Despite big data to the contrary, the Republican-controlled U.S. Senate, while conceding that climate change is real and not a “hoax”, as Senator James Inhofe of Oklahoma formerly claimed, still refused to admit that humans are responsible for the current warming of the planet. A series of votes publicly tested Republicans’ stance on global warming just days after two federal agencies declared 2014 the hottest year on record and hours after President Barack Obama called global warming one of the greatest threats to future generations. The votes were held over a debate over a bill on the Keystone XL pipeline.
Carbon dioxide (CO2), the most abundant of the greenhouse gases in Earth’s atmosphere, began rising in concentration, as measured in parts per million (ppm), in the atmosphere as fossil fuels began being burned for energy around the time of the Industrial Revolution (about 1800). CO2 concentrations in the atmosphere were 70% lower than present levels, which are presently close to 400 ppm. Today’s concentrations of CO2 and other increasing greenhouse gases in the atmosphere are largely the result of emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases from human activities. These activities include burning fossil fuels and changes in land use, such as agriculture and deforestation, according to Center for Climate and Energy Solutions.
As a result, greenhouse gases are accumulating in our atmosphere at unprecedented rates. According to the Scripps Institution of Oceanography,the concentrations of CO2 in the atmosphere are increasing at an accelerating rate from decade to decade. The latest atmospheric CO2 data is consistent with a continuation of this long-standing trend.
The upper safety limit for atmospheric CO2 is 350 parts per million (ppm). Atmospheric CO2 levels have stayed higher than 350 ppm since early 1988.
Many of today’s Republican have either denied the science of climate change or have distanced themselve from it, saying they don’t have the expertise to issue an opinion, according to the Associated Press’s Dina Cappiello in a January 22, 2015 article in the Wisconsin State Journal.
Wisconsin Public Radio reported results of a new poll this month that finds that nationally, only one-tenth of the public wants their state to file a lawsuit over a federal plan aimed at reducing carbon emissions from coal-burning power plants.
Governor Scott Walker said in his State of the State Address Wisconsin is planning to sue the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). “Top-down regulations and mandates from the federal government get in the way of innovation and growth in Wisconsin and states like ours. Therefore, I am working with our new Attorney General to prepare a lawsuit challenging the newly proposed federal energy regulations”, Walker said.
However pollster Barry Rabe of the University of Michigan says most people don’t support state lawsuits against federal EPA on global warming emission from power plant electricity providers.
The EPA proposal cuts emissions at coal-fired power plants and a move with major implications for Wisconsin, because coal generates more than half the state’s electricity.
The mandate cuts power plant emissions – the largest source of carbon dioxide (CO2) emission in the U.S. nationwide by 25% by 2030. Climate change, once considered an issue for a distant future, has moved firmly into the present,” the report said. “Summers are longer and hotter, and extended periods of unusual heat last longer than any living American has ever experienced, according to the World Health Organization.
President Barack Obama said in his 2015 State of the Union speech last Monday that his first duty as Commander-in-Chief is to defend the United States of America. Presumably, he meant defend our country against foreign aggressors attempting to inflict military harm to our citizens, properties, infrastructures and country as a whole.
President Obama also said in that “as Americans, we have a profound commitment to justice”.
He also stated that “for all that we’ve endured; for all the grit and hard work required to come back; for all the tasks that lie ahead, know this: The shadow of crisis has passed, and the State of the Union is strong.”
But the shadow of crisis Barack was speaking about was clearly an economic one, not the shadow of the global warming and accompanying environmental crisis. In fact, our current and future climate is at least as important, if not more so, then our economy. We nor any other countries would have much of an economy at all if Earth’s temperatures started to rapidly accelerate, in response to our continued loading of the atmosphere with greenhouse gases. Our country needs to take much more forceful and immediate actions to limit our daily emissions. We are causing a great injustice to the rest of the world and to all succeeding generations if we don’t. But that is what will result if we don’t start reducing our emissions by taking unprecedented actions. We will need to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions to as close to zero as we can get them.
