A Perfect Storm Descends on the Nation's Capital


A perfect storm of drenching rain, irony, political rancor, public fear and -- at the last minute like a fierce stroke of lightning -- word from the highest court in the land, descended on the nation's capital today.

This storm -- pulling in many parts of the global warming emergency -- also broke through the White House perimeters and helped bring down a century-old elm tree, laying it across the driveway.

Even President Bush was drawn into the storm this morning, talking about climate change in a way he may find difficult to explain.

The brewing battles of and about global warming are now being joined.

The massive downpours this morning shorting out government buildings with flooded basements, seizing up legislative communications, snarling traffic access to white columned buildings, fit exactly the pattern predicted decades ago as a consequence of global warming.

It's a simple fourth grade science lesson: the warmer the air, the more moisture it can hold.

Winds suck up more water vapor from oceans and farmlands -- leaving more agricultural drought behind -- and when they finally do dump that moisture out as rain, the downpours are much heavier.

Not just in the United States. Worldwide, such downpours have been increasing markedly over recent decades -- exactly as predicted by scientists.

In the 1980's, leading American climatologists stood in front of Congress, trying to get across the reality of this planetary threat.

One of the world's most resepected climatologists, NASA's James Hansen, even used a dice metaphor to make it clear.

If you paint one side of the die red, you'll roll red about one in six times. Paint four red, and you'll roll red on average four in six times.

Manmade greenhouse gas emissions, Hansen explained, were loading the dice so that we'd have such extreme weather far more frequently. And, exactly as predicted, we and the world have -- well above what the frequency of any natural weather cycles can explain.

Amidst this morning's capital chaos -- including that White House elm bowled over and uprooted in the storm-drenched ground -- the U.S. Supreme Court weighed in.

The nation's highest court announced that it will indeed hear the case brought against the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency on the grounds that it should have regulated carbon dioxide emissions in order to combat global warming.

The case is brought by a dozen states from New York and Massachusetts in the East (as well as Washington, D.C.) to California and Oregon in the West, along with a number of cities, plus some environmental groups.

Whatever the Supreme Court finally decides, their agreement to hear the case will only amplify news and discussion about what so many now -- including all credible scientists -- recognize as a grave planetary emergency.

And the president amid this morning's wind and rain?

In the White House, only hours after that old elm had fallen, Bush was addressed by a reporter, thus: "I know that you are not planning to see Al Gore's new movie, but do you agree with the premise that global warming is a real and significant threat to the planet?"

"I have said consistently," answered Bush, "that global warming is a serious problem. There's a debate over whether it's manmade or naturally caused. We ought to get beyond that debate and start implementing the technologies necessary ... to be good stewards of the environment, become less dependent on foreign sources of oil..."

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