Monday, January 21, 2008

Asian Growth Blamed for Record Carbon Dioxide Levels

Reports from a Norwegian station in the Arctic show that carbon dioxide measurements have reached a new record of about 394 parts per million (these measurements are higher than the most quoted measurements obtained in Hawaii). An article in the Internet Edition of China Post says that Kim Holman, director of the Norwegian Polar Institute, attributes the increase in carbon dioxide emissions to growing Asian economies. Holman says this growth is connected to a recent reduction in industrial efficiency as more carbon is being emitted per dollar of economic output, a trend which is opposite to that which took place over many preceding years. Holman is quoted in the article as saying that “the affluent world wants to buy cheap stuff and we buy it…from the inefficient old-fashioned technology that we have got rid of.” As long as people think of themselves as consumers rather than citizens they will prefer the “cheap stuff” to what makes sense in terms of protecting the environment, furthering human rights, etc. American political scientist Benjamin Barber addresses this problem in his 2007 book Consumed: How Markets Corrupt Children, Infantilize Adults, and Swallow Citizens Whole. He puts the blame not those buying products but on the manufacturers who are selling products.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Texas Listed as One of the World’s Top Ten Greenhouse Gas Polluters

The state of Texas is known for doing things in a big way and polluting the atmosphere with greenhouse gases is no exception. The Telegraph reports that the US Energy Information Administration says that in 2003 Texas emitted 670 million metric tons of carbon dioxide which would make it the seventh largest polluter in the world. The Telegraph article notes that in contrast to states that are attempting to reduce travel by automobile, in Texas, the governor, Rick Perry, is pushing to get a swath of highway built across his state that in some places would be as wide as one quarter of a mile. The article also notes that in a poll last spring fewer than 4% of Texans said that the environment as one of the country’s most pressing issues.

Although at the Republican-dominated state level anti-environmentalism appears to hold sway, at the local level things look more green. At least 19 mayors of Texas cities, including the mayors of Austin, Dallas, Fort Worth, and San Antonio, have signed the US Mayors’ Climate Protection Agreement. This document includes a nonbinding pledge to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in communities to 7% below 1990 levels by 2012. Whether political pressure from below will be enough to get state leaders to come to their senses remains to be seen. Clearly the US can’t reduce its greenhouse gas emissions enough to fight global warming if Texas doesn’t join in.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Big Name Reporters Ask Presidential Candidates Little About Global Warming

It is no secret that the so-called “corporate media” has been criticized for years about lack of coverage on global warming. Although there has been some recent improvement on this score, probably largely thanks to having dramatic pictures of melting ice to hold the attention of viewers, this new attention to global warming apparently hasn’t gravitated to the coverage of the presidential election. Evidence that the top reporters are ignoring global warming when they interview candidates has been circulated by the Sierra Club with a petition.
According to the Sierra Club, Tim Russert asked 755 questions on Meet the Press and never mentioned global warming, Wolf Blitzer asked 329 questions on the Situation Room and mentioned global warming once, George Stephanopoulus asked 726 questions on This Week and never mentioned global warming, Chris Wallace asked 436 questions on Fox News and mentioned global warming twice, and Bob Schieffer asked 238 questions on Face the Nation and never mentioned global warming. There seems to be a pattern here.
It seems unlikely global warming will get much more attention as the campaigns move forward because the media has never really conveyed the urgency of the situation. If a candidate without a real global warming policy such as Mike Huckabee or Mitt Romney wins the presidency we will know that the corporate media should receive much of the blame. Unfortunately of course it will be too late for the Earth.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

The Nano Dilemma in the Fight Against Global Warming

In an op-ed piece in The Washington Post, Anne Applebaum points out a disturbing issue raised by the marketing of the Tata Nano, the $2,500 car that has just been introduced in India. She states that:

There must be a way to reconcile mass car ownership with global warming, but, at the moment, we haven't found it. There is no profound reason that good environmental policies have to come into conflict with economic growth, but they often do. In many countries, the desire not to be poor is stronger than the desire to breathe clean air.

It is hard to ignore that the fight against global warming seems to be on a collision course with efforts to provide masses of poor people in developing countries with better lives. Or as Applebaum states it:

What happens when the laudable, currently fashionable movement to improve the environment comes directly into conflict with the equally laudable, equally fashionable movement to improve the lives of the poor?

Right now there do not seem to be any good answers. China is said to building the equivalent of one coal-burning power plant a week. That certainly will improve the lives of tens of millions who lack electricity but pretty much negates efforts around the world to reduce carbon emissions. India seems to following the same course but at a slower rate. The situation appears even more hopeless when you consider the situation in the United States where everyone has electricity but about 150 coal-burning power plants are in the planning stage to meet projected increased electricity demand presumably because of such reasons that people are no longer satisfied with watching a 30-inch cathode ray tube television but want an energy gobbling 60-inch plasma screen instead. In the US more energy is needed to lift tens of millions of people out of a materially great life to an even more fantastic life. The world leaders who will be working the next two years to create an agreement to limit global warming may need something close to a miracle to succeed.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Fears Mount that $2,500 Car Will Drive Up Global Temperatures

What if someone could create a car that was so cheap that hundreds of millions of people in developing countries could afford to drive a car instead of a bicyle, motor scooter, or motorcycle. Meet Ratan Tata, the head of the Tata Group in India. As reported in The Washington Post, Tata just introduced his new supercheap car called the Nano at the Delhi Auto Expo. Although the car is no gas guzzler, averaging about 50 miles per gallon, traveling in one of these things will put out a lot more carbon dioxide than a scooter or motorcycle. According to Tata for there is only 1 car for every 1,000 Indians whereas there are 750 cars for every 1,000 Americans. Clearly we Americans are in a difficult position trying to put a negative spin on the Tata Nano. With our three-car garages remaining stuffed with SUVs and performance sedans while climate scientists are screaming that we have to reduce carbon emissions or face catastophe we are in no position to expect the Indians or Chinese to listen to us proclaim the advantages of the bicycle over the automobile.

Sunday, January 06, 2008

Dems Debate Cap-and-Trade Versus Carbon Tax

Watching the Republicans and Democrats who are running for president debate last night it looked like once again the critical issue of global warming would be all but ignored, but near the end of the debate by the Democrats the issue of cap-and-trade versus carbon tax actually was debated. As reported by Reuters both New Mexico governor Bill Richardson and Illinois Senator Barack Obama said they favored the cap-and-trade system over the carbon tax. Richardson claimed that only the carbon tax would cost American citizens money but Obama then correctly pointed out that costs of the cap-and-trade system would be passed along to consumers.

In the Republican debate Arizona Senator John McCain raised the issue of global warming but not surprisingly none of the other candidates really addressed the issue at all. The Republicans, except for McCain, seem to be operating in a post 9-11 world but a pre-An Inconvenient Truth World as if they are hoping people wouldn’t notice that the Al Gore film on global warming had ever been shown or that the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change had ever issued their fourth report stating that if greenhouse gas emissions do not peak globally by 2015 catastrophic climate change probably can not be avoided. Hopefully enough people have noticed and will make this know at the ballot box in November.