Barack Obama said this in his speech: “And no challenge — no challenge — poses a greater threat to future generations than climate change.” For those needed convincing, he elaborated as follows:
“2014 was the planet’s warmest year on record. Now, one year doesn’t make a trend, but this does — 14 of the 15 warmest years on record have all fallen in the first 15 years of this century.”
“I’ve heard some folks try to dodge the evidence by saying they’re not scientists; that we don’t have enough information to act. Well, I’m not a scientist, either. But you know what — I know a lot of really good scientists at NASA, and NOAA, and at our major universities. The best scientists in the world are all telling us that our activities are changing the climate, and if we do not act forcefully, we’ll continue to see rising oceans, longer, hotter heat waves, dangerous droughts and floods, and massive disruptions that can trigger greater migration, conflict, and hunger around the globe. The Pentagon says that climate change poses immediate risks to our national security. We should act like it.”
He then talked about his accomplishments so far on the climate change front:
“That’s why, over the past six years, we’ve done more than ever before to combat climate change, from the way we produce energy, to the way we use it. That’s why we’ve set aside more public lands and waters than any administration in history. And that’s why I will not let this Congress endanger the health of our children by turning back the clock on our efforts. I am determined to make sure American leadership drives international action. In Beijing, we made an historic announcement — the United States will double the pace at which we cut carbon pollution, and China committed, for the first time, to limiting their emissions. And because the world’s two largest economies came together, other nations are now stepping up, and offering hope that, this year, the world will finally reach an agreement to protect the one planet we’ve got.”
But it is questionable whether such an agreement at this late stage of the game – the first Climate Summit was held in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, in 1992 – 24 years ago can be enough to return to sustainability. Greenhouse gases accumulate in the atmosphere over time; they don’t just dissipate and vanish.
Barack closed out his speech with:
“Looking to the future instead of the past. Making sure we match our power with diplomacy, and use force wisely. Building coalitions to meet new challenges and opportunities. Leading — always — with the example of our values. That’s what makes us exceptional. That’s what keeps us strong. And that’s why we must keep striving to hold ourselves to the highest of standards — our own.”
“My only agenda for the next two years is the same as the one I’ve had since the day I swore an oath on the steps of this Capitol — to do what I believe is best for America.”
“I want our actions to tell every child, in every neighborhood: your life matters, and we are as committed to improving your life chances as we are for our own kids.”
“I want future generations to know that we are a people who see our differences as a great gift, that we are a people who value the dignity and worth of every citizen — man and woman, young and old, black and white, Latino and Asian, immigrant and Native American, gay and straight, Americans with mental illness or physical disability.”
“I want them to grow up in a country that shows the world what we still know to be true: that we are still more than a collection of red states and blue states; that we are the United States of America.”
“My fellow Americans, we too are a strong, tight-knit family. We, too, have made it through some hard times. Fifteen years into this new century, we have picked ourselves up, dusted ourselves off, and begun again the work of remaking America. We’ve laid a new foundation. A brighter future is ours to write. Let’s begin this new chapter — together — and let’s start the work right now.”
“Thank you. God bless you. (Applause.) God bless this country we love. Thank you.”
The shadow of earth’s global warming crisis has not passed; it will be with all of us for a very long time; but with grit, hard work, ingenuity, by everyone, it may be overcome. We must be determined enough to turn the clock back on the greenhouse effect. Unless all of us care a whole awful lot, and start changing our ways, global warming will continue to worsen. Earth could ultimately become unlivable, for any kind of life.
Human Activities Adding to the Greenhouse Effect and Global Warming
It is of the utmost importance to the continued sustainability of life on earth that humans reduce the amount of greenhouse gases they cause to be emitted to the atmosphere to the minimum amount possible, over their lifetime, because greenhouse gases emitted to the atmosphere have a cumulative effect, meaning they increase in force by successive additions, resulting in a stronger greenhouse effect when those greenhouse gases combine with past, present, and future emissions, and cause the earth’s surface to warm, its polar cap and Antarctica ice to melt, as do Greenland and mountainous glacial ice, causing ocean water levels to rise, and the world ecology to be disrupted.
