Why politics must fall away

Twenty-six years ago, then-Sen. Bennett Johnston, a conservative Democrat from Louisiana and the chairman of the Energy and Natural Resources Committee, made a prescient observation.

“We must examine and assess the dangers of global warming caused by the greenhouse effect that actually threaten human survival within the century, requiring even more stringent energy efficiencies and conservation,” Johnston wrote.

A second decade into a new century and with climate change manifesting in tangible, ominous ways, it’s deja vu all over again.

“We know that rising sea levels threaten Seattle and ports throughout my state critical to our economy,” Sen. Patty Murray said on the Senate floor this week. “We see them in our rural communities facing longer-lasting and more severe droughts that wither crops and turn our forests into kindling for wildfires.”

Murray, along with 29 Democratic colleagues including fellow Washingtonian Sen. Maria Cantwell and Oregon’s Jeff Merkley and Ron Wyden, participated in a 14-hour speech-athon on the Senate floor Monday and Tuesday to underscore the threat of climate change. It was a sobering rundown of real-world outcomes that are disrupting Northwest industries, including shellfish die-offs spurred by climate-related ocean acidification.

“Ocean acidification is an economic issue,” Cantwell said. “We have generations of shellfish growers that are threatened now by the impacts of carbon in our oceans and the warming of our oceans.”

The future is now. The Vancouver Sun reports that 10 million scallops near Qualicum Beach died this year because of ocean acidity.

Why, then, has climate change devolved into a partisan issue? The reasons are frivolous. Al Gore made climate his calling, injecting politics into a collective challenge that is intrinsically nonpartisan. In 2009, the Pentagon and CIA (not Democratic-friendlies, mind you) documented the national security implications of climate change, including military scenarios responding to mass human migration and pandemics.

For their party’s sake and the sake of the country and the planet, Republicans can’t forfeit climate change to Democrats. Prudent Republicans, from former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman to Maine Sen. Susan Collins, need to move the needle and press for a more farsighted, science-policy agenda.

You are entitled to your own opinion, but not your own facts, Daniel Patrick Moynihan said years ago. Climate change should be a common cause. Let politics stop at the biosphere’s edge.

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