Fire and Brimstone Big Biz Cashes in as Climate Changes

I arrived back in Burlington on Jan. fifth and the temperature was pushing 60 degrees, a record high. Despite the recent snowfall – we cannot continue to ignore the signs of global warming.When the BBC asked George W. Bush why he refuses to sign the Kyoto Protocol (an international treaty to lower carbon emissions that has been ratified by 165 nations in order to stop global warming) he simply replied: “The Kyoto treaty would have wrecked our economy, if I can be blunt.”Well Mr. President, which economy are we talking about, yours and Exxon Mobil’s?Unless Mr. Bush was truly blunted, I can assure you he was not referencingVermont’s economy.In its 2005 final report, the Vermont Department of Tourism (VDT) released that between 2003 and 2007 the tourism industry in Vermont will suffer a per-year revenue loss of $282 million, or a decline of 8 percent. This waning industry is due in large part to the negative impact that climate change has had throughout the region.The travel industry remains one of the more important sectors in the Vermont economy according to the VDT. Out of the 17 major economic sectors in Vermont, travel always ranks in the top five.Would you buy a winter time-share at a mountain resort where it’s 55 degrees and rainingin mid-January?I think not.Resort communities, which absorb 85 percent of travel commerce, are in serious jeopardy, and that spells disaster for the Vermont economy. Money spent in and around resort communities is intricately tied with Vermont’s economic infrastructure, and its success or failure has a direct ripple effect on all aspects of financial health in the state.The VDT reports that tourism generates over $182 million in tax revenue for Vermont each year. The loss of that tax money leaves less funding for things like education and health care.The potential revenue loss for rural communities such as Vermont (hundreds of millions of dollars) does not matter to people like Bush when it comes time to sign environmental protection measures like the Kyoto Protocol. All our leaders care about are the profit margins for corporations – and it’s shameful.In the 2000 presidential elections Exxon Mobil spent over $7 million supporting candidates and legislation that opposed the Kyoto Protocol and supported a National Energy Strategy that has increased our reliance on oil.In exchange for its investment, Exxon Mobil has benefited from more than $5 billion in taxpayer money spent building the Chad-Cameroon oil pipeline, and also for oil field development loans in western Siberia and northern Russia, where oil will be sold back to U.S. consumers at prices high enough to gouge the marginal interest rate and turn a hefty profit for private and state-owned Russian businesses like Gazprom.In the long run it won’t really matter because it won’t be the high price of energy that will cause the most damage.It is only a matter of time before the delicate equilibrium of human sustainability on this planet is thrown into an extinction level event more devastating than the one caused by the permafrost warming that triggered the Permian- Triassic extinction 250-million-years ago.A recent study published in Science found that ocean warming is causing the Siberian and Alaskan permafrosts to melt, releasing methane into the atmosphere at an alarming rate.This could potentially lead to 500 gigatons of carbon evaporating from the permafrost into the atmosphere if warming does not stop.This much carbon would disrupt the global thermohaline circulation causing droughts and monsoons of biblical proportions.Once the Amazon is converted into a McDonald’s factory farm and enough of the ocean plankton has been destroyed by shifting ocean currents, there will be nothing left in the biosphere to complete the photosynthesis cycle that controls atmospheric carbon dioxide levels.From there it is anyone’s guess which way the Earth’s climate will shift. The greenhouse effect will either scorch us off the planet, or propel the planet into a massive ice age. Either way, we’re screwed if something is not done to stop human induced climate change.Climate change is an issue that must transcend the political divide. Republicans need to acknowledge the problem and democrats need to stop pointing fingers and start passing legislation. Big business and a booming economy can exist in a world of environmental stewardship. As long as our elected officials are willing to pass the appropriate regulatory legislation we can avoid the impending doomsday scenarios.