Dear Mr. President,
I was hoping to get a jump on this Earth Day letter during the weekend, but I fell behind because of water in my basement. Torrential rains the past few days soaked the ground so much, the water had nowhere else to go. Of course, April showers are not unusual where I live in the Midwest; the problem is that right now, I don't have enough trees and bushes to absorb them. And that's the unusual thing. Those plants died, weak and thirsty, during an epic drought last summer--the hottest year on record. Now their absence is taking a toll.
I shouldn't complain, though: 1,000 miles to the west, my family in Colorado experienced a true drought (and climate change-related) disaster last summer, as wildfires consumed entire communities and choked the air for hundreds of miles. Last fall, 1,000 miles to the east, my family in New Jersey bailed out their entire homes after Hurricane Sandy tore down the Jersey Shore.
Yeah, these are anecdotes. But the pattern is clear. The climate is changing, and weird weather is just one manifestation of it. This is linked to carbon dioxide emissions, as study after study has shown. So why aren't you doing anything about it? You could--you have repeatedly said you would--but you're not.
As the New Yorker put it recently, the phrase "climate change" appears 29 times in the new budget--"but there is no new plan for Congress to take up in your ambitious legislative blueprint." Do you need an invitation? Just in case, here is a list to get you started.
1. Regulate greenhouse gas emissions.
Power plants contribute one-third of this country's greenhouse gases, so this is a good place to start. You don't need Congress to do this. The Supreme Court has held several times that the Environmental Protection Agency can regulate greenhouse gases, and that means you can control carbon dioxide emissions without passing any new laws. Under the Clean Air Act, the EPA can work with states to develop new standards for curbing emissions at existing power plants.
Industry groups and utilities will counter that the U.S. doesn't have the technology to reduce carbon dioxide emissions from old plants. You can tell them about the catalytic converter. When the Clean Air Act was passed, automotive makers didn't have the technology to capture carbon monoxide and waste hydrocarbons from gasoline combustion--but they had to do something to comply with new EPA standards. The catalytic converter, so named because it uses catalyzed chemical reactions to convert combustion byproducts, became a part of every car sold in the U.S. by 1975.
The Clean Air Act is a technology-forcing law; who knows what new patentable products might be developed, engineered and built in the U.S. by pioneering utilities complying with new emissions standards.
2. Improve fuel economy and emissions standards in cars much earlier than you planned.
Last summer, you announced new regulations that would double the average fuel economy standard for cars sold in this country, which was an achievement because most automakers agreed. But you kicked the can down the road. A new standard of 54.5 miles per gallon is great, but by 2025? Can't we do better than three presidential terms from now?
3. Say no to the Keystone XL pipeline.
You already vetoed a plan to build this thing, but your recent rhetoric makes it seem like you'll give it a green light the second go-around. This pipeline, which would bring oil from Canada's tar sands to the Texas Gulf Coast, needs a presidential permit to move forward. Polls show that most people support it, because of effective arguments from proponents that couch this pipeline in terms of energy security. But the pipeline endangers the environment in many ways. It cuts through precious aquifers in the arid West (though its route has been altered to reduce the risk) and it enables one of the filthiest forms of oil production there is. Energy security is important, but there are better ways to achieve it, while safeguarding environmental resources as well as jobs.
The New York Times put it best: "A president who has repeatedly identified climate change as one of humanity's most pressing dangers cannot in good conscience approve a project that--even by the State Department's most cautious calculations--can only add to the problem."
4. Go back to Congress.
Reducing carbon dioxide emissions through a cap and trade system--agreeing to limits on emissions and trading credits for exceeding them--is not the only solution. It'll probably never happen anyway in the filibuster-bound Senate. So try something else, like increasing tax incentives for homeowners, businesses and utilities. Republicans love a tax cut--tie them to emission-reductions programs.
There is no try.
