Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Global warming on trial

Posted By on Tue, Aug 25, 2009 at 12:48 PM

No surprise here: Big business leaders are abusing the legislative process in their ongoing attempt to stifle progress and sell our future so they can continue to feed their addiction to money.

While Big Business and the EPA are busy measuring their johnsons, you might be interested to know that a recent study on global warming includes our fair city. Charlotte is not only listed as one of the 30 cities at risk, but it's listed at the top of the at-risk list -- right up there with Los Angeles, New York and Dallas.

The nation's largest business lobby wants to put the science of global warming on trial.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce, trying to ward off potentially sweeping federal emissions regulations, is pushing the Environmental Protection Agency to hold a rare public hearing on the scientific evidence for man-made climate change.

Chamber officials say it would be "the Scopes monkey trial of the 21st century" -- complete with witnesses, cross-examinations and a judge who would rule, essentially, on whether humans are warming the planet to dangerous effect.

"It would be evolution versus creationism," said William Kovacs, the chamber's senior vice president for environment, technology and regulatory affairs. "It would be the science of climate change on trial."

The goal of the chamber, which represents 3 million large and small businesses, is to fend off potential emissions regulations by undercutting the scientific consensus over climate change. If the EPA denies the request, as expected, the chamber plans to take the fight to federal court.

The EPA is having none of it, calling a hearing a "waste of time" and saying that a threatened lawsuit by the chamber would be "frivolous."

EPA spokesman Brendan Gilfillan said the agency based its proposed finding that global warming is a danger to public health "on the soundest peer-reviewed science available, which overwhelmingly indicates that climate change presents a threat to human health and welfare."

Environmentalists say the chamber's strategy is an attempt to sow political discord by challenging settled science -- and note that in the famed 1925 Scopes trial, which pitted lawyers Clarence Darrow and William Jennings Bryan in a courtroom battle over a Tennessee science teacher accused of teaching evolution illegally, the scientists won in the end.

In the coming weeks, the EPA is set to formally declare that the heat-trapping gases scientists blame for climate change endanger human health, and are thus subject to regulation under the Clean Air Act. The so-called endangerment finding will be a cornerstone of the Obama administration's plan to set strict new emissions standards on cars and trucks.

Most climate scientists agree that greenhouse gas emissions, caused by the burning of fossil fuels and other human activities, are warming the planet. Using computer models and historical temperature data, those scientists predict the warming will accelerate unless greenhouse gas emissions are dramatically reduced.

"The need for urgent action to address climate change is now indisputable," said a recent letter to world leaders by the heads of the top science agencies in 13 of the world's largest countries, including the head of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences.

Read more from The L.A. Times.

From National Geographic:

Further reading: Asia hits back on climate change (The Financial Times)

China and India have closed ranks on climate change, blaming developed countries for the lack of progress towards a deal.

"They have talked much, but not done much," said Xie Zhenhua, China's minister in charge of climate change, adding that the conflict between developed and developing nations was driven by commercial and political interest.

His remarks came during two days of talks with Jairam Ramesh, India's environment minister, which were aimed at -synchronising the two countries' positions as negotiations at Copenhagen, Denmark, on climate change draw near.

Mr Ramesh also rejected the notion that the two Asian giants were obstructing a deal. "The way the narrative seems to have evolved is that countries like India and China are holding back an inter-national agreement," he told foreign journalists before leaving for China. "Far from it."

The two countries are responding to intensifying criticism from western -governments and climate change activists for refusing to agree to binding -targets for carbon emissions as part of efforts to forge an international deal to combat global warming. But the negotiators' remarks also reflect their growing disillusionment with the talks.

"Developed countries just keep repeating the demand that China should commit to capping its emissions but they are not engaging in a sincere dialogue about the proposal China has put forward," said Zou Ji, a leading climate change scholar at Renmin University who has advised Beijing on its climate change policy and is head of the World Resources Institute in China.

Don't stop there. Read this: U.S. needs climate law before Copenhagen (Reuters)

Groups from the oil industry, agriculture and manufacturing have lined up to oppose climate change legislation, saying it would add costs for producers, farmers and consumers without guaranteeing environmental gains.

Vilsack and Commerce Secretary Gary Locke met with groups from the Midwest and Mid-Atlantic states to press their message that a climate change law would be good for the environment and economy.

A U.S. Agriculture Department study shows farmers could boost their net income by $10 billion to $20 billion in the long term earning money from offsets -- contracts to plant trees or change the way they till land to lock more carbon in soils, Vilsack said.

And this: Report: Future U.S. heat waves will be worse (USA Today)

"The report highlights the current vulnerabilities from heat waves growing," says climate scientist Amanda Staudt of the National Wildlife Federation, a report sponsor. Average temperatures are expected to grow 4 to 11 degrees Fahrenheit nationwide over the next century, according to the federal climate research group.

The severity will vary with industrial emissions of greenhouse gases, but "heat waves will continue to get worse in the coming decades," the report warns. It lists the 30 major cities most at risk.

In June, the climate research program published a report that found average temperatures in the USA have increased more than 2 degrees in the past five decades, largely as the result of emissions of greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide, which are produced by burning fossil fuels such as coal and oil. Greenhouse gases trap heat in the atmosphere, which drives up temperatures in the air and oceans.

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