Full text of President Obama’s 2015 State of the Union Speech
In honor of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and to celebrate his birthday, I am posting a tribute to him that I wrote and distributed on February 2, 2002. I am posting it here today for the same reason as then – to honor Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., and to celebrate his birthday (his exact birthday is January 15). After all, where would we be had Martin Luther King Jr. never been born?
Dr. King worked and died for the cause of freedom; he fought to end racism and do away with poverty and war but by peaceful means only, never by violence, even knowing his speaking out for these causes would likely ultimately cost him his life.
Dr. King would no doubt agree with humanitarian, environmentalist, and antiwar/nonviolent singer-songwriter Jackson Browne, who says on his newest album “Standing In The Breach”, in the song Walls and Doors : “There can be freedom only when nobody owns it”.
Preserving Our Climate for Children and Humanity (February 2, 2002)
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was a strong advocate for positive change for all people, especially children. Continued global warming will make the world we all share a much more hostile place for all people, especially today’s children who have a full life ahead of them. It will take a worldwide effort to stop global warming, and we owe it to children everywhere to do all we can before it becomes an irreversible, worldwide catastrophe.
My proposal is that we ALL petition our governments (with letters, petition, phone calls…) to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by adopting programs that REWARD PEOPLE AND FAMILIES WHO USE LESS ENERGY – by DRIVING LESS, FLYING LESS and USING LESS fossil fuel derived energy in their HOMES.
MLK once said: “We are prone to judge success by the index of our salaries or the size of our automobiles, rather than by the quality of our service and relationship to humanity.” We can serve humanity better by consuming less fossil fuel (gasoline, jet fuel, coal, natural gas and oil) by driving less, flying less and using less energy in our homes. Our children and their children will thank us for that.
Ever since the horrendous loss of life, property and the desolation caused by Hurricane Katrina, which ravaged New Orleans and much of the Gulf of Mexico’s northern coastal lands and inland states in the U.S., and caused many deaths and injuries over the last few days of August 2005, people everywhere have become increasingly concerned about global warming causing more violent storms and causing other kinds of extreme weather (floods, droughts, heat waves), with the effects worsening and becoming more pronounced over time. For example, the gas carbon dioxide (CO2), which is a powerful GHG (and is invisible so we don’t see it) is emitted to the atmosphere in large quantities whenever large quantities of fossil fuels – such as coal, oil and natural gas – are combusted for heating or energy. CO2’s concentration level in the atmosphere has grown in magnitude from 280 parts per million (ppm) in the atmosphere during the 1800’s to 400 ppm in 2014, a 42% increase. Other GHGs have also accumulated along with rising CO2 concentrations, and their combined accumulated effect has caused the earth’s climate to change, now noticeably so, and mostly for the worse. Much of the change so far has been in the form of worsening extreme weather, such as stronger storms, heavier downpours and flooding, rising seas and warming surface waters. Other areas might be experiencing, hotter, longer and more deadly heat waves, and horrendous drought, such as the drought that has been taken place in the Southwestern U.S. over much of the last several years.
Hurricane Katrina, Hurricane Sandy, Super Typhoon Haiyan, severe rainfall and numerous tornadoes – all likely fueled by a warmer than normal atmosphere and warmer ocean water (plus the higher sea level) – are examples of what we can expect seeing more of in the future, if a moratorium were put in place worldwide today. [Hurricane Katrina was the deadliest and most destructive Atlantic tropical cyclone of the 2005 Atlantic hurricane season. It is U.S.’s costliest natural disaster, as well as one of the five deadliest hurricanes to hit U.S. land. At least 1,833 people died in the hurricane and subsequent floods and total property damage from Hurricane Katrina was estimated at $108 billion.] Greenhouse gas would continue to rise regardless of actions, increasing the costs, damages, human and animal lives lost due to the more hostile earth of the future. But things could get 10 times worse, and occur sooner if no action is taken. And things will get unbelievably bad the less we take action now to reduce overall GHGs added to the atmosphere, ever month.
