Monday, November 18, 2013

Reality Drought

As members of our staff travelled back from last weekend's grand opening of The Billy Ireland Cartoon Library & Museum, their travels took them through the middle of a war zone - or at least what seemed like a war zone - in the heart of America's farmland.

In a time of year not usually known for dramatic weather, more than 70 tornados touched down in Illinois and Indiana on Sunday, killing at least six, turning upside down the lives of thousands, and delaying our staff a bit. This is just the latest weather disaster in a year that's seen one of the strongest tornados ever on record in Moore, Oklahoma, and one of the strongest hurricanes on record in Typhoon Haiyan. Like most recent years, 2013 is also likely to go down as one of the hottest years on record.

If you haven't heard much more than a day's worth of news on any of these climate change disasters, we're not surprised. Much of the media's chattering classes have been hyperventilating on their own hype, acting like a horde of Chicken Littles falsely claiming every problem President Obama runs into is his version of President Bush's Katrina failures. Still other large portions of our American media are busily airing the umpteenth homage and/or conspiracy theory about the death of President Kennedy, fifty years ago this week, while steadily ignoring the cause of all the weather-related death and destruction.

Much of America, sadly, tends to agree with what the vapid media executives shove in front of viewers, caring more about football and conspiratorial fantasies about their Presidents (both past and current), than they do about the reason for all the wild weather  - climate change.

Thankfully, not all of America is sitting on the couch, waiting for the Hooters halftime show.

In New York, they're already working on flood defenses for LaGuardia Airport when the inevitable next superstorm comes, even as they still wrestle with problems from Superstorm Sandy. In Arizona, regulators are fighting to keep solar power growing in order to reduce the use of traditional power plants. Even in coal country, the Tennessee Valley Authority is closing eight coal-fired power units due to competition from other less polluting forms of energy generation.

The Federal government is pushing forward too, as the EPA recently proposed major cuts in the amount of ethanol that American refineries must add to the fuel supply in 2014. As technology has changed, the promise of corn-based ethanol has evaporated. Thankfully, the Obama Administration is trying to follow the facts on this issue, and not simply continuing subsidies that don't work.

The private sector is getting into the act too. As Michael Specter pointed out recently in The New Yorker, and Rob Wile noted in Business Insider, the relatively new tech firm Climate Corporation is working hard to make the data surrounding climate change available to farmers to help better predict yields - a tool they've surprisingly never had before.

Thankfully, all of this changing regulation and forward thinking seems to have had some effect on climate change.

As a new study released in the journal Nature has confirmed, much to the chagrin of climate deniers like those in the Nebraska legislature, the recent "hiatus" in global warming looks to be attributed to a climate change treaty ratified during the Reagan years, the Montreal Protocol. That international law reduced the use of CFC's by 90 percent - and may have given the world a bit more time to tackle the ever-pressing problem of climate change.

That kind of information may not be as interesting as another JFK conspiracy theory, or the latest college or NFL game - but it's infinitely more important.

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