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Warming World on Thin Ice - Bush Manifesto: Death by Carbon Dioxide

15 June 2002


1) Warming World on Thin Ice
2) The Sky is Indeed Falling: Bush Says, Get Used to It
3) Greenwire: Bush favors old resource-based uses in West


Editor's Notes:
This issue of Flyby News covers more on Global Warming, and its dangerous consequences. Bush is an oil man, and leader of the world -- free to commit Hari Kari -- for ignorant and fear-induced thinking. According to Bart Jordan, who completed a mathematical modeling of Global Warming in the 1950's, it's already too late, our atmosphere is doomed to a similar CO2 concentration that is around Mars and Venus, over 95%. Jordan said that the collapse of the Larsen B ice shelf in Antartica confirmed an exponentially increasing rate in this process. Yet, whatever we can do to limit our output of global warming gases will help extend life significantly for those alive, but not for many yet to be born.

For more information on this topic, see:
http://www.flybynews.com/cgi-local/newspro/viewnews.cgi?newsid1014396414,10278,m

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1) Warming World on Thin Ice

Rapidly Melting Glaciers Threaten Death to Millions
by Making Huge Areas Uninhabitable

June 9, 2002, The Observer of London


By Joanna Walters


Ian McNaught-Davis has spent a long time in the mountains. Stocky and affable, the president of mountaineering's international association, the UIAA, is not easily fazed. But when he hiked into the glaciers surrounding the world's highest mountains on a UIAA mission funded by the United Nations Environment Program, he was profoundly shocked.

It's about time we slowed this whole thing down and stopped it. If the US would get off their arses, maybe someone would sit up and take notice.

Ian McNaught-Davis UIAA - International Mountaineering and Climbing Federation For generations of explorers, environmentalists and local people, these cold Himalayan valleys, with glaciers that stretch for miles, seemed to symbolize a kind of cold, brutal permanence.

After hiking through zero visibility and atrocious weather for five days, McNaught-Davis emerged into a sherpa village surrounded by breathtaking scenery. There he was confronted with a shocking truth: the glaciers on Everest were melting alarmingly quickly.

McNaught-Davis listened as kinsmen of Nepalese sherpa Tenzing Norgay, who conquered Everest with Sir Edmund Hillary in 1953, reported a rapid retreat of the Khumbu glacier from which the two pioneers set out.

Sherpas and Buddhist lamas told him the glacier no longer reached to where Hillary's base camp tents were pitched: it had melted three miles up the valley.

To check their accounts, McNaught-Davis climbed up to a glacial meltpool at 5,000 meters that 20 years ago was marked on maps as a series of small ponds.

He found that the ponds had merged into a vast lake more than a mile long. 'It was huge. I was completely amazed,' he said. 'Further up the glacier you can see more ponds forming.'

A mountaineer overlooks the Imja glacier lake in the Everest region of Nepal (undated UNEP handout photo). The Imja lake did not exist 35 years ago. Experts of the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) in Geneva warned June 5, 2002 of bursting Himalayan glacial lakes, threatening the lives of millions of people, because of ice melt caused by global warming.

And it is happening so quickly that map makers cannot keep up. Locally, the prospect of these glacial lakes bursting their banks and obliterating whole villages is frightening. Globally, McNaught-Davis believes what mountaineers are seeing first is a bellwether for the climate change affecting us all.

'It is a harbinger, a clue that something terrible is happening. Some scientists say "It must be other factors", but when you talk to people who have lived and climbed in these mountains for 60 years they say it is getting warmer, and the glaciers are shrinking at a sprint.'

Closer to home in the Alps, mountaineers report that rock pillars held on to their crags by ice for thousands of years are simply crumbling away as the ice melts. The climbing and skiing resort of Chamonix is under threat in the long-term, as the peaks around Mont Blanc begin to lose their ice and become more prone to avalanches.

McNaught-Davis said a recent visit to the Eiger in Switzerland was a shock too. 'The north face used to have three massive ice fields. The last time I was there, there was one left, and it was almost gone.'

Glaciers on the African peaks of Kilimanjaro and Mount Kenya are receding rapidly, and the same is happening in the South American Andes.

It is not only the mountain glaciers that are melting. American NASA scientists say the rate at which the huge Greenland ice sheet is melting has increased by a fifth in the last two decades.

This is because more meltwater is trickling down from the surface of the sheet to the bedrock 1,200 meters below. The water 'lubricates' the path of the whole sheet, causing it to slip faster towards the sea. Team member Jay Zwally said such a process had never before been detected in large ice sheets.

NASA believes global warming could be to blame - and it is the first time the scientists have suggested such a link.

