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Thread: Climate Change

  1. #1

    Default Climate Change

    June 20, 2003

    Censorship on Global Warming

    When it comes to global warming, the Bush administration seems determined to bury its head in the sand and hope the problem will go away. Worse yet, it wants to bury any research findings that global warming may be a threat to human health or the environment.

    The latest example of this ostrichlike behavior involves some heavy-handed censorship of a draft report that is due out next week from the Environmental Protection Agency. As described by Andrew Revkin and Katharine Seelye in yesterday's Times, the report was intended to provide the first comprehensive review of what is known about environmental problems and what gaps in understanding remain to be filled. But by the time the White House Council on Environmental Quality and the Office of Management and Budget finished with it and hammered the E.P.A. into submission, a long section on the risks posed by rising global temperatures was reduced to a noncommittal paragraph.

    Gone is any mention that the 1990's are likely to have been the warmest decade in the last thousand years in the Northern Hemisphere. Gone, also, is a judgment by the National Research Council about the likely human contributions to global warming, though the evidence falls short of conclusive proof. Gone, too, is an introductory statement that "Climate change has global consequences for human health and the environment." All that is left in the report is some pablum about the complexities of the issue and the research that is needed to resolve the uncertainties.

    This is the second shameful case of censorship involving global warming in less than a year. Last September, a whole chapter on climate was deleted from the E.P.A.'s annual report on air-pollution trends. That deed was done by Bush appointees at the agency, with White House approval, possibly because the White House had been angered by a previous report from the State Department suggesting the dire harm that could come from climate change. President Bush had dismissed that report as "put out by the bureaucracy."

    The justifications offered for such censorship are feeble. One excuse is that global warming has been discussed in other reports and thus need not be dealt with again. But surely reports billed as comprehensive reviews should be comprehensive.

    Another excuse is that the administration's new climate research plan will grapple with the issue. But given what we know about this administration, it seems almost inevitable that the experts who are mobilized to study the question will wind up focusing on uncertainties and the need for further research rather than facing up to the policy implications of the existing data.

    Christie Whitman, the E.P.A. administrator, is putting on a brave face after her agency's capitulation. She says she feels "perfectly comfortable" issuing the broader assessment of land, air and water quality without waiting to resolve differences over climate change, where the evidence is less solid. But this sorry trampling of her agency's best judgment suggests that Congress, in confirming a successor after she steps down next week, will need to look hard at how free that person will be to offer the best scientific judgment on environmental issues.


    Copyright 2003 The New York Times Company

  2. #2

    Default Censorship on Global Warming

    I think the people should know about this problem and the Bush administration is making a bad decision by not telling the people. Everyday I see more H2's and Escalades and those thing are gas guzzlers. That isn't good for the environment and I think that not only the gov't should try and do something, but also these car companies. Have you seeb one Americann hybrid car? Well I haven't and America, being a top world leader in technology, should work towards this goal of fuel efficent cars.

  3. #3

    Default Censorship on Global Warming

    June 21, 2003

    When Politics Trumps Science (4 Letters)

    To the Editor:

    "Report by E.P.A. Leaves Out Data on Climate Change" (front page, June 19) says that an Environmental Protection Agency report due next week on the state of the environment is being edited by the White House to play down the risks of global climate change.

    Having served as E.P.A. administrator under both Presidents Nixon and Ford, I can state categorically that there never was such White House intrusion into the business of the E.P.A. during my tenure. The E.P.A. 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.

    I can appreciate the president's interest in not having discordant voices within his administration. But the interest of the American people lies in having full disclosure of the facts, particularly when the issue is one with such potentially enormous damage to the long-term health and economic well-being of all of us.

    RUSSELL E. TRAIN
    Washington, June 19, 2003



    To the Editor:

    The Environmental Protection Agency is about to issue a report that was edited by the White House to leave out an account of the risks from global warming (front page, June 19). This comes at a time when every day seems to bring new revelations that the administration cooked the books in its drive to plunge the nation into war in Iraq.

    The most important issue in the 2004 election should not be national security or the economy. It should be which candidate will tell the unvarnished truth to the American people.

