Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition
Archive list of "E"- Notes newsletters

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December 2008
Contents

Constant Blasting from Strip Mines Frustrates, Angers WV Community
Shirley Stewart Burns Addresses Annual Meeting of the Society of Environmental Journalists, October 2008
MTR Scars the Human Heart
Passages: A Beloved Friend
Temporary Stay of Execution for Coal River Mountain
Coping with Climate Change
CLEAN's Role in Campaign
Third Blessing on Gauley Mountain
Gauley Mtn. Close to Home for Me
Save Gauley Mountain Petition
Drawn and Quartered: State Two Bits and DEP Fits

Boone County Updates: Take A Different Kind of Sunday Drive - See Mountain Massacre Up Close and Personal As It Destroys Our State

There's Irony for You!

Youth in Action: WV Youth Action League on the Rise, Setting Goals
Sludge Safety Project Readies Variety of Efforts for 2009 WV Legislative Session
Educating Your Legislators A Key to Getting Action on Sludge Issues
What Does Sludge Safety Project Want for the 2009 Legislative Session?
Communities Unite for Water Testing Training
Newspapers and Bloggers Across the Land Editorialize Against Buffer Zone Change
Majority of West Virginians Ready for Clean, Green Energy, Multiple Statewide Surveys Show
Mingo County Group Hosts Green Jobs Now Picnic
Wind Working Group Meeting
Green Power a Real Threat to King Coal
Clean Elections and the Courts - It's Hard to Keep Up
Obama Expected to Tighten Coal Mining Regulations, Set CO Limits
Faith in Action: Having Faith, Taking Power at Public Policy Forum

Roane County Meditation Group Visits Kayford Mountain

Many Suffer As A Result of Illegal Mining
People Magazine Features OVEC Board Member in Lengthy Article
OVECs Cemetery Protection Campaign
Federal Court Hears Corps, Industry Appeal of Our Major Victory
From The Ground Up
Judge Blocks Permit for Clay-Nicholas Co. Coal Mine: Fola Coal Can Continue Mining in Interim, Though 
So What Did We Win? Another Cork in the Permit Bottle!
Bioneers 2008 - Revolution in the Heart of Nature
Organizing Toward Clean Water Victory in Prenter! 
Survey Says! Poll Shows Nationwide Opposition to Mountaintop Removal
Mount Union College Students Ponder Destruction and Creation
An Open Letter To Bayer
... and the Dead Shall Rest in Peace for All of Eternity (Except in southern West Virginia)
Miscellany


For viewing the PDF version of the newsletter

 
Winds of Change Newsletter, December 2008     See sidebar for table of contents

Coping with Climate Change

By Mel Tyree

West Virginia native and Ohio State University professor Dr. Lonnie Thompson is widely recognized as the worlds foremost glaciologist and an expert in climate change. Analysis of air bubbles in the ice cores he and his research team have collected from glaciers and ice caps have been used to establish greenhouse gas (GHG) levels and world temperatures for the past 800,000 years.

Oct. 23, Dr. Thompson gave a presentation on climate change at the University of Charleston. His final slide listed the three options humanity has for dealing with human-caused climate change: prevention, adaptation or suffering. Prevention consists of employing numerous mitigation measures that would significantly reduce human GHG emissions. Such mitigation measures include lower- carbon footprint farming techniques, increases in energy efficiency and renewable energy, increasing vehicle mileage standards, ending deforestation and more.

 

The problem with prevention is time. Even if we could eliminate all human GHG emissions today, earth would experience moderate to severe climate change effects for several centuries due to climate inertia. Climate inertia refers to a series of natural processes that delay the effects of newly released GHGs in the climate system. For example, the worlds oceans take decades to absorb and distribute heat generated from GHGs in the atmosphere. Plus, carbon dioxide (CO2), the main greenhouse gas in our atmosphere, stays around about 100 years. This means that much of the CO2 released from our tailpipes and smokestacks today will still be in the atmosphere well into the 22nd century. In short, its too late to prevent moderate to severe climate change.

Theoretically, we still have perhaps five to ten years to prevent catastrophic climate change. The catch is (and this is an enormous catch) humanity would need to immediately begin a green revolution the likes of which has never been seen in history. I believe we have to begin this energy revolution in 2009, for several reasons. First, climate change is more extreme and progressing more quickly than we were led to believe. The World Wildlife Fund (WWF) released a report in October that stated that the 2007 conclusions published in the UNs Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) study regarding the pace and severity of climate change were optimistic. The WWF argued that the IPCC study vastly underestimated 21st century cyclone numbers and intensity, crop failures due to climate change, drought intensity, ice melt and sea-level rise. Dr. Thompson reiterated these findings in his slide show by showing that world ice cap and glacier melt rates have accelerated significantly in recent years.

I wrote an article (Absence of Powerful Central Organizing Authority and the Lack of Global Warming Mitigation) detailing the reasons why humanity has blown several chances at preventing catastrophic climate change in the Winter 2007 edition of the journal Counterpoise. Humanity blew its best and probably last chances of preventing catastrophic climate change in 1973 and 1997.

In 1973, OPEC cut off petroleum exports to the United States. The United States reacted by investing billions of dollars in alternative energy research, buying compact cars, lowering the speed limit to 55 miles per hour and other conservation measures. However, OPEC quickly understood its financial suicide and turned the oil tap back on. Within a few years, alternative energy funding was cut and Americans went back to consuming energy with a vengeance.

In 1997 the Kyoto Agreement was enacted to place binding limits on world GHG emissions. One of its goals was to reduce GHG emissions to 5% below 1990 levels. However, under Kyoto global CO2 levels have climbed from about 360 parts per million (ppm) to todays 385 ppm, a 6.5% increase. Plus, yearly CO2 emissions have increased from about 1.5 ppm to todays 2 ppm.

The reasons for Kyotos failure are threefold. First, the United States did not participate in the agreement. Second, large undeveloped countries such as China were exempt from the agreement. Third, the agreement had no enforcement power it was a tiger without teeth. Laws or agreements without enforcement powers generally dont work.

The IPCC stated in 2007 that the probability of avoiding catastrophic climate change is very unlikely, meaning less than 10%. Given the recent evidence of the accelerating pace and severity of climate change, the IPCCs dire estimate must be considered optimistic. So, humanity had better get busy investing in our second option, adaptation.

Climate change adaptation includes a wide range of measures humans can implement to adjust to and cope with the effects of climate change. Some of these measures include constructing infrastructure resistant to category 4 and 5 hurricanes, developing drought developing resistant crops, beefing up funding for FEMA, the Red Cross and other disaster response organizations, providing better water-supply engineering solutions for drought prone areas and improving severe storm forecasting technology, among other measures.

Some of these adaptation measures are fairly inexpensive and already in place. For example, FEMAs All Hazard Mitigation Plan for West Virginia is an adequate planning document intended to help safeguard people from such climate change disasters as fires, floods and storms. We must keep politicians feet to the fire to be sure the plan is fully funded and supported.

The last option is suffering. If we continue on a business as usual path regarding GHG emissions and failure to adapt to climate change for another 10 years, this option is all but inevitable. Earth systems theorist and GAIA theory developer James Lovelock projects that climate change will cause the fall of human civilization within 40 years and the death of 5 billion people before this centurys end. Whether Dr. Lovelock proves to be a prophet or a crackpot depends on the actions people, governments and corporations take over the next 10 to 15 years.

 

 

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