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The Debate's Over: Globe is Warming

Discussion in 'BBS Hangout: Debate & Discussion' started by MR. MEOWGI, Jun 13, 2005.

  1. MR. MEOWGI

    MR. MEOWGI Contributing Member

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    No debating now, only discussing. :)


    http://news.yahoo.com/s/usatoday/th...NRT9Has0NUE;_ylu=X3oDMTA2bm5xNHVjBHNlYwNtcA--

    Don't look now, but the ground has shifted on global warming. After decades of debate over whether the planet is heating and, if so, whose fault it is, divergent groups are joining hands with little fanfare to deal with a problem they say people can no longer avoid.


    General Electric is the latest big corporate convert; politicians at the state and national level are looking for solutions; and religious groups are taking philosophical and financial stands to slow the progression of climate change.


    They agree that the problem is real. A recent study led by James Hansen of the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies confirms that, because of carbon dioxide emissions and other greenhouse gases, Earth is trapping more energy from the sun than it is releasing back into space.


    The U.N. International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) estimates that global temperatures will rise 2 to 10 degrees by 2100. A "middle of the road" projection is for an average 5-degree increase by the end of the century, says Caspar Amman of the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Colo.


    What the various factions don't necessarily agree on is what to do about it. The heart of the discussion is "really about how to deal with climate change, not whether it's happening," says energy technology expert James Dooley of the Battelle Joint Global Change Research Institute in College Park, Md. "What are my company's options for reducing greenhouse gas emissions? Are there new business opportunities associated with addressing climate change? Those are the questions many businesses are asking today."


    The players


    GE Chairman Jeffrey Immelt recently announced that his company, which reports $135 billion in annual revenue, will spend $1.5 billion a year to research conservation, pollution and the emission of greenhouse gases. Joining him for the announcement were executives from such mainline corporations as American Electric Power, Boeing and Cinergy.


    Religious groups, such as the United States Catholic Conference of Bishops, National Association of Evangelicals and National Council of Churches, have joined with scientists to call for action on climate change under the National Religious Partnership for the Environment. "Global warming is a universal moral challenge," the partnership's statement says.


    And high-profile politicians from both parties are getting into the act. For example, California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has called for a reduction of more than 80% over the next five decades in his state's emission of greenhouse gases that heat in the atmosphere.


    To be sure, many companies - most notably oil industry leader ExxonMobil - still express skepticism about the effects of global warming. And the Bush administration has supported research and voluntary initiatives but has pulled back from a multi-nation pact on environmental constraints.


    The administration was on the defensive last week when The New York Times reported that a staff lawyer has been softening scientific assessments of global warming. White House spokesman Scott McClellan defended such action as a routine part of a multi-agency review process.


    Nonetheless, the tides of change appear to be moving on.


    "As big companies fall off the 'I don't believe in climate change' bandwagon, people will start to take this more seriously," says environmental scientist Don Kennedy, editor in chief of the journal Science. Companies aren't changing because of a sudden love for the environment, Kennedy says, but because they see change as an opportunity to protect their investments.


    "On the business side, it just looks like climate change is not going away," says Kevin Leahy of Cinergy, a Cincinnati-based utility that reports $4.7 billion in annual revenue and provides electricity, mostly generated from coal, to 1.5 million customers. Most firms see global warming as a problem whose risks have to be managed, he says.


    Power companies want to know what sort of carbon constraints they face - carbon dioxide is the chief greenhouse gas - so they can plan long term and avoid being hit with dramatic emission limits or penalties in the future, he says.


    Science and solutions


    Climate scientists say this acceptance comes none too soon. "All the time we should have been moving forward ... has been wasted by arguing if the problem even exists," says Michael Mann of the University of Virginia.


    The IPCC estimates that rainfall will increase up to 20% in wet regions, causing floods, while decreasing 20% in arid areas, causing droughts. The Environmental Protection Agency says melting glaciers and warmer ocean waters will likely cause an average 2-foot rise in sea level on all U.S. coasts by 2100.

