Temperature Rising

Editorial castigates George Bush for head-in-the-sand refusal to tackle causes of global warming.

Published: 13-Jan-2007

Hot enough for you, Mr. President?

Your administration's own National Climatic Data Center reported Tuesday that last year was the warmest in the continental United States of the past 112 years - and that 2006 capped a nine-year warming streak "unprecedented in the historical record."

You might have noticed the cherry trees and azaleas in bloom along the Potomac River on New Year's Day. Government scientists say that's at least partly the result of the long-term effects of accumulating greenhouse gases in the atmosphere.

By the way, some of those scientists over at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration must have chewed off their muzzles. They're not only acknowledging the reality of global warming - they're warning that the rate at which temperatures are rising is speeding up and that they could lead to widespread melting of the polar ice caps, producing higher sea levels and more extreme droughts and storms.

In case you drifted off during your morning briefing, you might be interested to know that NOAA scientists have found that the northern hemisphere temperatures have not been this high for more than a thousand years. The rate of temperature increase has been far greater in the past three decades than at any time since the government began charting national temperature data.

You don't seem to get it, Mr. President. Or if you do get it, you're stubbornly refusing to seriously address the most urgent environmental issue of our time - an extraordinary failure of leadership.

NASA scientists say the Arctic Ocean has lost a fifth of its sea ice since the 1970s, an area twice the size of your beloved Texas. Last month, Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorn designated polar bears as threatened under the Endangered Species Act. They're starving and drowning as their habitat literally melts beneath them. But like his boss, Kempthorn refuses to acknowledge that industrial emissions are causing temperatures to rise in polar regions.

While you may not admit the climate is changing, you have to admit that politics are changing. The "thumpin' " your party took last fall has put the Democrats in charge of Congress. Sen. James Inhofe, the Oklahoma Republican who has insisted for years that climate change is a "hoax," is out as chairman of the U.S. Senate Environment and Public Works Committee. He's been replaced by Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., whose goal is to impose the nation's first mandatory limits on carbon dioxide emissions. In the House, Democrats are preparing to redirect federal funding and tax breaks that now go to oil companies toward the production of renewable and alternative energies.

Even Republicans are getting in on the act. Sen. Gordon Smith, R-Ore., has joined with Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., to propose dramatic increases in efficiency standards for cars and light trucks. Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., is pushing a bill to establish a mandatory cap-and-trade system to restrict emissions. Guess they took you seriously when you promised last year to break the nation's "addiction" to foreign oil.

Out West, California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger is busy putting global warming burrs under your saddle. This week he proposed requiring oil companies to reduce fuel carbon content in his state. Last year he signed legislation to reduce emissions from refineries, power plants and factories to 1990 levels by 2020.

Temperatures are rising - and so is the pressure on you to pull your head out of the sand and lead the fight against global warming.

Hot enough for you, Mr. President?

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