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Americans Gearing up to Fight Global Warming 1104

Posted by Zonk
from the war-on-melting-icecaps dept.
TechnoGuyRob writes "Global warming has been one of the most controversial and debated issues in the political and scientific sphere. A recent poll published in the Chicago Sun-Times now shows that 'An overwhelming majority of Americans think they can help reduce global warming and are willing to make the sacrifices that are needed, a new poll shows. After years of controversy, 71 percent of Americans now say they think global warming is real.'" (Jamie adds: and all it took was twelve years of overwhelming scientific consensus.)
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Americans Gearing up to Fight Global Warming

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  • by liliafan (454080) * on Tuesday April 04, 2006 @09:14AM (#15057024) Homepage
    Bush has only just denied global warming is manmade [theregister.co.uk].
  • by Getzen (549982) on Tuesday April 04, 2006 @09:20AM (#15057058)
    I do.

    And so does the Washington Times which recently reprinted this 1794 Newsweek piece. The kind of language used is eerily similar to the global warming talk today.

    There are ominous signs that the Earth's weather patterns have begun to change dramatically and that these changes may portend a drastic decline in food production -- with serious political implications for just about every nation on Earth. The drop in food output could begin quite soon, perhaps only 10 years from now.

    The regions destined to feel its impact are the great wheat-producing lands of Canada and the U.S.S.R. in the North, along with a number of marginally self-sufficient tropical areas -- parts ofIndia,Pakistan, Bangladesh, Indochina and Indonesia -- where the growing season is dependent upon the rains brought by the monsoon.

    The evidence in support of these predictions has now begun to accumulate so massively that meteorologists are hard-pressed to keep up with it. In England, farmers have seen their growing season decline by about two weeks since 1950, with a resultant overall loss in grain production estimated at up to 100,000 tons annually. During the same time, the average temperature around the equator has risen by a fraction of a degree -- a fraction that in some areas can mean drought and desolation. Last April, in the most devastating outbreak of tornadoes ever recorded, 148 twisters killed more than 300 people and caused half a billion dollars' worth of damage in 13 U.S. states.

    To scientists, these seemingly disparate incidents represent the advance signs of fundamental changes in the world's weather. Meteorologists disagree about the cause and extent of the trend, as well as over its specific impact on local weather conditions. But they are almost unanimous in the view that the trend will reduce agricultural productivity for the rest of the century. If the climatic change is as profound as some of the pessimists fear, the resulting famines could be catastrophic. "A major climatic change would force economic and social adjustments on a worldwide scale," warns a recent report by the National Academy of Sciences, "because the global patterns of food production and population that have evolved are implicitly dependent on the climate of the present century."

    A survey completed last year by Dr. Murray Mitchell of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration reveals a drop of half a degree in average ground temperatures in the Northern Hemisphere between 1945 and 1968. According to George Kukla of Columbia University, satellite photos indicated a sudden, large increase in Northern Hemisphere snow cover in the winter of 1971-72. And a study released last month by two NOAA scientists notes that the amount of sunshine reaching the ground in the continental U.S. diminished by 1.3% between 1964 and 1972.

    To the layman, the relatively small changes in temperature and sunshine can be highly misleading. Reid Bryson of the University of Wisconsin points out that the Earth's average temperature during the great Ice Ages was only about seven degrees lower than during its warmest eras -- and that the present decline has taken the planet about a sixth of the way toward the Ice Age average.

    Others regard the cooling as a reversion to the "little ice age" conditions that brought bitter winters to much of Europe and northern America between 1600 and 1900 -- years when the Thames used to freeze so solidly that Londoners roasted oxen on the ice and when iceboats sailed the Hudson River almost as far south as New York City.

    Just what causes the onset of major and minor ice ages remains a mystery. "Our knowledge of the mechanisms of climatic change is at least as fragmentary as our data," concedes the National Academy of Sciences report. "Not only are the basic scientific questions largely unanswered, but in many cases we do not yet know enough to pose the key questions."

    Meteorologists think that they can forecast the short-term

  • Re:finally (Score:1, Informative)

    by TummyX (84871) on Tuesday April 04, 2006 @09:26AM (#15057109)
    since USA is the direct responsible for most of the gases that cause the greenhouse effect, it's reasonable that they do something.