    Carbon dioxide is the byproduct of burning fossil fuels such as coal, natural gas or oil. There are now about 1 trillion tons of carbon from carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. By the end of the century, atmos-pheric carbon projections range from 1.2 trillion tons if stringent corrective steps are taken to 2.8 trillion tons if little is done.

    Moving ahead with solutions looks like the hardest part of the equation for the United States. The Bush administration's stance has frustrated advocates of a more aggressive response.

    Bush explained in a 2001 speech why he opposed joining the Kyoto Protocol, a global agreement to curb greenhouse gases: "The (Kyoto) targets themselves were arbitrary and not based upon science. For America, complying with those mandates would have a negative economic impact, with layoffs of workers and price increases."

    Instead, the administration "harnesses the power of markets and technological innovation, maintains economic growth, and encourages global participation," former Energy Department head Spencer Abraham wrote last year in Science. He pointed to tax incentive programs, climate research and technologies such as "FutureGen," the Energy Department's 10-year,$1 billion attempt at creating a coal-fired power plant that emits no greenhouse gases.

    Other administration efforts:

    • The $1.7 billion hydrogen fuel-cell car initiative announced two years ago in Bush's State of the Union address.

    • A $49 million carbon "sequestration" initiative with 65 projects to see whether carbon dioxide can be stripped from emissions.

    • Participation in the international ITER program to develop nuclear fusion as an energy source.

    The administration has encouraged voluntary efforts. Fourteen trade groups representing industrial, energy, transportation and forest companies have signed up for a program aimed at cutting greenhouse-gas emissions 18% by 2012.

    So why isn't this enough to assuage critics?

    Rick Piltz, a science policy expert who resigned in protest from the administration's Climate Change Science Program in March, says the reliance on voluntary measures and long-term technology breakthroughs is a roadblock against simple conservation steps that could curb emissions now. Piltz provided the edited documents that were the subject of last week's story in The New York Times.

    Commonly cited examples of the conservation steps Piltz mentions:

    • Incentives for emission controls on the oldest and least efficient power plants.

    • More stringent mileage and tailpipe requirements on vehicles.

    • Expanded tax credits for more efficient air conditioners, hybrid cars and appliances.

    Political leaders will support such measures only if the benefits come at a low cost to the economy, says William Reilly, co-chair of the bipartisan National Commission on Energy Policy and former head of the EPA under President George H.W. Bush. "But there is a lot going on, and I think we will be seeing some movement on this."

    Away from the political arena, other irons are in the fire:

    • More people are advocating nuclear power. Greenpeace co-founder Patrick Moore told a congressional panel in April that "nuclear energy is the only non-greenhouse gas-emitting energy source that can effectively replace fossil fuels and satisfy global demand."

    • Immelt called for the United States to adopt an emissions-trading plan for greenhouse gases. Taking a cue from the EPA's policy of having companies buy and sell permits to release sulfur dioxide, which is responsible for acid rain, economists suggest that such a scheme would limit carbon dioxide by making emissions economically less feasible. In Congress, the Climate Stewardship Act proposed by Sens. Joseph Lieberman, D-Conn., and John McCain, R-Ariz., would commit the country to such a plan.

    No 'silver bullet' solution

    Pressure for reforms may come most strongly from "socially responsible" investors. "We make bottom-line arguments to companies to make decisions in the interests of their shareholders," says John Wilson of Christian Brothers Investment Services, which manages $3.5 billion in investor funds. The firm advises 1,000 Catholic institutions, such as churches, schools and hospitals.

    A Christian Brothers resolution in May asked ExxonMobil "to explain the scientific basis for its ongoing denial of the broad scientific consensus that the burning of fossil fuels contributes to global climate change." The resolution garnered 10.3% of shareholders' votes, representing 665 million shares worth more than $36 billion, despite the opposition of management.

    "The future of energy is plainly moving away from fossil fuels and we want the companies (that) we invest in to explain how they plan to adjust," Wilson says.