After your reelection, we and many others exhorted you to beat the drum for climate change. When the president talks about something, it gets covered, and regular people start talking about it, too--that's the power of the bully pulpit. You've done that, to your credit. But actions speak louder than words. You can't lose an election anymore. You probably won't win back the House of Representatives next year, and the Senate, for how it legislates, might as well not be controlled by Democrats anyway. So what do you have to lose?
The American people are not dumb about this. We can see the changes coming. Sea levels are rising. Storms are becoming more severe.
A few weeks ago, I asked a tree expert what I should plant to replace my dead greenery, and do you know what he said? He said to plant specimens native to climates hundreds of miles south--plants of the deep South. They will thrive in the Midwest now, thanks to global warming, he said. This arborist was apolitical--he just knows our climate is changing, and wants his products to last. He treated it as a fact of life, not a political argument or a controversial statement. And you should, too.
Really PopSci??? Can we just report science and not some Greeie Leftist propaganda?? You don't even need Congress to do this??? Sure, lets just pitch the constitution and allow Obama to be a Dictator, then we can see some real change!! #Sarcasm
Also, your first three proposals completely ignore the cost of implementing these changes. Are you willing to pay 2x the cost for power, transportation and fuel?
I don't understand why reversing the effects of the azolla event is seen as such a negative thing.
Seriously, gdepratt, you show your hand with such remarks. It's funny that facts always have a "liberal bias" to them when they're not convenient to those on the right. Stop listening to BS propaganda and look to the experts on these matters. You seem to think that the powers designated to the President are unconstitutional; is that just for this POTUS or all? Do you not understand that there are executive powers?
Our CO2 levels are 33% higher right now than at any time in the past 800,000 years. This isn't concerning for you? I don't think this is world ending, but this is certainly dangerous for our already tenuous existence. We have a finely tuned infrastructure that we've created to support the billions we have on this planet and climate change is going to turn that on its head. But go ahead and continue with your denial so you can keep your republican agenda...
@Frosttty historically warmer earths have supported more life. Higher animals such as primates and dolphins evolved in a greenhouse earth. Earth was damaged by an evasive plant species that kicked a series of global catastrophes called icebox earth or the ice ages, we just barley got out of one and we are lucky it did not kick off a total snowball earth. We are the countering force. We will restore earth to its former glory.
I agree. He needs to get right on to regulating the Sun, Volcanic Eruptions and the Electromagnetic Field. They have been causing far too much climate change and need to be taxed! Get real.
Once again... go read the evidence. We put out 100 times more than all of the volcanoes do combined annually in CO2 emissions. Stop listening to the fringe groups who cherry-pick data or blatantly lie. Climatologists understand the effect the Sun has on our climate and it's minor compared to what we're doing. Oh, the alligator tears over taxation... Seriously.
Yes, I understand that life has evolved over millenia under different climates, but you glossed right over my point which was laid out before you. We didn't have a population of billions. If you just want the Earth to shake us right off so we can join the 99% of extinct species before us, then we're heading the right direction. If you want to live a sustainable existence, however, we need to change what we're doing. "Oh, but the taxes! I'll have less money in my pocket but a better environment. Boooohooooo" Get real.
Highest CO2 in past 800,000 years?
It isn't the warmest its been in last the 800,000 years though. The last 3 previous warm periods, that come every ~1000 years have all been warming than today. And we're right in the middle of another one.
33% more CO2? What does that matter? CO2 has already saturated the atmosphere. The first 20ppm gives us +3 degrees (Celsius) from their greenhouse effect. The next 260ppm (pre-industrial levels) give us another 3 degrees. It is logarithmic. The last 100ppm we've added since has maybe added a degree or so. Doubling CO2 now would have pathetic consequences.
Good thing too because we're never going to stem the massive contributions from China and India.
"You don't even need Congress"
Ah, yes, that pesky "consent of the governed".
And we've been reducing our CO2 just fine without government intervention, so long as crazed environmental groups don't stop Fracking. Our CO2 emission levels are down to 1994 levels, and it's not thanks to the EPA, it's thanks to market-driven technological development. The same thing will continue to reduce our emissions over the next 50 years.
