Tuesday, April 04, 2006

From Elizabeth Kolbert in The New Yorker:
In March, 2002, NASA and the Deutsches Zentrum für Luftund Raumfahrt, the German aerospace agency, launched a pair of satellites from the Plesetsk Cosmodrome, a former intercontinental-ballistic-missile site in northern Russia, to map changes in the earth’s surface. The satellites, nicknamed Tom and Jerry, have been chasing each other around the globe ever since…. Now, almost four years to the day after they were launched, Tom and Jerry have yielded a scarily significant result: Antarctica is losing ice. The rate of loss, according to researchers at the University of Colorado, in Boulder, who analyzed changes in the continent’s gravitational pull, is around thirty-six cubic miles per year….If the loss continues, it will mean that predictions for the rise in the sea level for the coming century are seriously understated.
In the face of such news, how does a country, i.e. the United States, justify further inaction? Certainly, there isn’t much tread left in the argument that global warming is, to use Senator James Inhofe’s famous formulation, a “hoax.” In January, six former heads of the Environmental Protection Agency, five of whom had served under Republican Administrations, met with the current administrator, Stephen Johnson, for a panel discussion in Washington. Panelists were asked to hold up their hands if they believed global warming to be a real problem, for which human activity was responsible. Every one of them, Johnson included, raised a hand.
Carbon dioxide is a persistent gas—it lasts for about a century—and once released into the atmosphere it is, for all practical purposes, irrecoverable. Since every extra increment of CO2 leads to extra warming, addressing the effects of climate change without dealing with the cause is a bit like trying to treat diabetes with doughnuts. The climate isn’t going to change just once, and then settle down; unless CO2 concentrations are stabilized, it will keep on changing, producing, in addition to the “same old problems,” an ever-growing array of new ones. The head of the Goddard Institute, James Hansen, who first warned about the dangers of global warming back in the nineteen-seventies and recently made headlines by accusing the Bush Administration of censorship, has said that following the path of business-as-usual for the remainder of this century will lead to an earth so warm as to be “practically a different planet.”
This last part I love, the author explaining in ABC-like simple terms what happens to CO2 (also applicable to many air pollutants) once it's released into the air. I've asked many an in-denial right-winger where do they believe CO2 goes once released from smoke stacks, tail pipes, etc. -- up, up, and away, floating into outerspace? To Neverland?? It's a very simple question and yet I just get blank stares. They got nothing but force-fed, corporate-backed propaganda.

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