    And the USA is also directly responsible for producing products and technology that benefits the world.

    Signing the Kioto protocol would be a good start.

    I'm not suprised you don't understand the Kyoto protocol since you can't even spell it properly. Have you even read a single thing about it?
  • by Decaff (42676) on Tuesday April 04, 2006 @09:41AM (#15057266)
    The sun is going to burn out in a few billion years. As it does so, it will cool and expand slowly enveloping the earth.

    No; the Sun is actually slowly warming up.

    It's pretentious and incorrect to think that something as insignificant as mankind is the main cause of global warming.

    No; it is realistic and correct. We have already had a significant impact on the composition of the atmosphere in terms of CO2 concentration - the main source of warming.
  • by pHatidic (163975) on Tuesday April 04, 2006 @09:48AM (#15057329)
    The poll wasn't taken by Environmental Defense, they are just reporting it. I believe the poll was done by Pew or someone similar. Also, while the article calls them an advocacy group, Environmental Defense employs more PhDs than any other environmental group. You can see their past acheivements [environmentaldefense.org] and mission statement [environmentaldefense.org] on their website if you want a better handle on their biases and what they believe.
  • No, and no (Score:5, Informative)

    by stomv (80392) on Tuesday April 04, 2006 @09:54AM (#15057395) Homepage
    First of all, DoD spending is indeed massive within the United States. Second of all, neither Social Security nor Medicare revenue is eligible to be spent by Congress. It's not part of the general budget. This was done to keep Congress from raiding the social programs so that they could cut taxes on those who didn't need the social programs.

    Some data:
    Social security, medicare, and other retirements: 36% (and can't be touched by Congress in the budget)
    National Defense and veterans affairs: 23%
    Net interest on the Debt: 7%
    Physical, human, and community development (nat'l parks, education, job training, NSF, NASA, etc): 10%
    Social Programs: 21%
    Law enforcement: 3%

    So yeah, cutting back on the Iraq war (and the rest of the 31% == 23%/(100%-36%) of discretionary spending Congress spends on the military) would indeed leave quite a bit available for alternative energy research, spending on public and mass transit, pollution enforcement mechanisms, and other ways to reduce global warming.
  • Re:No, and no (Score:2, Informative)

    by DougWebb (178910) on Tuesday April 04, 2006 @10:04AM (#15057500) Homepage
    ...neither Social Security nor Medicare revenue is eligible to be spent by Congress. It's not part of the general budget.

    Congress gets around this restriction by spending the money anyway, but promising to 'pay it back'. Of course, they're not the ones who'll have to pay it back, we and our children are. In effect, for many years, all of the money paid into SS that didn't get spent the same year on SS benefits has to be paid into SS again, with interest.

  • by TheNoxx (412624) on Tuesday April 04, 2006 @10:05AM (#15057506) Homepage Journal
    Even in the 2004 federal budget [truthandpolitics.org], military spending that is disclosed to the public (not counting all the CIA and NSA bullshit, and all the other shadow-ops shit) was nearly 20% of all federal spending; the only thing the federal budget spends more on is Social Security. So no, it's not small potatoes compared to medicare (11.7%), or social welfare (8.4%), or medicaid (7.9%), or anything else, not to mention when compared to the rest of the world [truthandpolitics.com].

    And no, the elected Republicans are not indistinguishable from socialists, which is why more and more americans are finding themselves below the poverty line; they are far from socialist in any respect, unless you count meddling in people's lives when not asked to, but that's more of a totalitarian/authoritarian aspect.
  • MOD -1 WRONG (Score:5, Informative)

    by metamatic (202216) on Tuesday April 04, 2006 @10:06AM (#15057511) Homepage Journal
    The cost of the Iraq War, along with all other DoD-related expenses (including funding the entire military) is small potatoes compared to spending on social programs.

    Try a pretty picture [deviantart.com].

    Here's another [warresisters.org].

    Or, go to the source [whitehouse.gov]. HUD is $44b, health and human services is $697b, social security is $624b, military spending is $541b (DoD is $504b plus $37b for veterans' care).

    So even by the official figures, it isn't "small potatoes", it's comparable to the entire social security or health budgets. And then there's the deficit interest payments...

