The moment when presidential candidate Mitt Romney provided millions of US Republicans with a belly laugh at climate science — Aug 30, 2012 — is destined for a place in the history books.
“President Obama promised to begin to slow the rise of the oceans,” said candidate Mitt Romney, pausing as the audience of Republicans howled with laughter at the absurdity of the promise. Romney continued: “… and to heal the planet. My promise — is to help you and your family.”
It’s one of those remarkable moments that speaks to the spirit of an age — in this case, an age of denial, of superstition, and of reckless, deliberate ignorance in the face of facts. It is a 1938 Munich moment, a stroll on Titanic’s ice-strewn deck in 1912. To use environmental history analogies, it’s like the Donora smog of 1948 or the Cuyahoga river fire of 1969 in that it could be a wake-up call.
Even as Romney chortled about climate, the following events were taking place:
* Hurricane Isaac had just passed through the Caribbean and hit Louisiana, mercifully killing fewer people than Katrina exactly seven years beforehand, but showing, once again, how basic safety and health is entirely neglected for the poor;
* The Pacific Forum held emergency meetings on disappearing islands;
* United Nations delegates in Bangkok were preparing for new international climate talks;
* Studies were released on sea level and temperature rise in the US by Scripps Institute of Oceanography on the west coast and the NRDC on the east coast;
* The American meteorological society released a report that acknowledged the human causes of climate change, which was significant since it was the last major scientific institution in the US to have expressed doubts;
* Even conservative newspapers said the verdict was in for climate change.
How will history judge this moment? In my opinion, severely.
— Bill Kovarik, editor & author, Environmental History Timeline