Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Climate Crisis Update: Business Won't Lead, Technology Can't Deliver A Panacea -- Only Political Action Driven By Science & Conscience Will Prevail

United States of Climate Change, Sightline

UPDATED: Fueled by hot, dry Santa Ana winds, fires raged across many parts of the region for the third straight day, taxing exhausted firefighters and the state's thinning resources, and chasing more than a million people from their homes. ... In the San Diego area, more than 500,000 people had been evacuated as late Tuesday and hundreds of thousands of homes in and around the city were under threat, as fires swept through rural areas and invaded insulated suburban communities. Thousands of residents found refuge at Qualcomm Stadium, where the NFL's San Diego Chargers team plays. Marketwatch, 10-23-07

With the South in the grip of an epic drought and its largest city holding less than a 90-day supply of water, officials are scrambling to deal with the worst-case scenario: What if Atlanta's faucets really do go dry? So far, no real backup exists. And there are no quick fixes among suggested solutions, which include piping water in from rivers in neighboring states, building more regional reservoirs, setting up a statewide recycling system or even desalinating water from the Atlantic Ocean. Associated Press, 10-20-07

"Climate change will effect every American economically in a significant and dramatic way," said Matthias Ruth, director of the University of Maryland's Center for Integrative Environmental Research.
In a new study released this week, Ruth observed that further delays in tackling climate change would not only cause greater damage to the U.S. economy, but would also raise the future cost of dealing with natural disasters. ... "We're making billions of dollars of infrastructure investments every year and often without taking impacts of climate change into account," said Ruth, stressing there was a "strong need for action across all sectors." The report concludes that the real economic impact of climate change is "fraught with hidden costs," which will vary regionally and will put a strain on public sector budgets.
Haider Rizvi, OneWorld, 10-17-07

Climate Crisis Update: Business Won't Lead, Technology Can't Deliver A Panacea -- Only Political Action Driven By Science & Conscience Will Prevail

By Richard Power

It was wearisome and discouraging to be ahead of the curve in time and consciousness, for so many years; but that time has past us by, the future has arrived.

Yes, there have always been fires in the West, especially when the Santa Ana blows; and yes, we would have experienced water crises sooner than later even without global warming. But, at this point, if you refuse to acknowledge the impact of climate change on both the ravaging fires in San Diego and the dire water shortage in Atlanta then you really should seek professional help -- and I don't mean the help of a lawyer or an insurance agent, I mean the help of a psycho-therapist.

Who am I talking about?

Oh, men like Stewart Dimmock and Robert Durward --

The school governor [Stewart Dimmock] who challenged the screening of Al Gore's climate change documentary in secondary schools was funded by a Scottish quarrying magnate who established a controversial lobbying group to attack environmentalists' claims about global warming. ... A High Court ruling last week that the Oscar-winning documentary would have to be screened with guidance notes to balance its claims was welcomed by climate-change sceptics. ... Dimmock credited the little-known New Party with supporting him in the test case ... Records filed at the Electoral Commission show the New Party has received nearly all of its money - almost £1m between 2004 and 2006 - from Cloburn Quarry Limited, based in Lanarkshire. The company's owner and chairman of the New Party, Robert Durward, is a long-time critic of environmentalists... Jamie Doward, Observer, 10-14-07

And the Board of Directors of Toyota --

Toyota has gotten a lot of mileage out of portraying itself as the greenest, most fuel-efficient car company on the planet, and has reaped the benefits both financially and pubic relations wise. Yet they are careening toward becoming the most hypocritical car company on the planet by aggressively opposing desperately needed higher U.S. fuel economy standards. Toyota should be worried that their green bubble will burst.

Let's take a little stock here. The company has sold over 1 million hybrids to consumers who'd rather sip gas than guzzle it, and who want to do their part in the battle against global warming. 

But now Toyota is teaming up with Detroit's Big Three to scuttle legislation that would raise fuel economy standards to 35 miles per gallon by 2020 -- a technologically feasible, and urgently needed step ... Laurie David, Stop Global Warming, 10-10-07

And, of course, the ignorant man who is personally responsible for wasting seven years we could not afford to waste --

The speech that the president of the United States gave during the conference on "Energy Security and the Climate" that he organized in Washington deserves particular attention. ... most interesting of all is the way he envisages controlling the level of greenhouse gas emissions. Not by reducing energy consumption, the increase of which was, on the contrary, put forward as inescapable ... Mr. Bush effectively cites a series of techniques that present two characteristics: They're not operational and their success is not guaranteed. ... The problem of deadlines is fundamental here. Why? Because the same IPCC report mentioned by Mr. Bush concludes that we must not start reducing our emissions in 2040 or in 2050, but right now. ... Thus, a policy of "responsible stewardship" leads to applying today the most effective means available, which is to reduce energy consumption. That does not imply curbing the research into new technologies, but it does imply the obligation to accept that developed countries' present way of life must change. That also supposes a modified allocation of financial resources: If it is useful to invest in technologies that could be available in forty years, it is no less necessary to invest in the improvement of known and effective means to reduce energy consumption. Hervé Kempf
, Le Monde, 10-12-07

From my personal experience, I can affirm that Robert Reich is spot-on --

Gore deserves kudos, but it’s absurd to praise the corporations that are going green. Consider British Petroleum, which a few years ago shortened its name to BP and has promoted itself with a $200 million ad campaign as the environmentally friendly oil company that will go “Beyond Petroleum.” So far, though, it’s invested a tiny fraction of its oil profits in non-fossil based fuels, and caused the worst oil spill in the history of Alaska’s fragile north slope. Going green for public relations might help the bottom line but doesn’t help the environment. Other companies are going green because they can save money that way. ... Under super-competitive capitalism — what I’ve termed “supercapitalism,” it’s naive to think corporations can or will sacrifice profits and shareholder returns in order to fight global warming. Firms that go green to improve their public relations, or cut their costs, or anticipate regulations are being smart — not virtuous. So don’t expect corporations to lead the charge on global warming. That’s government’s job. And next time you hear a company boast about how environmentally friendly it is, hold the applause. Robert Reich, Common Dreams, 10-18-07

No, corporations will not lead the way, and technology will not deliver a panacea. The only course open to us is political action grounded in science and conscience.

