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The Big Question: Is America finally getting real about climate change?

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OKIsItJustMe Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue May-26-09 09:14 AM
Original message
The Big Question: Is America finally getting real about climate change?
http://www.independent.co.uk/environment/climate-change...

The Big Question: Is America finally getting real about climate change?

By Rupert Cornwell

Tuesday, 26 May 2009

Why are we asking this question now?

Barack Obama has launched a policy revolution which will ensure that, if successful, his presidency will be a watershed in US history. Nothing however is as consequential as his attempt to change America's energy habits and fight global warming. The US may have been overtaken by China as the planet's biggest current polluter. But it has by far the largest pollution "legacy" of any country. Without it, no credible international assault on the problem is possible. The George W Bush administration, following the path set by Ronald Reagan a generation before, virtually ignored the issue, in part because of its links to the fossil fuel industries, in part because of the Republicans' belief that free markets could solve everything.

Obama's approach is diametrically opposed. If anything, he has intensified his rhetoric on the issue since taking office. Some already talk of him as a "Green FDR" a president who will bring the power of government into the fight against climate change and energy wastefulness, in the same way that Franklin Roosevelt used that power to fight poverty and curb market excesses three-quarters of a century ago.

What has Obama done so far, in concrete terms?

He has set a goal of ending US dependence on oil from the Middle East and Venezuela by 2020 and of cutting greenhouse gas emissions by 20 per cent from 2005 levels by the same year. He is pushing a first ever "cap-and-trade" bill on Capitol Hill. Last week he announced plans to boost average fuel economy for new vehicles on US roads to 35 miles per gallon by 2016, from about 25mpg today. Potentially most important of all, the EPA, the federal government's environmental agency, has ruled that carbon emissions are a public health hazard. That step, strenuously resisted by the Bush administration, gives Obama broad new leeway to act on pollution and emissions. Last but not least (and pardon the pun), the intellectual climate around the debate is changing too.

Is this as much about people as policies?

Indeed. The economic crisis has brought home America's energy vulnerability, and the absurdity of borrowing $400bn or more from China every year to buy oil from countries, many of them home to terrorists out to bring America down. Polls suggest that climate change is now registering as an issue for the public. And while the Bush/Cheney team resisted, even suppressed, science showing that global warming was man-made, Obama has surrounded himself with advisers who know the issue inside out Carol Browner, his climate tsar (or rather tsarina), and Steven Chu, the Nobel prize-winning physicist who is now Energy Secretary, to name but two.

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azul Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue May-26-09 09:25 AM
Response to Original message
1. I'll have my answer when oil-producing states are declared rogue.
As in extorting money to destroy the planet and scuttling alternative energies and competition: criminals.
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OKIsItJustMe Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue May-26-09 10:28 AM
Response to Reply #1
3. Let's see
Is it the "pushers" or the "addicts" who are the criminals? (I can never remember which.)
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ensho Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue May-26-09 10:17 AM
Response to Original message
2. not yet. we seem to be only semi-serious about it with no sense of urgency


tic, tic
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GliderGuider Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue May-26-09 10:43 AM
Response to Original message
4. I'll take "Questions whose answer is 'No'" for $1000, Alex
Edited on Tue May-26-09 10:44 AM by GliderGuider
So long as we insist that China goes first in the CO2 reduction sweepstakes, figure that buying a new 7-paassenger vehicle that gets a whole 5 mpg better mileage is "doing something", and keep saying things like "I'm all for this environmental stuff so long as it don't hurt jobs"...

Well, the question would be,

"Is GM's hydrogen-powered hypercar going to save the world?"

Thank you for playing, our hostess has some lovely consolation prizes for your species as you leave the stage.
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OKIsItJustMe Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue May-26-09 10:56 AM
Response to Reply #4
5. It's difficult to turn a battleship on a dime, even if you're serious about doing it
However, I thought an excellent point was made in this Living on Earth story:
http://www.loe.org/shows/segments.htm?programID=09-P13-...

Greenhouse Gambling



CURWOOD: Somebody listening to us might say "Huh, okay. So like we have an 80 percent chance of things being really very difficult, even if we have aggressive policies. Why bother?" What would you say to them?

REILLY: If we don't bother it's going to be much, much worse. In this debate there's this idea that we're already gone over a cliff or something and that leads to the frustration that, well, if we've gone over the cliff, why bother? Unfortunately there may be little cliffs, but there's many more cliffs to come. And so, we're stuck with, I think, probably something on the order of two and a half to three or four degrees warming even if we do almost everything we can. So we're gonna have to be prepared for adapting to the climate change we see and really worry about, you know, risk to agriculture, to coastal systems, to severe storms, to increased hurricanes, to melting of ice. The risks are there and I think they're, at this point, some of them are unavoidable, but we certainly want to move ahead as fast as we can to avoid these really catastrophic outcomes.