Want to know how to increase our emissions? Hamstring the economy. Scientific research is a luxury. It is disproportionately affected by hard economic times. Make it so we don't have so much money to throw around on research. We'll just linger at our present emissions rate forever, rather than potentially surging (though we're already going down) followed by steady decline as we naturally switch to nuclear.
Finally: the whole "biodiversity" and "supporting billions of people" argument.
@Frost particularly, I think you would pride yourself on "believing" in evolution. Yet you don't even seem to understand how it works. Evolution occurs over thousands and millions of years. just 10,000 years ago we were in the Pleistocene. A climate era of 10x the natural variance of the Holocene (think global temperature changes of 1.5 C per decade, rather than per century). If you look back 2 to 3 million years, you find a heightened period of CO2 and global temperature where many of our foliage today thrived.
Finally: Popsci. Really? A Picture of Hurricane Sandy? REALLY? We see a large storm like that hit the upper east coast just about every decade. Wikipedia has an excellent list. And GLOBAL WARMING WOULD HAVE MADE HURRICANE SANDY WEAKER. Sandy was a tropical storm coming from the east that collided with a massive blizzard from Canada. Global warming has a larger effect on the climate the further up in latitude. If global warming were more significant today, it would have had a tranquilizing effect. It would have meant a weaker cold front, and a less severe Sandy. Try to understand your own science before writing prescriptions with it.
It is unfortunate that so many people misunderstand the scientific method, and are willing to espouse the climatologist models without even looking at the data.
Is the planet warming? Of course it is. Been going steady at about 1.5C per deacde. For the past 10,000 years we've had a variance of +/- 2.5C per decade. That means the rate from 1970 to 2000 is within 1 standard deviation. There is absolutely nothing unusual about the rate of change today. If it is caused by humans, we cannot tell through the noise of the historic climate. And that should tell you something about how much of a concern it is.
Am I a climatologist? Nope. I'm an engineer. But I'm not putting forth new data. I'm looking at the data climatologists have and saying: "You've got nothing here."
But then again, the entire career of those scientists rests on their work being meaningful, and useful. If the Earth were determined to have a robust climate with little need of human concern, that ballooning field would have several thousand unemployed scientists.
Then again, over the next 20 years as the doomsday predictions fail to materialize (as they have for the last 30), they're going to become unemployed anyway. And they'll be discredited to boot. But that's rather equitable. They should share in some of the economic misery they've been thrusting on the rest of America, the rest of the world, and particularly the starving, energy-less third world.
I'm less concerned with the amount of CO2 going into the atmosphere than I am with the amount no longer being taken out. Everyone seems to only look at 1/2 of the equation, and totally forget about the massive deforestation that has occurred over the last 150 years. If the human race is having any effect on the climate, both halves of the problem must be properly analyzed, and done so by scientists who are not aligned with either politicians or business interests.
Unfortunately, I do not anticipate any of the above to happen any time soon.
Always ready to have someone else reach for their money and property, aren't you Rebecca?
Probably because you have none of either and, with your attitude, you never will have.
Dear Popsci: When will you stop touting climate studies as a settled science and recognize that 20 years of failed predictions indicate that climate mechanisms are not sufficiently understood?
I'm getting ever closer to never reading Popsci content again.
Heating has stopped yet CO2 levels continues to rise. Maybe drastically cutting CO2 won't have a substantial effect? Maybe?
The completely separate questions of whether the "solutions" are worthwhile aren't addressed on this site and never have been. So much is assumed that is not true.
A slow steady growth of 4% or more in GDP is hardly enough to sustain the status quo over the last several decades given the unfunded liabilities that have grown world-over in the same time frame. Eliminating carbon would have such a negative economic effect that even a bubble-headed columnist in New York City will notice a personal drop in standard of living.