This pattern is repeated in all the world's coldest places. Antarctica has been the scene of huge collapses of ice shelves. In the Arctic, seasonal melting around the North Pole has led to a suggestion that soon shipping will be able to navigate the North West Passage from the Atlantic to the Pacific.

All this comes as the world's environment Ministers failed at a meeting in Bali last week to agree tough action to halt global warming and wipe out poverty. They now approach the Earth Summit in Johannesburg in August in disarray and facing accusations of betrayal from environmental groups.

Kate Hampton, international climate campaigner for Friends of the Earth, sees a direct link between disagreement among Western nations about how to tackle pollution and the reports of vanishing ice sheets.

'Glaciers are the water towers of the world - vital for storage. If they are melting fast this has grave implications for the people who live locally but is also a sign of global warming.

'Water supplies everywhere are under threat from climate change,' she said.

Water is a vital bargaining chip in any Middle East peace talks. While politics and religion grab the headlines, shrinking water resources in this dry region are always a major factor when negotiators draw lines on maps.

Hampton warned that without serious strategies to reverse global warming, the next few decades would see tens of millions of 'climate refugees' fleeing regions in Africa and Asia, where extreme drought and floods become the norm.

'What will happen when millions of Bangladeshis from the flood plains are literally washed out, and end up spilling into poor parts of India?' she said.

In the US scientists are warning that the 'sunshine state' of California could become the 'desert state'.

The Intergovernmental Conference on Climate Change has already established that the average temperature on Earth rose by 0.6 C in the twentieth century. They predict it will be between 1.4 C and 5.8 C warmer by 2100 than it was in 1990. The sea could rise by between nine and 88cms.

The higher end of these forecasts spells an environmental apocalypse. Today it means a few disappointed ice climbers, but by the end of the century it could mean death for tens of millions.

In Britain the winters are already becoming warmer, with violent storms and flash floods more frequent. Hampton said the reports of disappearing Himalayan glaciers confirmed what many scientists and environmentalists had been saying for a decade.

'This is a serious issue in areas where the people who live there are the least responsible for causing the problem - industrialized nations are not getting to grips with this in the face of the most overwhelming evidence,' she said.

The Kyoto protocol was meant to make the climate targets reached at the Rio Earth Summit 10 years ago more enforceable.

But while the European Union is preparing to sign up to the protocol this year the US first watered it down, then walked away from it - holding the world's climate hostage, said Hampton.

Campaigners are worried that what should in effect be an emergency summit to save the planet in Johannesburg will be at best a farce and at worst a confirmation of the power of corporate America over the environment - with President George W. Bush presiding as polluter-in-chief.

Ian McNaught-Davis believes every car-driving Westerner munching fruit flown in from halfway around the globe must take a share of responsibility for pumping climate-warming carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.

'It's about time we slowed this whole thing down and stopped it. If the US would get off their arses, maybe someone would sit up and take notice,' he added.

Guardian Newspapers Limited 2002
http://www.observer.co.uk/focus/story/0,6903,729951,00.html
[You can email letters@observer.co.uk (insert "letter to the editor" in subject).]

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2) The Sky is Indeed Falling Bush Says, Get Used to It

David Corn, AlterNet
June 7, 2002


The world is becoming hotter and the air you breathe can give you cancer, according to two new EPA studies. But, the Bush administration says, don't worry about it.

In the last week of May, the Bush EPA -- that's nearly an oxymoron -- posted on its web sites two significant reports, one on global warming, the other on air toxics. For neither did the EPA issue a press release or hold a press conference; the air toxics assessment was placed on the site on a Friday, the day of choice for bureaucrats looking to avoid media attention. Despite the EPA's efforts, the global warming paper -- which confirmed the scientific consensus that human-generated greenhouse gases, such as carbon dioxide from cars and power plants, are the main cause of global warming -- hit the front-page of The New York Times and sparked a mini-controversy. The air toxics report, which showed the cancer risks of air pollution, produced barely a sigh. And on each of these fronts, the administration has offered no policy that would truly address the problem confirmed.

Let's look at the air toxics report first. Years in the making, this study examined the risk posed by 32 common air pollutants, 29 of which are classified as carcinogens. Using data from 1996, the EPA concluded that more than 200 million Americans live where the cancer risk from these substances exceeds a ten in 1 million risk, meaning that there would be ten additional cancers (attributable solely to these chemicals) for every 1 million people. That may not sound like much (except, of course, if you are one of the unlucky ones), but the EPA typically tries to deal with cancer risks between one in 1 million and 100 in 1 million. Moreover, there are plenty of areas where the EPA found a greater risk than the average.

