Can it be? Is the United States finally going to do something about global warming?
Alas, Babylon! Not likely.
DOWNTOWN BLOG-EATER: Excuse me? “Alas, Babylon?”
SHORTORDER BLOG-COOK: Absolutely “alas Babylon.” You know the expression — we all know it. But if you’ve never seen the full quotation, the expression comes from the Bible, Book of Revelation, Chapter 18, verse 10. Here’s how it appears in the 1611 King James Bible:
“Standing afarre off for the feare of her torment [punishment], saying, Alas, alas, that great citie Babylon, that mighty citie: for in one houre is thy judgement come.”
Stirring image, isn’t it? “Alas, alas, that great citie Babylon.”
DOWNTOWN BLOGEATER: There’s no 'J.'
SHORTORDER BLOGCOOK: I’m sorry?
DOWNTOWN BLOGEATER: The 'J' in ‘judgement.’ They weren’t using the letter 'J' in 1611. In 1611, the word would have been printed iudgement. They printed it with an 'I' because they weren’t using 'J's' yet. You used a 'J.' They weren’t using 'J's' yet.
SHORTORDER BLOGCOOK: I knew that… Just testing you…(humph). Anyhow, “Alas, Babylon, alas America, alas World” is the idea. Woe to all of us if the U.S. doesn’t stop its massive output of carbon dioxide. And now China. China has passed the U.S. as the largest emitter of carbon dioxide.
(Carbon dioxide, of course, builds up, won’t let the earth’s heat escape through the atmosphere into space, and can stay in the atmosphere for centuries. In 2012, the countries of the world together released 34.5 billion tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. Plants help remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.)
But as far as the U.S. is concerned, it doesn’t look like we’ll see anything decisive on the global warming issue, despite the President’s appearances on television last week (Tuesday, May 6).
Is there new cause for concern? — Of course
First a bit of history: The United States’ first National Climate Assessment report was released in 2000, and warned of the “potential” consequences of global warming.
The second National Climate Assessment report was released in 2009 — more of the same. But now, in 2014, the third Assessment says we’re no longer looking at “potential consequences.” We’re there, the President said in his television appearances. “We’re experiencing the consequences of global warming from coast to coast.”
And he quoted from the National Climate Assessment report, released May 6: “Climate change, once considered an issue for a distant future, has moved firmly into the present.”
And what are the consequences of global warming? In the U.S., they vary, depending on the region of the country.
In the Southwestern corner of the country, there was a drought in southern California in the winter, no less. The drought continues, and the water shortage is now a daily problem for both farmers and the people in towns and cities.
In the northeast, in contrast, rain has become at times torrential. In general, the eastern U.S. is seeing a large increase in rainfall, with floods in a number of states.
There is also the loss of millions of acres of trees in the west because warmer temperatures are producing more beetles. And there is intense heat in the summer in Texas and surrounding states. And so on.
But, despite the White House effort to create public support for action on global warming, the American track record is poor.
The U.S. signed the Kyoto Protocol on November 12, 1998. But President George W. Bush announced in 2001 that the United States would not ratify the Protocol because asking businesses to reduce their output of carbon dioxide to Protocol levels would hurt the U.S. economy.
President Obama, in contrast, promised action on global warming when he ran for president in 2008. Now, in his 6th year in the White House, he would like to deliver on that campaign promise.
But polls show the American people consistently rank jobs, the economy, health care, terrorism, and other issues ahead of global warming.
And Congress? This Congress — the 113th Congress — is the same Congress that was willing to see a two-week partial shutdown of the government in October 2013, rather than pass a federal budget.
But the November elections in the United States will see all 435 seats in the House of Representatives up for re-election, plus a third of the Senate.
If President Obama is persuasive on global warming, perhaps he can help elect enough Democrats to give his party — which already controls the Senate — control of the House, as well. And after that? After that, it’s a question mark.