    Not that I'm against cutting corporate welfare. Far from it.

  • by Ours (596171) on Tuesday April 04, 2006 @10:09AM (#15057546)
    Why not? Many countries tax cars with bigger engines more then smaller ones. AND they tax the fuel as well. The end result is cars with equal performance being more economical (in MPG therms) in Europe then in the US. Sure, the rich guys still get their Hummers and Ferraris but (unfortunally for the enviroment) it's their liberty.
  • Re:Intelligent post (Score:3, Informative)

    by uncadonna (85026) <mtobis@nOSPAM.gmail.com> on Tuesday April 04, 2006 @10:12AM (#15057570) Homepage Journal
    It's not clear what you are replying to, but you have your facts garbled.

    Human activity has increased CO2 concentrations from 280 ppmv to 380 ppmv, far faster than any natural change could achieve. Anthropogenic emissions are 15 times larger than the volcanic activity to which nature has equilibrated, and still increasing. Residence time of excess CO2 in the atmosphere is about 1000 years.

    So while the amount added every year is rather small, it keeps adding up.
  • Re:Useless polling (Score:3, Informative)

    by Red Flayer (890720) on Tuesday April 04, 2006 @10:17AM (#15057618) Journal
    Not really, because the cost-savings also increase with inflation. If you buy an energy-efficient washing machine today, you will be saving on energy and water costs at the prices existant when you achieve the savings, not at today's prices. Assuming that energy and water prices appreciate at the same rate as the currency, this would even mean that you save MORE -- since any purchase savings you have now are devalued via inflation. And recently, energy costs have been increasing faster than the general rate of inflation, so that positive savings effect is amplified by the current and projected financial pictures.

    Not that the Fed's attempt to dilute its debt by increasing the money supply (and allowing long-term monetary inflation while keeping price inflation in check) is a good thing, but it's not a problem with this case. Of note, it's telling that the Fed this year cancelled the M3, the best indicator we have of long-term inflation due to money supply issues.
  • Re:No, and no (Score:3, Informative)

    by scorp1us (235526) on Tuesday April 04, 2006 @10:31AM (#15057756) Journal
    Well you are completely wrong on the social security and medicare isseues. There is no garuentee that anyone is will ever see a dime of what "they put into" either program. They are collected as a tax and go into the general treasury. Your wage tax dollars (the tax is collected on "wages" as defined) are not ear-marked in any way. The only thing that keeps congress approriating the money is AARP and the anarchy that would ensue from retitreees losing benefits. Its a non-garenteed hand out.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Social_Security_(Unit ed_States) [wikipedia.org] :
    Helvering vs. Davis, 301 U.S. 619. [findlaw.com], decided on the same day, upheld the program because "The proceeds of both [employee and employer] taxes are to be paid into the Treasury like internal-revenue taxes generally, and are not earmarked in any way." That is, the Social Security Tax is constitutional as a mere exercise of Congress's general taxation powers.

    If you want to know more, or how to stop paying SSI & medicare, read the book in my signature.
  • by bufalo_1973 (898479) on Tuesday April 04, 2006 @10:57AM (#15057994) Homepage
    And you think this is expensive???? Here (Spain) we have a "cheaper" price (1.04€ -> 1L => $3.93/gal if my maths aren't wrong)
  • Fact check (Score:5, Informative)

    by JourneyExpertApe (906162) on Tuesday April 04, 2006 @11:07AM (#15058109)
    The heat of combustion of coal is about 26 MJ/kg (see here [hypertextbook.com]). The overall efficiency of electric power generation for coal is about 35% (see here [wikipedia.org]). Therefore, eight pounds of coal would produce about 28 MJ of electricity. If a laptop uses, say, 50 W maximum, that eight-pound lump of coal could power a laptop under maximum load for about 158 hours, or about 6.5 days. That's a lot of power.
  • Re:finally (Score:3, Informative)

    by SteveAstro (209000) on Tuesday April 04, 2006 @11:07AM (#15058110)
    Try this. This gives the US o/p as 6000 TgCO2
    http://yosemite.epa.gov/OAR/globalwarming.nsf/Uniq ueKeyLookup/RAMR69V528/$File/05executivesummary.pd f [epa.gov]
    it doesn't give the "rest of the world" numbers - That's arithmetic, but is cited uniformly by nearly all "Googlable" sources,

    Then there is this
    http://cdiac.ornl.gov/ [ornl.gov]
    And this is, I reckon the authoritative source.
    http://cdiac.ornl.gov/trends/emis/tre_nam.htm [ornl.gov]
    Scary isn't it ?
    "Western Europe", note emits around 1/3rd than the US, with a larger population.

