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Diminishing Returns and the Crystal Clear Equation

Observations from the Edge
Robert T. Nanninga
Coast News
February 21, 2001


"We've got a lot of selling to do." — George W. Bush

The U.S. Defense Department, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the United Nations Environment Programme, recently hosted a conference on "The Importance of Military Organizations in Stratospheric Ozone and Climate Protection." In attendance was an international collection of military and government officials, industry experts and representatives of environmental organizations. I assume the Commander in Chief was briefed.

The goal of the Brussels event was a better understanding of the importance of phasing out ozone depleting substances and protection of the climate. Also on the agenda, was the implications of environmental risk on national security, and military environmental protection programs. If that is not enough to convince those doubting the reality of global warming, nothing will. When the sober minded military types start discussing this stuff you know something is up.

Evidence is everywhere to support the growing number of voices warning of the impending crisis. Ice shelves along the the Antarctic Peninsula have been collapsing with the rapid warming trend there. In January of 1995 the 770 square mile Larsen A ice shelf disintegrated suddenly. Between March of 1998 and March 1999, nearly 1,150 square miles of the Larson B and Wilkins ice shelves collapsed. Scientists are also concerned about the large West Antarctic ice sheet, because its collapse could raise sea levels by as much as 34 inches.

In Alaska the tundra surface has warmed by about 3.5 degrees since the 1960's. As a result of the melting permafrost, roads, buildings,and pipelines are beginning to sink as the frozen soil turns to slush. That however is nothing compared to the impact of a thousand years worth of accumulated carbon and other greenhouse gases released due to the melting permafrost. If arctic slush doesn't take out the Porcipine caribou the rising sea waters will.

As if the Caribou didn't have enough to worry about, our Polluter in Chief is determined to drill for fossil fuel in a place better left unmolested. Representing the interests of the oil companies that put him in the White House, the Shrub is willing to risk entire species for a mere 4.1 million barrels of oil. That roughly translates into an eight months' worth of fuel - ten years from now. Is it just me, or does it seem like conservation has nothing to do with the Presidents conservative agenda?

The carbon produced by burning fossil fuels is a major source of greenhouse gas. Greenhouse gases are directly related to global warming. Global warming is accelerating climate change. And rounding off this crystal clear equation, climate change is accelerating global warming by thawing soil long frozen. By disrupting polar processes we do more than just turn up the heat, we are also threatening coastal regions worldwide.

According to leading environmental experts, climate models are projecting that as the atmosphere warms, global precipitation will increase. Here in Southern California much of this increase will come during the cold season in the form of heavy showers or thunderstorms. And as evidenced by recent weather. we can also expect increased flooding as dry earth is unable to absorb the rainfall. Coupled with rising sea levels, it is safe to say life along the California coast will not be a day at the beach in the near future.

Now is the time to take action. First and foremost it is important for every Californian to write or call President Bush and tell him that he is delusional if he thinks drilling for oil in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge will benefit anyone other than his friends at Exxon. Next we must ask our elected officials to support the bipartisan effort to protect the 1.5 million acre coastal plain from the short sighted greed of multinational oil conglomerates who put profit above all else.

The other thing we can do is reduce the amount of fossil fuels we consume. The hybrid vehicles currently on the road are a good start. But more must be done. Currently our electricity and economy is at the mercy of corporate polluters from the Texas and other points east. There is no excuse for this failed energy policy. Like a Phoenix from the fires of deregulation, California can become self-sustaining by converting our infrastructure to solar technologies. Failing to do so should be seen as criminal.

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