God's Politics

God's Politics


The Leadership Gap on Global Warming (by Bill McKibben)

posted by God's Politics

Here’s the word from the physical world: On Sept. 10, scientists studying satellite images of the Arctic reported that sea ice covered 4.32 million square kilometers of the north. The old record, set two years before: 5.34 million square kilometers. Mark Serreze, an Arctic specialist at the U.S. National Snow and Ice Data Centre at Colorado University in Denver, said, “It’s amazing. It’s simply fallen off a cliff and we’re still losing ice.” The Arctic has now lost about a third of its ice since satellite measurements began 30 years ago. At the moment, an area of ice the size of the United Kingdom melts each week.


And here’s the word from the political world, as it appeared in The New York Times last Thursday: “The prospect of a comprehensive energy package’s emerging from Congress this fall is rapidly receding, held up by technical hurdles and policy disputes between the House and the Senate and within the parties.”

The technical word for this situation is “gap.” As in, there’s a slight gap between how much we need to do and how much we are doing. A gap at least as wide as the Northwest Passage, which as of early September was fully navigable.

There’s one thing that can close that gap, and it’s called leadership.


Which is why, on Nov. 3, Americans will gather at hundreds of sites around the country, places named for great leaders of the past: the top of Mt. Washington, the place where Teddy Roosevelt was inaugurated, the birthplace of Rachel Carson, the site of the Lincoln-Douglas debates, and many, many more. They’ll ask that their political representatives join them (well, maybe not on top of Mt. Washington) and tell them exactly how they’re planning to lead this fight — how they’re planning to cut carbon emissions, how they’re planning to build a new energy economy, and how they’re planning to put poor Americans to work in this economic transition.


We need you to help. We need you to organize one of these demonstrations in your community. It’s easy to do — last April we helped 1,400 American cities and towns organize rallies, large and small. If you come to stepitup07.org, we’ll walk you through it and make you an organizer, even if you’ve never done anything like it.


In other words, we need our politicians to lead. But first we need you to lead them. If global warming has haunted you — if you understand that we face trouble like we’ve never faced before — then please join in.


Bill McKibben wrote the first book for a general audience about global warming, The End of Nature, way back in 1989. His new book is Deep Economy: The Wealth of Communities and the Durable Future .



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Paul M Martin

posted September 19, 2007 at 3:04 pm


And yet there seems to be plenty of world leadership as Canada, Russia and others – the US has to be in on this act – try to stake their claims to the area so they can do what?
Drill for oil there as the ice recedes.



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Paul M Martin

posted September 19, 2007 at 3:07 pm


And yet there seems to be plenty of world leadership as Canada, Russia and others – the US has to be in on this act – try to stake their claims to the area so they can do what?
Drill for oil there as the ice recedes.
Paul – originalfaith.com



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Paul Martin

posted September 19, 2007 at 3:12 pm


Ugh…
I’d take that second remark back if I could.
Too quick on the draw for a relatively slow comments loader, will try to remember…
Paul



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Wolverine

posted September 19, 2007 at 7:32 pm


Bill McKibben wrote:
At the moment, an area of ice the size of the United Kingdom melts each week.
I realize this isn’t necessarily Bill McKibben’s fault, but the link attached to this sentence says no such thing.
This is a pretty alarming statement. Does anyone have any proof?
Wolverine



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canucklehead

posted September 19, 2007 at 8:12 pm


for what it’s worth, in the past 3 or 4 days of seen stories from AP, Reuters and McClatchy all saying more or less the same thing – this year the Northwest Passage is navigable the earliest it’s ever been, and so on



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jerry

posted September 19, 2007 at 8:39 pm


leadership in washington? don’t think so. no money in it. looks like a melt down.



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Betsy Whaley

posted September 20, 2007 at 12:15 am


I noticed that in the first paragraph McKibben states:
“On Sept. 10, scientists studying satellite images of the Arctic reported that sea ice covered 4.32 million square kilometers of the north. The old record, set two years before: 5.34 million square miles.”
Is the difference in measurement (kilometers vs. miles) a typo? 5.34 million sq. miles = 13.83 million sq. kilometers. Is he saying that 2/3 of the ice has melted in two years? Surely not. If so, I’m even more terrified than before.



