Wed, Aug 29, 2012 - Page 8 News List

Taking a lesson from the weather

By Sam Sky Wild

Taiwan is no stranger to disaster and this tiny, weather-battered nation is witnessing increasingly numerous and powerful typhoons. However, while the results of a warming planet may be plain for all to see, and feel, the reasons for the change still provoke heated debate, and climate change-deniers bear much of the responsibility for misleading the public in this crucial global conversation.

It is interesting to note then that the US Republican Party was forced to rearrange its drum-thumping convention in Florida after Tropical Storm Isaac threatened to pay a visit to Tampa. Even though Isaac decided to vacation somewhere else, it helped steal a little of former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney’s thunder and certainly rained on the party’s collective parade.

When forecasters and climatologists warned in 2010 that warmer-than-normal sea surface temperatures and wind patterns in the Gulf of Mexico were contributing to increases in storm formation in the region, representatives of the oil industry sought to play this down.

Those seeking to repress scientifically proven arguments on the role fossil fuels play in accelerating global warming include the Koch brothers — the seventh and eight-richest people in the world, according to Bloomberg — and co-owners of Koch Industries, which has business interests in consumer products, chemicals and minerals, and, of course, oil. The Kochs were among the principal funders of the Tea Party movement.

The Republicans have long been the cheerleaders of the fossil fuel industry and the American Petroleum Institute — the US oil industry’s lobbying arm — is hosting several major parties and events in Tampa. The US Supreme Court’s 2010 decision to effectively allow private donor committees to donate unlimited contributions for political purposes to parties ensures that these little canape receptions pack a lot of weight while helping oil the wheels of the Republican Party.

This is not to say that the Democrats are immune to the influence that immensely powerful corporate interest groups wield, but there is a genuine difference between their visions for the US and its environment and, given the 19 million barrels of oil a day that the nation consumes, the world’s environment.

Despite the compelling evidence on climate change and the need this suggests for a change to our current modes of wasteful consumption, Romney is refusing to budge from this old mode of thinking. In his many clean-cut speeches it is clear that this self-termed “savior of the economy” is planning a return to dirty business as normal.

“I will set a national goal of American and North American energy independence by 2020,” Romney has said.

What this actually means — and it is certainly more politics than practicalities — is that in order to fulfill this goal, he plans to slash renewable energy budgets and instead lay waste to his nation, as well as that of neighbors Mexico and Canada, through new highly polluting shale oil extraction, as well as opening up new controversial fracturing gas production facilities.

There are further lessons that Romney needs to pay attention to as Isaac carries on south to Louisiana en route, perhaps, to New Orleans. While preparing for his convention speech, Romney said: “I hope everybody’s fine there [Louisiana]. I’m concerned about the people that are going to be affected by it.”

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