It’s a good idea to take a deep breath these days when the subject is climate. But hold that one. Perhaps not too deep.
Latest scientific figures show that the earth’s atmosphere has not experienced such a concentration of carbon dioxide that now prevails in three million years, give or take a millennia or two.
That, you might think, would be a cause for not only alarm but urgent action.
Well, don’t hold your aforementioned breath.
CO2 is, of course, the most commonly known greenhouse gas.
Human activity has been generating CO2 forever, but at heightened industrial levels for roughly the last three hundred years.
So it took about three hundred years to reach the levels of three million years ago.
Heavens only knows what the world will be like in another three hundred years.
Maybe we will be living on Mars, this after turning the Red Planet’s atmosphere - which is 95 percent CO2 - into a blend that allows humans to exist.
To avoid the necessity of inter-planetary migration we could, of course, clean up our act right here at home.
We could start right now. We should have started years ago.
But then we encounter this sort of stupidity.
As the Capitol Hill newspaper Roll Call reported last week, Interior Secretary David Bernhardt told a House committee Wednesday that he hasn’t “lost any sleep” over record levels of global emissions of climate-changing carbon emissions.
Stated the report: “His comment came during what was supposed to be a hearing about the department’s fiscal 2020 budget request. But some of the questions from Democrats on the House Natural Resources Committee focused on his handling of climate issues.
“Bernhardt, a former oil and gas lobbyist, was pressed to explain how climate could factor into future land management decisions.
“At one point Rep. Matt Cartwright, D-Pa., in a moment likely to be shared by environmental groups and Democratic political operatives, asked Bernhardt if he was concerned about rising global greenhouse gas emissions. Data obtained Friday by the Mauna Loa Observatory in Hawaii showed those levels reached 415 parts per million, the highest carbon dioxide levels ever found in the atmosphere in recorded human history.
“Asked how he’d rate his personal concern about those reports on a scale of 1 to 10, he stated plainly: ‘I haven’t lost any sleep over it.’”
Bernhardt expressed the view that the U.S. is cutting its greenhouse gas emissions and the department was now factoring climate into its environmental reviews.
“I absolutely care about the climate changing and that we need to factor that into our thinking. I absolutely believe that and I’ve said that over and over and over,” he said.
If he really cared Bernhardt would be losing a little sleep. Just than teeny weeny bit. But he isn’t.
Bernhardt is just the latest dodgy character to hold a cabinet post with environmental responsibilities. Think Messrs. Pruitt and Zinke.
That he doesn’t lose sleep over carbon dioxide levels is likely not a luxury shared by millions of Americans who, in recent years, have been victims of drought, floods, ever more severe hurricanes, countless tornadoes and, yes, deteriorating air quality.
Back to Roll Call: “A November report from 13 federal agencies found severe climate change as predicted by scientists would have devastating impacts on the U.S. economy. Another report earlier last year from the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change warned that unless significant action happens soon, global average temperatures could rise to levels that could trigger a multitude of environmental and humanitarian crises.
“Since the confirmation process, in press interviews and testimony before House appropriators last week, Bernhardt has said he doubts that scientific consensus. He has argued that while the department will need to factor climate impacts in its environmental reviews, it isn’t his job to use the department to try to stop those impacts.”
So what does this guy actually do to earn his healthy salary?
Well, he doesn’t stay up at night worrying about pesky scientific stuff and that we now know.
Climate change, unfortunately, has become a political issue as much, if not more, than a scientific one. There are concerned Republicans for sure, but right now they risk themselves politically if they stick their heads too high above the party line.
What is needed is an infusion of economics into the debate and realizable plans for creating jobs and revenue from activities that will help turn back the poisoning of our planet, and ensure that our descendants don’t have to pack their bags and take flight for another world.