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mark

posted September 20, 2007 at 1:12 am


Canucklehead:
for what it’s worth, in the past 3 or 4 days of seen stories from AP, Reuters and McClatchy all saying more or less the same thing – this year the Northwest Passage is navigable the earliest it’s ever been, and so on
Add the BBC and the Guardian to that.
Apparently the ice pressure on Greenland is releasing so fast that it’s setting off low-intensity earthquakes (I think I read about 4 on the Richter scale but have deleted my copy of the source)
Mark



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Moderatelad

posted September 20, 2007 at 10:34 am


Posted by: Wolverine | September 19, 2007 7:32 PM
Does anyone have any proof?
Proof is only required from those who question global warming. (the more I read and listen to them I see chicken little running around shouting ‘the sky is falling’)
Be blessed –
.



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squeaky

posted September 20, 2007 at 11:07 am


Ah, Moderatelad–have you checked out the EPA website and what it has to say about Global Warming there? You need to educate yourself on the science before you can throw stones at it.
The majority of climate scientists (in other words, the experts) are in a consensus that climate change is real, and our actions are the cause. If you are not a scientist, the most honest thing you should be saying is that you don’t understand the science but that you would like to learn more about it and get beyond the politics, meanwhile leaving behind potshots like the one above.
this is a general statement not directed at you, specifically, Moderatelad, but at the general population of non-scientists. I am a scientist. I teach science. Most of the people in my courses don’t know anything about science. My first exam this semester came back with a 30% failure rate (I teach intro geology–not rocket science–and I get consistently high teaching evals, lest you think it is my fault for the failure rate). I have a pretty good understanding of the general population’s understanding of scientific issues–very marginal at best. What I don’t understand, then, is why when issues like Global Climate Change are discussed, everyone, even those who say they don’t understand science, even those who are scared to death of science, even those who have not had a science class since 8th grade, even those who spend no time so much as watching the Discovery Channel, suddenly turn into experts. It surely isn’t because they spent any time at all actually studying the science behind the issue. Someone, anyone, please help me try to understand this.



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Moderatelad

posted September 20, 2007 at 11:30 am


Posted by: squeaky | September 20, 2007 11:07 AM
Blessings on you for being a teacher.
First you need to understand that I believe that we should reduce the use of oil and oil products. So I am for the use of nuclear and hydro and other alt. sources.
I do not by into the ‘global warming’ hype or the ‘Gore mania’ that come with it, as well as the taxes that Gore and his supporters are promoting with this hysteria. Some of the searching that I have done has produced questions – many that most will not deal with as they don’t fit the ‘global warming’ smell test.
I am still looking for answers and will find them sooner or later – just not here.
Again – blessings on you teacher and good luck imparting knowledge to your students.
.



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squeaky

posted September 20, 2007 at 1:55 pm


Moderatelad,
“Blessings on you for being a teacher.”
Thanks–appreciate that.
“First you need to understand that I believe that we should reduce the use of oil and oil products. So I am for the use of nuclear and hydro and other alt. sources.”
Well, good!
“I do not by into the ‘global warming’ hype or the ‘Gore mania’ that come with it, as well as the taxes that Gore and his supporters are promoting with this hysteria.”
Well it depends on what you consider the hype. The evidence supporting global warming, or the response we should have concerning global warming. In other words, do you agree with the scientific concensus that global warming is occurring, but you disagree with the proposals of how to respond to it?
“Some of the searching that I have done has produced questions – many that most will not deal with as they don’t fit the ‘global warming’ smell test. I am still looking for answers and will find them sooner or later – just not here. ”
You could ask, you know. I don’t have all the answers, but still know quite a bit about it. What are your questions?
The first step in doing something about it is understanding it. When people let go of their political prejudices, they can see the evidence, and it is alarming. If agreement can be reached that global climate change is occurring (and even Bush concedes that now), then something can be done about it. Just because you disagree with the proposed responses to it, doesn’t mean it isn’t happening. The evidence is strong enough that we need to let go of politics and come together and start to determine solutions. Throwing stones at someone’s solution is not a viable response. The correct response is to stop politicizing it, listen to what other’s are saying, and discuss why or why their proposals won’t work, and then propose your own response. That leads to a discussion in which the merits and drawbacks of many perspectives are considered and has a much better chance of leading to a solution. That’s the kind of discussion I would like to see from you and others–you have perspectives to bring to the table. But tossing off political jabs like “gore mania” do nothing to further the conversation and lead to solutions. Please, get past that. This country can’t afford that rhetoric to continue, and you are too smart not to think beyond the political rhetoric. Lecture over, class dismissed. Behave or I’ll send you to the Principal’s office (oh, yeah–we don’t have principals in the university)



