Sunday, August 8, 2010

The Issue of Global Climate Change

Here in the USA, 2010 has given us record weather-breaking highs and lows; serious flooding in Nashville, Oklahoma, Illinois; huge snowfalls in the upper mid-west; and a host of other weather abnormalities. Are these due to the measurable increase of CO2 in the upper atmosphere…the “global warming, global climate change, greenhouse effect” phenomenon? No one can say for certain. There is no “proof.” However, the scientific data gathered by thousands of scientists over the past thirty-some years has proved that CO2 is steadily increasing in our atmosphere due to the burning of fossil fuels…coal, oil, natural gas…stored carbon that has not been in the atmosphere for millions and millions of years, but which is being released in increasingly huge amounts over the past 100+ years. Computer model simulations and basic inference points to subtle changes in the dynamics of the atmosphere which creates variations in climate patterns, manifested by increased extreme weather.

Are these projections accurate? Is all the data “pure?” Are all the scientists and their life’s work 100% honest and true? As with any human endeavor, there is a bell shaped curve---there are extremists who lie, cheat, and steal on both sides of any issue, whether they be professional athletes, Wall Street bankers, or climate scientists. The consensus of global climatologists is that human induced CO2 is going to play ever more havoc with the weather on our planet. Whether we believe this or not depends on a lot of things. The fossil fuel industry spends huge amounts of money buying misinformation, disinformation, lies, confusion, whatever, in the media and in Congress. Any attempt to take positive steps towards reducing CO2 emissions has been heavily defeated by party politics…big money. Industry fights to minimize the costs they (we) would have to pay to reduce burning carbon and switching to renewables. It really is all about money.

There are two courses of action available to us. The first is to ignore this whole global warming thing, and continue with business as usual. Big oil and coal would continue to extract and sell their products, make huge profits on them, and we would plow along as these non-renewable resources become more difficult to discover and extract, and eventually are gone. If the premise that global climate change is a hoax is true, then everything in the next 50+ years should be relatively fine. But what if they are wrong? What if we continue to see more extreme climate changes…more flooding, more drought, more fires, more shifts in agriculture producing patters, more loss of oxygen producing ocean phytoplankton, more destruction of tropical rainforests, more loss of basic food production, more rising sea level…all these thing are occurring and may continue to occur over time. There will not be a magic day…Sunday, August 8, 2016…when we all realize that this climate change is true and we need to something about it.

It will never be too late to change our policies; however the sooner we do so, the less expensive it will be. We are going to have to spend money dealing with this one way or another. Our better course of action is to begin to wean ourselves away from the fossil fuels. This cannot/will not happen overnight…it will take many, many years to make the transition. But we need to seriously begin now. I assume we are all aware of the value of the “green revolution” which is finally making its way into the global mainstream of politics and policy. Renewables such as solar and wind for our electricity, heating, lighting, transportation...basically most of our energy needs; energy efficiency and making better use of our energy resources for out changing lifestyles; and the quest for future technologies such as hydrogen and ocean power. These are global solutions, appropriately applied to the great variety of needs and available resources of the earth’s peoples. And they provide local jobs and local capital investment. If we are wrong, then all we would have done is upset the “big money” markets for a time being, and saved us a lot of other “monies” which would have been spent on human miseries. This transition will eventually be made, regardless of whether we do it voluntarily or under extreme economic duress.

Here are just one of a few news bulletins that have sparked this diatribe:

RUSSIA Moscow has reached 102.2° F, after never before even breaking the 100-degree mark in recorded history. Prime Minister Vladimir Putin and President Dmitri Medvedev have flooded the airwaves in response to outrage over the wildfires and droughts caused by the global heat wave, as officials are forced to admit the situation is out of control. The Russian government has recommended people evacuate Moscow, banned wheat exports, diverted flights, fired senior military officers, and warned the fires could pose a nuclear threat if they reach areas contaminated by Chernobyl. Medvedev called the linked disasters “evidence of this global climate change,” which means “we need to change the way we work, change the methods that we used in the past.”
CHINA The worst flooding ever recorded in northeast China, caused by weeks of torrential rain with no end in sight, has caused nearly $6 billion in damage to water projects there, In addition, “52 people are reported to have died and an additional 20 are missing following rain-triggered floods in central China’s Henan Province.” “In the southwestern province of Yunnan, at least 11 people died and 11 were missing following a landslide caused by heavy rain.”
INDIA “Record temperatures in northern India have claimed hundreds of lives in what is believed to be the hottest summer in the country since records began in the late 1800s.” “The death toll in flashfloods that hit the remote mountainous region of Ladakh in Indian-held Kashmir has risen to 103.”
NORTH KOREA “Flooding last month caused serious damage in North Korea, destroying homes, farms, roads and buildings and hurting the economy,” the secretive dictatorship of North Korea admitted yesterday. “About 36,700 acres of farmland was submerged and 5,500 homes and 350 public buildings and facilities were destroyed or flooded,” the official Korean Central News Agency said. “The news agency had previously reported heavy rains fell in the country in mid- to late July, but those earlier reports did not mention flooding or damage. State media in the impoverished, reclusive nation often report news days or weeks after an event takes place.”
PAKISTAN “Islamist charities, some with suspected ties to militants, stepped in on Monday to provide aid for Pakistanis hit by the worst flooding in memory, piling pressure on a government criticized for its response to the disaster that has so far killed more than 1,000 people.” “Thousands of people are fleeing Pakistan’s most populous areas as devastating floods” that have already affected more than 3 million people “sweep towards the south.” Fatima Bhutto, Benazir Bhutto’s niece, lashed out: “The floods are just the latest, most tragic example of how inept the Pakistani state truly is.”

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