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The Politics of Climate Change

June 15, 2013 – The political fallout resulting from global warming is ever more in evidence. Countries as diverse as Syria and China are both dealing with a dissatisfied populace that has taken matters into its own hands. Loss of faith in the government’s willingness to deal with environmental havoc resulted in 50,000 protests last year in China. I wrote recently of the climatic-political origins of the war in Syria. Where else might the climate change tinderbox ignite?

The Inter Press Service News Agency recently wrote that flooding has come to stay in Europe. Central and Eastern Europe, after an extremely long winter that was followed by weeks of strong storms (sound familiar?), has seen the Danube and Elbe Rivers rise to record levels. Twenty-one people died as a result, and thousands were evacuated. Mudslides closed down roads and train lines in Austria, and in the Czech Republic, 20,000 people were evacuated from 700 different locations. Damage in the CR is thus far estimated at 800 million euros.

In Budapest, Hungary, the Danube rose to the highest level ever recorded. Hungary’s controversial prime minister, Viktor Orban, has claimed credit for the smooth handling of rising waters in that country. Orban’s authoritarian methods garnered disapproval throughout Europe prior to the flooding, and there are many who are fearful of his growing influence. The dictatorship they dread may not amount to so very much: in my opinion, anyone who believes he can conquer the weather has a great deal to learn, and not much time to learn it. Indeed, at the Centre for Climate Change and Sustainable Energy Policy in Budapest, climate researcher Sergio Tirado was quoted as saying that extreme weather events will increase in frequency.

Pakistan continues to endure the unendurable. Temperatures as high as 124 degrees Fahrenheit were recorded during the last half of May through June 10. This is the besieged country’s third heatwave in four years. Hundreds have died, disease is still rampant, and agriculture – due to the lack of irrigation – has fared badly. Again, climatologists warn that longer, more intense and more frequent such episodes will occur in the future. While the recent heatwave has broken, the expected monsoon rains are often accompanied by an outbreak of diarrhea, because of contaminated drinking water. Heat stroke and dehydration could well become common. An increase in cholera, gastroenteritis, typhoid and hepatitis have all been observed, and are believed to be an effect of climate change. Is it possible that the one thing that keeps a political uprising from taking shape the people’s poor health?

Here in the United States, Colorado is on fire and California is as dry as a stick. I’ll write more about the increasing numbers of wildfires in this country on Monday. More and more climate activists – Bill McKibben, James Hansen, and Tim DeChristopher - are succeeding in politicizing what is very obviously a needlessly divisive issue. In a country where access to information is assured – and yes, quality information can be found by the determined researcher – there is no reason for the continued dominance in this area by one third of the population. There needs to be a whole lot of fact-driven campaigning that precedes the 2014 elections, at which time a whole lot of dumb butts need to be voted out of office.

Those would be Republican dumb butts, in case you were wondering.

With thanks to the IPS News Agency and the Guardian (UK).


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