    JONATHAN J. MARGOLIS
    Boston, June 19, 2003



    To the Editor:

    The report that the Environmental Protection Agency has omitted data on climate change in its "comprehensive review" is extremely disturbing (front page, June 19). Climate change is a scientific, not political, issue. The facts are clear. Since the beginning of the Industrial Revolution, carbon dioxide in the atmosphere has risen from 280 to over 360 parts per million as a result of burning fossil fuels. All climate models show that the addition of carbon dioxide to the atmosphere will lead to global warming and changes in precipitation.

    Sound governmental policy regarding climate change requires complete, unfettered access to scientific information. Omission of data can lead to policies that endanger the welfare of the nation.

    PAUL FALKOWSKI
    New Brunswick, N.J., June 19, 2003
    The writer is a professor of earth systems at Rutgers University.



    To the Editor:

    The Bush administration's politically motivated "editing" of the Environmental Protection Agency report on global warming (front page, June 19) ought to worry all Americans, whether liberal or conservative. This is another example of the top-down methodology used by members of the administration, in which they first decide on the conclusions they want and then set down to work on providing evidence for them, no matter how flimsy or inaccurate.

    When political forces influence scientific inquiry, the result is a misinformed public and a government that fails in its obligation to uphold the public interest.

    DAVID MORRIS
    Berkeley, Calif., June 19, 2003



    To the Editor:

    Re "Censorship on Global Warming" (editorial, June 20):

    The moral integrity of any society is measured, at least in part, by its determination to secure the future for generations that will follow. In this regard, the state of the environment that our children will inherit should be a primary concern.

    The Bush administration, however, has exploited the fears resulting from the 9/11 attacks to remove environmental issues from our radar screen. It is the duty of responsible Democrats and Republicans to put these issues back on center stage. Winning the war on terrorism will be pointless unless we are devoting at least as much effort to the war to save the planet.

    BOB ROSENBLUTH
    Lincolndale, N.Y., June 20, 2003


    Copyright 2003 The New York Times Company

  4. #4

    Default Censorship on Global Warming

    June 26, 2003

    An Environmental Report Card

    On her way out the door, Christie Whitman has issued the Environmental Protection Agency's first statistical assessment of the nation's environment. The bottom line is that although much remains to be done, things are greatly improved from 30 years ago. The air is healthier, the water cleaner. But underneath the numbers, and of course unobserved in the report, lies an exquisite irony: what has brought us here are the landmark environmental laws of the early 1970's laws that the industries bankrolling the Bush administration have been fighting tooth and nail ever since, laws that the administration itself has tried to amend or weaken.

    The report has already acquired a certain notoriety because it omitted, on White House orders, any meaningful discussion of global warming, a problem that President Bush seems to think will go away if nobody talks about it. In a sense, this may have been the administration's final insult to Mrs. Whitman, who has been bounced around on other issues during her two-plus years as the agency's administrator. Now most people are likely to remember her report, which she had intended as an apolitical statistical portrait, for what it leaves out rather than for the useful information it contains.

    On the plus side, the report shows that air pollution has declined by 25 percent over the last three decades even as the country's population, economy and vehicle traffic have exploded. Fully 94 percent of Americans are served by drinking water systems that meet federal health standards, as opposed to 79 percent 10 years ago. Major rivers, like the Hudson, are no longer used as industrial and municipal sewers. Yet in a sense we have just begun. More than 125 million Americans suffer from intermittent unhealthy air, 270,000 miles of rivers and streams remain too polluted for fishing and swimming, coastal estuaries are in generally poor shape, and suburban sprawl continues to devour open space at an alarming rate.

    The report is a compelling argument for preserving and broadening where necessary the reach of environmental law. Mrs. Whitman recognized as much when, in one of her last acts, she proposed tough new regulations on construction equipment and other diesel-powered off-road vehicles, a huge and lightly regulated source of air pollution. But she has spent most of her tenure playing defense. The administration moved to weaken the existing Clean Air Act without putting anything in its place. It has done little to regulate farm runoff, a major source of water pollution. And Mrs. Whitman herself has set in motion a review of the Clean Water Act that could leave over 60 percent of the nation's streams and 20 million acres of wetlands exposed to development and pollution.

    Indeed, before she leaves town, and as a final legacy, Mrs. Whitman might consider taking that unfortunate proposal off the table. That could make her agency's next report even rosier.


