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Gun control? Illegal immigration? No, climate change should be No. 1

January 15, 2013|By Joseph Serna
  • Waves break over a roller coaster wrecked by Superstorm Sandy last year on the East Coast.
Waves break over a roller coaster wrecked by Superstorm Sandy last year… (Mario Tama / Getty Images )

Gun control? Illegal immigration? Sorry, our country has a more important issue to deal with: climate change.

As I read Neela Banerjee’s story on the latest report -- a draft of the Third National Climate Assessment -- that adds to the stack of scientific findings pointing out that climate change is here and is wreaking havoc on our planet, I could only shake my head.

Climate change, also known as global warming, is by far the most pressing issue to the country and, in fact, the world. Its effects are more widespread, more difficult to identify and seemingly less immediate than mass shootings or a population living in the shadows, but long term, not addressing it is infinitely costlier. Whatever political capital lawmakers have should first go toward that.

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Scientists deal with climate, not weather, so they are quick to point out that environmental disasters are hard to link. Yet even the last two years should make skeptics pause.

There were record-setting heat waves in Texas and Oklahoma in 2011, Hurricane Irene in New York the same year and Superstorm Sandy last October, after a summer of drought in the Midwest. Then there’s the science: a 2007 Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s report, its 2012 report on extreme events and disasters, the slow death of the Great Barrier Reef and the accelerating disappearance of Arctic sea ice.

But I fear our lawmakers will remain paralyzed.

Even if President Obama, or any lawmaker for that matter, wanted to get something done -- perhaps some regulations through the Environmental Protection Agency -- broad government support for sweeping reforms on what is still inexplicably a controversial issue seems impossible.

Sooner or later something is going to have to give. And unfortunately, it looks like the gridlock in Washington is tougher. The United States has the ability to lead, but voters will have to hold lawmakers accountable if they refuse to act.

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