Viewers of Fox News, listeners to Rush Limbaugh and all the other sorry deadenders who choose Bush administration propaganda over perspective will be shocked to learn that the debate about global warming has been over for a long time.
Climate change is real. And the cynical ploy by conservative politicians and commentators of suggesting otherwise has slowed the American response to a crisis scientists say has grown so severe that — no matter what is now done to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases — gases that have already been produced or are in production will continue to contribute to global warming and the rise of oceans for more than 1,000 years.
The message from the world’s top scientists is sobering. “Warming of the climate system is unequivocal, as is now evident from observations of increases in global average air and ocean temperatures, widespread melting of snow and ice, and rising global mean sea level,” argues a new report from the climate scientists working with the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change formed by the United Nations’ Environment Program and World Meteorological Organization.
The Bush administration has consciously and intentionally failed for six years to address the crisis. Worse yet, the president and his aides have actively attempted to foster the fantasy that global warming: a. does not exist, b. is a natural phenomenon, c. is a good thing or d. all of the above.
The combination of deliberate inaction and delusional denial has earned this president a place in history alongside all the past Neros who have fiddled while their Romes burned. But the evidence that the Bush administration tampered with scientific research on globalwarming in order to advance its agenda calls for more immediate sanction.
The president and those around him have, as evidenced by their actions over the past six years, proven that they cannot be trusted with power. Yet, without an intervention, they will retain power for another two years.
That is not a prospect to be considered casually.
“The Bush Administration is doing to the whole world what it did to New Orleans as Katrina began to descend on the city,” says Green Party co-chair Rebecca Rotzler, who has been in the forefront of demanding an official response to the administration’s assault on science. “By altering scientific research on global warming to fit his political agenda and refusing to take necessary steps to protect the public, President Bush has aggravated an impending environmental, public health, and security crisis.
What to do? The Green Party, for reasons both of its environmental commitment and the seriousness with which it approaches issues of political accountability, has proposed a proper response. Responding to complaints from more than 120 scientists from seven federal agencies that they have been pressured to remove references to global warming from research reports, press releases, and communications with Congress, the Greens have accused the Bush administration of conspiring to deceive Congress and the America people about fundamental issues facing the nation. And there is a proper sanction for so serious an offense.
“Congress must recognize the Bush Administration’s tampering with studies on global warming and other scientific research as an impeachable offense,” says Jody Grage, who serves as treasurer of the Green Party. “Ever since Vice President Cheney initiated private meetings with oil company representatives to determine energy policy, the administration has placed the demands for corporate profits over urgent human and environmental needs.”
Just as there are still those who debate whether climate change is actually taking place, there are still those who debate whether this president has committed acts that merit impeachment and removal from office.
But the Greens are right on this one.
The founders intended impeachment not as a legal process but as a tool for the protection of the nation and its citizens from irrational, irresponsible and immoral executives. The point of creating a procedure that allowed the Congress to interrupt a presidential term was not to punish minor acts of wrongdoing, it was to preserve the republic — both structurally and physically — from a president whose actions, in the words of Thomas Jefferson, might be “productive of cruel distress to our country.”
The European kings and queens against whom American revolutionaries took up arms had attacked science and free thought in order not merely to advance their pet theories but to improve their fortunes. A president who did the same, Jefferson argued, was no different from a monarch — except that his tenure was constitutionally limited. That did not mean, however, that Americans should accept a king for four years.
“An elective despotism was not the government we fought for, but one which should not only be founded on true free principles, but in which the powers of government should be so divided and balanced among general bodies of magistracy, as that no one could transcend their legal limits without being effectually checked and restrained by the others,” explained the author of the Declaration of Independence who would make himself the steadiest advocate for democratic principles in the early days of the republic.
Jefferson, James Madison, George Mason and their circle fought to assure that the Constitution would include a broad power of impeachment. It was, these men of the enlightenment knew, the essential corrective against an elective despotism that might see an imperial president reject even the logic of science in pursuit of whims, fantasies and self-interest.
The founders knew that the impetus for impeachment might not be an act, but rather an inaction. And if that inaction was the result of a choice by the president and his aides to serve their oil-industry partners and contributors rather than their country and their planet, then surely it is a high crime against the republic — an impeachable crime in the sense intended by the authors of the Constitution — that has been committed.
The Greens have wisely recognized this fact, and made an appropriate argument for booting a pathetic president from the Oval Office.
Perhaps if those of us who still retain a Jeffersonian regard for science begin to speak of denying climate change as the impeachable offense that it is, we can begin to put the issue in proper perspective for the folks at Fox — who seem only to feel a sense of urgency when their dear leader is threatened with sanctions more immediate than those of history.
We may, as well, answer the most poignant of the questions left us by Thomas Jefferson. “Yes, we did produce a near-perfect republic,” observed the third president, who then turned his attention to those who would inherit that republic and asked: “But will they keep it?
John Nichols’ new book is