As the summer of 2012 comes to a close, the world is faced with an undeniable increase in global temperatures and extreme weather. For us in the United States, as early as July we were warned that we had already experienced the warmest half-year on record. A month later, in early August, we found out that more than half the counties in America were designated “disaster zones” because of severe drought.
Scientists meeting last week UC-San Diego, outlined the very real dangers of climate change and the concurrent rise of the worldwide-sea level. Among the scariest parts they highlighted:
By the end of this century, they said, seas will climb 80 centimeters, or roughly 2.6 feet. That number could grow to as much as 2 meters, or 6.6 feet, particularly if the ice sheets in Greenland and Antarctica melt entirely…
The rising seas will affect the lives of millions of people and cost billions of dollars, the researchers said. Half the world’s population lives within 62 miles of a coast…
Large population centers in the United States already imperiled by sea-level rise include New York, Boston, Miami and Tampa, Fla.,… Elsewhere in the world, rising waters are likely to affect London, Bangkok, Hong Kong, Tokyo and Shanghai.
Furthermore, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration recently announced that August saw the most extreme weather we have ever recorded. As reported by ThinkProgress.
The agency’s Climate Extremes Index, which tracks the top 10 percent extremes in drought, precipitation, and temperature, was more than double the average value since the index was started in 1910.
Continuing this convincing barrage of statistical proof, on Monday, September 10th, the National Climate Data Center announced that now the first 8 months of the year were the hottest ever recorded.
There has definitely been a price to pay for all this. In 2011 alone, we saw 14 different billion-dollar weather disasters in the United States. This summer (the third hottest on record) has put extreme demand and pressure on local electric grids. A lot of that power (36% but decreasing thanks to government investment in alternative energy) actually comes from coal-fired powerplants–which further exacerbate pollution and climate change.
There are many wrinkles to the looming dangers of climate change, but among the least discussed are its disproportionately negative effects on the lower and middle classes. In a time of epic inequality, where speculation finance is cannibalizing the rest of the economy, and the average worker is being paid by cash-rich corporations less and less for the same work, the destruction of environmental community means that even basic food prices are headed for a steep increase. In a stunning report last year, the United Nations and OECD predicted as much as a 30% increase in food prices over the next decade. Middle and lowerclass folks, who have seen practically no share of the last three decades’ economic growth, are already spending a far higher share of their income on food than the 1%.
Poor and working-class families spend a much larger share of their paychecks on food than the affluent. In 2010, households earning from $5,000 to $35,000 a year spent 16 to 35 percent of their income on food, whereas those earning $70,000 a year or more spent 8 percent.
Meanwhile this uptick in food promises to be a boon for corporations like Glencore. Their trading boss Chris Mahoney bragged about the profitable opportunities for schemers like himself thanks to the recent food crisis (which threatens or endangers the lives of 800 million people around the world). As explained by The Independent (UK)
Glencore’s director of agriculture trading, Chris Mahoney, sparked the controversy when he said: “The environment is a good one. High prices, lots of volatility, a lot of dislocation, tightness, a lot of arbitrage opportunities.
“We will be able to provide the world with solutions… and that should also be good for Glencore.”
Glencore announced pre-tax global profits of £1.4bn. The G20 is considering holding an emergency summit on the world food crisis…
Oxfam was scathing about Glencore’s exploitation of volatile world food prices. Jodie Thorpe, from the aid agency’s Grow Campaign, said: “Glencore’s comment that ‘high prices and lots of volatility and dislocation’ was ‘good’ gives us a rare glimpse into the little-known world of companies that dominate the global food system.”
Oxfam said companies like Glencore were “profiting from the misery and suffering of poor people who are worst hit by high and volatile food prices”
Our country is burning (sometimes, quite literally) and we’re already suffering the consequence because too often the leadership that has prevailed in America is willing to sacrifice everything (including our cummullative health and natural community) for a profit. Recently, with both institutional change and grassroots pressure, we’ve started making steady improvements, like the above-mentioned decrease in dependence on dirty coal or new regulations limiting carbon and other toxic emissions. While millions of challenges remain, we’ve managed to slowly get our fellow citizens to realize the impending dangers of climate change.
Yet in this grueling bare-knuckle uphill fracas of policy, rage and compromise; this difficult but forward-moving dynamic that we’re muscling towards a healthier tomorrow; in contrast with our ugly battle royals of progress; away from the uncomfortable but necessary difficulties of struggling to evolve our communities–this November, we are offered the alternative of regressing to dangerous and irresponsible new lows–so that multi-billionaires can get even richer.