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Moderatelad

posted September 20, 2007 at 2:15 pm


Posted by: squeaky | September 20, 2007 1:55 PM
I am still doing my searching for info – have been hammered in the past by some and ignored by others with my questions – so I at this time will keep them close to the vest.
2 of the areas that I am searching are…
There is evidence that the earth has experienced warming trends in the past and this could be another one of those trends.
Other planets in our system are also increasing in temp. along with the earth. Just looking to see how many SUV’s they have that are causing this same problem.
One thing that concerns me is that Gore primary solution to the aledged global warming problem is – (drum roll please) – a new tax on the people. SSDD for Gore.
Also – the buz phrase a few months ago was ‘global warming’ – not it is ‘climate change’.
I still believe we need to polute less and protect the planet. I am doing my little part – what is Gore doing? Riding in private planes and SUV’s. Yes he can afford it and can pay for the carbon credits. The urban poor, the people on fixed incomes and farmer can’t – period.
Blessings Teacher!
.



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Richard Schwartz

posted September 20, 2007 at 4:31 pm


As president of Jewish Vegetarians of North America, I want to point out that an essential part of efforts to control global warming, one that is generally being overlooked, is a major shift to plant-based diets. A 2006 UN FAO report indicated that animal-based agriculture emits more greenhouse gases (18 percent in CO2 equivalents) than all the cars and other forms of transportation (13.5%) and that the number of farmed animals is projected to double in the next 50 years/ If that happens, the increased greenhouse gas emissions will negate improvements from many positive changes, such as switches to more efficient light bulbs, cars, etc..
Hence, a switch to plant-based diets is essential to help move our imperiled planet to a sustainable path.
Of course, there are other important reasons for considering a vegetarian diet, including improved health and a reduction of the current mistreatment and slaughter of over 50 billion farmed animals annually worldwide. In addition, it should be considered that the production and consumption of meat and other animal products violate basic religious teachings on taking care of our health, treating animals with compassion, protecting the environment, conserving natural resources, kelping hungry people and pursuing peace and non-violence.
Further information can be found at JewishVeg.com/Schwartz.



