Saturday, May 14, 2005

Environmental Health Doesn’t Just Benefit Liberals

© Sunday, 02 May 2004, by Sitakali from The PeaceWorker

Liberals and progressives are at times blamed for being “overzealous” about the environment and making up conspiracies and controversies where there are none. Response to an article about a Pentagon report on global climate change showed the same blame and outrage. The Pentagon report articulated that it was only speculative and gave worst case scenarios, but also recognized that many of the scenarios were probable.

The article entitled, “Leaked Pentagon Report Warns of Coming Climate Wars” in the April PeaceWorker was written by two reporters from the Observer, and was first published on February 22. The Pentagon report suggested that global warning was potentially a greater national security threat than terrorism. The article has received a lot of publicity since then, both positive and negative. Many believe it blew the Pentagon report out of proportion and that the report never was secret or suppressed.

According to the article, former Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) whistleblower Jeremy Symons said the report was suppressed for four months. This may have been inaccurate, but regardless of whether the Pentagon report was suppressed, Symons also referred to a 2002 EPA report that was severely “edited” by the Bush administration. The annual reports had previously always included updates on global warming, but that update was stripped from this EPA report.

An email, written by Myron Ebell of the Exxon-funded Competitive Enterprise Institute to Phil Cooney, senior official at the White House Council for Environmental Quality, explained how to play down an EPA report -- the first report where the U.S. admitted that humans are contributing to global warming. Suggestions included firing the head of the EPA, Christine Whitman. According to Ebell, “…we made the right decision this morning to do as much as we could to deflect criticism by blaming EPA for freelancing. It seems to me,” he added, “that the folks at EPA are the obvious fall guys, and we would only hope that the fall guy (or gal) should be as high up as possible…Perhaps tomorrow we will call for Whitman to be fired.”

The White House is going to dismiss global warming, whether or not it is a national security threat. The Pentagon report was never sent to Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld. Former EPA administrator Russell Train put it bluntly:
“Having served as EPA administrator under both Presidents Nixon and Ford, I can state categorically that there never was such White House intrusion into the business of the EPA during my tenure. The EPA was established as an independent agency in the Executive branch, and so it should remain. There appears today to be a steady erosion in its independent status.”

The Bush administration insists that global warming isn’t real -- and even claims that the environment is in better shape than in the past.
Why then do scientists think that by 2025 50% of the world’s population will face water shortages?

Why is it that:

· The American Geophysical Union resolved that “human activities are increasingly altering the Earth’s climate... scientific evidence strongly indicates that natural influences cannot explain the rapid increase in global near-surface temperatures observed during the second half of the 20th century.”

· According to a study by the University of Maryland and NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, the melting of Arctic Sea ice over the last 46 years has less than a 0.1 percent chance of being caused by natural climate.

· Carbon dioxide levels are twice as high as they were during ice ages, and methane levels are five times as high, according to the National Center for Scientific Research in Grenoble, France.

· The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) says that concentrations of carbon dioxide in the Earth’s atmosphere have increased by more than 25 percent since before the Industrial Revolution. Roughly half this increase has occurred during the last 35 years.

Proven or not, global warming is a coherent theory that has been approved by top scientists around the world. Yet, the Bush administration’s ideas of helping the environment are to:

· Allow three times more mercury emissions from power plants than current law allows.

· Allow 50% more sulfur emissions (which cause acid rain) than current law allows.

· Send a letter to Congress saying that Bush wouldn’t support new controls on global warming pollution from power plants—the largest U.S. source of carbon dioxide emissions (a greenhouse gas), which account for 10% of carbon dioxide worldwide.

· Dismiss the Kyoto Protocol, an international agreement to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

· Increase the use of coal, oil and natural gas, fossil fuels that contribute to 80% of U.S. global warming pollution.

Despite the daunting facts, there are things that can be done to slow the process of global warming. Legislation to clean up power plants and raise fuel economy standards would stop the growth of U.S. global warming emissions within 10 years. A bill called the Clean Power Act was introduced by Senator Jim Jeffords (D-VT), and would limit emissions of pollutants from power plants. The bill has bipartisan support from 19 co-sponsors. The government could introduce more energy- and cost-efficient clean energy sources, which would address the U.S.’ energy needs. The Kyoto Protocol would help countries around the world cut down on greenhouse gas emissions everywhere. The Protocol has been ratified by 100 countries, including Canada, UK, Germany, Israel, Denmark, and Italy.

The U.S. is far behind the rest of the world when it comes to helping the environment. The rest of the industrialized nations have vowed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to their 1990 level. As the rest of the world embraces sane and efficient ideas, both economically and ecologically, America’s power and reputation are falling rapidly.

I know that everyone has their differences in opinion, but I hope that we all agree that we want the human race to survive, and to ease suffering as well as possible. This world is not a happy place, environmentally and socially. Americans tend to be uneducated and, being the largest superpower in the world, it is our responsibility to have an influence on our own society, as well as set an example for the world.

If only the conservatives and liberals, the progressives and the reactionaries, could stop screaming at each other and listen, we might learn something about each other, the world, and what changes are the most necessary.



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