Year 1, Month 2, Day 2: To Huckleberry Graham, The Distinguished Senator from South Carolina

I was looking for something else to do in today’s letter. It’s been getting tiring sending stuff out to the same media outlets and politicians, which is why I wound up writing Secretary Chu yesterday. This one goes out to the only Republican who has dared to say anything at all about climate change, Lindsey Graham. He’s pretty much an idiot in most other areas, but he’s taken quite a bit of heat from his tea-bagger constituents for daring to assert that climate change exists. He just issued a very tepid press release, so I used that as the theme for my letter, which falls into the category of Faint Praise for the Faint of Heart.

Dear Senator Graham,

As an outspoken Massachusetts liberal, I suspect that there are few areas where you and I would find agreement. But today I want to write in support of your willingness to buck the Republican Party’s denialist stance on global climate change. To deny that anthropogenic global warming exists is to embrace an anti-science agenda which will undercut America’s continued economic and technological advancement. To deny that global climate change poses a profound long-term threat to humanity as a whole is to ignore the words and projections of the scientists who have studied climatic phenomena in depth and who know more about the subject than anyone else. Make no mistake, denialism is a willful embrace of ignorance, and while ignorance sometimes makes for good politics, it always makes for bad policies.

By acknowledging the existence of global climate change, you have the potential to transform the debate from a “Democrats vs. Republicans” squabble to a genuine conversation between the informed and the ignorant.

In your press release of January 27, you state that, “The energy legislation that was passed by the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee is not strong enough to lead us to energy independence. The climate change legislation passed by the House of Representatives and Senate Environment and Public Works Committee is too onerous on business and does not enjoy bipartisan support.” The first sentence is absolutely correct. The proposed legislation needs to be several orders of magnitude stronger in order to make a real difference in the area of energy independence. Your second sentence, however, does American business an injustice.

I firmly believe that American industries are second to none in their potential for innovation. To suggest that our business sector would be hindered by stringent climate-change legislation is a vote of no confidence in the ability of American industry to compete successfully under any conditions.

Let us not forget that global climate change poses the most severe existential threat that humanity has ever faced. We cannot afford to flunk this test, for it will only be given once; there are no opportunities for re-takes, and failure is fatal for all of us. Dr. James Hansen notes that the “worst-case” scenario involves uncontrolled melting of Arctic methane, triggering a runaway greenhouse effect which could move Earth’s temperatures well above the “uncomfortable” level and up to the “Venus” level.

In which case American business won’t have anybody left to buy its goods.

Granted, this is a “worst-case” scenario. But to anyone who’s been paying attention, it is a shocking reality that climatologists’ “worst-case” scenarios have been coming true as often as not over the past few years. We owe it to the future of our economy, our country and the world as a whole to get this one right.

We should be giving strong tax breaks for businesses which demonstrate genuine engagement in the struggle to reduce their carbon footprints; we should enforce strong tax penalties for businesses which ignore scientific reality in favor of short-term profit. And we must do a better job of educating the public. A strong Republican voice acknowledging the reality of global climate change and the importance of integrating scientific research into environmental and energy policy is a huge component of such public education, and I hope you will continue to tell both your colleagues and constituents the truth, regardless of its political implications for you.

Yours Sincerely,

Warren Senders

Day 27: Another Thrust to the Belly of the Beast

I’m going to send this one to US News and World Report. I’m writing this the night before; I’ve got a sore throat and body pain…and tomorrow I’ll be a parent-helper at Little Daughter’s preschool. Gotta get some sleep.

Slowly but surely, awareness of the reality of climate change is creeping into our national discourse. America’s Department of Defense has been developing contingency plans for how to deal with devastating droughts, food system failures, and the possibility of hundreds of millions of displaced climate refugees, many in the poorest and most politically unstable parts of the world. State Farm Insurance, citing rising sea levels and the increased threat of catastrophic storms, will no longer issue or renew policies for structures on North Carolina’s Barrier Islands. Other insurance companies are beginning to follow suit. It is long past time for the business community to recognize climatic reality, and find common cause with environmental advocates. The only world in which corporations can reasonably expect sustained profitability is one in which humans can live sustainably.

Warren Senders