June 26, 2006 — -- 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..."
The President -- as far as the extensive and repeated researches of this and many other professional journalists, as well as all scientists credible on this subject, can find -- is wrong on one crucial and no doubt explosive issue. When he said -- as he also did a few weeks ago -- that "There's a debate over whether it's manmade or naturally caused" ... well, there really is no such debate.
At least none above what is proverbially called "the flat earth society level."
Not one scientist of any credibility on this subject has presented any evidence for some years now that counters the massive and repeated evidence -- gathered over decades and come at in dozens of ways by all kinds of professional scientists around the world -- that the burning of fossil fuels is raising the world's average temperature.
Or that counters the findings that the burning of these fuels is doing so in a way that is very dangerous for mankind, that will almost certainly bring increasingly devastating effects in the coming decades.
One small group of special interest businesses leaders -- those of some fossil fuel companies -- have been well documented by journalist Ross Gelbspan and others to have been fighting a PR campaign for 15 years to keep the American public confused about the wide and deep scientific consensus on this.
They've aimed, as Gelbspan explains, to keep us thinking that (to borrow the president's words this morning) "There's a debate over whether it's manmade or naturally caused" -- though no open and thorough journalism this reporter knows of can find any such thing.
Drenching waters, president's words, high judges' scrutiny, worried voters, journalists scrambling to get their arms around this enormous story, oil executives looking at spread sheets while they explore for more oil in Canada and the Arctic, and one elm down ... so far.
Meteorologists predict more heavy rain this week along the mid-Atlantic seaboard.
Climatologists predict much the same for the coming decades.