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Things Falling Off the Table - Global Warming

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The U.S. and the world have major crises to address. There is the economy, resources, environment, and global warming. Each of these intersect in complex ways to create other massive problems: loss of jobs, failed crops, and war. And these in turn create other crises: mass migration and xenophobic responses, power grabs, destabilization of governments. Big problems all. This series of articles will focus on critical issues that fall off the table.

It seems that the mainstream media can only focus on one thing at a time, and then are easily distracted from what they are focusing on. Right now, they are focusing on healthcare reform. This is truly an important issue, but all the reporting takes us little closer to understanding the issue. However, it conveniently forced a number of other issues out of the circle - the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, the global economic crisis, and global warming (to name a few). I am starting with global warming because the news has been dire and under-reported.

Things are changing with global warming - and changing rapidly. How fast warming is happening has been revised once again. It is 2009 and we are told "World will warm faster than predicted in next five years, study warns." The culprits pointed to in the article are increasing solar activity and intensifying El Nino. So it is bad news that warming will speed up again, but solar radiation (or how it impacts the earth) and El Nino themselves are impacted by other sources. A case in point is cloud cover and ozone reduction.

In a classic example one technological advance causing more problems we have dealing with the hole in the ozone. As you may recall, this is a battle that we are supposedly winning. The ozone layer is a primary protector of the planet from solar radiation. The widespread use of chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) - chlorine based materials that were used in refrigeration of all kinds, and as propellants in spray bottles. After finally accepting the link between CFCs and destruction of the ozone layer, there was a major switch to replace CFCs with hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs). This happened in the 1990s and has been successful in allowing the ozone layer to start rebuilding itself. Yay, technology caused a problem and then solved it - or did it?

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Now we find that those ozone-saving HFCs are actually increasing the global warming problem. According to research reported in the Washington Post (7/20/09):

But researchers say what's good for ozone is bad for climate change. In the atmosphere, these replacement chemicals act like "super" greenhouse gases, with a heat-trapping power that can be 4,470 times that of carbon dioxide.

While HFCs are still a small part of the global warming gas emissions, they are a growing one. If we do not stop this source soon, then the HFCs may undermine any gains from reducing CO2 emissions.

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Given the severity of the consequences of global warming, and the fact that it is accelerating, what massive effort is being made to address the issue?

Well, "ExxonMobil (is) continuing to fund climate sceptic groups." ExxonMobil has continued to fund global warming denier think tanks and lobbying efforts despite publicly claiming that they have stopped such funding.

The G8 met in early July to hammer out a global warming strategy. The compromises to addressing the issue are not moving far enough fast enough, and certainly fall well short of the ever increasing pace of global warming. In fact, the baseline of emissions actually moved 15 years - from 1990 levels to 2005 levels. The also agreed to a 2C cap on global warming. This is one of the stupidest agreements that one could make. We clearly have no handle on even slowing down the rate of either emissions - nor controlling the positive feedback loops that are accelerating warming. What are we going to do when we hit that 2C increase? Shrug? Further, the goal for reducing emissions has been moved from 2020 to 2050. Believe me, this is a problem that we cannot "kick down the road."

Obama certainly takes global warming much more seriously that Bush did; however, is he taking it seriously enough? New evidence is now surfacing on the advance of global warming that was hidden by the Bush administration. That information has been released by Obama. Further while the Bush administration budgeted $1 for global warming for ever $88 budgeted for defense, Obama has narrowed that gap. His budget ratio is 1:9 (excluding additional funding for the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq). However, much of that is within the one time economic recovery appropriation. Beyond the recovery money, the Obama budget for global warming is $10.6 billion. (Lobe, IPS, 7/28/09).

Global warming poses a threat that may decimate human population and life on the planet. In fact, if the oceans die (and there is a growing possibility of this), then global warming may be an extinction level event. Global warming is referred to as a "threat multiplier" in security-speak - meaning that it will dramatically aggravate other security issues. Yet, the United States, and virtually every other nation, continue to drag their feet on addressing the issue.

I know we have critical issues we face as a nation and a world, but this one will not wait for us to "get around to it."
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Rowan Wolf is an activist and sociologist living in Oregon. She is the founder and principle author of Uncommon Thought Journal, and Editor in Chief of Cyrano's Journal Today.

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