Global Warming: The Biggest Ignored Story of 2005

Editorial by sees reality of global warming and its economic implications on West Virginia coal industry.

Published: 28-Jan-2006

Jan. 27--What's the biggest news story of current times? Rising Muslim fanaticism? Computer-driven economic shifts of the Information Age?

Most likely, it's half-hidden climate change caused by global warming -- impelled by "greenhouse gases" emitted by fossil-fuel combustion in advanced nations like America -- according to Washington Post columnist David Ignatius. He says melting of polar ice, drying of the Amazon rain forest, disrupted migratory patterns of butterflies, plus other symptoms "may be harbingers of a catastrophe that could, quite literally, alter the fundamentals of life on the planet."

Similarly, in The New Yorker, Elizabeth Kolbert warned that arctic ice has shrunk 250 million acres since 1979, and arctic permafrost has thawed for the first known time in 120,000 years. Continued melting threatens to raise sea levels and drown thousands of populous coastal spots. Warmer seas mean worse hurricanes. Tropical diseases are moving northward. Other dangers are emerging. Yet the Bush administration refuses to join the Kyoto Protocol to curb greenhouse gas emissions.

"It may seem impossible to imagine that a technologically advanced society could choose, in essence, to destroy itself, but that is what we are now in the process of doing," Kolbert wrote.

The Maldives, a paradise nation of 1,200 islands southwest of India, faces possible extinction, because its land averages only three feet above sea level. Already, rising water has forced the evacuation of one island, Kandholhudhoo -- and leaders fear that all 1,200 eventually may be abandoned.

"The Maldives may be the canary in the world's coal mine," New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof wrote. When President Bush goes to India in February, he should visit the Maldives and "ponder the implications of rising seas for Florida, the Carolinas, Long Island," Kristof wrote.

The columnist acknowledged that "there is considerable uncertainty about the scale of damage we are inflicting on the Earth. But that's no reason to play Russian roulette with our biosphere." He said America should embrace the Kyoto effort, promote alternative energy sources, and "grudgingly accept nuclear power, because it doesn't produce greenhouse gases."

All these alarms have serious implications for West Virginia, because coal is a major source of the atmospheric carbon dioxide that traps heat. They underscore the urgent need to develop "clean coal" technology that prevents harmful fumes from filling the sky.

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