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squeaky

posted September 20, 2007 at 4:47 pm


Thanks for the questions:
“There is evidence that the earth has experienced warming trends in the past and this could be another one of those trends.”
True. However, just because it has doesn’t mean that the causes are the same in the current warming trend. We have put more CO2, Methane, and ammonia into the atmosphere than ever before in Earth history, and as these are well-established greenhouse gases, the connection between the evidence for warming and these excess greenhouse gases is not difficult to make. The question should be how can we put all those greenhouse gases into the atmosphere WITHOUT affecting the climate?
“Other planets in our system are also increasing in temp. along with the earth. Just looking to see how many SUV’s they have that are causing this same problem.”
Good question. I’m not an astronomer, but I can direct you to a couple articles at realclimate.org:
http://www.realclimate.org/index.php?p=180
http://www.realclimate.org/index.php/archives/2005/10/global-warming-on-mars/
A good point to bring up now is that if you just google “climate change” you will get 1000 different opinions. It is vital that you consider the source of those opinions. Are they coming from scientists (most importantly climate scientists)? Are they coming from scientists who are in the employ of the gas and coal industries? These are important questions. Always consider the source.
But back to the original question. I said I don’t know much about it, but the questions I would ask are:
1. What is the cause of the climate change on these other planets? Different planets have different characteristics, and the cause on one may not be the same as the cause on the other.
2. Is there evidence that the sun is causing the warming on all planets? Is the sun warming up or is solar activity more intense for some reason?
3. How much do we really know about warming on these planets? We have solid records of climate patterns on Earth because we can gather the physical evidence directly. We can’t do that on other planets.
“One thing that concerns me is that Gore primary solution to the aledged global warming problem is – (drum roll please) – a new tax on the people. SSDD for Gore.”
Not actually true. He is also a strong advocate of cap and trade solutions, which is a market based solution. And so what if that is his solution? Propose something else. Don’t just gripe about the demerits of one solution without proposing some of your own. That gets us nowhere. Look, someone made a proposal. Consider the pluses and minuses of that proposal and propose your own. Then someone will consider yours and in the meantime you get closer and closer to an actual solution. That’s how policy works. It doesn’t work when people just shut each other down for proposing something you disagree with.
“Also – the buz phrase a few months ago was ‘global warming’ – not it is ‘climate change’.”
I use the terms interchangeably. It’s really an issue of semantics for the most part, but the reason for the change is scientists want to make it clear that warming is one aspect of climate change. Changes other than warming may take place depending on where you are–it isn’t just the temperature that changes in a region, but the climate itself. For example, a steppe climate may transform into a desert climate, the definition of which incorporates not just temperature, but rainfall as well.
“I still believe we need to polute less and protect the planet. I am doing my little part – what is Gore doing? Riding in private planes and SUV’s. Yes he can afford it and can pay for the carbon credits. The urban poor, the people on fixed incomes and farmer can’t – period.”
Well, I agree he should put his money where his mouth it, and thank you for doing your part. However, and this is another pet peave of mine, Al Gore did not discover climate change. Thousands of scientists worldwide in the last 30 years did. He is just a mouthpiece. I wish people wouldn’t equate climate change with Al Gore. They automatically stop listening if they don’t like the messenger. So my advice, and a request actually, is please stop doing that. If you don’t want to believe Al Gore, fine. He’s a politician, not a scientist, and I’m not asking you to believe him, or anyone else for that matter. What I’m asking you to do is examine the work of actual climate scientists and draw your conclusions after carefully considering their voices. Start at epa.gov



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squeaky

posted September 20, 2007 at 4:52 pm


Richard Schwartz,
I would add to that–if not an entire switch away from animals for our diet, at least a switch to animals that are raised in a more humane way. This would bring back the small farms and eliminate the feedlots, which have great environmental impact on water quality in addition to climate. What would help with this is if people choose to eat locally–buy locally grown produce and animal products. the result of that would be better food, and elimination of oil burned for transport of these goods.



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Moderatelad

posted September 21, 2007 at 8:01 am


Posted by: squeaky | September 20, 2007 4:47 PM
Finally –
I get a direct and respectful response –
OK – this weekend I will try to carve out some time and look at the sites and do a little more searching. I always knew that you were out there and I will now look a little deeper and start looking past Gore and his retoric.
Thanks – and have a great weekend squeaky –
.



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Polewalker

posted September 21, 2007 at 9:06 am


S. Fred Singer, Professor Emeritus of Environmental Sciences, University of Virginia says the most fundamental question is scientific: Is the observed warming of the past 30 years due to natural causes or are human activities a main or even a contributing factor? “…After all, the geological record shows a persistent 1,500-year cycle of warming and cooling extending back at least one million years.” He goes on to say that science does not operate by consensus. “…Estimates of consensus among the American Meteorological Society (AMS) regarding man-made global warming are well over 50 percent. … the second reason not rely on a ‘scientific’ consensus it that this is not how science works. … Science proceeds by the scientific method and draws conclusions based on evidence, not on a show of hands. … To assert that melting glaciers prove human causation is just bad logic.”
“NATURAL CAUSES OF WARMING include continental drift and mountain-building, changes in the Earth’s orbit, volcanic eruptions, and solar variability.”
–“Reprinted by permission from IMPRIMIS, a publication of Hillsdale College, August 2007, Volume 36, Number 8.”
—SUBSCRIPTION FREE UPON REQUEST, 1-800-437-2268



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Moderatelad

posted September 21, 2007 at 9:23 am


Posted by: Polewalker | September 21, 2007 9:06 AM
Thanks for your input. There is also a prof at MIT that says much the same thing. I will look at these sites and at the ones supplied by ‘P’.
Have a great weekend –
.