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The2ndWheel Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue May-26-09 11:19 AM
Response to Original message
6. "his attempt to change America's energy habits"
That's ridiculous. We're not changing energy habits. We want to change the source of the energy. We want to continue consuming increasing amounts of energy, not use less. We wouldn't be trying to increase the efficiency of solar panels if what we wanted to do was use less solar energy. We could use less solar energy by not making the panels.
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OKIsItJustMe Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue May-26-09 11:22 AM
Response to Reply #6
7. No, it's not ridiculous
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The2ndWheel Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue May-26-09 11:43 AM
Response to Reply #7
8. When have we ever cut energy use?
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OKIsItJustMe Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue May-26-09 11:51 AM
Response to Reply #8
9. In the late 70's and early 80's actually
Edited on Tue May-26-09 11:52 AM by OKIsItJustMe
http://www1.eere.energy.gov/ba/pba/intensityindicators/...


People are hesitant to make a change, unless they see a good reason to do so.

More and more people are coming to realize there is a reason to decrease our use of energy derived from fossil fuels.
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The2ndWheel Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue May-26-09 11:59 AM
Response to Reply #9
11. But not our use of energy
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OKIsItJustMe Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue May-26-09 12:05 PM
Response to Reply #11
12. Yes, our energy use went down
However, I realize that goes against your belief system.
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The2ndWheel Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue May-26-09 12:20 PM
Response to Reply #12
15. Then it shouldn't matter what kind of energy
"More and more people are coming to realize there is a reason to decrease our use of energy derived from fossil fuels."

But not our use of energy, period.
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OKIsItJustMe Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue May-26-09 12:35 PM
Response to Reply #15
18. Energy use is not as big a problem as the source of the energy
For example, energy derived from burning natural gas produces much less CO2 than energy derived from burning coal.

Energy derived from solar panels produces virtually no CO2, other than that which may be produced in their manufacture. (Different methods of production will generate different amounts of pollution.)

Unfortunately, we cannot switch our entire energy infrastructure overnight.
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The2ndWheel Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue May-26-09 01:21 PM
Response to Reply #18
20. See, I think the exact opposite is the case
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OKIsItJustMe Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue May-26-09 02:52 PM
Response to Reply #20
21. Why do you believe that?
Edited on Tue May-26-09 03:28 PM by OKIsItJustMe
http://www.ipcc.ch/pdf/assessment-report/ar4/wg1/ar4-wg...


Carbon dioxide is the most important anthropogenic greenhouse gas (see Figure SPM.2). The global atmospheric concentration of carbon dioxide has increased from a pre-industrial value of about 280 ppm to 379 ppm in 2005. The atmospheric concentration of carbon dioxide in 2005 exceeds by far the natural range over the last 650,000 years (180 to 300 ppm) as determined from ice cores. The annual carbon dioxide concentration growth rate was larger during the last 10 years (19952005 average: 1.9 ppm per year), than it has been since the beginning of continuous direct atmospheric measurements (19602005 average: 1.4 ppm per year) although there is year-to-year variability in growth rates. {2.3, 7.3}
  • The primary source of the increased atmospheric concentration of carbon dioxide since the pre-industrial period results from fossil fuel use, with land-use change providing another significant but smaller contribution. Annual fossil carbon dioxide emissions increased from an average of 6.4 (6.0 to 6.8) GtC (23.5 (22.0 to 25.0) GtCO₂) per year in the 1990s to 7.2 (6.9 to 7.5) GtC (26.4 (25.3 to 27.5) GtCO₂) per year in 20002005 (2004 and 2005 data are interim estimates). Carbon dioxide emissions associated with land-use change are estimated to be 1.6 (0.5 to 2.7) GtC (5.9 (1.8 to 9.9) GtCO2) per year over the 1990s, although these estimates have a large uncertainty. {7.3}


Most of the observed increase in global average temperatures since the mid-20th century is very likely due to the observed increase in anthropogenic greenhouse gas concentrations. This is an advance since the TARs conclusion that most of the observed warming over the last 50 years is likely to have been due to the increase in greenhouse gas concentrations. Discernible human influences now extend to other aspects of climate, including ocean warming, continental-average temperatures, temperature extremes and wind patterns (see Figure SPM.4 and Table SPM.2). {9.4, 9.5}

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The2ndWheel Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed May-27-09 08:27 AM
Response to Reply #21
27. Because CO2 hasn't been, isn't, and won't be the only problem
We increased our environmental impact when we started to sharpen sticks in order to kill dinner easier. I don't see how we're going to decrease our footprint if we have the ability to increase our activity with unlimited sources of renewable energy.
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NNadir Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue May-26-09 11:40 PM
Response to Reply #9
26. Um, I suggest you look at the data and the units from your graph.
One of the sleights of hand is to confuse some bullshit concept like "intensity" with actual raw numbers.

I've been watching dumb fundie anti-nukes do this for a long time when they claim "conservation will save us."