Scientifically speaking, the greenhouse gases in the atmosphere keep our planet warm by absorbing and emitting radiation from the Sun through the process called the “greenhouse effect”. Without them, planet earth would be in a permanent frozen state, devoid of life. While a certain amount of some GHGs such as CO2 are necessary for life to prosper on earth, over the past few hundred years, humans have been adding to volume of GHGs in the atmosphere by increasing amounts, resulting primarily as a byproduct of their burning immense of fossil fuels, by extensive deforestation, and by their creation of immense amounts of methane from waste products, many from human waste disposal practices and from animal production and waste disposal. A melting permafrost region, which amounts to a fifth of the earth’s surface, is likely also contributing GHGs from anaerobic digestion.
The shear number of humans: billions of people who contribute only minor amounts of GHGs to the earth’s greenhouse effect because of the undeveloped nature of their economies, their lack of motorized travel, electricity, meat production, and consumption of foreign goods that require fossil fuel burning for shipment; and the millions who currently continue to cause the emission of billions of tons of greenhouse gases to our atmosphere, as if our atmosphere were just one large sewer, requiring no user fees for those who make massive GHG deposits over their lifetime.
As a result, the earth’s atmosphere is subject to what economist Garret Hardin called “the tragedy of the commons”. The tragedy of the commons occurs in situations in which multiple individuals, acting independently and rationally and in their own self-interest (in this case, burning fossil fuels in cars, airplanes, boats, buying products requiring mining, drilling, motorized transport, clear cutting…) ultimately deplete a shared limited resource (in this case, our atmosphere) even though it has become clear that it is not in anyone’s long-term interest, particularly for all future earth inhabitants, for this to happen. Ecologists and environmentalists often use the phrase “there is no free lunch” when people ignore the reality of the tragedy of the commons, and often expect Government to place limits on the activities that will otherwise lead to tragic consequences.
The year 2014 ranks as Earth’s warmest since 1880, according to two separate analyses by NASA and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) scientists released last Friday (Jan. 16). The 10 warmest years in the instrumental record, with the exception of 1998, have now occurred since 2000. This trend continues a long-term warming of the planet, according to an analysis of surface temperature measurements by scientists at NASA’s Goddard Institute of Space Studies (GISS) in New York.
In an independent analysis of the raw data, NOAA scientists also found 2014 to be the warmest on record. “NASA is at the forefront of the scientific investigation of the dynamics of the Earth’s climate on a global scale,” said John Grunsfeld, associate administrator for the Science Mission Directorate at NASA Headquarters in Washington. “The observed long-term warming trend and the ranking of 2014 as the warmest year on record reinforces the importance for NASA to study Earth as a complete system, and particularly to understand the role and impacts of human activity.”
Since 1880, Earth’s average surface temperature has warmed by about 1.4 degrees Fahrenheit (0.8 degrees Celsius), a trend that is largely driven by the increase in carbon dioxide and other human emissions into the planet’s atmosphere. The majority of that warming has occurred in the past three decades.
“This is the latest in a series of warm years, in a series of warm decades.
While the ranking of individual years can be affected by chaotic weather patterns, the long-term trends are attributable to drivers of climate change that right now are dominated by human emissions of greenhouse gases,” said GISS Director Gavin Schmidt.
While 2014 temperatures continue the planet’s long-term warming trend, scientists still expect to see year-to-year fluctuations in average global temperature caused by phenomena such as El Niño or La Niña. These phenomena warm or cool the tropical Pacific and are thought to have played a role in the flattening of the long-term warming trend over the past 15 years. However, 2014’s record warmth occurred during an El Niño-neutral year.
The GISS analysis incorporates surface temperature measurements from 6,300 weather stations, ship- and buoy-based observations of sea surface temperatures, and temperature measurements from Antarctic research stations. This raw data is analyzed using an algorithm that takes into account the varied spacing of temperature stations around the globe and urban heating effects that could skew the calculation. The result is an estimate of the global average temperature difference from a baseline period of 1951 to 1980.