    Steve
  • Re:Tree-Huggers (Score:3, Informative)

    by xeno-cat (147219) on Tuesday April 04, 2006 @11:33AM (#15058374) Homepage
    I agree with you in so far as the "tree huggers" did not really think nuclear energy through on a mass scale. Mostly the rhetoric stayed at alarmist levels with a veneer of science to provide frightening overtones to the whole concept of nuclear anything.

    However, what fundamentally motivated the No Nukes crowed was the shoddy corpratism that drove the early nuclear industry. The private sector was way out ahead of the reasearch that was needed in order to insure the safety of the citizenry. Money was the motivating factor more than anything else, meaning the drive for nukes was focused on the "Cheap" part of "Cheap and Clean".

    Nuclear energy is also _not_ clean. Clean would be something like emitting water or cream soda. The chemistry involved in "disposing" of nuclear waste is highly toxic.

    Lastly, note that nuclear energy is a limited resource, like oil. The "tree huggers" also understood this and so are pushing for /renewable/ energy sources like solar, wind, biodiesel (which is really solar), etc. America handed billions upon billions of tax dollars to private nuclear companies in order to develop nuclear energy. While it was a ruff start, the technology is now pretty mature (except for waste management). The same type of massive national investment is needed for renewable ebergy as well.

    Kind Regards
  • Re:Fact check (Score:2, Informative)

    by nincehelser (935936) on Tuesday April 04, 2006 @11:54AM (#15058559)
    From this article: http://resourceinsights.blogspot.com/2005/05/energ y-density-key-to-understanding.html [blogspot.com]

    I'm just summerizing what I gleaned from the article, but it seems reasonable.

    Profit Ratios (how much get for how much you spend)

    Oil- 20:1 (Old discoveries)
    Oil- 8:1 (New discoveries)
    Coal- 10:1
    Nuclear- 4:1
    Biodiesel- 2.5:1
    Wind - 2:1
    Solar - 1.1?:1

    Coal and oil obviously are the most profitable, thus the most popular. Nuclear might be much higher up if the regulatory and safety costs could be reduced.
  • by iminplaya (723125) <iminplaya.gmail@com> on Tuesday April 04, 2006 @12:34PM (#15058978) Journal
    We could stop all emissions now and it won't make a difference. We're looking at this completely backwards. The planet outgasses thousands(possibly millions) of times more greenhouse gasses than any puny humans. If you really want to correct this, you need to repair the oceans. We are killing off the main filters with the death of so much plankton and other plant life. These are your main CO2 scrubbers. It is this plant life that converts the bubbling methane and CO2 from the ocean floor into breathable air. If the oceans were in good condition we could spew out our crap unabated, though it would be unwise and unecessary. The funny thing is that none of this would require any real sacrifice, except by those who want to rule over us.
  • by smellsofbikes (890263) on Tuesday April 04, 2006 @12:38PM (#15059026) Journal
    My brother-in-law owns a Mercedes Benz. It's a 1968 diesel that he runs on homebrew fuel, and its blue book value is $480. Yes, four hundred eighty dollars. The sunroof doesn't work. Only one window works. The air conditioning compressor is shot, the heater blower doesn't work, and the CV joints on the rear wheel drive (Mercedes had independent suspension on the rear of the car in '68, can you believe that?) are shot and he can't find a replacement. He's offered to trade his Mercedes for anything made since 1988, has offered it for sale, and now it looks like he's just going to have to sell it to a junkyard for scrap.

    People still tell him "you must be rich: you drive a Benz."
  • Which is to say, AT BEST, that, "I'm researching these viruses, and if you don't give me any money, then 90% of humanity will be destroyed."

    Lies. He's not researching the viruses. Eric Pianka is an expert on small invertibrates such as salamanders, and in many ways is the father of modern ecology.

