Tuesday, July 27, 2010


Living Dangerously

Reginald Johnson
July 27, 2010

The disastrous effects of global warming are becoming more and more evident.

As I write from my home in Bridgeport, a city in southern Connecticut, this area has been battered by a succession of violent rainstorms and tornadoes. A heavy storm last week knocked over trees throughout the region and left thousands without power.

In June, Bridgeport was hit without warning by a twister that tore the roofs off some buildings and toppled dozens of trees.

In March, a combined tornado and heavy rainstorm devastated the towns of New Canaan, Greenwich and Stamford --- with massive trees uprooted, power poles knocked over and homes flooded. Many residential areas were without power for over a week. Entire school districts were shut down for more than a week.

This is all very unnerving. In Connecticut, we’re used to a good amount of rainfall and the occasional nor'easter, but rainstorms seem to be getting more powerful and more frequent. And tornadoes? Forget it. I always thought twisters happened largely in the Midwest and South, not New England.

Well, things apparently are changing --- we have to be ready for tornadoes now.

Another thing we have to get used to: having lots of very hot, unpleasant days in the summer.

It looks like you can stop counting on many 75-degree days in June and days with low to mid-80s in July. We’ve had a spate of days in June and July with 90 degrees or better in the northeast. Washington, D.C., had the hottest June in history, with records going back to 1872. New York City is on course to have the hottest July on record.

Meanwhile, you hear reports from around the country of other harsh weather --- rain deluges in some areas and drought conditions in others.

Any debate over what causes this extreme weather is absurd at this point. It’s global warming. Yes, I know the experts point out that the high temperatures this year are in part due to the El Nino ocean currents. But when you look at the overall pattern, of increasingly hot weather over a number of years and more and more violent storms, that’s global warming caused by the greenhouse effect. Man-made emissions of carbon dioxide are settling in the atmosphere, capping the globe, and trapping the heat. And messing up the weather big-time.

What’s truly frustrating is that as the weather gets worse and worse, and it’s so obvious what the problem is, absolutely nothing is being done by our political leaders. This is a looming catastrophe, and the folks in Washington (or at least a majority of them) are sitting on their hands.

Just last week, the U.S. Senate shelved a bill that set up a modest program establishing carbon price controls and a cap and trade system aimed at limiting CO2 emissions. The bill was backed by the Obama administration. But Republicans lined up as usual against it, and some Democrats broke ranks, as well. Senate Democratic leaders saw they didn’t have the votes to overcome a filibuster and pulled the bill.

You can be sure that campaign contributions by the oil and coal companies ---- who don’t want carbon controls --- were a decisive factor behind the opposition.

It must be said at this point that the opponents of climate legislation are being grossly irresponsible. The overwhelming majority of climate scientists in the world say that global warming is a reality, it’s getting progressively worse, and it threatens the quality of life on the planet. Scientists are warning that unless the level of carbon in the atmosphere is brought down, whole areas of the globe will become so hot they will be uninhabitable.

But the political opponents of action on climate change don’t give a damn. They’re going to vote against something that is vital for the very survival of the planet, just to keep those contributions coming in and guarantee their continued political careers.

Other nations such as Britain and even China are taking steps to control their carbon emissions. But not the U.S. Our country, which should be in the lead on this issue, is holding up the bandwagon.

At this stage, the millions of Americans who care about the future of the earth and the yet unborn who will have to live on the planet (what about the rights of the unborn on this issue?) will have to work locally to do what they can to stop the deadly escalation of carbon in the atmosphere. Congress and even President Obama are not going to lead the way.

Fortunately, a strong grassroots movement is already underway within the states to get away from fossil fuel use (fossil fuels are the biggest source of carbon) and move towards renewable energy sources like solar and wind power.

The campaign “350.org,” developed by environmental author Bill McKibben, is leading the way in that movement. The name of the campaign is based on the goal of bringing the carbon in the atmosphere down to 350 parts per million.

Scientists say that 350 parts per million is the safe upper limit for carbon dioxide concentrations. Beyond that, there may be catastrophic consequences, they warn.

Right now the earth’s atmosphere is at a scary 392 parts per million of carbon.

350.org is working on all kinds of events in their campaign to pull us away from fossil fuel dependence and cut carbon emissions. One major event coming up is a “Global Work Party” on Oct. 10 of this year. That day will see people at the local level around the country and the world sponsoring carbon-fighting projects like fixing bikes, putting up solar panels and planting trees.

Get involved in this project, or any others to fight climate change. The health of future generations and the survival of the planet hangs in the balance.