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Planet Under Pressure Conference in London – We’re getting close to irreversible climate changes…

While politicians argue with scientists, the climate actually goes on changing.. and not to our advantage. Reuters has been commenting on this conference that runs through tomorrow:

Global warming close to becoming irreversible-scientists

The world is close to reaching tipping points that will make it irreversibly hotter, making this decade critical in efforts to contain global warming, scientists warned on Monday.

Scientific estimates differ but the world’s temperature looks set to rise by six degrees Celsius by 2100 if greenhouse gas emissions are allowed to rise uncontrollably.

As emissions grow, scientists say the world is close to reaching thresholds beyond which the effects on the global climate will be irreversible, such as the melting of polar ice sheets and loss of rainforests.

“This is the critical decade. If we don’t get the curves turned around this decade we will cross those lines,” said Will Steffen, executive director of the Australian National University‘s climate change institute, speaking at a conference in London.

It’s amazing how many of the best scientific minds see the problem, yet they are faced with huge negative concepts by the politicians who would have to vote in the bucks to make changes.

As we argue this out for the rest of the decade, we can watch the polar ice caps melt and the tropical rain forests dry up and many species that we rely on disappear.

It is up to us as individuals to push our representatives into dealing with the truth. Right?

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Quote of the Day – So where does Romney stand now?

After moving as far to the right as he could and changing his past “moderate” positions to very conservative ones, Romney came out in New Hampshire yesterday accepting the left-ish view on Global Warming:

“I believe the world is getting warmer, and I believe that humans have contributed to that. It’s important for us to reduce our emissions of pollutants and greenhouse gases that may be significant contributors.”

Of course the view that humans are contributing to climate change is highly controversial one in GOP circles. Most conservatives fiercely dispute the notion that Earth is warming at all. This does not put Romney, who is having trouble enough getting around his Massachusetts Health Care plan with Republicans, anywhere near the potential for their universal support.

Of course, he does know the real story of Paul Revere’s Ride.

Quote of the Day (perhaps the Quote of the Month) from a Congressional Idiot:

Rohrabacher joins the Ranks of the Inverted

“Is there some thought being given to subsidizing the clearing of rain forests in order for some countries to eliminate that production of greenhouse gases? Or would people be supportive of cutting down older trees in order to plant younger trees as a means to prevent this disaster from happening?”

 – Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, R – California

Rohrabacher was questioning Todd Stern, the Obama administration’s climate change envoy, on whether the nation’s climate policy should focus on reducing the more than 80 percent of carbon emissions produced by the natural world in the form of decaying plant matter.

And was he serious about this question… it seems like he was. So let’s cut down the rainforests and turn the world into an oxygen-depleted desert. Perhaps he doesn’t realize that forests soak up more than 1/3 of the world’s carbon emissions… and maybe we would do better to not cut down any more forests…ever.

Responding to a NY Times article on Rohrabacher’s statement, a Dallas, TX, reader commented:

Rep. Rohrabacher may not be that far out of the GOP thinking on the environment. It was his fellow Californian Ronald Reagan who claimed in 1981 that: “Trees cause more pollution than automobiles do.”

Is the lack of thinking problem endemic to California? Or to Republicans? Or just to Congressmen in general? As Mark Twain said:

“Suppose you were an idiot. And suppose you were a member of Congress. But I repeat myself.” 

Guest Article: The Continuing EPA Budget Battle

from Nicholas Scott:

The GOP has recently been setting out on an effort to cut down on a number of domestic programs, yet they are also aiming at many of the Environmental Protection Agency’s regulations that they believe are a major obstacle in revenue and creating jobs. While the actions have included attempts to lower the power of the clean air act and come down on some of the EPA’s regulations, the campaign to have the EPA’s budget by a third may be the biggest issue of them all. With all of the moves by the GOP against the EPA in early 2011, it seems more like an assault on the foundation of the EPA, rather than just a campaign to help businesses and increase jobs. If the GOP is able to follow through and have the budget sliced by a third, this could bring forth the possibility of diminished air quality and future health risks.

