I have been waiting for a prominent person to step forward and compare the politics surrounding climate change to what Congress just went through with the government shutdown and debt limit. Just in time, out of the woodwork, comes former Vice President Al Gore with his droll approach to the subject.
“Congress is pathetic right now, Gore said during an interview on “Take Part Live.” He continued:
“There are some awful good people in Congress trapped in a bad system. The truth is our democracy has been hacked; big money now calls the shots. That may sound like a radical statement, but less and less to people who have been paying attention to what’s been going on there.
“Some of the same people who stood up with a straight face and said it would be perfectly fine for the United States of the America to default on its debt…or they would say we don’t need to default because we’ll just pay the Chinese bondholders instead of paying the social security checks or giving paychecks to the active duty military. That’s ridiculous; it’s nuts.
“But they’re the same people who’ve been saying that the laws of physics don’t apply and that global warming pollution does not cause global warming and that mother nature is not sending a us a signal with all of these extreme weather catastrophes …”
Climatologists and many others have expressed frustration about the public’s lack of understanding regarding climate change. Their frustration involves people who ignore the science, media outlets that fail to communicate the facts and government officials who refuse to address the problem.
Is this the same type of frustration that many people are feeling over the recent government shutdown and debt crisis?
Blogger Jo Romm of Think Progress blames Tea Party extremists in Congress for both economic and climate-change brinkmanship. His latest blog is cleverly titled, “Now we have ‘default deniers,’ but the real danger remains a climate shutdown.” Romm writes:
“Unlike the budget and debt crises, climate change is not a problem that allows 11th-hour solutions. When a livable climate shuts down, it can’t be fixed for a millennium.
“Tea Party extremists shut down the US government. Their economic brinksmanship made clear many were ready to shut down the global economy by refusing to pay our nation’s debts.
“And their ability to wield power nihilistically greatly increases the chances of a climate shutdown — a debt they want to leave our children and all future generations, but one that is far more dangerous than the fiscal debt because it is both catastrophic and irreversible.”
Columnist Richard Reeves points out that the tea partiers often invoke President Ronald Reagan’s words, “Government is not the solution; it’s the problem.” But unlike Reagan, who was adept at compromise, the tea partiers really do believe that government must be stopped. Reeves writes:
“Perhaps those tea party guys are smarter than they look. After all, these men and women in Congress came to Washington determined to cripple big government — or even destroy it. They, 30 or 40 bent Republicans, were mad as hell at where the country is going and how it is governed. Now, with a minimum of sabotage, millions and millions of Americans, Republicans and Democrats alike, share their hatred of Washington.”
While many mainstream Republicans express embarrassment and regret over their part in the government shutdown, Tea Party supporters are reveling in their ability to cripple the government, even as they plan their next steps, according to Reeves.
If Gore, Romm and Reeves are even partially right, members of Congress will continue to find it difficult to use the tools of science, logic and negotiation to solve the nation’s serious problems.