Don't get me wrong, I'm all for clean air. Let's get rid of the pollutants, but not life-giving CO2. Let's get rid of inefficient IC engines, but only when a replacement is available. The transition from fossil fuels will go much more smoothly if we allow the actual reserves and individual consumers to call the shots rather than handing our lives over to a few "smart" people who claim they want to save us from ourselves.
I could spot a fellow engineer long before I got through your post. Bring on the thorium reactors. I want one in my neighborhood.
Brian144 is spot on here.
Chances are if you're a climatologist you're going to be spouting the same biased data that every other climatologist is worried about. There are no climatologists that have varying views on the issue because their entire goal in life is to prove that Climate Change is a thing and we have to fix it now. Saying "99% of climatologists agree climate change is occurring" is like saying "99% of priests agree that god is omnipotent".
It's not science when you only examine one side of the argument and ignore any data that doesn't suit your needs. All you Alarmists always preach the evidence yet you have no proof beyond skewed computer models and half graphs. Ahhhh lookout for the and of the hockey stick that's where we are, we caused that! How about you look at the rest of the graph and realize that it's happened dozens of times.
The cycles that dictate the Earth's temperature seriously outweigh any human interaction. How about the green house gas which has the most impact on global warming. Know what it is? Water vapor. Bet you didn't know that. You're too worried about your carbon foot print. And who cares? My SUV and the pollution of U.S is nothing compared to the pollution output of Africa, China, Russia, India and many other countries where they are utilizing technology decades out of date and 100 times more polluting.
Also, what is your real solution to all this? You point out problems but provide no solutions. Renewable resources? They use more energy to produce than they make! Get rid of coal plants? Where will you get your power? Windmills? Sure lets destroy the ecosystems of ridges and mountain tops because we never see it anyway. How about solar panels! Oh wait, that uses more energy than it takes to produce them, still have to get power somewhere!
Just get off it PopSci, we all get it that you hire writers who don't understand science and clearly don't put in the effort to research what they're writing. Stop with this global warming alarmist garbage and get back to the real science.
I'm just impressed you go through it.
Bring on the thorium!
You do realize that the CO2 uptake of trees pales in comparison to that of algae. Not to mention the replacement of those trees with other plants that absorb CO2. Not to mention that the CO2 helps plants grow to feed the massive number of humans on Earth.
tripletiote, and brian144 I'm with you guys, bring on the Thorium!
AGW is a scam. Even so, I think we should dump "Drill, baby, drill!" and start changing "Bring on the thorium!"
Show me the science!
Where's the control?
What's the real test?
Or are we just confirming observations with the models we build to tell the story we want?
Solar panels pay back there energy usage in two years but last 40+ years.
About 85% of the oxygen comes from the oceans. Every time you throw away a napkin or a newspaper you are sequestering carbon. Ever time a hose is bulldozed and dumped in a landfill your sequestering carbon. Old growth forests are not the source for these products wood is most commonly a farmed product.
@adaptation. It was my understanding that solar panels only pay themselves off in a short period of time because their purchase is subsidized. Also their longevity is questionable, due to maintenance and quality, etc.
There is also the large energy debt they come with. As far as AGW proponents are concerned, that means extra carbon burned in order to produce this non-carbon energy source. After 30+ years of this stuff the solar panels are just starting to break even on that front.
Let me know if my information is outdated. I'd love to have an off-the-grid power source; I just didn't think solar panels are currently worth it.
In reality, the actions taken by the GW Bush administration were so effective at combating global warming that we are now potentially facing a period of global climate cooling.
Check the data from ice cores for the past 400,000 years. Every 100,00 years or so, our temperature has spiked to 2-6 degrees warmer than it is today, and the rest of the time, it's 4-10 degrees cooler, and on average about 6 degrees cooler.
(I presume that was a joke, but in reality, global cooling is a far greater threat in terms of damage, and far more likely in terms of large historic trends.)
@brain144, @mike13323, @tripletiote,
Thank you guys. I was starting to Hulk rage until I saw your posts.
