Global Warming: reports from Chicago to China?
looking for climate correction from at home in Chicago all the way to China
Janet Kuypers editorial
I look for news stories that relate to global warming, and I saw one in the Wall Street Journal (02/12/07) that made me think that some change might be coming somewhere in the world when it comes to taking more care of the world we live in.
You see, when I looked into what parts of the world were contributing greenhouse gases that would contribute to global warming, the United States was extremely high. And even though the U.S. would not sign on with the Kyoto Treaty they started, there are parts of the United States that try to do something to help lower the carbon emissions. But the reasons why the U.S. wouldn’t sign on with the treaty was because of the way it treated third world countries differently; with the treaty, third world countries would not be forced to the same restrictions and guidelines for releasing carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. And countries like China and India, with the recent massive influx of corporations and cars, they are not forced to the same guidelines as other larger countries.
Now, China is a real stickler for this one, because most of their energy is derived from coal, which is worse for greenhouse gas emissions to the planet. And with China’s new desire to have the big energy-consuming American-styled life, and China is emerging as the world’s largest polluter; they currently are the second largest emitter of greenhouse gases, and scientists say China will soon pass the U.S. (if it hasn’t done so already).
But in the Wall Street Journal, I read the headline: “China Tilts Green,” that “climate concerns” are swaying Beijing... So I read on.
If you’ve read my other pieces on global warming (mid-October November 2006 and June 2007), global warming effects the weather on the planet — the fact that hurricanes and typhoons and droughts, along with record-breaking balmy weather in Beijing, has made people there wonder if problems with global warming can effect the entire country. Not only have they experienced more problems with violent weather conditions, but rising temperatures because of global warming could even threaten the nation’s food security.
Scientists have pointed out that China could be affected by climate alterations. Coastal flooding from melting polar ice caps (have you heard that the lower half of Florida could be lost with the melting of the polar ice caps? I’ve read those threats more than once, and seen it while watching an Inconvenient Truth...) would destroy major costal cities (including Shanghai and Shenzhen), and higher temperatures would devastate many Chinese farmers (who currently barely scratch by in in semiarid portions of the country). Also, many parts of China depend on rivers that get their water from glacier flow. You’d think that the melting of the glaciers would mean more water, but it wouldn’t be more water everywhere — while some coastal areas would be flooded, other places which depended on river flow from the glaciers would now not have those glaciers to bring water into their rivers. This would mean that although some places would be destroyed because of too much water, other places would lose any access to water and be destroyed. This is particularly difficult for some parts of China, because these places that depend on that water are already among the areas with the lower per-capita supply of water.
As I mentioned, because of global warming, some places would get a lot of water (from violent storms, or rising tides), but because there’s only so much water on this planet, other parts of the world would become even drier, and lose even more water.
These estimates were sobering to the people in China, because estimates evaluated estimate “crop shortages, increased floods in the rich costal river deltas and higher energy use to ward off mounting heat.”
Yes, use more energy. Becomes something of a downward spiral, doesn’t it?
You see, in the past representatives of China would state (accurately) that their greenhouse gas emissions were far lower than the west’s, and making the changes necessary would cost too much money for them. But in recent years, their manufacturing has dramatically increased, and it has been proven that only recently China’s greenhouse gas emissions have taken a sharp upturn, making them more on par with their U.S counterparts. And when the see that the effects of global warming could raise water levels for major costal cities, they not only see that areas could no longer be habitable, but they also see that their exporting (which has jumped in recent years) would have to stop from those same costal towns.
Postulated were not attempts to cap the greenhouse gases emitted in a year, but to lower the greenhouse gas emissions to a lower level than the previous year. And that is a good sign, especially from a country that has become a powerhouse in these emissions, whose energy comes from the less-efficient use of coal.
And yeah, I look for these signs from anywhere as a positive sign. I hear that areas in New York are attempting greener lives (from hybrid taxis and luxury cars to building greener skyscrapers), and I feel disappointed that Chicago (as such a huge city) doesn’t do enough. I see the number of lights that are on the plethora of expressways here, and I see the gorgeous buildings that Chicago is famous for — from it’s old district buildings to it’s miraculous skyscrapers — and know that all of these buildings use a ton of energy, from the heat to the lighting to the alarms to the elevators.
And I’m sorry, I live architecture (must be the Dutch side of me), b ut I want to find a way to make those same buildings more energy efficient.
