By FRANK CARINI
We are changing the Earth’s climate. How can we not be?
Worldwide, there are close to 810 million cars and light trucks on the road, and their engines burn a combined 260 or so billion gallons of gas and diesel fuel annually. In the United States alone, there are more than 600 dirty coal-fired power plants, including 12 in Massachusetts and two in Connecticut.
Across the globe, we annihilate old- and young-growth forests without a hint of concern about the impact on the climate or the imprint left on fragile ecosystems. Just last year, about 100 acres of mostly undisturbed public land in the Quonset Business Park in North Kingstown was clear-cut to make space for prospective business tenants who may never arrive.
Economic growth supersedes biological growth. Consumption trumps conservation. Our climate is now taking the beating we have forever administered on the planet’s soil, air and water.
We ignore the fact that our behaviors are likely helping to create conditions in which plants are blooming out of season and birds are lingering before migrating south.
Those aren’t good trends; they are warning signs of problems to come. But we don’t care, as long as we can afford to fill up our SUVs, pocket super-PAC campaign donations, disbelieve the power of renewable energy and slash public transportation budgets.
It’s always about why we can’t — wind-turbine noise can be annoying; geothermal costs too much; the sun isn’t always shining; plastic bags carry all our stuff. It’s never why we should — fossil fuel is dirty, even if you don’t live in a community that is unlucky enough to house a coal-fired power plant; mountaintop mining is nasty; fracking contaminates groundwater; cyanide is used to extract metals and coal from ore.
Instead, Charlestown passes legislation to ban any size or type of electricity-generating wind turbine. A Texas Republican who is chair of the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology launches an investigation of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), claiming the agency is operating “a shadow climate service operation” without congressional approval. The president of the American Petroleum Institute — the oil industry’s top front group — warns President Obama that if he doesn’t approve the Keystone XL Pipeline there will “huge political consequences.”
Canada is praised for backing out of the Kyoto Protocol, the goal of which is to lower greenhouse gas emissions.
“The decision of the (Canadian) government to formally withdraw from the Kyoto Protocol should be applauded. Carbon dioxide is not a pollutant. It is a life-giving essential component of our atmosphere that exerts little influence on Earth’s climate. Other governments should wise up and follow the example of Canada and shun this wasteful, no-good, economy-killing, and completely unnecessary international agreement supported by so-called environmentalists, alarmist scientists and rent-seeking politicians,” gushed Craig D. Idso, a senior “environment” fellow at The Heartland Institute.
The Chicago-based nonprofit, which is financially backed by ExxonMobil, among others, incessantly undermines scientific consensus on climate change, arguing that global warming isn’t occurring and, further, that warming would be beneficial if it did happen. In the 1990s, this same institute worked with Philip Morris to question the link between secondhand smoke and health risks.
The United States never joined the now-crumbling coalition to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, fearing the nation’s “job creators” would throw a temper tantrum.
Meanwhile, 2011 goes down — for now — as the 11th-warmest year on record; of the 10 warmest years on record, nine have occurred since 2000; each successive decade since 1950 has been warmer than the previous; and the unusually mild temperatures across several regions of the country, including New England, during the past few months are disrupting the natural cycles that define the winter landscape, according to NOAA’s Climate Monitoring Branch, which likely will be investigated for saying so.
NOAA officials monitoring the Earth’s climate also said this past June, July and August saw more warm temperature records tied or broken than any other summer in the past decade. More than 26,500 record warm temperatures were set in the United States in summer 2011. By comparison, fewer than 3,500 record low temperatures were set — the fewest of any summer in the past decade.
Farmers are wondering when to plant. Municipal planners want to know whether groundwater will stop flowing. In Texas, this past summer will go down in history as the warmest summer on record in the Lone Star State. In fact, NOAA officials said Texas experienced the warmest summer for any state going back to when instrument records began in 1895. Oklahoma came in second, with both states beating records set during the 1930s “Dust Bowl” era.
Texas governor and presidential punchinello Rick Perry responded by holding a day of prayer for rain. Then in early August, as Texas continued to sizzle, Perry told CBN News that he prays for the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to roll back emissions and air-quality standards.
“Frankly I pray for the president every day. I pray for his wisdom, I pray that God will open his eyes,” Perry told the Christian Broadcasting Network. “I wish this president would turn back the health care law that’s been passed, ask that his EPA back down on regulations that are causing businesses to hesitate to spend money.”
It didn’t rain, and the Texas Forest Service recently said the drought may have killed as much as 10 percent of the state’s trees — some 500 million.
Frank Carini is the editor of ecoRI News.