    Dooley, of the Battelle Institute, says: "We need a whole series of 'home runs' and maybe even a couple of 'grand slams' to successfully address this problem. More efficient refrigerators, better and cheaper solar cells, hybrid automobiles, fuel cells, power plants that capture and store their (carbon dioxide) deep below the surface and nuclear power. They all have important roles to play."

    "No one seriously talks about trying to address climate change with one technology," Dooley says. "Everyone understands that there isn't a 'silver bullet' out there waiting to be discovered."
     
  2. basso

    basso Contributing Member
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    the debate has always been about the cause, and whether the warming is cyclical or caused by man. that debate is ongoing.
     
  3. mc mark

    mc mark Contributing Member

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    basso are you reading the WH science studies again?

    ;)
     
  4. Ottomaton

    Ottomaton Contributing Member
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    The debate 10 years ago was about the cause.

    Do you actually read any science first hand? There are secondary, natural, transient fluctuations in global temprature that are unrelated to man made global warming but there is an overwhelming body of evidence that the effects which have been documented in the last 5 or so years are out of line with that flux over the entire 1.8 bilion years since the atmosphere changed from a reducing one to an oxidizing one.

    Honestly, answer for me when the last time was that you actually examined recent data and reassessed your position on the subject? I can go out and find an "expert" with an advanced degree who will tell me that there is still a question about whether Vishnu created the universe. That doesn't imply that anybody who is not biased by dogma would actually consider that there is a debate.

    When did you actually last read any science on the subject?
     
  5. PhiSlammaJamma

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    I guess the question I would have is how does this impact the core, because essentially, I think the idea is that we would like to keep it heated.
     
  6. Hippieloser

    Hippieloser Contributing Member

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    I think our first course of action has GOT to be making it socially acceptable for women to go topless outdoors. I mean, it's gonna be hot out there.
     
  7. krosfyah

    krosfyah Contributing Member

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    And what if your wrong?

    This is what gets me about the naysayer group. They claim it is a natural cycle or whatever lame argument. What if your wrong?

    I'll tell you. If you wrong...its likely the end of the world and the human race as we know it today. Ah, bunk that. We gotta save a few jobs, right?
     
  8. MadMax

    MadMax Contributing Member

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    There has to be a balance, though. I agree with you the consequences may be dire. But you feel the way you feel until it is your job that's eliminated, and you've gotta meet rent/mortgage and still feed your kids this month.

    Otto -- help me out...i have not read the most recent reports on what the consensus feels is the contribution of man to this problem....or if changing anything now will make a difference. do you know of any good resources on that, offhand.
     
  9. pirc1

    pirc1 Contributing Member

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    Very true, it sucks to be downsized. I have gone through this a few years back, I do not wish it on anyone.
     
  10. krosfyah

    krosfyah Contributing Member

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    Yes, we can't just pull the plug on all factories. However, a refusal to even acknowledge the problem is crazy...such as the current administration has done. W dodged the question in both 2000 campaign and again in a 2005 speech with the exact same excuse..."we have to keep looking into it because we don't have any answers yet." What? After 5 years he doesn't have one answer?

    Anyway, I digress.

    Downsizing sucks as I've been downsized twice. But jobs come and go.

    Tornados, Hurricanes, Mud Slides, Floods, El Ninio, Droughts, Forest Fires, Ice Storms, etc...they all suck more...particularly when they increase in frequency. I can get a new job. I can't so easily rebuild my life after a natural disaster strikes. ...to say nothing of the ultimate consequence.

    Yes, we must strike a balance. I agree. But can we get moving on the environmental part as it doesn't seem to be too balanced right now. The "balance" is mostly in favor of industry. We can get it done without people going hungry.
     
  11. MadMax

    MadMax Contributing Member

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    believe it or not, it's actually been far worse. pollution has been DRAMATICALLY reduced in the United States. but is a growing problem in the developing world.

    i hear ya, though. in essence, i agree with you.
     
  12. torque

    torque Contributing Member
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    Yep, and I think that with technology getting better and better, we will see more factories, cars etc emitting less polution than before.