But then I read from the Daily Herald (02/14/07, Happy Valentine’s Day back then) for metropolitan Chicago the headline “Blagojevich wants panel to figure out how to reduce greenhouse gases.” This Associated Press article explained hot the governor wanted a state advisory group to “cut the production of heat-trapping gases to 1990 levels by 2020...” This common benchmark was also used in California, and lawmakers like John McCain and Barrack Obama (our Chicago connection to the presidential election, since Hillary Clinton left her Illinois home she grew up in to be the first lady, then a senator in New York) support these measures in Congress.
Now, the state of Illinois recently bucked federal limits for mercury emissions, but they approved coal-fired power plants to reduce mercury emissions by 90% by 2009. And even the director of the Environmental Council that this was “definitely ambitious,” since Jonathan Goldman understood the scope of the problem, but a lot will come out of the recommendations of the new advisory group.
Members of this group will include people from labor unions, the utilities, environmental and consumer groups. They’ll look into ways to make new homes and cars more efficient, and they’ll look at “how electricity is generated and the fuels that people use,’ said Steve Frenkel, the policy director for the government office. Now, this group will advise Blagojevich what needs to be done to meet his goals (and where this will include changes in allow or through other administrative changes).
It’s a lot of work, but as I said, it’s a good sign, to see that people (right here and on the other side of the world) are trying to make a change.
I forgot that the easiest way for me to get any info on global warming was to just look at a newspaper ever few days, because trust me, they’ll be something in there to make you think twice. I read in the Naples Daily News (02/16/07) That January 2007 was the hottest January in recorded history ever. The headline said it was die to El Nio and to global warming. Now, I know that February got stupid cold in Chicago (like it usually does every year), and I know that New York and the northeast had a ton of snow dumped on it in February, but I remember vividly that January was painfully warmer than any other January I remembered in my life. The highs were in the 50s for at least one week in January, and this was the time of year the New Jersey even had their spring flowers blooming because of the warm weather (that won’t mess up the cycle of animals, relying on these plants who bloomed five months earlier than they should have...). But a warming El Nio and a gradually warming world made January 2007 a record-breaker for temperatures (temperatures are measured by the world’s land wand water temperatures combined, and these temperatures have been measured since 1980). And usually when temperatures go up, they go up less than one percentage — and in January 2007, the temperature was 3.4 degrees warmer than last year.
This Seth Borenstein AP article also pointed out that this warmer weather was spurred on in part to an unusually warm Siberia, northern Asia, Europe and Canada (well, they didn’t mention Chicago, but it was unusually warm here too), according to the U.S. National Climactic Data Center in Asheville, NC.
So, maybe we life to always go above and beyond what’s expected of us, but the overachiever in us might not want to rest on the laurels of these numbers. We may have started a cycle that we can’t just stop (so the heating doesn’t destroy us), and these higher temperatures in some places may cause that violent weather that disrupts our lives in other ways. There’s too vast an assortment of other options that will also occur with every little change we see in the world — since nature is one big interlocked cycle, everything is linked here, and one little change here will translate to many changes everywhere.
Read a little note in the Naples Daily News (02/19/07) another small article about a strain for a form of flu that’s new once again to the population. “H5N1 bird flu strain in 2 suburban districts” was the headline of this news-in-brief, explaining that in Moscow, a Russian official found a fourth outbreak of dead domestic poultry in the Taldom district (north of Moscow). As of yet there are no human cases, but... I even saw another AP headline in the Naples Daily News (02/27/07) that read “Government says first vaccine against bird flu even less effective that thought.” It’s conforting to think that with the new diseases that are springing up that could affect us, we can’t find effective ways to fight them... I think of all of the recent past pandemics I’ve heard broadcast in the news (I even remember seeing a news photo of a Chinese woman with the words “SARS” printed in big red capital letters on her surgical mask because of the fear of this at-the-time news disease), and it makes me think that due to the fact that (A) people consume so much meat on this planet, and (B) people don’t often take enough of the the right measured to sanitize any food that may have been clean in the first place, as well as (C) new diseases springing up in the world because of climate change, allowing new diseases to flourish in new temperatures, are all factors in the presence of new diseases springing up in the world the we humans have to be prepared for. Climate change, alone with the choices that we humans make in the world, contribute to this continuing and growing problem.
