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International Monetary Fund (IMF) Managing Director Blames Climate Change for Slow Economic Recovery

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At a news conference Monday in Washington D.C., the IMF’s managing director, Christine Lagard, suggested climate change might be a factor in the U.S.’s slow economic recovery the past several years, and that it could make economic predictions more difficult in the future. Years of disappointing growth mean the economy might not reach full employment – which many economists say is when the unemployment rate is between 5 and 5.5 percent – for three more years, according to an Associated Press report on the IMF’s latest predictions.

In releasing the predictions, Lagard said: “extreme weather occurrences have repeated much more frequently in the past 20 years than the previous century,” she stressed. “That’s a reason to wonder about climate change and how to deal with it.”

Meanwhile, in Wisconsin, home state of former Senator Gaylord Nelson, who founded Earth Day and was a presidential “Medal of Freedom” recipient in 1995, the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (DNR) approved steps last week to allow a controversial Canadian tar sands crude oil pipeline expansion through Wisconsin closer to reality, according to a Wisconsin State Journal news report by Samara Kalk Derby. “The move immediately drew criticism from environmentalist”, said the report.

The crude bitumen contained in the Canadian oil sands is described by the National Energy Board of Canada as “a highly viscous mixture of hydrocarbons heavier than pentanes which, in its natural state, is not usually recoverable at a commercial rate through a well because it is too thick to flow.” Crude bitumen is a thick, sticky form of crude oil, so heavy and viscous (thick) that it will not flow unless heated or diluted with lighter hydrocarbons such as light crude oil or natural-gas condensate. At room temperature, it is much like cold molasses. Producing a barrel of oil from the oil sands produces three times more greenhouse gas emissions than a barrel of conventional oil, due to the heating and energy required to process and transport the heavy crude.

The DNR approved an air construction permit for expanding crude oil storage capacity at a Superior oil terminal owned by Houston Based Enbridge Energy Company, and located on the shore of Lake Superior, despite receiving more than 200 written comments and about 3,400 emails from the public on the proposed action.

Lake Superior is the upper most of the 5 Great Lakes and the largest freshwater lake by area in the world. According to a study by professors at the University of Minnesota Duluth, Lake Superior average water temperatures have increased by about 4.5 °F (2.5 °C) since 1979, compared with an approximately 2.7 °F (1.5 °C) increase in the surrounding average air temperature [Marshall, Jessica. (2007-05-30.) “Global warming is shrinking the Great Lakes.” New Scientist, via newscientist.com.]

The Sierra Club said the proposal triples the present capacity of the pipeline, creating the largest tar sands pipeline in the United States, according Kalk Derby’s report.

The DNR said it did environmental assessments for the pipeline companies projects in 2006 and in 2009. However, it did not do the more extensive “Environmental Impact Statement”, which requires a an a more detailed and in depth analysis as well as a series of public hearings, and which is required by the state Wisconsin Environmental Policy Act” of 1972 for all major projects “significantly affecting the quality of the environment”. The Wisconsin Environmental Policy Act (WEPA) is a state law designed to encourage environmentally sensitive decision-making by Wisconsin state agencies.

Gaylord Nelson: “Our goal is not just an environment of clean air and water and scenic beauty. The objective is an environment of decency, quality and mutual respect for all other human beings and all other living creatures.” [Part of Earth Day speech, April 22, 1970 – 1st Earth Day]

Will Today’s Children Be Left in the Lurch on Future Planet Earth?

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What will Earth’s climate in the future be like? Today’s children will have no choice but to spend the majority of their time in whatever we leave them.

As anyone today who pays even the slightest bit of attention to what 98% of world scientists have been warning us, the consequences of our unprecedented and continued combustion of massive quantities of the earth’s fossil fuels – primarily in transportation, heating and electricity use – over the past several centuries will likely be dire.

The continuing build up of more and more greenhouse gases in our atmosphere (and oceans) from too much fossil fuel burning will likely leave our planet as a sickening place for today’s children, or children to be, to live.

The earth’s atmosphere will trap more radiation thus more heat from the Sun, making weather storm systems much more potent and deadly than those of today.

The water levels of the earth’s oceans will continue rising, warming and the oceans will become more acidic, causing intolerable conditions for many of our oceans’ species. Ecological and biological systems everywhere are likely to be severely impacted. Sustaining life (and living) will become more difficult on Future Planet Earth. If we continue our ecologically reckless burning of fossil fuels, even at the level we burn them now, today’s children and future children will have to pay the price of that overindulgence. The way we are living now is unsustainable, and how long our present day Earth will remain hospitable for human beings and animals to live is limited. Many known “positive global warming feedbacks”, such as more methane releases by the increasing thawing of the permafrost region; and increasing solar radiation absorption (heating) of the Arctic ocean waters due to replacement of its snow and ice cover with its darker, more sunlight-absorbing, sea water are quite probably already kicking in. Once those feedback systems approach their maximum, global warming could take on the characteristics U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry recently described as: “the world’s most fearsome weapon of mass destruction”, and moreover that “the science of climate change is leaping out at us like a scene from a 3D movie… It’s warning us; it’s compelling us to act” (Kerry).

President John F. Kennedy once famously said: “Ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country.”

Not many Americans these days must be thinking about the meaning of those words as so many in particular take round-trip flights by jet to far away places, yearly, which requires the burning immense amounts of fossil fuels, especially in take-off and cruising very long distances.

A prime example here in Wisconsin is Wisconsin Public Radio (WPR) and Wisconsin Public Television (WPT) are sponsoring round-trip vacations for anyone who’s willing to pay them to arrange flights to Hawaii, Ireland, the Mediterranean, and New York City this year. More trips are being planned to other exotic places, as well. In addition to those people not spending their money to help out our state’s economy, those excursions contribute to the many tons of greenhouse gases from the jet airliners flying those tourists to their destinations and back to the Badger State over the course of those flights. I have informed WPR that flying by jet is without question the worst thing individuals can do if their goal is to minimize their greenhouse gas emissions. It appears they care only about making money off these excursions and care little or not at all about the perils of a warming planet they are helping to cause by arranging these exotic trips. It’s shameful.