Some republicans are adamant in saying that the clean air act is not at stake with all of their initiatives against the EPA.  Republican Fred Upton claims that the GOP is looking to return the clean air act to its original reason for being created, to protect people and families from smog and pollution. Upton was a main backer of the Energy Tax Prevention Act of 2011, which is directly aimed at taking away the EPA’s ability to oversee greenhouse gas emissions.  Upton’s take on regulating emissions seems shaky. Sure he says that he wants to return the clean air act to its original purpose, but he also pushes to let businesses have free rein on emissions. In eliminating the EPA’s ability to regulate these emissions and downplaying their importance, it almost signals to businesses and factories that abusing the levels of emission for the purpose of increased revenue is alright. The price of diminished air quality and the possible ensuing health risks could be the cost of raised revenue and employment

Sometimes it’s very hard to realize the impact an organization like the EPA can have on the people. The EPA works with a number of regulations, standards, and initiatives aimed at reducing health risks. Monitoring greenhouse gas emission for example, allows the EPA to make sure that increased pollution and smog don’t turn into health risks such as asthma and other respiratory problems. The EPA also fights every year to keep public water clean, monitor the level of mercury in fish and aquatic life, as well as monitor pesticides and keeping related illnesses down. The EPA also has an initiative geared towards asbestos removal all over the country. This is aimed at helping to prevent short term risks such as dizziness and nausea, as well as long term health risks like asbestosis and mesothelioma.

Asbestos is a type of construction material that was used constantly throughout the last century in all types of products, specifically in many older buildings, workplaces and structures. With mesothelioma life expectancy being very short and workers contracting symptoms, use of this material was gradually blacklisted. While no one uses asbestos today, it’s still being removed from older structures all over the country by the EPA.

The EPA certainly works as an organization that has its hand in a number of different projects, such as promoting sustainability, monitoring levels of pollution, and subsequently looking to keep health risks down.  As the battle continues on over whether or not the EPA should be involved with certain issues, both groups are looking for improvements to the country. The EPA is looking to maintain their ability to prevent health risks, while the GOP is looking to increase revenue for businesses, as well as create jobs.

Long discussion with my wife on how to take on Global Warming…

Elly saw a movie last night, “The Age of Stupid,” presented by Sustainable Shepherdstown, and we talked about the difficulties of defeating Global Warming (or Climate Change) before it destroys us (The movie has the world ending in 2055 after nothing is done much earlier to make things less carbon-emitted.)

I wondered if we had not started already to reduce the major causes of this carbon phenomenon. Apparently we haven’t. Elly was most concerned with the major carbon emissions posed by flying ( first, because our son is planning to move to Wisconsin after he gets his graduate degree and she wants to visit him and flying is the solution for quick visits; second, because she wants to travel to Europe and other parts of the world.)

While certain things are possible immediately if we have the gumption and will to do them (like painting all our roads, driveways and rooftops white… something we heard a guy lecture about on television… which would reflect sunlight back instead of soaking it up and making more heat), most won’t happen as long as our current political leaders are more consumed by money, elections and the opinions of the very wealthy corporations that cause much of the problem. There is a Lobbyist Limitation in the Climate Cooling sector!

One thing the movie pointed out was the number of people who say they support “alternative energy” such as windfarms, but have a distinctly NIMBY (Not In My Back Yard) approach to the subject. They want the saving grace of non-carbon fueled energy (a real no no here in West Virginia which still depends on coal mining for jobs), they just don’t want to see it. The same holds true for solar panel farms which wold take up acres of local space.

In June of 2009, the US Global Change Research Project released its report on the effect of Climate Change in our country. The result, which challenges those who do not believe Global Warming is and actual process, are summed up in this report:

Observations show that warming of the climate is unequivocal. The global warming observed over the past 50 years is due primarily to human-induced emissions of heat-trapping gases. These emissions come mainly from the burning of fossil fuels (coal, oil, and gas), with important contributions from the clearing of forests, agricultural practices, and other activities.
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Climate-related changes have already been observed globally and in the United States. These include increases in air and water temperatures, reduced frost days, increased frequency and intensity of heavy downpours, a rise in sea level, and reduced snow cover, glaciers, permafrost, and sea ice. A longer ice-free period on lakes and rivers, lengthening of the growing season, and increased water vapor in the atmosphere have also been observed. Over the past 30 years, temperatures have risen faster in winter than in any other season, with average winter temperatures in the Midwest and northern Great Plains increasing more than 7°F. Some of the changes have been faster than previous assessments had suggested.

Whatever the situation and whoever we, as individuals effected by our own extreme promotion of increased carbon emissions, claim to be does not seem to be making the necessary changes fast enough, if at all. Solutions are somewhat clear, but making them work is a whole other story… and one that we don’t seem ready for.