"This report shows the risks are still very high for breathing outside air," says Dr. Gina Solomon, a senior scientist at the Natural Resources Defense Council.

The unpromoted EPA website for this study is rather nifty; it allows visitors to look up individual states. I gave Washington, DC, a spin and saw the cancer risk was close to 200 in a million (that's one in 5,000). To be slightly less parochial, I checked Los Angeles: The risk was the same as Washington. The site also lets you check where certain toxics are especially bad.

"It's pretty useful," says Solomon. "You can see where toxic hotspots exist. It's a shame this hasn't gotten more attention." She notes that in some locales the risk is one in 1,000 and that the maps contain a pattern of pollution -- involving mercury and soot -- that runs from the northern Midwest to New England. This swath of dangerous air is probably caused by coal-burning power plants.

The study also calculated the non-cancer health effects of a lifetime of exposure to these toxics. It concluded that the "respiratory hazard index" exceeded 1.0 for "nearly the entire US population," noting that a hazard index "greater than 1.0 can be best described as indicating that a potential may exist for adverse effects." For 20 million Americans, the hazard index surpassed 10.0.

The Washington Post published a four-paragraph item on the study on page A16, under the headline, "200 Million in US Face Cancer Risk, EPA Says," without mentioning the details for Washington. Why wasn't this worth more space? As far as I can tell, only The Los Angeles Times ran a full story on the study, with a subhead that stated, "For millions of Americans, many of them living in California, the danger is 100 times greater than acceptable levels." This may not be news you can use. After all, are you going to stop breathing? But it is news you deserve to know. Especially when the Bush administration is ttrying to provide industry more slack in dealing with its emissions and has presented a so-called "clean skies" initiative that will lessen pollutants at a slower pace than that mandated by current clean-air laws.

The Bushies succeeded in burying the air toxics assessment. They failed with the global warming report. Written in keeping with obligations the United States has under an early climate change treaty signed by Bush's father, the study says the United States will experience dramatic environmental changes due to global warming in the coming decades. A partial list includes heat waves and other extreme weather, loss of wetlands and coastland, pest outbreaks, more air pollution, and water shortages. Bush tried to distance himself from the study, dismissing it as a "report put out by the bureaucracy," and his chief mouthpiece, Ari Fleischer, said there still is "considerable uncertainty" on the scientific causes of global warming. But the report did allow the administration to have its carbon dioxide and eat it, too. While it confirmed what environmentalist and other nations have been saying about global warming for years, it expressed doubt concerning the ability of emission cuts to counter the damage already in progress.

What a wonderful strategy for industry and its political comrades: They denied global warming for so long that there is no longer a possible remedy. Now that pro-business Republicans finally concede global warming is under way and caused by human activity, they claim it's too late to do anything and argue that decreasing greenhouse gases -- as called for by the Kyoto treaty the Bush administration trashed -- won't matter. The message contained in the report is, global warming is indeed coming, but nothing can really be done, so get used to it.

The White House isn't quite that frank in public. It still is trying to fool people into believing the President cares and is addressing the problem. Scott McClellan, a White House spokesman, said, "It is important to move forward on the president's strategies for addressing the challenge of climate change, and that's what we're continuing to do." In response to questions from the White House press corps about Bush's snotty reaction to his own EPA's study, Fleischer maintained Bush's climate change proposal "can reduce the problem of greenhouse gases and global warming." But no one in the briefing room that day posed the obvious challenge to Fleischer. Bush's plan calls for voluntary reductions in the growth of greenhouse gases. That means it's fine by him if the United States' production of greenhouse gases continues to rise, as long as it increases at a pace slower than the growth of the economy. If the economy expands by 2.5 percent, then the amount of greenhouse gases produced can go up by 2.4 percent. It's tough to see how permitting more greenhouse gases will "reduce the problem" of global warming. The Bush administration ought to drop this fig leaf. If (as its new report argues) Kyoto-style reductions are not going to repair the atmosphere -- a proposition open to challenge -- Bush's rinky-dink proposal surely won't mean a thing. Why bother with it -- except for politics? Instead, he should offer tax credits for air conditioning (for the report does advocate more air conditioning) and sun screen.

Here's a philosophical question. Is it worse to deny a problem exists, or to recognize the problem but then, rather purposefully, do nothing of substance? The air, according to government scientists, is a threat to the nation. Yet Bush refuses to act upon the evidence. With this less-than-serious response, he signals that, really, really, the air is just fine. It's a reverse Chicken Little position -- which can be quite dangerous when the sky is actually falling.

