Saturday, May 17, 2008

Protected--But How?

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Stop It/Fix It Climate Crisis Updates

At the end of another record-high day on the CA North Coast, it seems appropriate to catch up on some Climate Crisis news.

In the Stop It division (addressing the long-term threat of global heating), scientists warned that world CO2 levels are at record high--a 650,000 year record high, and despite all the hot air about the problem, the accumulation of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere is accelerating.

One group of scientists suggested that the planet may be entering a natural cooling period, independent of the Climate Crisis phenomenon, which could provide a decade of breathing space to deal with the long term crisis while temperatures remain steady, but other scientists don't think evidence of the cooling is valid.

After much debate, the U.S. government finally classified the polar bear as a protected species, "one likely to become in danger of extinction in the foreseeable future." The debate continues, however, on just what actual measures the U.S. government will take to protect this protected species, threatened by the melting effects of global heating. The only effective way of protecting the polar bear is to protect its habitat, and the only effective way of doing that is to stop global heating. But the current administration is resisting that implication.

On the national level, the debate in the U.S. has finally begun to move from whether the Climate Crisis is real to how best to address it, especially as John McCain and Barack Obama, the two likely major party nominees, recognize the urgency, though McCain's depends on Bush-like vague goals with no real plan, while Obama's are more comprehensive and realistic, linking Climate Crisis solutions to related energy, environmental and economic benefits.

Central to the hope of linking economic benefits to energy self-reliance through more reliance on renewable clean energy, to addressing the Climate Crisis ,is the possibility of new industries providing good "green jobs." Here's evidence that this revolution is already underway, at least in the American Northwest.

China, which may be replacing the U.S. as the largest single greenhouse gas polluter, is at least recognizing the problems, setting goals and reaching out for help. But this interesting essay suggests that China's problems are our problems, too, since much of their pollution comes from producing goods for America.

In the U.S., super-high gas prices are quickly becoming a factor in encouraging the kind of smarter and reduced energy use, and implementation of clean renewable energy technologies that are crucial to Stop It efforts. Some efforts are less obvious than others--for instance, organic farming may not only be healthy, energy-saving and environmentally sound in many ways, it may help deal with the Climate Crisis. The fairly insane way food in transported around the world to save money (cod caught off Norway is shipped to China where it is filleted and sent back to Norway) is reaching the point where transportation erases any cost benefits. Ending much of this also has environmental benefits.

But the links worth both ways: environmental damage can make the Climate Crisis worse. A current example: Timber companies cut down forests that had a naturally diverse ecosystem and a mix of trees, and replaced them with tree farms of the kind of single-species trees they find most profitable to grow and then cut down. But lack of species diversity has made some western forests more vulnerable to disease and destructive bugs like the pine beetle that is now devastating those forests. Living trees breathe in carbon, but dying trees release carbon into the atmosphere, making the Climate Crisis worse.

Fix It is my shorthand for fixing the effects related or attributable to today's Climate Crisis, such as managing heat emergencies, treatment and prevention of diseases resulting from climate induced changes, dealing with related other social crises, and responding to CC related emergencies such as drought and floods. It's important to understand that these are separate aspects of the crisis, so we don't adopt an either/or approach. But there are areas in which Fix It solutions can lead to longer term Stop It efforts.

For example, rebuilding after disaster, including natural disasters both directly related and either indirectly or unrelated to the Climate Crisis, can be accomplished using energy saving and renewable energy technologies that will help in the long-term effort to stop more global heating. The example in the news recently was Greensburg, Kansas, a year after the town was virtually destroyed by a tornado. But there are other examples, large and small.

Crucial to Fix It efforts that contribute to Stop It success, as well as to changes necessary to the long-term future independent of current emergencies, is "green building": environmental design that, a study suggests, can help cut greenhouse gas emissions faster and cheaper in North America than any other single measure. The progressive American Institute of Architects has been moving in this direction for years, and has set goals of cutting fossil fuel in buildings by half in two years, and achieving carbon neutrality by 2030.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Towards One America

"Democratic voters in America have made their
choice, and so have I...“There is one man who knows
in his heart that it is time to tear down that wall
and make one America: Barack Obama.”
John Edwards, endorsing Barack Obama in Michigan.Posted by Picasa