Refusal to Do Something About Global Warming is Shameful

Another Voice OpEd by Barbara Jezioro contends that by burning fossil fuels such as coal, oil and natural gas, human beings are adding 7 billion tons of carbon to the atmosphere every year.

Published: 13-Jan-2006

Global warming is a fact of life, and this is nothing new. Over the centuries, slight changes in Earth's orbit, the tilt of its axis, the sun's energy, as well as volcanic eruptions and shifting continental plates have all affected Earth's temperature.

Scientists know, however, that carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere have increased at least 30 percent since preindustrial times and are higher now than in any period in the last 450,000 years. This is not supposition or conjecture but is based on scientific analysis of the gases locked in ice cores nearly two miles long.

By burning fossil fuels such as coal, oil and natural gas, human beings are adding 7 billion tons of carbon to the atmosphere every year, and while oceans and vegetation absorb half of these emissions, the rest remain airborne for many years.

Already, we can see the effects of global warming. In the far North, permafrost is disappearing, and over the past five years, there has been a record reduction in Arctic sea ice concentrations. Europe has experienced extreme heat waves. In fact, a scientific analysis indicates human-induced climate change likely increased the severity of the 2003 European heat wave that killed thousands.

This past July, in a rare moment during the Group of Eight meeting, President Bush finally acknowledged that human-generated pollution is a contributing factor in global warming.

This should have been a positive development, but this administration has never stopped putting politics ahead of progress. In his campaigns for governor and president, Bush was backed by most of the big names in oil, so it is not surprising that it is the interests of the oil lobby, not the American people, that drive the administration's environmental policies. Government reports have been shamelessly altered by Bush appointees, and scientific committees have been manipulated by those with links to the oil lobby.

It is a national disgrace that at the recent Montreal climate talks, nearly every industrialized nation except the United States agreed to negotiate a second phase of mandatory cuts in greenhouse gas emissions. Although our country accounts for only 4 percent of the world's population, we are responsible for 25 percent of greenhouse gas emissions.

Mandatory cuts in these emissions would certainly hurt the profiteering oil companies. But concurrent investment in renewable energy sources and clean energy technologies is certain to create dependable, well-paying jobs.

Failure to reduce fossil fuel emissions will result in rising sea levels, flooding, property destruction, agricultural havoc and widespread human suffering. It is a crime, though not an unexpected one, that the Bush administration continues to jeopardize our future by placing selfish special interests above the recommendations of the scientific community.

In 2004, in awarding the Nobel Prize to the Kenyon environmentalist Wangari Maathai, the Nobel committee stated, "Peace on earth depends on our ability to secure our own environment." In the case of human-induced global warming, that has never been more true.

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