David Corn is the Washington editor of The Nation.
http://www.alternet.org/story.html?StoryID=13319

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Related Article:

Stupefying Stance on Global Warming

by Molly Ivins
June 6, 2002
Baltimore Sun

AUSTIN, Texas - Throwing around words like "fantastic" and "stupefying" is considered bad form outside the tabloid press. But I'm damned if I know what else to say about the news that the Bush administration has decided that global warming is indeed taking place and they are planning to do exactly nothing about it.

For the complete article, published on Thursday, June 6, 2002 in the Baltimore Sun, and posted at Common Dreams:
http://www.commondreams.org/views02/0606-01.htm

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Related Article:

Gore slams Bush for refusing global climate report
June 8, 2002
Reuters

MADISON, Wisconsin Former U.S. Vice President Al Gore on Saturday criticized President George Bush for refusing to accept a federal agency report that blames humans for global warming.

The recently released Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) report appeared to back the view of many scientists who believe global warming is caused mainly by emissions from automobiles, power plants, and oil refineries.

Bush appeared to dismiss the report, calling it a product of bureaucracy, and said he would continue to press for voluntary efforts and financial incentives for U.S. companies to reduce emissions.

For the complete article, see:
http://www.commondreams.org/headlines02/0608-06.htm

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3) Greenwire: Bush favors old resource-based uses in West

The following is excerpted from Greenwire
E&E PUBLISHING, LLC
122 C. St. NW, Ste. 722 Washington, D.C. 20001
www.eenews.net
Friday, June 14, 2002


Despite President Bush's stand-aside policy on climate change, pressure continues to mount from inside and outside national borders, as well as from mother nature, that action must be taken to curb rising temperatures.

Last month's release of the U.S. EPA-led Climate Action Report predicts human activity will increase temperatures 3 to 9 degrees this century. And the Senate is gearing up this month to address Sen. Jim Jeffords (I-Vt.) multi-pollutant bill to curb emissions from power plants.

The international community is also questioning Bush's withdrawal from the Kyoto Protocol, the international treaty intended to reduce global emissions of greenhouse gases. And rising temperatures do not appear to be affecting Bush. In the last four months, two have set global heat records, while the other two were the second-hottest on record.

But Bush appears to remain committed to voluntary emission reduction programs and dismissed the Climate Action Report as "put out by bureaucrats" (Seth Borenstein, Houston Chronicle, June 13). MV

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Bush favors old resource-based uses in West

In deciding environmental policy, some Westerners note that the Bush administration is returning control to the ranchers, miners and timber companies who ruled the land during the "Old West," a diversion from the Clinton-era "New West," which was based on tourism and recreation.

In the last 16 months Bush has overhauled forest management plans to allow logging, roads and development, proposed opening areas to drilling, withdrawn habitat protection plans and called for a re-evaluation of the proposed ban on snowmobiles in Yellowstone National Park. University of Montana economists Thomas Power and Richard Barrett write in their new book Post-Cowboy Economics that the subsistence of the West has changed, thus creating a markedly different economy no longer based on the natural resources of times past.

In the last three decades, jobs in natural resources have dropped from 10 percent to less than 4 percent as the high tech and telecommunications sector continues to expand westward. And in Moab, Utah, where uranium and oil operations once dominated the landscape, 75 percent of the local economy is now dependent on tourists who utilize the region's national parks, rivers and mountains.

"Now we have spandex, T-shirt shops, curio stores and bicycles," said Moab resident Berta Knutson, who favors the Old West economy based on the oil and gas industry that employed her and her husband. "People back East don't realize we can't eat these rocks."

The federal government is able to shape such policy because of the large stake it holds in the West. In the 11 westernmost continental states, approximately 48 percent of the land is federally owned, allowing each new administration to make its impact on the West's future (Tom Kenworthy, USA Today , June 14). -- MV

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Greenwire rounds up the latest commentary on a U.S. EPA report that linked most of climate change to human activities.

A Providence Journal editorial: "America needs to start taking the issue of manmade climate change much more seriously. And that, inconveniently, must include a raft of mandatory actions" (June 13).

A Philadelphia Inquirer editorial: "For the health and safety of America, [Bush] should start trusting his own experts. In the case of global warming, he should work to become the international leader he promised last June he'd be" (June 12).

A Washington Post editorial: "If you acknowledge that climate change can be expected to do bad things and that human activity bears a significant share of the blame, then you might logically feel obliged to take tougher steps to lower U.S. emissions of greenhouse gases than Mr. Bush has been willing to take. The report doesn't go there. But it's a short leap to make, and the right one, no matter how much Mr. Bush tries to brush off the message" (April 12).

