January 2010 Archives

Prevention Not Prison

Thanks to Rick L. for forwarding this op-ed link:

Prevent criminal activity, spend less on prisons

Global Warming

Originally published on Jan. 11, 2007. See "Afterwards" at end.

The evidence of global warming is everywhere around us, varying in forms depending upon where we live. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has provided the very latest evidence and scientific conclusions about global warming and what has caused it. Many are unaware of the problem due to the deliberate manipulation of information (see, e.g., Global warming facts obscured by politics).

Most of the rise in world temperature is due to the buildup of carbon dioxide caused mainly by burning fossil fuels. Only fools are still in denial. With continued global warming will come gradual or rapid but certain calamity, death, disease, crime and related problems. To learn more or to instigate thinking about this you could start by downloading a simplified version of the "Global Warming: Early Warning Signs" poster, or by getting a copy of the map itself. (fyi, we have no financial interest in the sale of this map.) You might also take a look at the Brookings document on reducing oil dependence. You could also read Stephen Hawking's thoughts on global warming.

There are plenty of weighty and compelling statements about what is happening to the earth. The Earth Institute summarizes one bit of the most visible evidence of warming:

"According to NASA, the polar ice cap is now melting at the rate of 9 percent per decade. Arctic ice thickness has decreased 40 percent since the 1960s. The current pace of sea-level rise is three times the historical rate and appears to be accelerating.

The IPCC's webcast of their latest study (WG I Summary for Policymakers, Paris, France, 2 February 2007), the fourth assessment, is useful to listen to.

There are many, many other implications of global warming. Obviously the oceans will rise quite a bit, there will be dramatic weather changes, and many (more) people will die from the direct and indirect effects of all these and related factors. If you would like to read first-person accounts of the experience in areas that have been directly affected by global warming, such as the changing lives of farmers around Mt. Kilimanjaro, see the link to the "Reports from a Warming Planet" provided by American Radioworks.

It is easy to identify the the top twenty carbon dioxide emitters, the sources of our global warming problem, but far more difficult to get recognition of the problem by citizens, legislators and government, especially in the United States--one of the biggest sources of pollution leading to global warning.

One of the most challenging questions is how to get environmental pollution high on the agenda of public problems, first in the U.S. and then abroad. Perhaps we could take the bold step and define it as a crime rather than, as is presently done, burying it in administrative regulations. Unbelievable as it may sound, the Environmental Protection Agency refuses to define greenhouse gases as environmental pollution. (An analogy is the FDA's management of the cigarette/smoking issue.) California has taken the step of defining tailpipe emissions as pollution, with some strict guidelines to be implemented in 2009. It is, however, unclear whether the Bush Administration or federal law will back up California and other states that see the problems so clearly and attempt to take definite actions to try to deal with them before it is too late to do anything.

There is now a widely watched case (05-1120 Massachusetts, et al. v. EPA, et al.) sitting at the U.S. Supreme Court that begs for resolution of the meaning of the Clean Air Act, which during oral arguments led to the usual embarassment of Scalia's superficial understanding of cases before the court. At stake here, however, is whether there will or can be a speedy solution to pollution emissions in the race against global warming. If Congress has to revise the Clean Air Act it will delay, delay and delay the solutions that are needed to address the big problems we face today, now.

In 1988--during "Greenhouse Summer"--there was great concern expressed about the global warming phenomenon, but interest waned as obvious signs appeared to diminish (but objective indicators have continued to show definitive evidence). (See Shedon Unger, "The Rise and (Relative) Decline of Global Warming as a Social Problem," The Sociological Quarterly, Volume 33, Number 4, pages 483-501, 1992.) His work calls attention to the importance of social scares to social change and is worth reading in this context.

Locally, in Sonoma County, California, the environmental movement is alive and well and working to reduce greenhouse emissions. It really is a hands-on, grass roots example of how you can help your own local community get on this problem: make a global problem your local problem. In 2001, all nine cities, Sonoma County and the Water Agency here were the first in the United States to specify greenhouse gas (GHG) reduction targets for all government agencies. The Community Climate Action Plan (CCAP) is the blueprint being used to coordinate public and private sector groups to make it all happen. Go to this page to see the Community Climate Action Plan Update. Other local communities can check out the Climate Protection Campaign web site.

Noticed some strange changes in the weather in your area that are, well, discomforting in some way? Is the weather too pleasant (or uncomfortable) for this time of year, or just weird? Trust your senses, start reading, educate yourself, take action. You can make a difference.

Afterwards
In July of 2010, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
National Climatic Data Center's official government report on climate change concludes:

"The combined global land and ocean average surface temperature for June 2010 was the warmest on record..." See the report for more details.

See climateprogress.org/ for numerous discussions about the state of earth and how and why we are in denial about climate change.

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