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squeaky

posted September 21, 2007 at 9:24 am


Polewalker,
“NATURAL CAUSES OF WARMING include continental drift and mountain-building, changes in the Earth’s orbit, volcanic eruptions, and solar variability.”
Yes, but since those are not the causes in this case, scientists need to look elsewhere for causes. We don’t see a sudden increase in the size of mountains, the continents aren’t moving faster than before, we haven’t detected a major increase in volcanic activity, we haven’t detected major changes in solar variability, we understand the changes in Earth orbit. None of these are being proposed as the cause of our current climate change. Again, the question really is how can we put that much material into the atmosphere without it having an affect on our environment?



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squeaky

posted September 21, 2007 at 9:29 am


Moderatelad,
Thanks for taking the time to investigate further. If you were in Indiana, I’d tell you to take my class, but since you aren’t, I’d also suggest a course in environmental studies or conservation at any of the fine universities or community colleges MN has to offer. There are online courses as well. The text I am using this semester is Environment: The Science Behind the Stories but Withgott and Brennan, which can by purchased on Amazon. I have never said this about a textbook before, but this one is excellent. I couldn’t be more pleased.
Have fun!
Cheers



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patty carmean

posted September 21, 2007 at 12:25 pm


please while there is still time to save our environment do somthing now because in ten years it will be too late. for everyone and my grandkids. we need to take action now not when it’s convient for everyone. thank you patty



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squeaky

posted September 21, 2007 at 2:25 pm


Polewalker
“Science proceeds by the scientific method and draws conclusions based on evidence, not on a show of hands.”
This is true. However, when it becomes clear that a given hypothesis continues to withstand scrutiny, that hypothesis turns into a theory. That doesn’t mean more testing is not done, but it does mean that the vast majority of scientists are in agreement on that given theory. This agreement was not arrived at by vote, but by rigorous testing. If most climate scientists are in agreement that climate change is happening and has a human cause, they don’t agree because they got together to vote on it. They agree because their research indicates that this is the case.



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carl copas

posted September 21, 2007 at 2:35 pm


Squeaky,
thank you for your input on this issue. Finally, someone who actually works in the field and knows what they’re talking about.



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Polewalker

posted September 21, 2007 at 3:05 pm


Back to S. Fred Singer, Professor Emeritus of Environmental Sciences, University of Virginia. I did a poor job of quoting him. Here is one full paragraph from the same article I previously mentioned: “Likewise, only about a dozen members of the governing board voted on the “consensus statement” on climate change by the American Meteorological Society (AMS). Rank and file AMS scientist never had a say, which is why so many of them are now openly rebelling. Estimates of skepticsm within the AMS regarding man-made global warming are well over 50 percent.”
One point to all this is that the societal, political and economic ramifications of the current rush-to-judgment are huge. Read the IMPRIMIS for yourself. It is full of much more pertinent information and data.



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Diana Rathburn

posted September 21, 2007 at 8:16 pm


“The Arctic has now lost about a third of its ice since satellite measurements began 30 years ago. At the moment, an area of ice the size of the United Kingdom melts each week.”
If we’ve lost about 1/3 of our Arctic ice in the last 30 years, and no cities are beginning to be submerged, no great calamities have taken place, etc; is it true that global warming WILL cause great catastrophes? Why haven’t we seen evidence of these catastrophes in these 30 years? Just curious…



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Don

posted September 24, 2007 at 7:39 am


Diana:
I’m not a scientist, so what I write here stands to be corrected. But the northern polar ice cap floats in the Arctic Ocean; it’s not located on any land mass like the southern ice cap is(Antarctica). As you know with ice cubes, water expands when it freezes. So when Arctic ice melts, it displaces less physical space than it did when frozen. So naturally, ice that floats in the ocean will not cause the sea levels to rise when it melts.
The ice fields of Greenland and Antarctica are also melting. This ice sits on land, so sea levels will rise as it melts. Evidence of an impending catastrophe have indeed been noticed in this case.
But don’t take my word for it. Read the scientific literature. Become informed.
Peace,



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Pamela Rice

posted September 25, 2007 at 9:32 am


I hope that Step-Up does not neglect to publicize the biggest way that humans today contribute to global warming. A U.N. report, “Livestock’s Long Shadow,” pointed out that all the world’s livestock contribute more to global warming than all the world’s transport vehicles, which means along with all the other lifestyle changes in our lives, we need to eat lower on the food chain, that is, eat less meat.



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