And you know, when I think of political rants I’ve listened to before about human political rights, I’ve heard the argument that people should have the right to do what worked best for them in their life, and if that means that nature takes second place, then... then nature be damned. It sounds rude, but the major contention is that people shouldn’t sacrifice their right to things like life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness to take care of small animals or trees in a forest. People mean more than that. Their argument is that is we cared too much about these things, then all we’d do is sacrifice ourselves as humans for it — we wouldn’t be able to cut down trees to build homes or for firewood (granted, the wood has to have been dead long enough to be dry for firewood...), and we wouldn’t be able to ride horses, or keep pets, or kill animals for food (or use their skin for your leather, either). Now, I know I’m a vegetarian, because I don’t have to support animal death to function well in this world, but I don’t stop other people from choosing to allow slaughtered animals in their lives. And the point this political argument made is that people should have the right to do what they think is best — even if that means killing animals, or cutting down trees for house lumber (or razing rain forest land to plant orange groves, so Americans can have cheaper orange juice). People should have thee right to do these things if they feel it is in their best interest.
And as a supported of individual rights, I’m otherwise for this argument, “tree huggers” who tell you that cars are evil take it a little too far in my book, and people can make the choice to have a car if they want to (or feel they need to). But, if you consider this argument, I’d hope the proponents of this political stance would see that saving the world - i.e., reducing carbon emissions, might actually be what’s best for them as humans in the long run. Maybe if people start taking care of the world more, the world will be in good enough shape to sustain its inhabitants until your old age. It sounds far-fetched, but I don’t think it’s too much of a sacrifice to use a hybrid sedan instead of a gas-guzzling SUV to go from point A to point B, and I don’t think it’s too much of a hassle to not leave lights on when you’re not in a room, or even to unplug your television, or even unplug you recharger for you cellular phone (yes, these things pull electricity even if they’re not on and even if they’re not charging anything). And keeping these kind of little points in mind really isn’t that much of a sacrifice — and you’ll be rewarded for it by the world later in life. Trust me.
I even read additional potential support for people caring about the future of the planet they live on — like I heard how actor Orlando Bloom is planning to build his home in London as completely green: Bloom even said, “It’s got solan panels on the roof, energy-efficient light bulbs —newer technology basically that is environmentally friendly.” Bloom even added, “It doesn’t have to be overwhelming, there are simple things we can do.”
He’s right, and Susan Solomon, who is a scientist at the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association who “was instrumental in developing the Intergovernmental Panel on Climactic Change,” even said (in an AP article I saw in the Naples Daily News, 02/20/07) even said that she was “incredibly encouraged” about “public understanding of the dangers of global warming.” The panel she helped develop released a report that reaffirmed the effects and viability of global warming, that there is a 90% chance it has been exacerbated by human activity. The report even reminds the world that changes in things like rain and snow are effected by global warming — so if you see strange weather patterns (like a ton of snow in the entire state of New York in February, maybe this explains why these things happen to our climate).
It is sad that attempts to change these weather changes that we see now won’t occur immediately (like, if I stop using energy or powering anything to emit greenhouse gases for a year, that doesn’t mean Chicago will be free of horrendous weather next winter...), but changes will occur, even if the results will only be long-term results. Saw an AP article by Aiofee White in the Naples Daily News (02/21/07) that people are looking for long-term changes. The headline read that “EU ministers agree to 20% cut in greenhouse gas emissions by 2020,” where they reported that in Bruxelles (Brussels, Belgium) the ambitious target may also lead to “mandatory caps for cars and pollution allowances for airplanes.” Although this may be a harder goal to hit for the new members of the EU, but that cumulative target could go as low as 30% below the 1990 levels “if other industrial countries sign on to a global effort.” In Germany, many people spoke of a “moral duty toward future generations in their talks,” and these numbers still had to be approved by the EU later, but they are looking to have a stronger system in place by 2009, and this would be a good goal to reach for after the Kyoto Protocol expires in 2012.
Granted, the Bush administration isn’t signed on with the Kyoto Treaty (which it started), but they say they’re interested in looking for new technologies to combat global warming. I’m sure you’re probably hear Bush talk to Switch Grass, and others have talked of corn (with ethanol). Granted, we can’t produce enough corn to clear us of the oil addiction we have to the Middle East, but Bush even stated in his State of the Union Address in 2007 that we should reduce 20% less gasoline over the next 10 years, and according to an AP article 02/24/07 Bush was looking over same hybrid cars, like an all-electric SUV on the White House lawn 02/23/07. President Bush even said, “I firmly believe that the goal I laid out — that Americans will use 20% less gasoline over the next 10 years — is going to be achieved, and here’s living proof of how we’re going to get there.”
The EU ministers advanced discussions on imposing carbon emission limits for new cars (as well as using more wind, solar and possibly nuclear energy rather than depending on carbon-rich fossil fuels), but around the world we have to try as many avenues as physically possible to help us get through this probably self-induced climate change, which can effect out planet for generations.
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