    He's also reported to be a conservative in his political views, despite the fact that he has a full and bushy hippie beard. Direct your friendly fire elsewhere, you ignorant moron.

    You're a dirty liar, and you have personally charged the atmosphere in such a way that scientists not associated with Eric Pianka are now getting death threats in regard to this situation. YOU are the problem, YOU are encouraging death, YOU are encouraging terrorism, YOU are advocating the death of innocent people, YOU are the person telling moral people like me to kill themselves, YOU make me sick.

  • by ahodgson (74077) on Tuesday April 04, 2006 @01:48PM (#15059816)
    What kind of car would that be exactly? If I could find one of those I would certainly be inclined to make the switch.

    Has to be a Chevy Sprint, which became the Geo Metro. My Sprint got well over 60 mpg in 1988.

    OTOH, my Jetta TDI gets about 50 now, and it's a much nicer car.
  • by charlie_vernacular (710651) on Tuesday April 04, 2006 @02:50PM (#15060409)
    A police state to save the environment is still a police state.

    You're closer than perhaps you realise to an awkward fact (admittedly one of many) that politicians prefer to avoid: a deep green political agenda or scenario is actually quite authoritarian, since it requires people to give up comforts that they'd otherwise choose to keep. The logic is that to avoid the "tragedy if the commons"*, people need to be protected from themselves.

    * From The Economist website:
    TRAGEDY OF THE COMMONS
    A 19th-century amateur mathematician, William Forster Lloyd, modelled the fate of a common pasture shared among rational, UTILITY-maximising herdsmen. He showed that as the POPULATION increased the pasture would inevitably be destroyed. This tragedy may be the fate of all sorts of common resources, because no individual, firm or group has meaningful PROPERTY RIGHTS that would make them think twice about using so much of it that it is destroyed.

    Once a resource is being used at a rate near its sustainable capacity, any additional use will reduce its value to its current users. Thus they will increase their usage to maintain the value of the resource to them, resulting in a further deterioration in its value, and so on, until no value remains. Contemporary examples include overfishing and the polluting of the atmosphere. (See PUBLIC GOODS and EXTERNALITY.)
  • by Politburo (640618) on Tuesday April 04, 2006 @03:17PM (#15060651)
    Biodiesel, iirc and depending on how it's produced, can have higher particulate emissions than traditional diesel.
  • Re:Actions ? (Score:2, Informative)

    by txmadman (538415) on Tuesday April 04, 2006 @04:31PM (#15061227)
    Thanks for injecting some common sense into this.

    I haven't read everything posted on here this topic, but I did not see any discussion of what American scientists "knew" circa 1975: We were headed for another Ice Age. And those scientists and a few politicians of course had all the data to "prove" it. Fortunately, we listened skeptically then, and eventually did pretty much nothing to keep from encasing ourselves in a global ice cube. It is 75 in Dallas today. Brrr.

    Now, if you will excuse me, I need to go dribble some used 20W50 on some kittens. I am headed to a GOP mixer...
  • by TheNoxx (412624) on Tuesday April 04, 2006 @04:34PM (#15061256) Homepage Journal
    Sorry if I came off as a bit hostile, but I've been in a hundred arguments where people mistakenly identify various interpretations of military spending to justify the amount of expenditure in the States, particulary with outdated information. As I pointed out in the last post, the site you referenced claimed that the US currently spends around $277 billion, but the figure is, in fact, closer to $453 billion [truthandpolitics.org], strictly for the military alone as of 2004. Even in 2002, the total amount spent on defense funding and homeland security agencies (I don't believe this takes into account undisclosed funding for CIA/NSA/FBI, but I could be wrong) was $596 billion. So, one problem is that the GDP figures only take into account military expenditures and don't count funding given to the NSA and CIA for their covert ops, shill operations, and so on. The GDP is just a poor measure of defense funding in the United States, where we have a huge number multinational corporations that make the GDP skyrocket; other countries do not; there is just no other first world country that has the amount of profiteers and corporate giants that we do; not even close. Even if you go to per capita with updated figures, we spend per capita on the military branches alone more than any other nation, with Israel coming somewhat close (Update the figures from here [nationmaster.com] to the $453 billion of 2004 and you have a per capita military expenditure of around $1,850).

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