The Earth is getting Hot….

by ©2018 Sarah Becker

The Earth is getting Hot…

…the politics even hotter. Do Americans adapt to climate change—as President Donald Trump’s environmental policies suggest—or do local, state and federal governments mitigate? Most U.S. greenhouse gas emissions are human roused—the result of burning fossil fuels (coal, oil, gas) for heat, electricity and transportation. Greenhouse gases include carbon dioxide (84%), methane (10%), nitrous oxide (4%) and fluorinated gases (2%).

The most abundant greenhouse gas, carbon dioxide (CO2) is the product of burning fossil fuels. “We must look back at history to understand our energy problem, the transition from wood to coal to oil and natural gas,” President Jimmy Carter (Democrat, 1977-1981) said. Carter, the alleged father of alternative fuels, was the first U.S. President to openly criticize America’s dependence on foreign oil; to install solar panels in the White House.

“One distinguishing characteristic of really civilized men is foresight; we have to, as a nation, exercise foresight for this nation in the future; and if we do not exercise that foresight, dark will be the future!” President and conservationist Theodore Roosevelt (Republican, 1901-1909) said in 1908. “Let us remember that the conservation of our natural resources, though the gravest problem of today, is yet but part of another and greater problem to which this Nation is not yet awake, but to which it will awake in time, and with which it must hereafter grapple if it is to live.”

In October 2018 the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change reported that “greenhouse gases have been rising steadily and mean global temperatures along with it.” The scientists’ warnings are dire. From 1880 to 2012 the average global temperature increased by 0.850 C.

  

Carbon dioxide (CO2) is the greenhouse gas produced in the largest quantities and the United States is the second-largest emitter. China is first; the European Union third, India fourth, Russia fifth, Indonesia sixth, Brazil seventh, Japan eighth and Canada ninth. The United Kingdom, a departing EU member, passed the world’s first Climate Change Act in 2008, an Act which included legally binding commitments to reduce carbon emissions.

  

“Some may still deny the overwhelming judgment of science, but none can avoid the devastating impact of raging [wild]fires, crippling drought, and more powerful storms,” President Barack Obama [Democrat, 2009-2017] said in his Second Inaugural Address. “The path towards sustainable energy sources will be long and sometimes difficult.  But Americans cannot resist this transition. We must lead it.”

  

Residents of Alexandria’s U.S. Route 1 residential corridor, informed of the United Nations Montreal Protocol in 1987, the Kyoto [emissions reductions] Protocol in 1997 agree. But rather than develop mass transit competitively, market its metro stations fittingly, the city completes auto-driven streets. Carbon dioxide (CO2) molecules, once emitted, remain in the atmosphere for maybe a century.

United Nations scientists confirm that “oceans have warmed, the amounts of snow and ice have diminished and the sea level has risen.” Rising seawaters already flood Miami on sunny days. From 1901 to 2010, the global average sea level rose by 19 cm as oceans expanded due to warming and ice melted. Yosemite’s largest glacier the Lyell has receded dramatically: from 1.2 million square meters in total volume in 1883 to 270,426 square meters in 2015.

“We, the people, still believe that our obligations as Americans are not just to ourselves, but to all posterity,” President Obama continued. “We will respond to the threat of climate change, knowing that the failure to do so would betray our children and future generations.” The sea ice extent in the Artic has shrunk in every successive decade since 1979, with 1.07 x 106 km2 of ice loss per decade.

  

Still President Donald Trump [Republican, 2017-] ignores the warning(s). Is the future dark, especially given the more than 540 Political Action Committees now invested in U.S. election politics?

President Trump withdrew the United States from the United Nations Paris Climate Accord in June 2017. Climate “scientists have a very big political agenda,” he said [60 Minutes, October 2018].  In truth America cannot legally withdraw from the Accord until November 2020, Trump’s presidential reelection year.

Political condemnation aside, it has taken the city of Alexandria more than a century to resolve reported sewer overflows. “At this day, when the sewers from Washington and Alexandria run into the river, together with so much filth, it is dangerous for any one to drink of it,” the Alexandria Gazette wrote in 1918.

“There is alarming evidence that important tipping points, leading to irreversible changes in major ecosystems and the planetary climate system, may already have been reached or passed,” the UN 2018 Report continued. “Ecosystems as diverse as the Amazon rainforest and the Arctic tundra may be approaching thresholds of dramatic change through warming and drying. Mountain glaciers are in alarming retreat and the downstream effects of reduced water supply in the driest months will have repercussions that transcend generations.” Governor Jerry Brown recently announced that his drought stricken state will stick with mandatory water restrictions.

