If you're reading PopSci, you probably already know all about the latest efforts to offset carbon dioxide emissions, engineer clean building materials and combat pollution from traditional energy sources like coal and oil.
But you may be less aware of the more insidious climate villains--the quieter ones, which aren’t necessarily belching toxic gases or currently destroying the Gulf of Mexico. Their damage is more indirect, but that doesn't make it less harmful.
A problem as immense as climate change stretches beyond the obvious. Did you know, for instance, that your TV weather man (or woman) likely doesn’t believe in climate change? Were you aware that the sirloin steak at your favorite chop house is a bigger contributor to global warming than your car?
Sure, we’ve made great strides in environmental protection since the days of burning rivers and the Crying Indian commercial. But it’s a heck of a lot warmer now. Most Americans still believe humans are to blame for this, but there are plenty of climate villains who are working to shift public opinion the other way.
Here are five of the worst:
Plenty of people were responsible for the bungled opportunity that was the United Nations Climate Change Conference last winter. But the majority of the blame lies with the leaders of the world’s largest economic powers.
Developed nations should have formulated a meaningful agreement that would have actually led to reduced greenhouse gas emissions. Instead, their leaders politicked the conference to death and came away with a document that does little more than acknowledge climate change is a problem—something even George W. Bush was able to do almost 10 years ago. It was a flop, and it secured climate politics a spot on the back burner in many countries.
The world’s biggest economies must participate in international climate change agreements or they will be meaningless. The G20 group is responsible for more than three-fourths of the world’s pollution, so a 30 percent emission reduction in Lichtenstein isn’t going to help much if the big economic powers don’t clean things up. For instance, China, which emits more sulfur dioxide and carbon dioxide than any other nation, balked at provisions that would have required dramatic greenhouse-gas reductions.
Ultimately, the United States, China, India, Brazil and South Africa drafted the non-binding accord, excluding most UN members. Here’s hoping the next conference in Cancun later this year provides more inspiration than Copenhagen.
How to vanquish: At the voting booth
James “Mountain Jim” Inhofe might be proud to make this list -- he’s one of the most vocal skeptics of global warming in the country. He’s compared the environmentalist movement to
the Third Reich and has called the threat of catastrophic climate change “the greatest hoax ever perpetrated on the American people.”
Though he lost his chairmanship of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee when the Republicans lost the upper chamber, Inhofe can still do plenty of damage. One senator can do a lot to stop a carefully crafted climate bill (or any bill, for that matter), thanks to the byzantine rules of the Senate. This is important, given recent movement toward a climate vote sometime this summer.
On June 11, Democrats blocked a bill that would have prevented the EPA from regulating carbon dioxide emissions, which means the Obama administration might come up with emission regulations without any Senate action. But Democrats are still hoping for bipartisan climate legislation this year. Inhofe could employ various parliamentary tactics to grind things to a halt, if not derail them completely -- such as placing a “hold,” which would require 60 votes to break, or offering countless amendments that would weaken the legislation.
Across the pond, Christopher Monckton, AKA Viscount Monckton of Brenchley, could fill Inhofe’s shoes. He’s been getting plenty of press lately for misrepresenting climate science in humorous, well-attended speeches in the United Kingdom (bad news when only 30 percent of Britons say climate change is “definitely” a real issue).
How to vanquish: Learn the facts so these politicians can’t fool yousingle page
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