    Copyright 2003 The New York Times Company

    (Edited by Christian Wieland at 7:58 am on June 26, 2003)

  5. #5

    Default Censorship on Global Warming

    August 23, 2003

    Fouling the Air

    In defiance of Congress, the courts and the requirements of public health, the administration is on the verge of effectively repealing a key section of the Clean Air Act. According to a report yesterday in The Times, the Environmental Protection Agency plans to issue a final rule next week that would allow thousands of industrial sites, including hundreds of old coal-fired power plants, to make major upgrades without installing new pollution controls, as currently required by law. Eliot Spitzer, New York's attorney general, has rightly vowed to sue the moment the rule becomes final. We are eager to hear Gov. Michael Leavitt of Utah, President Bush's nominee to run the E.P.A., try to defend this decision when he comes up for confirmation in September especially in light of his own clean-air director's vigorous opposition to the change.

    At issue is a provision called "new source review," part of the Clean Air Act amendments of 1977. It requires companies to install modern pollution controls in new plants, and in old plants when they make significant modifications leading to increased emissions. The rule was aimed mainly at older coal-fired power plants, which were temporarily exempted from the act's requirements in the expectation that they would install pollution controls later. New-source review has been in the administration's sights ever since Vice President Dick Cheney all but ordered its abolition in his 2001 energy report. Industry and the administration have argued that the rule is impossibly cumbersome and that other Clean Air Act provisions can achieve the same results. These arguments are only partly true and largely beside the point, which is that until something better comes along, new-source review is an indispensable tool for cleaning the air.

    What really bothers industry is that the rule requires significant capital outlays. Many companies have therefore tried to evade it, leading to lawsuits by, among others, Mr. Spitzer. Confronted with industry's howls, the administration decided simply to scuttle the rule. This is hardly the first time that the White House has ordered the rollback of a law that discomfits its friends. But this is a particularly egregious example, and one that could do the environment great harm.


    Copyright 2003 The New York Times Company

  6. #6

    Default Censorship on Global Warming

    August 28, 2003

    Politics and Pollution

    President Bush's critics have watched with mounting frustration as his administration has compiled one of the worst environmental records in recent history without paying any real political price. One reason may be that the issues at stake are too regional, like forest fires or salmon recovery, or too remote, like global warming. But the administration itself may now have witlessly altered this dynamic with its reckless and insupportable decision to eviscerate a central provision of the Clean Air Act and allow power plants, refineries and other industrial sites to spew millions of tons of unhealthy pollutants into the air.

    The proposed changes in the act, formally announced yesterday, are so transparently a giveaway to Mr. Bush's corporate allies and so widely unpopular among the officials responsible for air quality in the individual states that they have already assumed a place in the nascent presidential race. Democratic candidates are competing to see who can express more outrage John Kerry, for instance, calls the changes a " `get out of jail free' card" for polluters. Moderate Republicans are dismayed and embarrassed. The issue will acquire even greater momentum when the new rules are published as a fait accompli in the Federal Register, and a dozen or more states sue in federal court to have them stayed and then overturned.

    These suits could easily succeed. The new rules are a clear violation of Congress's intent in 1977, when it required utilities and other polluters to install modern pollution-control technology whenever they modified their plants in ways that increased emissions. The Justice Department identified 51 plants that were in violation of the 1977 rule because they had been upgraded without the required pollution controls. Several of these cases have been resolved in the government's favor, but the administration's action clearly jeopardizes the remaining lawsuits.

    As the administration's defense takes shape, the public should beware of half-truths and artful demagogy. One specious line of argument is that the old rule inhibited companies from doing routine maintenance and making plants more efficient. The administration has offered no compelling evidence to support that beyond the anecdotal say-so of a few utilities. A companion argument, made by apologists for the White House, is that the old rule contributed to the blackout. This, too, is nonsense. The blackout was caused by deficiencies in the transmission grid or its management and had nothing to do with environmental regulations or a shortage of power.

    This line of reasoning is eerily reminiscent of the efforts to blame environmentalists for the California energy crisis, and is equally as hollow.


    Copyright 2003 The New York Times Company

  7. #7

    Default

    September 13, 2003

    Baked Alaska on the Menu?

