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Tuesday, July 16, 2013

America fiddles as Earth burns

by Jake Highton

Global warming is a myth only in the minds of anti-science Republicans.

David Breashers, a frequent conquerer of Mount Everest, was astonished in May 2004 to see running water at 26,000 feet on Everest. It had always been ice. Global warming.

Glaciers are retreating in the Himalayas, Alps and other high mountain areas of the world. Global warming.

Researchers have proved that the temperature of the earth is rising, the effect of greenhouse gases emitted from burning of fossil fuels. Global warming.

The Brown Cloud is a mass of air pollution hanging over northern India and vexing  Bangladesh and the Bay of Bengal. Global warming.

Retreat of Arctic ice is causing deadly methane gas to bubble to the surface of the Arctic Ocean in a scale and volume astonishing to Russian researchers. Global warming.

Ocean acidification from excessive CO2 emissions is causing oyster die-off in the Northwest. Global warming,

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration called 2011 an unprecedented       year of weather disasters from wildfires in the Southwest, floods in many regions, sectional drought and deadly tornadoes. Global warming.

Climate change is a grim reality. America and the world must combat it earnestly, urgently--and immediately.

Yet when the House of Representatives passed a climate-change bill in June, 212 deniers voted against it. Paul Krugman of the New York Times rightly called the negative vote “treason against the planet.”

Yet we have know-nothing jackasses like Rep. Paul Broun of Georgia calling climate change “a hoax perpetrated by the scientific community.”

GOP deniers espouse the capitalist mantra: business must be free to make money. Business cannot be hobbled by costly anti-pollution regulations. That’s why, as the New York Times pointed out, House Republicans voted 191 times in 2011 to undercut existing environmental protections or reject Democratic efforts to protect them.

Nevertheless, Republicans were furious when the Environmental Protection Agency recently set higher standards for mercury emissions and air toxics at power plants.

Mercury, deadly mercury! Two decades late but certainly better now than never.

The new EPA regulations would also reduce fine particle pollution, the source of health problems from heart attacks and asthma.

In the 2012 Climate Change Performance Index published by the United Nations, Sweden ranked No. 1. The United States? A disgraceful 52nd.

America fiddles while the Earth burns.

But so does China, the world’s biggest greenhouse emitter. Its capitalist greed in exemplifed by the fog and smog of Bejing which is thicker than it ever was in the “pea soup” fog days of London.

At the recent Durbin climate conference, attended by 194 countries, China’s negotiator angrily demanded: “Who gives you (European Union nations) the right to tell us what to do?”

The Chinese capitalists want no part in the global-warming battle. Neither did the United States in 1997. The Bush II administration rejected the Kyoto Protocol on climate change.

European nations enter 2012 with new limits on airline emissions. Not surprisingly, the Obama administration wants the European Union to suspend those rules and threatens “appropriate action.” The “or else” was not specified but the U.S. Transportation secretary can issue retaliatory measures.

The Obama administration, instead of eliminating snowmobiles in the sacred sanctuary of Yellowstone National Park, has merely limited their use.

Grand Canyon National Park was about to ban disposable water bottles but backed off when Coca-Cola objected. Coke sells plastic water bottles in the park. And, not incidentally, Coke has donated $13 million to national parks.

Then there is the proposed Keystone XL pipeline. A TransCanada company wants to build a 1,700-mile pipeline that would transport highly polluting tar sands from Alberta, Canada, to refineries on the Texas Gulf Coast.

An engineer and whistleblower, Mike Klink, was fired by Bechtel, pipeline contractor, for noting its “shoddy materials,” “poor workmanship” and “corner-cutting.” He oversaw Bechtel pump stations that “spilled more than a dozen times.”

President Obama, who seldom fights for anything, should draw a line in “the tar sands” to stop this environmentally unsound project. He needs to begin acting green, not just talking green.

Alternate energy is essential to curb global warming: ever more solar, wind and thermal power despite GOP cries about high costs. (The price of solar panels is falling.)

Ecologist Aldo Leopold wrote in the 1949 classic, “A Sand County Almanac”: “The land ethic simply enlarges the boundaries of the community to include soils, waters, plants and animals--or collectively the land.”

Now those “community boundaries” must be extended to the lands and seas of the world. Global warming poses a terrible threat to the health of Mother Earth.

Jake Highton teaches journalism at the University of Nevada, Reno. He can be reached at

Read more: Sparks Tribune - America fiddles as Earth burns

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