Climate Change Abroad

I did a column this week for TAP about the devastating impact America’s climate pollution is having abroad:

The Carteret Islands, a somewhat outlying atoll off the coast of Papua New Guinea, don’t normally attract much attention. But it’s a shame more people weren’t paying attention in late April when a lone blogger, Dan Box, was on hand to witness the beginning of the islands’ evacuation. It’s a small atoll, you see, and relatively low-lying. Sea levels are rising. Flooding is increasing. And even though the island is still there, it’s no longer habitable: “King tides have washed away their crops and rising sea levels poisoned those that remain with salt,”wrote Box. These days, in other words, sometimes the high tide gets so high it buries the farmland, and even when it doesn’t, the salt permeates the soil. So 2,600 people need to move. […]

Still, it’s hard to miss the fact that the elite conversation in Washington, D.C., has a distinct air of frivolity about it that attention to events abroad might dispel. If it were announced that the United States of America was planning on dumping a load of poison on the Carteret Islands rendering them uninhabitable, I think even Sen. James Inhof of Oklahoma would be spurred to action. Certainly I doubt that you’d see a Blue Dog member of the House whining that since the poison factory is located in his district, he doesn’t see how we can possibly afford to stop producing the poison. Libertarians wouldn’t be arguing that the pristine logic of the free market grants companies the right to poison other people’s islands.

We’re ultimately going to need better policy than the Waxman-Markey bill to cope with this crisis, but Waxman-Markey would be much much better than the status quo.