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The TCBH! Climate Change Report: A Palm Tree Grows in Maple Glen, PA

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By Dave Lindorff


Palmetto palms are beautiful, but in the wrong place, scary
(Image by This Cant Be Happening!)
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I went out today and checked on my palm tree. It's a small thing: the trunk is only about a foot from the ground, with the palmate fronds spreading out from the upper part. New fronts appear as compressed blades sticking up from the center. They have a kind of fuzz on them, like the tiny white hairs on a newborn baby. What makes my little palm unusual is it sits in my front yard in Maple Glen, Pennsylvania, about 10 miles north of the edge of Philadelphia. It's clearly not a native species to this area, but it is doing surprisingly well. Although we've had a number of nights now when the temperature dropped below freezing, including two when it dropped to about 26 degrees, the fronds are still bright green, and the shoots have continued to grow.

While the palm is pretty, and striking in its own way, standing out against the backdrop of deciduous trees that have finally shed all their leaves for the winter, it is also a little disturbing -- a harbinger of an enormous climate change that is taking place in front of my eyes.

I have good reason to believe that this little tree is going to survive our Philadelphia winter, and that it will continue to grow where I planted it, perhaps becoming the first palm in Pennsylvania.

As I write this, negotiators are meeting in Doha, supposedly to negotiate a treaty that will lead to serious efforts by the nations of the world to finally start reducing the release of more carbon into the earth's already overloaded atmosphere. We hear from UN researchers that the global emissions of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere have risen by 54% between 1990 and 2011, and that by the end of this year, that number will be 58%. They were supposed to be going down over that period. 

Meanwhile, the evidence that all this carbon is starting to have a snowball effect on global warming. Ice caps in both the Arctic and the Antarctic are melting, and at a faster rate than anyone was predicting even five years ago. The oceans, both as a result of that melting, and thanks to the expansion of the water itself as it warms, is showing a measurable rise, which was one of the reasons for the extraordinary damage done to New York City and the surrounding shorelines by the recent late-season super-storm Hurricane Sandy. A similar superstorm, with winds up to almost 200 mph, located further south than ever recorded in the Pacific, just tore through Mindanao in the southern Philippines. 

We know all this. We know that central US is experiencing a historic drought that shows no signs of easing. We know the whole globe is warming. We know that the ice at the North Pole is vanishing in summer, so that within a decade it could vanish, with the darker waters of the exposed Arctic Ocean soaking up the summer sun instead of the ice reflecting its rays, so that the heating will be even more rapid.

Yet the negotiators at Doha say they are making no progress. The representatives from the US are playing a negative role. Instead of taking the lead, they are reportedly throwing a wrench into the process, saying the US is "already doing all it can" to combat global warming. This as the US prepares to approve a pipeline to transport oil from Canada's tar sands down to the lower-48 for use heating homes, fueling SUVs and other oversized gas-guzzling cars, and running generators. The truth: the US is doing next to nothing to slow the ever expanding burning of fossil fuels.

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Dave Lindorff is a founding member of the collectively-owned, journalist-run online newspaper www.thiscantbehappening.net. He is a columnist for Counterpunch, is author of several recent books ("This Can't Be Happening! Resisting the (more...)
 

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