Sunday, August 31, 2008

McCain VP Pick a Global Warming Denier

Since John McCain is one of the few Republican leaders who has defied President Bush by supporting a mandatory cap on carbon emissions to fight global warming his pick of Alaska Governor Sarah Palin for a running make is surprising, not only because she is a woman and has no experience in foreign policy but based on a statement to Newsmax Magazine she denies that global warming is being caused by human sources. When asked “What is your take on global warming and how is it affecting our country?” she replied, “A changing environment will affect Alaska more than any other state, because of our location. I'm not one though who would attribute it to being man-made.” Okay, then what would you attribute it to? To bad there was no follow-up question. And, so much for science. Even Bush is no longer that far out. Apparently McCain, who is 72 years old, not only hopes to survive his term in office if he wins but is sure that he will. Given his views on global warming he must know that if Palin ever became president it would be a disaster. How could she work with the Europeans who are frantic over the looming catastrophe that climate change poses? Who would be left to convince the Chinese, who now lead the world in greenhouse gas emissions, to reduce their emissions? As the Arctic ice cap melts away to water and Greenland begins to live up to its name it is clear that George Bush’s victory (if you can call it that) in the 2000 election has spelled disaster in the effort to fight climate change. Perhaps it is already too late to reverse course, but if we really have one last chance that reprieve seems certain to go down the tube if Sarah Palin were to become president.

Friday, August 22, 2008

McCain’s Seven-Home Carbon Footprint

Can someone who owns seven homes lead the world in taking on the global warming crisis? Thanks to an inquisitive reporter we now know that John McCain owns six more homes than the average American. Of course the big story was that when asked by a reporter how many homes he owns McCain amazingly didn’t know and referred the reporter to his staff. Certainly the carbon emissions associated with his seven homes are no doubt only a small fraction of McCain’s carbon footprint. All the flying around the country he has done while running for president probably has a larger carbon footprint than a small African nation. But overall, when it comes to greenhouse gas emissions flying only accounts for a small percentage of carbon emissions whereas operating buildings accounts for about half, at least in the US. Owning seven homes may not be fatal to the task of leading the world against global warming but it certainly doesn’t help.

Saturday, August 09, 2008

British Urged to Prepare for 4C Warming

The UKs chief scientific adviser, Professor Bob Watson, recently told The Guardian that it would be wise for the UK to begin active preparation for an increase in global temperature of 4C. It’s pretty much agreed that such an increase from preindustrial levels of temperature would be catastrophic. The goal of the UK is to hold the increase to 2C but Watson says that we can’t be certain how to do that so we should prepare for at least a 2C overshoot of the mark. Professor Neil Adger, from the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research, is quoted as saying that “I think that is a dangerous mindset to be in…There is no science on how we are going to adapt to a 4 degree warming.”

This all seems a little reminiscent of the 1950s in the United States when citizens were given instructions on how to survive a nuclear war with the Soviet Union. The government put out films showing how families could build underground shelters in their backyards to hide until it was safe to come out and school children were given duck-and-cover drills in which they hid under their desks protecting their ears and eyes from the nuclear explosion. Looking back it seems obvious that the only thing accomplished was mass self-delusion that the public could survive a nuclear war. This era of self-delusion was followed by the realistic strategy of mutual assured destruction which reduced the likelihood of a first strike since it was evident that neither country would survive.

It seems unlikely that a 4C increase in temperature would be as destructive as a nuclear war although scientists seem to think that a large percentage of all species would face extinction. Former UK chief adviser Sir David King is quoted in the article as saying that “My own feeling is that if we get to a 4 degree rise it is quite possible that we would begin to see a runaway increase.” That suggests the survival of civilization is at stake if not the survival of Homo sapiens.

With all these uncertainties is hard to know what to do. It seems the best course is to go all out to reduce carbon emissions and deforestation and hope for some good luck.