The Intersection

i-567299a2b12cce2a9cb2ca31cf8e747e-189px-George-W-Bush.jpegAnd so this is what it has all been building up to: Leadership. If New Orleans is languishing right now, there’s one chief person to blame. And if we’re not investigating how global warming is going to change our hurricane risks on a national level–well, again, there’s one person to blame.

The person in charge of the government that is currently failing us.

It’s not a particularly original observation these days to note that George W. Bush has built quite a legacy for himself. The black marks will include the mess in Iraq, the mess in New Orleans, and the failure to address global warming in a timely fashion–among many other things (like ignoring and undermining science throughout the federal government).

And it’s not just that Bush has failed to join a global climate treaty or to order the EPA to regulate CO2. His administration has gone further by actively thwarting global warming preparedness measures for this country. As whistleblower Rick Piltz has so eloquently explained at Climate Science Watch, the administration both deep-sixed and then failed to build upon a Clinton era study, the U.S. National Assessment**, that was directed towards precisely that end: Preparing us. Getting us ready.

Hurricane risks were included.

But instead of seriously engaging in such a needed process, the administration has instead exaggerated scientific uncertainty about global warming as a justification for foot-dragging and inaction. Meanwhile, our risks as a nation have been changing in often unknown but troubling ways. But alas, Bush and his acolytes don’t seem to to get any of the previous three Katrina “lessons” concerning how to think about science, risk, and uncertainty. And by their inaction and incompetence, they’re preventing the rest of us, the nation, from adequately grappling with them as well.

And so, perhaps, the ultimate takeaway point two years after Katrina is this: It may not be until 2009 at the earliest that we adequately address our hurricane risks, or our climate risks, in this country–or that we actually get really serious about rescuing New Orleans. And thanks to George W. Bush, these problems will likely only be harder to address in the future than they are now, or than they were at the start of this administration.

We can only hope that by the time we finally have a new leader who takes science and preparedness more seriously, it won’t be too late.

** For the National Assessment of 2000 see here. Ignore the bogus disclaimer.


  1. #1 Linda
    August 29, 2007

    Right on, Chris… Sad, and unnecessary, but too true.

  2. #2 Kevin
    August 29, 2007

    When I first read this post, for some reason, in my mind I reversed the order of the last two words of the title.

  3. #4 Fred Bortz
    August 29, 2007

    It isn’t the President alone.

    We need to address the way he got into office and the missed opportunities to replace him and his cronies in 2002 and 2004. We need to defeat the political forces that facilitated his programs, and shine the spotlight on people who were in positions to speak truth to power and failed to do so.

    We need to understand what brought us to this point. Otherwise, we may begin a new sorry cycle in 2009.

  4. #5 Emily
    August 29, 2007

    You can order your very own copy of the National Assessment here (it’s free, too):

  5. #6 Wes
    August 29, 2007

    Fred is saying the right words. But, when I take a good hard look at the way that every politician is spinning the situation in New Orleans, when I look at how the televised media is playing this issue, I have very little hope that politicians are going to make positive contributions to a resurgent New Orleans. Just look at the French Quarter vs. the 9th Ward today, all arranged in the name of getting the tourists back into town.

    I am waiting for one major network journalist to interview Malik Rahim. Rahim ran for City Council against a man who just resigned over a scandal. He kept his non-profit open and working all through the catastrophe. He was on the ground, but forgotten by the media, except for Tavis Smiley whose June 2007 interview with Rahim ran at 1:00 a.m.

    The government, and I’m talking about the local, state and federal government, you know, hasn’t even acknowledged the work that we are doing. They refuse to even come out and try to assist us with anything pertaining to the work that we are doing and have done everything that they can to stop us.

    I’d love to be able to work along with the government ’cause that’s the first thing we did is ask them how can we volunteer to help. We was told that they didn’t want no volunteers. The only thing we could do is leave the city and the government said they’ll spend billions of dollars, but they can’t offer a resident back here a respirator. They can’t even offer them a hammer or a wheelbarrow, some of the basics.

  6. #7 Julie Stahlhut
    August 30, 2007

    But of course POTUS is doing something. Just a couple of days ago, he was in New Orleans, praying his brains out.

    Endarkenment encroaches, one sound bite at a time ….

  7. #8 John the Gnerphk
    August 30, 2007

    A practicable preparation for global warming would likely necessitate the abandonment of New Orleans, and that simply would not appeal to the American voter. What politician could counsel preparedness?

    I agree with Fred, of course. We need to address those problems with our system that got us into this mess. Unlike others that have raised this point in the past, however, I’m not speaking of the Electoral College or stuffed ballot boxes; those are far less to blame than the ignorance and apathy of the voting public.

    And, of course, the unwillingness of intelligent, selfless individuals to stand for office is killing us too. There’s nobody currently running that meets both criteria.

    (Lest we forget, Jimmy Carter met only one criterion. As did George W. At least Jimmy took the chance to improve himself after he left office; poor George won’t get one.)

  8. #9 John the Gnerphk
    August 30, 2007

    I’ve been stewing about it, and I can’t stand the strain any more. So, I’m gonna quote the words of a very wise man here; hope you’ll bear with me if you’ve read it.

    “We as a society produce little of note, worth, or true value. Our people exist for their own pleasure rather than for any great purpose. Those few of us that care about the world beyond our own precious selves fritter away our vital energy bickering about which causes we must espouse and then force onto other peoples or nations – or indeed upon our own.

    Our society is one with a voting public – largely ignorant and apathetic, it’s true, but voters nonetheless. We have a system designed to let us set governmental policy if we care to. Yet we have been betrayed by those we elect so often that it seems a joke to suggest that we should effect change through the democratic institutions.

    Don’t get me wrong, here; while I’m vehemently opposed to most of the current administration’s policies, the opposition has demonstrated their own deep corruption and self-serving vice. Repeatedly. I hesitate to name names; I’m sure you can all think of a few.

    We need to demonstrate the courage of our convictions. We need to be willing to sacrifice ourselves for the good of the country, the world, and the human race. What I ask is no less than the willingness to stand for office, to run a vocal and intelligent campaign, and to get rid of the present lot of politicians. And this must be done first on the local level; those with intelligent minds will soon see it as inevitable truth.

    For years, we as Americans have been content to let others govern us. The time has come for us to stand up and govern ourselves.”

    (I’m quoting myself here; it was in response to Sheril. Hope nobody objects to the narcissism; the point still holds true.)

    -J the G

  9. #10 ChrisC
    August 31, 2007

    I would warn everybody that it’s not just Dubbya and his administration. It’s certainly not the Republicans in general (think of McCain’s climate change bill). It’s the whole friggin’ establishment.

    The Democrats, while better than the GOP on the surface in regards to climate change policy, are still far weaker than is required. Both Democrats and Republicans are beholden to large, political donors, representing many individuals and industries with a vested interest in downplaying the risks and avoiding action of the issue of AGW.

    We need and deserve better.

    I’m not sure what the answers to this are. The political duopoly is so entrenched that it is difficult to circumvent. My only response is that as citizens, we need to apply as much pressure as we can to members of both parties, and threaten their jobs. Partisanship aside, if they fail to act on this, they will not get our vote.

    I know this sounds weak, but it’s the only response I can think of at this time.

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