Scientists we listen to and scientists we ignore

Scientists we listen to and scientists we ignore

The remarkably good news today was that researches participating in a large federal project to map the genetic changes involved in cancers, have identified four distinct types of breast cancer.  Hopefully it will just be a matter of time and more scientific research to develop more effective treatments for breast cancer that kills over 35,000 women each year in our country.

Now if only scientists could make progress in identifying the causes of other critical issues….say like extreme and destructive weather that results in significant loss of life and property while drying up our farm lands and waterways at the same time raising ocean levels which threatens our coastal communities.  You know—climate change.

Oh, that’s right.  Almost every scientist in this field does agree with the cause of climate change…too much CO2 in the atmosphere as a result of burning fossil fuels like coal and petroleum products. 

But do we congratulate scientists for identifying the cause of climate change and encouraging them to develop solutions as we do with cancer research?  Heavens no.  Instead the climate change deniers have tied our nation in knots on the issue in spite of building evidence of pending disaster.

Last week we learned that the Arctic sea ice has melted to a new record summer low this year.  Only 24% of the Arctic Ocean had sea ice, half of what it was back in the late 1970s. 

Why is this a problem?  “The Arctic is the earth’s air-conditioner,” says research scientist Walt Meier.

Those of us who live in the South know that bad things happen to humans when the air-conditioning isn’t working.  Well, the same holds true for the planet.  According to Dr. James Hansen, a well-known expert on climate change at NASA, “The scientific community realizes that we have a planetary emergency.”

However, instead of heeding the factual evidence and scientific warnings by reducing our use of fossil fuels, Congress goes the other way. 

In bi-partisan votes Congress has passed wind energy tax credits in the past that make this form of power more competitive with traditional dirty energy.  But these tax credits end on December 31st this year and Republicans in Congress have sided with Mitt Romney, who opposes the tax credits, by blocking an extension.  As a result the companies dependent on the tax credits are scaling back production and letting workers go.

Opponents of the tax credits say that the government shouldn’t pick winners and losers.  So why don’t we just tell all those cancer researchers involved in the federal program to just stop what they are doing.  Surely it would be better just to let the pharmaceutical companies fight it out to see which treatments the public should get. 

What’s the difference if another 35,000 women die from breast cancer next year and the years after that?

And what’s the difference if the planet’s air-conditioner shuts down and the planet’s emergency of death and destruction gets worse? 

The answer is simple.  We’d be picking losers…us.