Time for a united front on climate change

An ice floe floats on a lake in front of the Solheimajokull glacier, where the ice has retreated by 0.6 miles since annual measurements began in 1931.
An ice floe floats on a lake in front of the Solheimajokull glacier, where the ice has retreated by 0.6 miles since annual measurements began in 1931. AP

Within hours of the publication of President Barack Obama’s new climate-change regulations last Friday, two dozen red states and assorted allies rushed to block them from taking effect.

Of all the ways in which blind partisanship is damaging this country, the assault on Obama over global warming has to be among the most destructive. Last year was the hottest on record for the planet. The U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration reports that 2015 so far is even hotter.

By the end of this century, if we don’t dramatically slash greenhouse gas emissions, the Persian Gulf will be so suffocating, according to Massachusetts Institute of Technology researchers, that people there won’t be able to survive outside in the hot months.

Yet, with an international climate-change deal at the United Nations Paris summit hanging in the balance, fossil fuel suppliers and Republicans who enable them are pulling out all the stops to persuade the rest of the world that American promises to scale back pollution are politically unfeasible and not serious.

The legal actions against the new rules on power plant emissions, led by coal states, are only the tip of the melting iceberg. This week, Sen. Jim Inhofe, R-Okla., and Rep. Ed Whitfield, R-Ky., publicly threatened to send their own anti-delegation to Paris.

Inhofe, a climate denier, referred to himself delusionally as a “one-man truth squad.” He and Whitfield vowed to convince world leaders that Congress could undo whatever Obama pledges. Meanwhile, Republicans in both houses sought to nullify the power plant rules using an arcane legislative maneuver, knowing even Obama’s inevitable veto will signal discord.

A few party moderates have sought to counter such cynical and shortsighted actions, but the unfortunate truth is that they lack the power. And the price of this kind of smallness isn’t just political: As University of California President Janet Napolitano noted earlier this week at a climate conference in San Diego, the implications of climate change have made reducing our human carbon footprint a “moral imperative.”

Gov. Jerry Brown said this week that the state will file its own legal action to defend Obama’s clean-power rules against the opposing states and what he termed their “pernicious lawsuit.” Even here, though, a unified front eludes us – just witness the way the oil industry succeeded in ducking the limits that were to have been imposed under Senate Bill 350 on petroleum.

Brown has been increasingly blunt in discussing climate change with the approach of the December summit in Paris, but it’s time for the rest of us to stop the sugarcoating. The mercury is rising. The Arctic is melting. Climate change is happening, and it’s not listening to partisan arguments.