A molecule doesn't give a shit about GDP, never has, never will.

Your graph reminds me of some of the graphs that Ronald Reagan produced in his very absurd speeches which had no units whatsoever on the axes.

EVERY SINGLE YEAR EXCEPT 1985, going back to 1949, US carbon dioxide emissions rose.

In 1985 it fell by a trivial amount from the previous year, 4 million tons out of 707 million tons.

From 1975 until 1985 US emissions of carbon dioxide rose per annum by more than 23%, or almost 140 million tons per year.

http://www.eia.doe.gov/oiaf/1605/ggrpt/excel/historical...

I suggest you get serious.

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GliderGuider Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue May-26-09 11:59 AM
Response to Reply #8
10. From 1981 to 1986
For those six years American primary energy consumption was below 1800 mtoe/year, compared to 1893 mtoe in 1979 and 1829 mtoe in 1987. So it has been done.
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OKIsItJustMe Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue May-26-09 12:13 PM
Response to Reply #10
14. Ah, those were heady days
Edited on Tue May-26-09 12:22 PM by OKIsItJustMe

1982 World's Fair



Went there, did that, got the "T-Shirts" to prove it. The "flame" logo reflected the "theme" of the fair, which was "Energy Turns the World." The centerpiece of the fair was the "Sunsphere" representing the ultimate source of energy.


Yup, there were all sorts of energy saving technologies on display. People were waking up. You see, they had been shown that the days of cheap oil were numbered. Then, Uncle Ronnie convinced them they were worried over nothing, and they were lulled back to sleep.
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bananas Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue May-26-09 08:53 PM
Response to Reply #14
23. Wow - that brings back memories!
Edited on Tue May-26-09 09:02 PM by bananas
And not all of them pleasant ... http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jake_Butcher
Jacob Franklin "Jake" Butcher (born in 1936) was a U.S. banker and politician who built a financial empire in East Tennessee, was the Democratic Party nominee for governor of Tennessee in 1978 and the primary promoter of the 1982 World's Fair in Knoxville, Tennessee, and who lost his business and his personal fortune after he was found to have engaged in massive fraud.


edit to add: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Early_1980s_recession
The early 1980s recession was a severe recession in the United States which began in July 1981 and ended in November 1982. The primary cause of the recession was a contractionary monetary policy established by the Federal Reserve System to control high inflation.

The recession was the most serious recession since the Great Depression.


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The2ndWheel Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue May-26-09 12:25 PM
Response to Reply #10
16. Sure, and I don't own a car
That can be done too.
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OKIsItJustMe Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue May-26-09 12:28 PM
Response to Reply #16
17. So, then, it's your belief that you are a mutant of some sort.
i.e. that the rest of humanity cannot possibly grasp the wisdom of conservation.
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The2ndWheel Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue May-26-09 01:15 PM
Response to Reply #17
19. I know I did my little part to screw the people working for GM
As long as our economy is based on growth, then conservation isn't part of the equation. If we were serious about conservation, "our" government wouldn't be doing what it's doing right now in response to the economic situation. Everybody needs a job though.

It's not about the ability to grasp the wisdom. It's about the willingness to pay the price to do it. I've only scratched the surface in my own life. Everyone is in a different situation, with different this and that, it's no wonder so much energy is wasted. That's the price of diversity I guess.
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OKIsItJustMe Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue May-26-09 02:59 PM
Response to Reply #19
22. "Waste" is not the price of diversity
We have been wasteful, because we could afford to be.

Energy (in the form of fossil fuels) was so inexpensive, it was cheaper to be wasteful than conservative. So, for example, while GM had the technology for a parallel hybrid for decades, it really has only been in the last few years that the economic equations have worked out to benefit selling them.

Recycling wasn't invented in the 70's. People recycled during "the war years" as well. They did it then because they had to.

Many people recycle today because they feel it's, "the right thing to do."
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The2ndWheel Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed May-27-09 08:44 AM
Response to Reply #22
28. Agreed
The less expensive the energy, the less people need each other. The more expensive the energy, the more people need each other.

As for recycling, as long as it's done in a manner that grows the economy, it's fine. As long as we can manufacture the plastic bins to put on the curb. As long as we can create the jobs to pick up the bins. As long as we can build the plants to process the waste to recycle it back into the economy. Any other type of recycling doesn't grow the economy, and when the economy doesn't grow, we see what happens.
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pscot Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue May-26-09 12:07 PM
Response to Original message
13. No.
We aren't going to do anything that might upset the coal and oil interests.

:banghead:
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XemaSab Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue May-26-09 09:17 PM
Response to Original message
24. The little answer:
No.


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Dead_Parrot Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue May-26-09 10:44 PM
Response to Original message
25. Is the Pope Jewish? Do bears shit on the moon?
If I smoke 20 cigarettes a day, and set a target of 16 a day by 2020, am I serious about giving up?

:smoke:

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