NBC News reports that Pope Francis is convinced that global warming is “mostly” man-made and that he hopes his upcoming encyclical on the environment will encourage negotiators at a climate change meeting in Paris to make “courageous” decisions to protect God’s creation. He explained the basis for his conclusion while en route to the Philippine Islands, where he is meeting this weekend with survivors of the 2013 Super Typhoon Haiyan, which the government has said was an example of the extreme weather conditions that global warming has wrought. Pope Francis, who has spoken out often about the “culture of waste” that has imperiled our environment, said “I don’t know if it (human activity) is the only cause, but mostly, in great part, it is man who has slapped nature in the face,” he said. “We have in a sense taken over nature”, he exclaimed.
“I think we have exploited nature too much,” the Pope said, citing deforestation and monoculture among the many human instigated causes. “Thanks be to God that today there are voices, so many people who are speaking out about it”, Francis said, adding that he pledged on the day of his installation as pope to make the environment a priority.
The Pope is the head of the Catholic Church which numbers 1.2 billion people around the world over. Catholics believe the Pope is infallible in his authority to make decisions for the Church, meaning he is incapable of making mistakes or being wrong.
Pope Francis is expected to public release his encyclical on ecology by June or July, 2015. He said he wanted it out in plenty of time to be read and absorbed before the next and final set of Intergovernmental Panel of Climate Change negotiations which opens in Paris in November 2015, especially considering that the last round of meeting in Lima, Peru, failed to reach an agreement.
The ultimate goal of U.N. climate negotiations is to stabilize greenhouse gases at a level that keeps global warming below 2 degrees C (3.6 F), compared with pre-industrial times.
This past Labor Day, WORT-FM (89.9 FM), Madison (www.wortfm.org), broadcasted my proposed solution for reducing global warming & climate change. The program would offer government-provided positive financial incentives ($) to encourages people and families in Wisconsin who chose to minimize their global footprint by driving less than the average Wisconsin individual or family (or not driving at all), by not flying at all, and by using less fossil fuel derived energy during the year. The “Conserve, NOW program is further described in about this blog.
The Labor Day Access Hour show “Planet Earth: It Needs Our Help Now More Than Ever” starts with a brief introduction announcing the program followed by several songs containing lyrics applicable to the subject and further information on the program and sources of funding for carrying out. The thought is that much of the funding would eventually be paid back by reducing governmental spending on major environmentally disrupting infrastructure capacity expansions (highway developments, power plants and transmission line construction, airport runway construction and new airports), state and federally funded personnel such as highway and airport and transmission line planners and air traffic controllers. There would also be less cost and harm due to fewer motor vehicle crashes and airplane crashes due to heavier traffic.
Because it provides more income for individuals and families, it would also reduce the need for reliance on poverty assistance programs that provide food and subsidized housing, it would reduce homelessness, and by reducing these impediments, this would eliminate factors detrimental to education of young children.
Click here to listen to the show. It lasts a total of one hour.
Of course there are many other ways individuals, communities, nongovernmental organizations, business interests and others can reduce their annual global footprint in addition to driving and flying less
and using less energy derived from fossil fuels. Some of these include buying fewer consumer products most of which require fuel burning and mining or drilling in their development or use; buying locally produced products whenever possible (less energy used in transport); buying already used products and supporting organizations which only use recycled products; eating less or no meat products; supporting planned parenthood and humane societies that provide rescue animals for pets rather than buying from breeders; supporting organizations that promote reforestation not deforestation, and removal of paved surfaces and replacing them with green space, where ever feasible. Cities and businesses that attract large numbers of daily commuters should provide daily mass transit services to those locations, and the state should subsidize those municipalities who provide those services to outside-the-city locations – rather than put more even money into cement (greenhouse gas emitted in its production and application)for providing highway capacity expansion (which promotes even more driving).
The state, universities, public radio stations and other organization should stop coordinating long distance air travel trips to tourist spots around the world and events such as professional sports, actor/actress movie and music awards shows should be terminated. Major amounts of money, worldwide but especially by the U.S., should stop being funneled into fossil fuel using vehicles including most military airplanes. The U.S. should limit and eventually eliminate sending troops to foreign soils and establishing military bases and headquarters overseas.
– The Lorax