Environmental attorney and activist Robert F. Kennedy Jr. has described George W. Bush as the worst environmental president in U.S. history. During Bush's first term in office, his administration initiated more than 200 rollbacks of environmental laws. These moves serve to benefit big corporations, which are no longer inconvenienced by having to comply with strict pollution control standards. This kind of environmental irresponsibility is contributing to increased global warming which, if allowed to continue unchecked, could pose a serious threat to human life around the world.
Increased levels of atmospheric carbon dioxide have resulted in a one-degree Fahrenheit rise in temperature over the last century. That may not seem like much of a warming effect, but the process is speeding up in a big way, and could soon careen out of control if measures are not taken to reduce the emissions of greenhouse gases. The UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) projects that the average global temperature will rise from three to 10 degrees Fahrenheit later in this century. Other studies suggest an even greater warming effect much sooner. The consequences could be cataclysmic.
Already global climate change is affecting the lives and livelihoods of some of the world's most vulnerable people, threatening millennia-old cultures, and literally stealing the ground beneath people's feet. The people of the Inuit nation near the Arctic Circle are seeing deformed fish, depleted caribou herds, dying forests, starving seals, and emaciated polar bears. Recently, the Inuit began battling with northward-migrating mosquitoes and other infections disease-carrying insects, which they had never before encountered. As the sea ice melts, rising water levels are washing away entire coastal villages. Half a world away, islands in the South Pacific are being submerged by rising sea levels caused by global warming. Leo Falcam, former president of the Federated States of Micronesia, described climate change as "a form of slow death."
Even farther inland, the consequences are bleak, as global warming will have a considerable effect on food production worldwide. The IPCC has predicted that a half-degree temperature increase would cause a drop of 20 to 40 percent in rice yields in Southeast Asia, and would cut India's wheat yield by up to 20 percent. Looking forward, it gets even worse and hits closer to home. The UN's Environmental Program projects that later this century global warming will reduce several of the world's key food crops, such as corn grown in the Midwestern U.S., by some 30 percent. Adding to this threat to food security is the fact that world food consumption has, for the first time in recorded history, outpaced food production for four consecutive years, according to the Earth Policy Institute. In other words, folks, already there is not enough food to go around.
The U.S. - with about five percent of the world's population - remains the world's chief polluter, generating 25 percent of all carbon dioxide emissions. Humanity must not be made to suffer the consequences of corporate cronyism. The Bush administration, and our state officials as well, must make this issue a priority and take immediate, proactive measures to control pollution and fight global warming. We owe that much to our future generations and to the world.