Sorry Europe. Sorry about the terrible winter you've been having. Scientists have said your cold, ice and snow could be a result of the shrinking Arctic ice cap. I'm not surprised if this is true.
As a group of nations you've been real troopers in cutting greenhouse gas emissions. You're doing the best you can with little help elsewhere in the world, like us for example, just across the Atlantic.
If you haven't heard, so far there's been virtually no winter here in much of the lower 48 states. There's been occasional and very brief cold snaps and minor snowfalls, but compared with other years, this could very well turn out to be the winter of no winter. As each day goes by, and the Sun gets higher in the sky, the chances of a major blizzard goes down. Still it's only mid-February so who knows.
As much as a really mild winter may be a relief to some, overall it's not a good thing. Without snow there won't be enough snow melt to feed rivers and aquifers in the spring. With really warm days plants are blooming early, then shocked when cold returns for a few days. Insects, too, are getting a head start on the year: Warm weather brings them out. A doctor friend of mine is concerned in another way. Long periods of cold weather tend to kill off viruses. No cold and viruses might survive that ordinarily would die off. (US readers beware. Be careful what you touch. Wash your hands. And keep from touching your face.)
I hate to be cynical, but the US has to experience more 3 or 4 more balmy winters like this, followed by scorching summers, before the people and business interests demand political action on global warming. You see, as much as those two words have been bandied about for more than two decades, many don't believe that man, through his exhaust, is changing the onion-skin-thin atmosphere of the planet. They aren't convinced that record breaking snows of recent winters here were the result of warmer weather, not cold. They'll even say that Europe's cold winter of 2011-2012, balances out our warm one. They have to experience record heat for a number of years in a row for the term "global warming" to really mean something. Too hot has to be too hot to bear.
Since we've been dragging our feet for more than two decades let's hope that its not too late to slow the planet's heating.
It is really unfortunate that there isn't a world effort right now, today, to attempt to "fix" the planet. Political leaders everywhere are concerned about job creation. Well, here you go guys and gals in the capitals of world: The biggest job-creation engine you could possibly imagine is at your feet ready to go to work. Let's fix the planet.
Consider this: For well over a century the world has been burning something for energy to drive economies. We've been using the Earth's thin atmosphere as a depository of the waste of combustion, our smoke, our emissions. We've made the air we breathe an atmospheric dump. It has turned out to be a mistake. Really, no one is to blame for this catastrophic error. Most people contribute to it. Me too. It's true the planet will absorb, through the oceans, soil and plant life, much of our exhaust, but there is a limit. We've probably gone too far already. Had industry and political leaders of the distant past known or envisioned and considered consequences of endless exhaust into the air, they may have stopped it. Burning fossil fuels seemed like a good idea at the time. (Actually the first to recognize that the burning of fuel could feasibly alter the earth's atmosphere was Benjamin Franklin. “See, I told you so,” the Founding Father would say today if he could.)
We've designed, engineered and built an entire global economy based in large part on burning something. We can't do that anymore. We have to do it all over again, rebuild the entire planet based on zero or greenhouse gas neutral exhaust. We need to tear down and replace or remodel 100's of millions of homes to make them carbon-neutral or free. We have the ability today to build these homes. We've got to change the way industry makes things. We have to build transportation systems that offer the same freedom and flexibility as today, but emit little or zero emissions. Some of this technology is already with us.
Where does the money come from to do this? Here in the U.S., at the Federal level, maybe it's just a matter of spending priorities, how and where money is spent. Though the national budget is on route to be cut, a lot of money will still be spent, plenty to begin building a much cleaner nation while creating millions of jobs. For instance, our Navy keeps a fleet of ships in or near the Persian Gulf largely to keep oil flowing. How many billions are spent each year on this operation? Why not bring the fleet home and use the savings to build a national recharging network for electric vehicles or subsidize battery switching stations or hydrogen fueling stations or put the money into high speed rail? The same money spent on aircraft carriers and planes protecting an energy supply route could be building new energy supply routes at home.
Here's another idea. The U.S. government owns roughly 650 million acres of land, about 30 percent of the total territory. True, a lot of it is military bases or national parks. Most Federal land is in the sunny and wind swept west. Little by little some of this land is already being used for energy development. Why not step up the pace a bit? Why not use more of it for solar or wind development as soon as possible? Bureaucratically speed the process up. Solar and wind need real estate to build on. Being forced to buy land increases the cost of renewable power. Low-cost or even free Federal land would help lower renewable’s price tag. Heck, while solar and wind plants are being built, why not build solar-hydrogen or wind-hydrogen plants to provide renewable hydrogen to the nation? With some in Washington obsessed with building pipelines, why not find a private company willing to build a hydrogen pipeline from these vast renewable-hydrogen plants in the deserts to supply power plants, vehicles or buildings with clean fuel 24 hours a day to the rest of the nation?
There are endless ways to cut our emissions, we just have to be willing to do it.
So Europe, again sorry for the tough winter. Things will have to get tougher on this side of the Atlantic until major action on global warming is taken. Sit tight, we’ll give you a hand cleaning up the planet ... eventually.
Article posted by: (21 February 2012)