The world, and in particular, the USA must not fail to reach a meaningful agreement in 2009, and then implement it without further delay --

A growing sense of urgency is pushing world leaders to agree a new treaty to fight climate change but the U.S. presidential election might still foil hopes of a deal by the end of 2009, experts told a Reuters summit. 

Many countries, including the United States and its main industrial allies in the Group of Eight, want a climate pact agreed by the end of 2009 to help slow warming that may bring more floods, droughts, heatwaves and rising seas. 
... "There's every reason to believe in the possibility" of a deal by the end of 2009, said Achim Steiner, head of the U.N. Environment Program.

 "A lot will hinge on essentially what happens in the United States, and there we have every reason to believe that the position of he United States over the next few years will not be the same as it was," he said. 

Alister Doyle, Reuters, 10-4-07

Unfortunately, if the US presidential election is between Giuliani, Romney or whoever wins the nomination of the Cult formerly known as the Republican Party, and a corporatist Democrat, like Sens. Clinton or Obama, it is hard to imagine that the leadership demanded will be forthcoming (especially when you factor in the fossilizing influence of the US Senate, as it is currently populated).

It may well turn out to be Mother Nature herself which forces the issues.

She has already begun slapping her child, and shaking it by its shoulders, desperately trying to snap it out of its stupor before she loses it to a century of avoidable catastrophe --

Of the 33 cities predicted to have at least 8 million people by 2015, at least 21 are highly vulnerable, says the Worldwatch Institute.
They include Dhaka, Bangladesh; Buenos Aires, Argentina; Rio de Janeiro, Brazil; Shanghai and Tianjin in China; Alexandria and Cairo in Egypt; Mumbai and Kolkata in India; Jakarta, Indonesia; Tokyo and Osaka-Kobe in Japan; Lagos, Nigeria; Karachi, Pakistan; Bangkok, Thailand, and New York and Los Angeles in the United States, according to studies by the United Nations and others.
More than one-tenth of the world's population, or 643 million people, live in low-lying areas at risk from climate change, say U.S. and European experts. Most imperiled, in descending order, are China, India, Bangladesh, Vietnam, Indonesia, Japan, Egypt, the U.S., Thailand and the Philippines.
Raw Story, 10-20-07

Global warming will result in more than rising oceans and melting icecaps. According to one of the world's leading fire ecologists, the warming trend is also increasing the intensity and number of forest fires so much that the American West could lose half its forests by the end of the century.
"As fires continue to burn -- these mega-fires continue to burn -- we may see, ultimately, maybe more than half the forest land converting to other types of ecosystems," says Tom Swetnam. "(It will happen) within some decades, to a century, as warming continues and we continue to get large-scale fires," he tells Pelley.
CBS, 10-16-07

The head of a UN climate panel that shared the Nobel Peace Prize warned Friday that Asia was particularly vulnerable to global warming, with the continent set for more disasters unless action is taken.
Rajendra Pachauri, chairman of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, warned that fighting greenhouse gasses entailed more than adopting new technologies, with individuals required to change their lifestyles.
"Asia being the rapidly growing continent with the largest share of the human population located over here, clearly vulnerabilities in Asia are going to be of importance," Pachauri told an environmental conference in Tokyo.
The Indian scientist said Asia risked floods and diminished access to fresh water and food supply if global warming continued unabated.
Agence France Press, 10-19-07

University of East Anglia researchers gauged CO2 absorption through more than 90,000 measurements from merchant ships equipped with automatic instruments.
Results of their 10-year study in the North Atlantic show CO2 uptake halved between the mid-90s and 2000 to 2005.
Scientists believe global warming might get worse if the oceans soak up less of the greenhouse gas.
Researchers said the findings, published in a paper for the Journal of Geophysical Research, were surprising and worrying because there were grounds for believing that, in time, the ocean might become saturated with our emissions.
BBC, 1-20-07

For the Words of Power Climate Crisis Updates Archive, click here.

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Want to wake people up to the US mainstream news media's complicity in misinforming the public on global warming and climate change? Click here for Media Matters' compilation of "Myths and Falsehoods about Global Warming".

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Want to join hundreds of thousands of people on the Stop Global Warming Virtual March, and become part of the movement to demand our leaders freeze and reduce carbon dioxide emissions now? Click here.

Center for American Progress Action Fund's Mic Check Radio has released a witty and compelling compilation on the Top 100 Effects of Global Warming, organized into sections like "Global Warming Wrecks All the Fun" (e.g., "Goodbye to Pinot Noir," "Goodbye to Baseball," "Goodbye to Salmon Dinners," "Goodbye to Ski Vacations," etc.), "Global Warming Kills the Animals" (e.g., "Death March of the Penguins," "Dying Grey Whales," "Farwell to Frogs," etc.) and yes, "Global Warming Threatens Our National Security" (e.g., "Famine," "Drought," "Large-Scale Migrations," "The World's Checkbook," etc.) I urge you to utilize Top 100 Effects of Global Warming in your dialogues with friends, family and colleagues.

And don't forget to tune into Eco-Talk Radio on the air waves and/or in cyberspace.

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