Temperature change is, as former Vice President Al Gore argues, An Inconvenient Truth. “Given current concentration and ongoing emissions of greenhouse gases, it is likely that the end of this century will see a 1-20 C increase in global mean temperature above the 1990 level (about 1.5-2.50 C above the pre-industrial level). The world’s oceans will warm and ice melt will continue. Average sea level rise is predicted to be 24-30 cm by 2065 and 40-63 cm by 2100 relative to the reference period of 1986-2005.”

Avoiding the damage “requires transforming the world economy at a speed and scale that has ‘no historical precedent.’” True to the cause, in April 2014 Jimmy Carter urged President Barack Obama to reject TransCanada Corporation’s Keystone XL tar sands pipeline. Obama did, Trump did not.

Unpopular when he left the President’s office in 1981, Carter now “feels vindicated.” His Georgia farm fields are packed with solar panels; 34 states have developed climate action plans, and, in 2016, the United Nations Civil Aviation Organization adopted international carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions standards for aircraft. The United States struggles to meet the UN deadline.

Now the Trump administration wants to rollback fuel economy standards for cars. Hold them at or near the 37 miles-per-gallon mark. California and other states favor regulations which hold fuel economy standards to 54 miles-per-gallon by 2025. Some states, General Motors also ask that automakers total in-state sales include a percentage of zero emission vehicles, electric cars.

“We have become great in a material sense because of the lavish use of our resources,” President Roosevelt told State Governors in 1908. “But the time has come to inquire seriously what will happen when our forests are gone, when the coal, the iron, the oil, and the gas are exhausted, when the soils shall have been still further impoverished and washed into the streams, polluting the rivers, denuding the fields, and obstructing navigation.”

“If greenhouse gas emissions continue at the current rate, the atmosphere will warm by as much as 2.70 F, or 1.50 C above preindustrial levels by 2040,” The UN 2018 Report concluded. “Without aggressive action, many effects that scientists once expected to happen further in the future will arrive by 2040, and at the lower temperature…To prevent 2.70 F of warming greenhouse gas emissions must be reduced by 45% from 2010 levels by 2030, and 100% by 2050. The use of coal as an electricity source will have to drop from nearly 40% today to 1% to 7% by 2050.”

“It’s telling us we need to reverse emissions trends and turn the world economy on a dime,” Myles Allen, Oxford University climate scientist and author said. All countries need “to ratchet up their ambitions…scale up their pledges and cut emissions of greenhouse gases.” How? When Trump’s America “is now the largest global crude oil producer?”

  

“Let Us Have Clean Coal,” the Alexandria Gazette insisted in 1918. “A correspondent of the New York Sun calls attention to a phase of the coal question…The Fuel Administrators, state and national, should take this matter up at once [as] the householder has a right to claim protection.” In 2016 Bloomberg, like others before, concluded “Clean Coal is Far From Clean.”

President and California Republican Richard Nixon established the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in 1970. “We have the chance today to do more than ever before in our history to make life better in America—to ensure better health…better transportation, a cleaner environment,” Nixon said. “Let us be bold in our determination to meet those needs in new ways.”

Wishing all a happy, healthy and productive New Year!

Columnist’s Note:  Readers seem to agree. Hemp has a Hectic History [OTC, June 2018]. Voters in Utah and Michigan, as part of the November midterm elections approved the use of medical marijuana. Two-thirds of U.S. states concur. Late summer the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved Epidolex cannabidiol (CBD) oral solution, the first FDA-approved drug that contains a purified drug substance derived from marijuana. The CBD oral solution will be used to treat seizures associated with two forms of epilepsy.

CBD is a chemical component of the Cannabis sativa plant, more commonly known as marijuana. Unlike the chemical component tetrahydrocannabinol THC, CBD does not cause intoxication or euphoria (the “high”). Consumer Reports (October 2018) concludes CBD, medical marihuana may offer “New Hope for Pain Relief.” CBD’s medicinal “market is exploding, expected to multiply sevenfold by 2021, to $2.15 billion from roughly $292 million in 2016.”

Sarah Becker started writing for The Economist while a graduate student in England. Similar publications followed. She joined the Crier in 1996 while serving on the Alexandria Convention and Visitors Association Board. Her interest in antiquities began as a World Bank hire, with Indonesia’s need to generate hard currency. Balinese history, i.e. tourism provided the means. The New York Times describes Becker’s book, Off Your Duffs & Up the Assets, as “a blueprint for thousands of nonprofit managers.” A former museum director, SLAM’s saving grace Sarah received Alexandria’s Salute to Women Award in 2007. Email: abitofhistory53@gmail.com

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