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On many levels, a failure to confront climate change | Editorial
According to the National Climatic Data Center, carbon dioxide increased by 2.6 parts per million in the atmosphere in 2010 — more than the average annual increase seen from 1980 to 2010. The global temperature has been warmer than the 20th century average every month for more than 25 years, and 2010 has tied with 2005 as the warmest year on record, according to the State of the Climate Report for 2010.
Meanwhile, scientists have detected a migration of marine animals through the normally ice-bound Northwest Passage above Canada. A gray whale was spotted off the coast of Israel last year — a place it’s never been seen before.
Those of us who are paying attention have heard these kinds of sobering statistics and startling observations that indicate the earth is out of balance for some time now.
What’s troubling is the apparent disconnect between this torrent of scientific data and our day-to-day lives. Even as evidence is mounting, even as some of the world’s best thinkers and scientists are sounding the alarm, our addiction to fossil fuels shows little sign of abating.
The Obama administration is considering approving a pipeline that would bring oil to the United States from the tar sands in Alberta, Canada, some of the dirtiest, most resource-wasteful fossil fuel to be had.
Everywhere one looks, it seems, roads and highways are being widened so as to accommodate an ever-increasing stream of cars.
And in King County, officials are poised to reduce bus service — in part because the King County Council apparently doesn’t have the political will or wherewithal to increase car tabs by a mere $20 a year to offset Metro’s gaping shortfall. It would take a supermajority to pass a measure raising car tabs by $20; according to a variety of news reports, County Executive Dow Constantine’s recommendation doesn’t have that degree of support.
Bus service, in and of itself, does not lead to a collective decrease in our carbon footprint. Near-empty buses are more problematic than helpful. But without adequate bus service, we can’t even begin to do the right thing; without bus service, many of us — in this auto-dependent world we’ve created — have little choice but to routinely climb into our cars.
It’s absolutely shocking to think our nine-member county council may not have the votes to increase car tabs and thus keep mass transit afloat. It’s shocking that at the same time that newspaper headlines regularly note the latest signs of a profound global climate shift, a handful of politicians can keep us from taking one small step in the right direction.