Worst. News. Ever.

This item popped up, briefly, on the front page of the Washington Post’s web site yesterday afternoon. By this morning it was on page A4 of the print edition. I found it using the search function.

If you haven’t clicked the link above, it will take you to a story about the United Nations Environment Program announcing that even if every government takes every greenhouse gas-abating measure proposed to date, the average Earth temperature will rise 6.29 degrees Fahrenheit between 1900-2100.

That’s about twice as much warming as had been previously predicted. That’s enough warming – say the climate scientists we’ve been ignoring for 20 years – to launch runaway feedback loops, meaning that if we let things get that hot, we will have lost the ability to stop the warming from increasing.

If we don’t enact all those proposed measures, it’s predicted temperatures will rise 8.13 degrees F by 2100.

The reason we have yet to see significant effects of global warming in suburban American neighborhoods (believe me, we’re seeing them at the poles) is because of the moderating effect of oceans. It takes a long time to warm the oceans, just as it takes time to heat a pot of water on a stove. Like a pot of water on a stove, however, once the oceans get warm, they heat everything around them and they won’t cool quickly. (In this case, “quickly” means thousands of years.)

Ocean temperatures are beginning to rise, which will cause their waters to expand, glacier and icecap and permafrost melting to accelerate.

In the summer of 2006, NASA scientist James Hansen told us we have 10 years, at the most, to act. Not to think, but to act. All the actions we’ve taken in the last three years have only made the problem worse.

This constitutes the single worst piece of news I’ve ever seen in a newspaper. Why it has not been permanently chiseled on page one is a mystery, but it suggests that we will not take all the greenhouse gas-abating measures that have been proposed.

The American Clean Energy and Security Act, better known as Waxman-Markey, passed the House of Representatives last spring and will soon be taken up by the Senate. What came out of the House was far too weak, far too riddled with giveaways to polluters. And the Senate will make it worse.

© Mark Floegel, 2009

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