Monday, February 9, 2009

Where's the Warm in Global Warming?

It has become customary among global warming deniers to remark during winter's coldest days that global warming can't possibly be true when it is so cold outside.

So let me beat them to the punch.

Man is it f*#%ing cold outside!

How cold is it? It' so cold snowmen are massing for their final assault on humanity. (See above)

How cold it it? I saw a guy try to light a cigarette on the street today and the flame froze.

How cold it is? I saw a polar bear holding a sign that read "Will Work for tickets to Florida."

Hell, they even had freezing temperatures in Florida this week. Hell, that's like hell freezing over. How do I know? Let's just say I have sources.

It's so cold that I couldn't get into my car when I went out this morning. It had a bit of an ice problem.

Then, when I gave up, I went down to Riverfront Park here in Pottstown for a brisk walk along the Schuylkill.

Well let me tell you, what I saw nearly took my breath (and my body heat) away.

Thank you, thank you. I'll be here all week. Don't forget to tip your waitress.

Well they say timing really is everything and that is apparently true for blogs as well.
Fast-forward three days. When I started this one, it was MF cold outside and of course now, it's been 60 for two days.
Hey wait, it's warmer, that must mean global warming is real!
And it's real right here in Pennsylvania. How do I know? The Union of Concerned Scientists came to Berks County and told us so.
When they came in October, they said "The Pennsylvania we know and love today might not be here in our children's lifetime," at least according to this article in The Reading Eagle (if you can believe anything they report).
According to their study, accessible by clicking here, a broad number of changes are in store for the Keystone State as a result of our carbon emission lifestyle.
Here are a few:

Yields of Concord grapes, sweet corn and some kinds of apples will decrease as temps rise and pests have an easier time in warmer climes;

Widespread ski resort closures will occur, along with a decrease in snowmobiling (no great loss there);

By 2040, our climate will be more like Virginia and North Carolina than the place that made Valley Forge famous because of its winters. By 2070, it could well feel like Georgia here.

Here's another way to look at it, by 2039, the number of days hotter than 90 degrees will double, more than 70 days a year for us along with a 10 percent increase in precipitation. Can anyone say "the Manatawny is flooding ... again"?

From 1961 to 1990, Philadelphia had about 20 days a year over 90 degrees, according to a handy chart in the report. By 2099, we will see more than 80 such days.

Not that we didn't do some of this ourselves. According to the scientists, Pennsylvania contributes 1 percent of total global emissions of CO2, and is the third highest in the U.S., behind only Texas and California.

There's another reason to worry about global warming -- it might kill you.

According to a report issued by the EPA (link not available either to the report of the Minneapolis Star-Tribune story that reported on it), climate change is "unequivocal" and blame is placed squarely on humanity's shoulders.

The report said as temperatures rise, extreme weather events; diseases borne by ticks and other organisms and an increase in asthma attacks cause by higher levels of pollen and smog will kill more people. (It was unclear whether that will be offset by fewer people freezing to death.)

And, because no environmental column would be complete without a swipe at the Bush administration's record on this issue, the Star-Tribune reported several months ago (yes I am a pack rat and save all kinds of things) that the former administration tried to "bury" the report so as not to have to regulate greenhouse gases.

In the governmental equivalent of sticking its fingers in its ears and saying loudly "I can't hear you lalalalalalalala," the former White House staff chose to deal with this issue by refusing to open e-mails about it from the EPA (this after Darth Cheney's office brazenly deleted testimony on the science made to a Congressional panel.)

Unfortunately for us all, what they don't know can hurt us.

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Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Out of Thin Air

So far in this blog, I have managed to keep politics at bay, which is something I never promised to do, but something which, I think, keeps us focused more on what we have in common than what we don't share.

As you might have guessed, I'm breaking with that tradition today.

Sometimes, something comes along which is so bone-headed, so counter-productive, that to say nothing after you find out about it is, in and of itself, a political statement.

As anyone who has read my columns in The Mercury has probably guessed by now that I am no great fan of the Bush administration, something I now share, if recent polls are to be believed, with about 80 percent of my fellow Americans.

Something else I share with, what I suspect are a majority of my fellow Americans, is a near-reverent appreciation for our national parks.

As a child, my parents took my sister and I on many trips wherein we visited some of America's most stunning natural spectacles -- the Grand Canyon, Rocky Mountain National Park, Arcadia, Mt. Ranier, Canyonlands, Bryce Canyon and Arches national parks.

Those experiences changed me forever and helped me to understand how things can be so different, and yet all be the same in the natural world.

And we have treasures right here too.

Right down the road, we have Valley Forge, and Gettysburg a short drive away.

It seems that, with increasing frequency, we have to defend these assets not only from developers who want to cash in on the popularity of a publicly owned landmark by encroaching ever closer on its borders, but even from the increasingly compliant government whose charge is supposed to be protecting this national heritage for all time.

Which brings me back to politics.

Those who have been playing close attention to how the Bush administration operates may have noticed that Dick Cheney long ago learned that achieving unpopular goals is much easier by working the many levered handles of bureaucracy, then by publicly asking permission of a voter-sensitive Congress.

Thus many things the American people would unlikely vote for have been implemented by quietly changing some arcane rules.

The latest chapter was revealed in a Washington Post report I posted today on our Green Spotlight on the Green Pages. Since I am unable to get this dang computer to properly insert the handy "just click here" link, I'm going to have to do this the old fashioned way and just tell you the address for the article.
It is

What it boils down to is that the now-absurdly named Environmental Protection Agency is thinking of making an arcane change in its rules to allow them to change the way air pollution is calculated.

This has alarmed many park workers and park advocates who have for 30-some years been tracking poor air quality at a number of national parks, Great Smokey Mountains being, ironically, among the worst.

A study by the National Parks Conservation Association three years ago found that one of every three of the parks is choking on pollution, according to ABC News.

Of the 390 parks within the National Park System, 150 are located in places that fail to meet one or more national healthy-air standards.

From Acadia National Park in Maine to the Cascades in Washington state, sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxides, carbon dioxide and mercury can be found at air-monitoring stations in spite of a 30-year congressional mandate to restore clean air to the parks for this and future generations.

Now the EPA is trying to undermine that mandate with a rule change that would allow the construction of new coal-fired power plants, the number one generator of this kind of air pollution nearer to national parks than is currently allowed.

To do this, they need to get around a federal rule, enacted by that pesky Congress in the Clean Air Act, which requires the highest level of air pollution reductions in "Class 1" areas, which include our national parks.

According to the Energy Information Administration, there are 3,200 power plants in the United States, the majority of them fueled by coal.

A General Accounting Office report says that together they emit 35 percent of the nation's carbon dioxide, 37 percent of its mercury, 23 percent of its nitrogen oxides, and 67 percent of its sulfur dioxide.

"Spikes" in those pollutants, which coincide with high demands for electricity and which have been measured at the parks for 30 years, would be ignored under the EPA's proposed changes.

Instead, the pollutants would be "averaged" and spread out over a longer period of time, which would have the effect of making them seem less harmful.

"It's like if you're pulled over by a cop for going 75 miles per hour in a 55 miles-per-hour zone, and you say, 'If you look at how I've driven all year, I've averaged 55 miles per hour,' " Mark Wenzler, director of the National Parks Conservation Association's clean-air programs, told the Post. "It allows you to vastly underestimate the impact of these emissions."

Hopefully, the administration has underestimated Congress' willingness to have its mandates undermined by bureaucracy and Congress will put a stop to this before it's too late.

Otherwise, the next time you take your family to a national park, it may not be the view that leaves you breathless.

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