that of a U.S. Representative, it’s easy to see why addressing the climate crisis keeps getting pushed to the legislative back burner. Unfortunately, Earth’s atmosphere doesn’t care about getting re-elected in 2010 or 2012. If America (the world’s largest per capita emitter of greenhouse gases) can’t lead the world in learning to think in the long term, there may not be a long term for any of us. The worst-case scenarios outlined by climate scientists can be summarized in one word: Venus.

Warren Senders

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