    By NICHOLAS D. KRISTOF

    KAKTOVIK, Alaska

    Skeptics of global warming should come to this Eskimo village on the Arctic Ocean, roughly 250 miles north of the Arctic Circle. It's hard to be complacent about climate change when you're in an area that normally is home to animals like polar bears and wolverines, but is now attracting robins.

    A robin even built its nest in town this year (there is no word in the local Inupiat Eskimo language for robins). And last year a (presumably shivering) porcupine arrived.

    The Okpilak River valley was historically too cold and dry for willows, and in the Inupiat language "Okpilak" means "river with no willows." Yet a warmer, wetter climate means that now it's crowded with willows.

    The warming ocean is also bringing salmon, three kinds now, to waters here. The Eskimos say there were almost no salmon a generation ago.

    "The weather is different, really different," said 92-year-old Nora Agiak, speaking in the Inupiat language and wearing moose-skin moccasins and a jacket with wolverine fur. "We're not getting as many icebergs as we used to. Maybe the world moved because it's getting warmer."

    In the past, I've been skeptical about costly steps (like those in the Kyoto accord) to confront climate change. But I'm changing my mind. The evidence, while still somewhat incomplete, is steadily mounting that our carbon emissions are causing an accelerating global warming that amounts to a major threat to the world in which we live.

    Alaska has warmed by eight degrees, on average, in the winter, over the last three decades, according to meteorological records. The U.S. Arctic Research Commission says that today's Arctic temperatures are the highest in the last 400 years, and perhaps much longer.

    The U.S. Navy reports that in areas traversed by its submarines, Arctic ice volume decreased 42 percent over the last 35 years, and the average thickness of ice below water declined 4.3 feet. The Office of Naval Research warns that "one plausible outcome" is that the summer Arctic ice cap will disappear completely by 2050.

    "We've got climate change," Robert Thompson, a native guide, says flatly. He notes that pack ice, which always used to hover offshore, providing a home for polar bears, now sometimes retreats hundreds of miles north of Kaktovik. That has caused some bears to drown and leaves others stranded on land.

    (After a polar bear was spotted outside Kaktovik's post office one snowy morning, the locals explained what to do if you bump into a famished polar bear: Yell and throw stones, and above all, don't run!)

    For hundreds of years, the Eskimos here used ice cellars in the permafrost. But now the permafrost is melting, and these ice cellars are filling with water and becoming useless.

    Kaktovik's airstrip, 50 years old, has begun to flood because of higher seas, so it may be moved upland. Another native village, Shishmaref, has voted to abandon its location entirely because of rising seas.

    In the hamlet of Deadhorse, I ran into an Arctic native named Jackson Snyder, who said that winters were getting "a lot warmer doesn't get much below 50 below anymore."

    That may not seem so bad. But while there will be benefits to a warmer Alaska (a longer growing season, ice-free ports), climate change can also lead to crop failures, spread tropical diseases and turn Bangladesh into tidal pools. The pace of warming may be far too fast for animals, humans or ecosystems to adjust. My advice is that if you're planning a dream home in New Orleans or on the Chesapeake, put it on stilts.

    The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, reflecting a consensus of scientists, concluded that human activity had probably caused most global warming in recent decades. It predicted that in this century, the seas will rise 4 to 35 inches.

    Some 14,000 years ago, a warming trend apparently raised the sea level by 70 feet in just a few hundred years. Today's computer models don't foresee a repeat of that, but they also can't explain why it happened then.

    That's why I'm changing my mind about the need for major steps to address carbon emissions. Global warming is still an uncertain threat, but it may well become one of the major challenges of this century. Certainly our government should do more about it than censor discussions of climate change in E.P.A. reports.

    Unless we act soon, we may find waves lapping the beaches of Ohio.


    Copyright 2003 The New York Times Company

  8. #8

    Default

    I really don't expect any surprises from a Republican Administration that doesn't even PRETEND to beenvironmentalist.

  9. #9

    Default

    Thinning Ice

    There has been no end of scholarly studies confirming the gradual rise in global temperatures over the past century. Yet nothing focuses the mind on global warming and its potential consequences quite so sharply as the occasional news flash from some remote corner of the globe documenting startling changes in landscapes once thought to be immutable. Two years ago, for instance, scientists told us that the snows of Kilimanjaro, which inspired Ernest Hemingway's famous short story, could vanish in 15 years, and that the seemingly indestructible glaciers in the Bolivian Andes might not last another 10. Last year brought evidence of disturbing and apparently irreversible changes in Alaska's environment melting permafrost, sagging roads, dying forests arising from an astonishing rise of 5.4 degrees in Alaska's average temperature over the past 30 years.