Mitt Romney is shiftier than an eel in canola oil. Feeling out Romney for convictions is a bit like massaging the wind. Sometimes it seems like there might be something there–but there isn’t–nothing substantial at least. It’s in this vacuum that we find a rare anchor of consistency–Romney’s willingness to cut away any and all rules he thinks are keeping him and his rich sponsors from becoming even richer.
It’s a rare election when the priorities of the 1 Percent make themselves so clear. If you don’t think the 1 Percent ticket of Romney-Ryan will throw you and your family’s health, wealth and planet under the proverbial bus for an extra buck, all you need to do to disabuse yourself of this notion is take a cringe-inducing look at Mitt Romney literally mocking efforts of the Obama administration to limit global warming and the rise of the global sea level.
You could also take a look through his website, which lists twenty-four issue areas–not one of which is the environment or climate change. In fact, you’d have to dig through a variety of the issues to finally spot a few mentions of the environment that we have always and always will depend on. Romney only deigns to discuss the environment in terms of how trying to act responsibly stands in the way of billionaires and their corporations making even more money.
To be quite explicit, here are the major points related or possibly related to environmental policy straight from Romney’s website, which you can find under “Regulations.”
- “Initiate review and elimination of all Obama-era regulations that unduly burden the economy”
- “As president, Mitt Romney will eliminate the regulations promulgated in pursuit of the Obama administration’s costly and ineffective anti-carbon agenda.”
- “Ensure that environmental laws properly account for cost in regulatory process”
- “Provide multi-year lead times before companies must come into compliance with onerous new environmental regulations”
- “Impose a regulatory cap of zero dollars on all federal agencies”
- “Require congressional approval of all new “major” regulations”
In short, the Romney-Ryan plan is to sacrifice the health and stability of our planet so that his very wealthy friends can continue making a huge profit without concerning themselves about the annoyances of having to clean up after the ruined lives and ruined communities they leave in their wake. In less than 100 words, couched in the propaganda of corporatist buzzwords, Romney promises to undo any and all hardfought environmental progress achieved in the last 3 and a half years. This should be a surprise to no one, esp from Romney who even opposed standards to limit mercury and toxic emissions into the very air we all breathe.
And Ryan’s track record is just as alarmingly irresponsible in matters of environmental well-being. Under his notorious “Ryan Budget” “spending on natural resources and the environment would be 14.6 percent lower under Ryan’s budget in 2014 than it is today,” reports the Washington Post. In his “Path to Prosperity” Ryan goes so far as to propose a massive sell-off of millions of acres of public land. The League of Conservation voters called him “Big Oil’s Dream VP Pick.” Ryan’s voting record also illustrates his propensity for selling out future Americans and our planet’s health for his sponsors’ profit. (Via On The Issues)
- Voted NO on $2 billion more for Cash for Clunkers program. (Jul 2009)
- Voted NO on protecting free-roaming horses and burros. (Jul 2009)
- Voted NO on environmental education grants for outdoor experiences. (Sep 2008)
- Voted NO on $9.7B for Amtrak improvements and operation thru 2013. (Jun 2008)
- Voted NO on increasing AMTRAK funding by adding $214M to $900M. (Jun 2006)
- Voted NO on barring website promoting Yucca Mountain nuclear waste dump. (May 2006)
- Voted YES on deauthorizing “critical habitat” for endangered species. (Sep 2005)
- Voted YES on speeding up approval of forest thinning projects. (Nov 2003)
There’s something of unflinching elitist hubris in the Romney-Ryan camp. Surely all mainstream politicians marinate is such swill, but the duo seems genuinely unaffected by the impact of their heinous policies on working America. Come November, the choice is between a slow, but gaining, political struggle towards better environmental policy or a return to Industrial Era abuses.
Romney’s family will surely be unaffected by spiking food prices (in fact, commodity trading firms like Bain will continue to exploit world hunger for a profit–while speculating up the price you have to pay at the cash register).
Ninety-nine percent of the population is not so lucky.
We don’t have the second and third mansion to run to when extreme weather rips through our communities. We don’t have the yacht to surf the rising oceans off to some tax shelter and away from all the crises created by the 1 Percent. We don’t have over a quarter-billion dollars in savings to protect us from corporation-enriching price fluctuations for basic food. We certainly don’t have the billions in campaign spending that Romney and Ryan’s corporate sponsors do. Instead…. we get a vote each.