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Monday, September 27, 2004

Vanishing Alaska... and GWB's hot air

Image from a January article in The Age

Time Magazine reports this week:

"Global warming, caused in part by the burning of oil and gas in factories and cars, is traumatizing polar regions, where the complex meteorological processes associated with snow, permafrost and ice magnify its effects. A study published in Science last week reported that glaciers in West Antarctica are thinning twice as fast as they did in the 1990s. In Alaska the annual mean air temperature has risen 4°F to 5°F in the past three decades — compared with an average of just under 1°F worldwide. As a result, the state's glaciers are melting; insects are destroying vast swaths of forest; and thawing permafrost is sinking roads, pipelines and homes. Arctic Ocean ice has shrunk 5% to 10%, at an accelerating rate. Says Weller: 'There is natural variability, but the evidence is overwhelming that humanity has altered the climate.'"

Whole Eskimo villages now face "imminent danger" and must relocate, Time reports.

The United States by itself emits 25 percent of the world's greenhouse gases, according to the OneWorld news service. Other estimates place the U.S. share of greenhouse production as high as 36 percent.

Is global warming causing this year's flux of hurricanes? Geoff Brumfiel writes on Nature.com, "Many climate scientists think that global warming will lead to an increased frequency of extreme weather events. But most argue firmly against linking any specific events - such as this year's batch of hurricanes in the Caribbean - to global warming."

Scientists say global warming only impacts long-term trends. But the outlook for those long-term trends is ominous.

Christopher Doering writes in Reuters, "As Hurricane Ivan and its powerful winds churned through the Gulf of Mexico, scientists told Congress on Wednesday that global warming could produce stronger and more destructive hurricanes in the future."

The position of the Bush administration on the environment is clear. One of Bush's first move as president was to withdraw from the Kyoto Protocol--an according signed by over 100 countries committing them to decreased greenhouse gas emissions.

The International Herald Tribune reports: "For many environmental groups, Bush's legacy was ensured in his first year, thanks to a series of highly publicized decisions that effectively repudiated Clinton administration positions. Bush backed off a campaign pledge to regulate carbon dioxide and abandoned the Kyoto Protocol of 1997, an international agreement to reduce heat-trapping gases linked to global warming.

Then the administration pushed, unsuccessfully, for a law allowing oil drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. It scrapped the phase-out of snowmobiles in Yellowstone National Park and temporarily dropped a Clinton proposal to cut the permissible level of arsenic in drinking water by 80 percent."

Senator James Jeffords, ranking minority member on the Environment and Public Works Committee, told the Herald Tribune, "I expect the Bush administration will go down in history as the greatest disaster for public health and the environment in the history of the United States."

In conclusion, here is what George W. Bush had to say about his withdrawal from the Kyoto agreement, as quoted on April 24, 2001: "First, we would not accept a treaty that would not have been ratified, nor a treaty that I thought made sense for the country."

With a man who thinks that clearly, there's no end to hot air.


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