As a software engineer I have to add something. Computer models are a joke if you don't know what their variables are scaled on. Most models can't be done without assumed properties of some variables. For example, to calculate a model of shooting a projectile across a distance on earth, has a few knowns, and a few assumed variables. Gravity is known, but actually varies across our planet and is averaged. Wind drag can be measured but will also fluctuate based on air density at different altitudes, climates, and across a distance. There are others factors but you get the point.
So with this, it's hard for me to take lots of these climate models seriously since I know their assumptions run quite deeper than the example I gave, and over decades to hundreds of thousands of years. The model data is not supposed to be used as fact, its just supposed to help create hypothesis, and theories.
There is so much mysticism involved around software, that makes people believe it over common sense.
A bunch of lame arguments not backed up by evidence. Just claims of "climatologists are biased and lying to keep their jobs." Good science, boys.
@Frosttty, really dude. Come on, you are say "...bunch of lame arguments not backed up by evidence." When you yourself have incorrectly quoted "facts" that are in fact not backed up by evidence. I have done this research before, and had actual references to where I got my data from on an earlier POPLiberal article about climate change.
I know them to be correct, and all of their data seems spot on from what I remember. Water vapor accounts for 75% of all greenhouse gases. Sorry bud, thats a fact. Man-made climate change is quite arrogant and convenient for climatologists.
Even though I am not a climatologist, as an computer scientist I can smell bs from a mile away. And so can other scientists and engineers. I don't have to make up reasons to have software engineers exist. So I can concentrate on my craft, instead of making belligerent predictions to hype up concern in my field.
A interesting article towards global warming link.
Earth's Current Warmth Not Seen in the Last 1,400 Years or More, Says Study
Geochemical Method Finds Links Between Terrestrial Climate and Atmospheric Carbon Dioxide
These are opinion pieces not data sites. My information came from the latter. Thats the problem, you have to do the work and read the data to get a more accurate picture. Notice they mention last 1400 years. Why not 1500 years? Well thats odd that they would choose an arbitrary number like that.
My point is this, climate change is not accurately measure without a larger slice of data to view. 1400 years doesn't even fully account for humans occupying the earth as we have been here far longer. The larger picture will show you that our planet continue to change it's climate with or without our help.
It's not that we believe that climate change itself is a hoax, its that human made climate change seems to be more political than factual. Some of us need facts, and need them in context.
Also they say "Some people have argued that the natural warming that occurred during the medieval ages is happening today, and that humans are not responsible for modern day global warming. Scientists are nearly unanimous in their disagreement." This line is just a lie. How they got that, when human made climate change is deeply divided among scientists and only backed by people whose jobs are solely rested upon it existing.
Most other scientist require the scientific method being used.
Lets change real quick our perspective from who/what/why climate change is happening. Lets instead look at how we are impacting the world around us.
I'm going to ask you to raise your hand if you agree...
1) I think it is very pleasant to fly into the SMOG in Los Angeles... It just tickles my nose and makes me happy that I can get all I need without actually spending money on my cigs!
2) Land covered in oil is very sexy, I love how it is slick and slimy, yet "tarry" too! In fact, I remember back when the oil rigs near Santa Barbara were leaking, oh the joys spent scrubing the clumps of tar off my feet, highlight of my youth! :)
3) I'm grateful for the new Island of trash forming in the pacific ocean, someday it will be stable enough that I can make it my own island gettaway house! I'm sure the fishing will be spectacular... And I bet the smell will be amazing!
4) I love that I'm driving around a vehicle, which if I run in my garage with everything closed will kill me... That is SO cool! To think that I'm doing that, to all of you too :) Every day!
5) When I drive around, I smile and am happy at every piece of trash lining the roadways and caught in fences and trees! Such a beautifl job of decorating! Viva La Basura!
6) I'm stoked that those giant and scary guys with horns on their noses are getting shot and put down, thank you to all the heros who kill these monsters for their horns. In fact, thank you to all of you who kill the wild life... Its WILD, so that means dangerous... I'm all about only domesticated animals like cows... they don't want to eat me, just stare at me with that stupid look in their eyes...
