Friday, March 16, 2007

It's Official: The Hottest Winter on Record

A recent television news report may have summed up the sense of malaise and disgust in America today. A video clip depicted a rural family watching George W. Bush on the family television set. When Bush got to the topic of Iraq, the man seized the remote, clicked it off, and declared loudly: "I am sick of this guy!" This is interesting because there is a very real possibility that the man may have voted for Bush.

Enough is written of his numerous war crimes and torture -all pulled off under the cover of war on Iraq. But what of the war he wages daily on Americans?

At home, Bush has waged war on the environment -a fact brought home by the news today that this past winter has been the hottest since record keeping began some 125 years ago. Is it a fluke- as the GOP would have you believe -or is it global warming as a result of greenhouse gas emissions?

Until Al Gore took climate change on the road, Bush's abrogation of the Kyoto treaty had been all but forgotten. (see: An Inconvenient Truth) But a recent report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change changed all that. Signed by some 2,500 scientists from 130 nations, it paints a stark picture. It's hard to sum up this vision of apocalypse, so here are just a few highlights.

Greenhouse gases - from industry, transportation and agriculture -are most certainly to blame for global warming. This so called Greenhouse effect is the label given the increase in such gases over time. Primary sources of greenhouse gases are clearly due to human activity and include:
  • deforestation and the burning of fossil fuels leading to higher carbon dioxide concentrations;
  • landfill emissions leading to higher methane atmospheric concentrations. Newer fully vented septic systems have become a major source of methane;
  • the use of fertilizers in various agriculture lead to higher concentrations of nitrous oxide.
The best source for information on emission can be found in the Special Report on Emissions Scenarios The following excerpt is related to the graphic that accompanies this article.
Figure 1-2: Energy-related and industrial global CO2 emissions for scenarios reviewed in the IPCC Report Climate Change 1994 (Alcamo et al., 1995). The shaded area indicates coverage of IS92 scenarios while the "spaghetti-like" curves indicate other energy-related emissions scenarios found by the IPCC review to be representative of the scenarios available in the open literature at that time. (Individual scenarios are listed in the Appendix of Alcamo et al., 1995.)

-Figure 1-2: Energy-related and industrial global CO2 emissions for scenarios
It is easy to get lost in the many numbers, many of which are meaningless to non-scientists. But here's an easy one: an average coal fired plant pumps about ten mllion tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere every year.

One of the most pernicious effects will be rising sea levels. That's easily visualized -having witnessed a tsunami and, later, Katrina. If nothing is done to correct the trend, if gas emission do not peak before 2030, it may be too late to do anything about it. But Bush's position on this issue has given cover to the world`s other great polluters --China and India. China is at least as dependent on coal as the US is addicted to oil and gas. What leverage will the US have on two nation's eager to out "US" the "US"? Aggravating the situation are the traditional tensions between China and India.

In the meantime, the numbers are in on what has turned out to have been the warmest winter since record keeping began in the US some 125 years ago. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration says temperatures continue to rise by a fifth of a degree every decade. The 10 warmest years on record have occurred since 1995. And while NOAA does not blame "global warming", weather experts predict that 2007 might very well be the hottest year on record. The IPCC report must be taken into consideration before these numbers can be blamed on El Nino.

Would things have been different if Bush had not thumbed his nose at Kyoto? Consider the fact that United States is among the world's leading producers of greenhouse gases.

-The Existentialist Cowboy

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