    We see with growing gas prices the significant drop in sales SUVs have taken. Maybe the solution is to tax gas, with the extra $$ going to education?
     
  13. Invisible Fan

    Invisible Fan Contributing Member

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    A lot of progress has been made since the acid rain raining and brown rivers flowing inside the US. However, a lot of people believe the mission is accomplished or under control. It's that mindset that justifies policies to water down existing standards in the name of economic growth.

    My stance can get as far green as some observers might hold, but I certainly don't think that green policies have to come at the expense of economics. The short term loss of shutting down entrenched and polluting technologies is a visible concern, but by pursuing new technologies, new industries and jobs will be created. The recycling industry is still growing and their workers get paid more than landfill operators. The economy will grow in response to green, but companies as we know it will definitely fade away. It's a matter of survival for the old guard to influence politics and public opinion to their favor.
     
  14. Baqui99

    Baqui99 Contributing Member

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    Man invents wheel!
     
  15. Ottomaton

    Ottomaton Contributing Member
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    Global Climate Change Research Explorer

    EPA Global Warming Site

    International Journal of Climatology

    Global Change Biology

    Essentially for actual science look at the bottom two - journals that you'd find in a good university library though you have to filter through the unrelated material, and the process would be somewhat boring.

    The first two are more summations of data and as such have been subjected to the contamination of individual perspective, but they're easier on the eyes.

    As far as solutions or ways to fix the problem, that becomes much more speculative. The same "dynamic non-linear system" factors which make weather so difficult to predict also make it difficult to predict any exact solutions. The process should involve regular adjustment to real world conditions based on feedback from implemented remedies and how effective they are.

    I generally think that people who speculate exact outcomes are probably the shysters from both the pro and con sides. Nobody can claim a legitimate prediction of outcome, but a general range of possibilities can be estimated, as one would estimate where a huricane is going to reach land.
     
  16. pippendagimp

    pippendagimp Member

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    From yesterday's UK Independent:

    Global Warming:
    The US Contribution in Figures

    The United States constitutes 4 per cent of the world population

    It is responsible for a quarter of all carbon dioxide emissions - an average of 40,000 pounds of carbon dioxide is released by each US citizen every year - the highest of any country in the world, and more than China, India and Japan combined

    Americans use 50 million tons of paper annually - consuming more than 850 million trees

    There are more than 200 million cars and light trucks on american roads

    According to the Federal Department of Transportation, they use over 200 million gallons of petrol a day

    Motor vehicles account for 56 per cent of all air pollution in The United States

    A study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association in 2002 concluded that people living in the most heavily polluted metropolitan areas have a 12 per cent increased risk of dying of lung cancer than people in the least polluted areas

    32 of the 50 busiest US airports currently have plans to expand operations

    Every year US industries release at least 2.4 billion pounds of chemicals into the atmosphere

    Despite having just 2 per cent of known oil reserves, the US consumes 25 per cent of the world's oil production

    16 per cent of world oil production goes into american cars alone.
    Approximately 160 million people living in 32 US states live in regions with smog and soot levels considered dangerous to health

    The new clear air interstate rule aims to cut sulphur dioxide by 73 per cent and nitrogen oxide by 61 per cent in the next 10 years

    Around 50 million new cars roll off US assembly lines each year

    There are already more than 20 million four-wheel-drive vehicles on US roads

    More than 1.5 million gallons of oil were spilled into US waters in 2000 alone

    Only 1 per cent of american travel is on public transport, an eighth of that in the UK and an eighteenth of that in Japan

    As much as 5.99 tons of carbon dioxide is emitted per American per year, compared with 0.31 tons per Indian or 0.05 tons per Bangladeshi.

    The US had 16 major oil spills between 1976 and 1989, whereas France suffered six and the UK five

    The average american produces 864kg of municipal waste per year, almost three times the quantity of rubbish produced annually by an Italian

    http://news.independent.co.uk/uk/politics/story.jsp?story=646524
     

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