I swear, when I penend this week's Soapbox column calling on President Obama and the federal government to make curbing climate change a top priority, I had no idea the New Yorker's David Remnick had already done so, and in similar language:
As President, however, he is faced with an infinitely larger challenge, one that went unmentioned in the debates but that poses a graver threat than any “fiscal cliff.” Ever since 1988, when nasa’s James Hansen, a leading climate scientist, testified before the Senate, the public has been exposed to the issue of global warming. More recently, the consequences have come into painfully sharp focus. In 2010, the Pentagon declared, in its Quadrennial Defense Review, that changes in the global climate are increasing the frequency and the intensity of cyclones, droughts, floods, and other radical weather events, and that the effects may destabilize governments; spark mass migrations, famine, and pandemics; and prompt military conflict in particularly vulnerable areas of the world, including the Middle East, Southeast Asia, and sub-Saharan Africa. The Pentagon, that bastion of woolly radicals, did what the many denialists in the House of Representatives refuse to do: accept the basic science.
The economic impact of weather events that are almost certainly related to the warming of the earth—the European heat wave of 2003 (which left fifty thousand people dead), the Russian heat waves and forest fires of 2010, the droughts last year in Texas and Oklahoma, and the preëlection natural catastrophe known as Sandy—has been immense. The German insurer Munich Re estimates that the cost of weather-related calamities in North America over the past three decades amounts to thirty-four billion dollars a year. Governor Andrew Cuomo, of New York, has said that Sandy will cost his state alone thirty-three billion. Harder to measure is the human toll around the world—the lives and communities disrupted and destroyed.
Remnick notes curbing greenhouse gas emissions will be "a colossal task, enlisting science, engineering, technology, regulation, legislation, and persuasion....[W]e know what lies in store if we fail to take action." To kick start the effort, Remnick urged the president to address the country on Inauguration Day and in a Kennedy-like urging call for the country to adopt an Apollo-moon-like program to combat climate change.
Sounds about right. And much better put than my own attempt. Still, the similarity is eerie, and I'd say in my defense that "great minds think alike," only that the recent information about warming occuring faster than previously thought and that the most pessimistic climate models have proved to be the most accurate has probably made it self-evident that climate change is the biggest crisis our nation has ever seen. It certainly makes the "fiscal cliff" seem like the DC noise it really is.
For starters, Smith was the architect of the Stop Online Piracy Act, or "SOPA," the anti-piracy bill that would have placed a too-strong burden on host sites to monitor their contributors' piracy violations and would have effectively ended the Internet as we know it. Hundreds of websites -- including this one -- went black to protest the bill, and it was shelved. For that alone, Smith should have no oversight over legislative matters involving technology.
Worse for needed action against climate change, Smith has expressed climate change denialism, once accusing television networks of not broadcasting enough "dissenting" opinions to climate change. Even if Smith is a step up from the previous committee chair, Ralph Hall -- who once famously said "I'm really more fearful of freezing....[a]nd I don't have any science to prove that" -- his appointment signals the GOP's war against the "reality-based community" is alive and well.