7) My favorite one, especially, thank you to all of you who are helping this to happen! Earlier pubescence! The fact that our bodies are hitting puberty earlier and earlier! Thank you for turning our innocent children into adults sooner!
Ok... so I'm a sarcastic SOB. The point of anything is that something needs to be done, all of the above are happening, and are things that I'd think any sane person would not be happy about happening. I'm not concerned with why or how, other than as ways to reduce/minimize/eradicate it from happening. Some things we can't change or control, but we are the only species on this planet that can do something to save our planet as it is now. Shouldn't we try? Shouldn't we keep a safe and healthy Planet as a HUGE and IMPORTANT goal?
Thank you in advance for reaming me a new A-hole! Looking forward to the gripes and moans, the name calling, gives me pleasure, like being at home with my kids :) Thank you proxy kids!
@the.tabest, Good points but not the argument here. You can't address a problem but categorizing it along with everything else. For example, trash in the ocean is not the same argument when addressing manmade climate change. Saying that we haven't made great strides to alleviate these problems is also not intellectually honest.
I agree that we need to do better as a whole. But the true environmentalists and the new green socialists may sound like they are singing the same song, but are not.
I want the our energy to be cleaner and safer for the environment, however until technology catches up with fossil fuels, it's prudent to scale back slowly and responsibly. We are not there yet, and this rubbish that we are heading for a man made apocalypse in the near future, has been a lie since 40 years ago on the first Earth day celebration when climatologists and various other climate "experts" claimed we were heading for the end of the world in the next 15 years.
@ brian and tripletoite
What are your degrees in?
Here are some useful links, with the first link being most telling
It is not only climate scientists who believe much of the earth's warming is caused by human activity
Similar results shown from nasa
Something a little more recent
"Members of the IPCC, the 2007 peace winner, write on climate change"
Really all it takes for me to believe are the first and second links.
Also,to the author the most effective and economically sound way to limit emissions is to put a tax on them which mitigates the damage they do to our health and the environment. It is simple economics.
Aaronomics, I think it's arrogant that you seem to think you're smarter and more honest than the nearly entire scientific community. Climate change is a concern to our Pentagon and ranks as a national threat. Oh, they're just trying to justify their climatologist jobs...
We understand how CO2 captures and reemits heat from IR. We understand how oceans absorb the CO2 and acidify. We understand that global warming is creating thermal expansion of our oceans. These things are facts. "Oh, but it's not us doing it. We have to be arrogant to think we could affect our big ol' planet." You can see the pollution, can't you? We pump Billions of tons of carbon into the air annually and you don't think that'll have an effect? I personally enjoy the canard that since CO2 is good for plants ALL CO2 levels must be good. Or the canard regarding water vapor vs CO2. Go look into the life cycles of those two gases. My favorite point of dishonesty is when people want to claim that volcanoes put our more CO2 than humans do, which is totally BS and proven as such. Come back to me with which academic societies or professional groups are dissenting on global warming or climate change. The petroleum folks were the last holdouts on that one. I wonder why...
@Frosttty, thanks for calling me arrogant. I used this term to address a self loathing concept people tend to have for themselves and you turned it into a direct attack.
-I never mentioned myself thinking I'm smarter than the entire scientific community.
-When stating that nearly the entire scientific community is on the other side is a bit broad dont you think I beleive you should be more specific.
-On a separate note, the common misconception that volcanos don't have the capacity to kill all life on this planet just from one eruption of CO2 is silly. They don't on yearly average compete with humans as far as CO2 production. They can however in one eruption change that.
-Again, pollution and greenhouse gas aren't always the same topic. Stop throwing them together. Our production of CO2 is a pollution that adds to our overall greenhouse gas. It's a considerable amount of CO2, but CO2 is not considerable compared to other greenhouse gases.
-@bob, I didn't read those links yet I am just addressing Frosttty atm. I will see if I can find my research from the other article.