    Now comes more unsettling news: a report from three scientists that the Arctic's largest ice shelf a 150-square-mile, 100-foot-thick mass of ice that has been sitting more or less intact off the northern Canadian coast for 3,000 years is disintegrating. The scientists say the breakup results from a century-long warming trend that has accelerated in the last two years. It is not yet possible, they say, to tie the melting directly to rising atmospheric concentrations of so-called greenhouse gases, or to the human activities chiefly the burning of fossil fuels like coal and oil that create these gases. But they warn that a "critical threshold" has been breached, and that on the other side of this threshold lie abrupt changes in natural conditions we have long taken for granted.

    There could be a bright side to all this, if it persuaded the Bush administration and Congress to take the issue of climate change more seriously. That is not happening. Mr. Bush remains fixated on a voluntary approach that offers little hope of meaningful reductions in industrial emissions of carbon dioxide, the main global warming gas. Congress, meanwhile, is fashioning an energy bill that will do little to reduce these emissions, and indeed could increase them by heaping new subsidies on the oil, gas and coal industries. Washington's carapace of denial seems sturdier than any glacier.


    Copyright 2003 The New York Times Company

  10. #10

    Default

    October 27, 2003

    Testing the Senate's Mettle

    There is a good test of senatorial courage coming this week. For the first time, senators will be asked whether they are prepared to do something serious about global warming. The question comes in the form of a bill by John McCain and Joseph Lieberman that would impose mandatory caps on industrial emissions of carbon dioxide and other gases thought to be heavily responsible for warming the earth's atmosphere. The bill is a long shot. But it will provide the first true test of the sincerity of senators who say they care about the problem and have faulted President Bush for not doing enough.

    More broadly, it will also tell us whether the politics of global warming are finally beginning to catch up to the science of global warming. The science seems clear enough, and surveys suggest that the public and many local politicians are worried. But Washington hangs back, fearful of asking the country to make the investments in cleaner fuels, cars and power plants needed to start bringing emissions down.

    This fear has been engendered in part by Mr. Bush, who remains stubbornly positioned at the rear of a parade he ought to be leading. Warning of job losses, he has opposed not only the 1997 Kyoto Protocol but even the mildest variations on that agreement. Instead, he offers research into technological fixes (fine, as far as they go) as well as a voluntary program that will allow industrial emissions to grow as long as they increase more slowly than the economy itself, which of course misses the point. The carbon in the atmosphere, already dangerously high, is likely to stay there for a long time. Thus the name of the game is to stabilize and reduce emissions, not merely to slow their growth.

    Senators McCain and Lieberman have it right. Their plan would require energy, transportation and manufacturing companies to cut their emissions to 2000 levels by 2010. That isn't asking a lot. According to two reputable studies, the cost would be less than $20 per family per year, and there would be no negative impact on employment. Indeed, the investments in new technologies necessary to achieve the reductions, as well as the money saved on gasoline from more efficient cars, could actually boost the economy. The bill also offers a range of clever economic incentives chiefly a market-based system of emissions trading, patterned after the highly successful acid rain program in the 1990 Clean Air Act to help industries keep the costs of compliance low.

    Three hours of debate will be allowed for the McCain-Lieberman forces, three for the opposition. The point will undoubtedly be made that America is under no obligation to act as long as developing countries like China increase their emissions. The truth is just the reverse: One cannot expect developing nations to do anything until the United States, the biggest polluter, takes the lead. McCain-Lieberman is a splendid chance to do so.


    Copyright 2003 The New York Times Company

  11. #11

    Default

    Images from the NASA Earth Obervatory webpage:

    The minimum concentration of polar sea ice for 1979


    The mininum concentration of polar sea ice for 2003


    The reduction was measured to be 9% per decade.

  12. #12

    Default

    Look though, the ice increased by Japan. How can that be explained?

  13. #13

  14. #14

    Default

    Someone should have paid more attention in geography class.

  15. #15

    Default

    So is that Australia all covered in ice?

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