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Other Miscellaneous Greenwire Reports:

Judge throws out Hodges' lawsuit, shipments could begin to S.C. tomorrow

The Department of Energy may begin shipping 34 tons of weapons-grade plutonium to the Savannah River Site in South Carolina as early as this weekend, after a federal judge yesterday threw out Gov. Jim Hodges' (D) lawsuit to block the shipments.

The DOE wants to ship plutonium from the Rocky Flats Arsenal in Colorado to the SRS near Aiken, S.C., to be processed into mixed-oxide fuel for nuclear power plants. Hodges is seeking guarantees the federal government will not use SRS as a permanent storage site for the plutonium and accused the DOE of violating federal environmental review laws (Jacob Jordan, AP/ Columbus Dispatch).

U.S. District Judge Cameron Currie said DOE did not violate the National Environmental Policy Act and that Hodges did not demonstrate the shipments would cause irreparable harm. Currie noted that SRS already has two metric tons of surplus plutonium that, unlike the plutonium from Rocky Flats, is not stabilized or packaged. "It's difficult to establish irreparable harm if the plutonium you receive is safer than the plutonium you already have," Currie said (Tim Smith, Greenville [S.C.] News).

Currie also agreed with the federal government that SRS is a better location for the plutonium. The SRS is a 310-square mile site in a rural area, while Rocky Flats is only 10 square miles and surrounded by Denver suburbs.

Although shipments can legally begin as early as tomorrow, Currie urged the DOE to wait at least five days to allow Hodges to appeal. Currie"I'm sure they don't want to put trucks on the road and have the 4th Circuit turn them around" (Mike Soraghan, Denver Post).

Hodges said he plans to appeal Currie's ruling to the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond, Va., as soon as possible. "If we lose, than the nation's weapons-grade plutonium comes to South Carolina for long-term storage, and that's simply unacceptable," Hodges said. "I will continue to use every legal power that I have to make sure South Carolinians are taken care of and that our health and safety is protected" (Sammy Fretwell, Columbia [S.C.] State).

Energy Secretary Spencer Abraham said the DOE "intends to proceed" with the plutonium shipments, but DOE officials refused to provide a timeline, citing security precautions. However, DOE spokesman Joe Davis said the department is "working under the assumption there won't be a blockade" of South Carolina highways by Hodges or state troopers (Jeffrey Gettleman, Los Angeles Times).

The governor has threatened to lie down at the state border to block the shipments from entering the state, and state troopers practiced stopping a truck in an April drill. State officials say the plutonium-carrying convoys could take any of 69 roads that lead into the state and any of seven entrances into the SRS (Jennifer Talhelm, Charlotte Observer).

Republicans have accused Hodges of grandstanding to help his re-election campaign. "This issue should never have reached a courtroom," said Sen. Wayne Allard (R-Colo.). "The governor of South Carolina should have worked out an agreement with DOE long ago instead of wasting taxpayers' money on delaying tactics." Rep. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) added"It is time for the governor to work with the delegation in a constructive matter" (Jacob Jordan, AP/ New York Times). (All cites June 14.)
-- DHB

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Lake Erie Dead zone may be sign that enviro progress is ending

The dead zone discovered last year in Lake Erie may return again this summer, leaving scientists baffled as to what may be causing the lake to shift back to its lifeless state of the early 1980s.

Forty researchers from 17 universities will start heading out on boats next week to take a closer look at what may be causing the apparent reversal of Lake Erie's environmental progress -- regarded as one of the major successes of the environmental movement. A recent U.S. EPA report says that last year's dead zone duplicated the prevalence of anoxia in the late 1960s but said there were no clear reasons for its reappearance. In 1983, about 90 percent of the lake's central basin had no oxygen.

In a little-noticed Internet posting last month, the EPA declared the oxygen-depleted area a dead zone. And an EPA boat this spring found water samples with unusual levels of algae and other plant life, indicating high levels of nutrients such as phosphorus and nitrogen.

Scientists this summer will collect thousands of water samples to measure the dead zone's boundaries, depths and progress. Scientists suspect there may be several causes of the oxygen depletion, including the prevalence of zebra mussels and other invasive species, climate change or excess wastes dumped by sewage plants.

"I don't want to sound alarmist," said Murray Charlton, a scientist at Canada's National Water Research Institute. "But we have no idea, really, what is going on" (Bill Sloat, Cleveland Plain Dealer, June 14). -- EG

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For the Flyby News updated page on the Mounting Evidences of Global Warming, see:
http://www.flybynews.com/cgi-local/newspro/viewnews.cgi?newsid1014396414,10278,m

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