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Obama, Our Climate-Change Leader

We have been dawdling along about fighting global warming. It took a long time for scientists to convince us that there is catastrophe ahead if we do nothing. Even now that the vast majority of us is convinced of the need for action, we have been doing nothing. Worse than nothing: we’ve been guzzling gas and building coal-fired plants left and right. Now President-elect Obama promises fast change.

For years we have been uncertain as to when the tipping point would come. By tipping point I mean the year where carbon emission particles are so many that it would be almost impossible to prevent calamity regardless of what we do. We have been assuming the tipping point to be about 550 ppm (parts per million), though many scientist have pegged the tipping point at 450 ppm. We figured we had time. Very little time, but time.

But now we find out that we do not have any time at all since today carbon emission particles are at 385 ppm and according to James Hansen, the most knowledgeable scientist on this subject:

James Hansen, head of the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies Hansen says the EU target of 550 parts per million of C02 - the most stringent in the world - should be slashed to 350ppm. He argues the cut is needed if "humanity wishes to preserve a planet similar to that on which civilisation developed".

And Bush pays no attention. Congress pays no attention. Americans pay no attention. Something will happen we think. But nothing will happen without action. Finally we have a real leader that will take charge of the climate change problem: Barack Obama:

Obama on Tuesday issued a video message to a climate change conference held in California by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, saying he would establish annual targets to reduce U.S. carbon emissions to their 1990 levels by 2020, and aim to lower them another 80 percent by 2050.

Let's hope it is not too late. Nobody knows the future but we are sure that the temperature will keep on rising, the icebergs will keep on melting and the sea level will keep on rising. I can't wait for Obama to lead us out of our apathy.


Posted by Paul Siegel at November 19, 2008 6:22 PM
Comments
Comment #270627

While we need to promote the green agenda, I doubt it will be compatable with the recession, recovery and Obama’s re-election.

Obama is screwed trying to work on this country/world issue. I believe that it takes a higher level of personal sacrifice (by our fellow American and world citizens) to make a greener policy success at its start. How long will it take to make green policies, that are what we need, mainstream? Anyones guess, but perhaps 10-20 years?

Is there an example of a direction like green that one President set and other continued? Within the last 40 years? I am asking because I am drawing a blank.

Right President, perhaps the wrong time. Could be a frustrating dissapointment but will not break Obama’s back.

Posted by: Honest at November 19, 2008 7:10 PM
Comment #270630

When it comes to climate change I’m extremely pessimistic. Jimmy Carter did every thing to get us on the right track. But he was criticized for it, and the first thing Reagan did was to take the solar cells off the White House and get oil flowing again. The Carter Administration seems like a long time ago, but ten years before that Al Gore’s professors were talking about a potential train wreck we were heading for.
We missed an excellent opportunity on 9/11. If president Gore had blamed every thing on oil and the middle east he could have declared war on energy. IF IT BECAME PATRIOTIC TO SAVE ENERGY AND UNPATRIOTIC TO WASTE ENERGY, WE COULD CHANGE EVERY THING QUICKLY. But I don’t see that happening.
Unfortunately in America people look up to consumption. Conspicuous consumption is the top of the heap where every one wants to be. Until that changes I don’t see much hope. But then I said I was extremely pessimistic. We’re going to keep burning fossil fuel until we’re all dead.

Just like reelecting incumbents. We are causing our problems.

Posted by: Mike the Cynic at November 19, 2008 8:26 PM
Comment #270637

In the 1970s and 1980s In our quest to achieve a cleaner burn IE the removal of hydrocarbons and the other nasty smog producing Items we invented catalytic converters and Air scrubbers for autos and trucks ” estimated to be at 251 million registered in the US of A ” and factories ? and business ? they achieved there objective quite well our skies are fairly clear but the trade off was in Co2 .

Posted by: Rodney Brown at November 19, 2008 10:00 PM
Comment #270642


If Obama is as serious about reducing CO2 emissions as he was about running lobbyists out of Washington, we should temper our expectations.

Posted by: jlw at November 19, 2008 10:37 PM
Comment #270643

I’m pretty sure Obama has a ‘High Noon’ attitude about running Lobbyists out of Washington. He’s going to carry his hog-leg, low on his left leg, tied down for a fast draw. He’ll take to the street, walking slow and saying little, but all the lobbyists will get the message and run.

He hasn’t taken office yet, and he’s already failed at having an impact on lobbyists, WOW!

If lobbying hasn’t become more open and transparent in the course of his first term, you may have reason for concern, but remember this, lobbying is legal. The best a president can do is influence it to become more open and above-board. In this I expect you’ll see a big difference from the 14th Street gang of thugs who’ve managed to strangle our government since at least Reagan’s loosy-goosy approach.

Posted by: Nincompoop at November 19, 2008 11:15 PM
Comment #270644

jlw,

Why do you question Obama’s commitment to CO2 reduction? Has he made any speeches or written any papers that leas you to this conclusion? Please give us a little bone to chew on. Just saying the words don’t make it true. He said he is serious about reduced levels of CO2. I believe he is, because he is a serious man, with a serious responsibility coming up very soon.

Posted by: Nincompoop at November 19, 2008 11:21 PM
Comment #270674

jlw is just referring to the flap that the nay-sayers and couch-potato critics are clucking their tongues at Obama’s specultated picks for certain cabinent posts — Most recently Tom Daschle — and use that as “evidence” that he is going back on his pledge re: not having lobbiests working for him — However again those charges are way too early as no one knows if they will actually get the jobs, nor how Obama might mitigate their “checkered” past.

The Opinion I have was also voiced by those a bit more reasoned in their judgement — you need to look at how Obama will handle these things, not necessarily whether or not they are lobbiest, etc

It will come down to in reality — Who is in charge?
And so far — from the campaign to the transition — it is VERY evident that OBAMA is the one in charge — unlike #43 who didn’t have a clue, let alone present an image of being in charge.

Posted by: Russ at November 20, 2008 11:55 AM
Comment #270688

Paul: Nobody knows the future but

Very true.

Paul: we are sure that the temperature will keep on rising, the icebergs will keep on melting and the sea level will keep on rising.

We are? I’m not. How are you sure this will happen?

As far as I know, it has never been definitively proved that either human activity is primarily responsible for the statistically certain rise in average global temperature or that anything we might/could do would make any difference, in terms of stopping or reversing the rise in temperature.

I notice you fail to cite a conclusive study supporting your view. I also notice that although you cite an article by James Hansen, that article does not cite a conclusive study supporting his view.

Don’t get me wrong: there is absolutely no question in my mind that global warming is occurring - I can see that merely by looking at climate statistics; what I do question is whether human activity is primarily responsible and whether a change in our activity would make any difference.

The good thing about an Obama administration is they are likely to use a scientific approach to study the problem and look for a solution, unlike the current faith-based, proudly ignorant presidency which chose to at best look the other way or at worst to actively attack those who were trying to determine a cause and solution.

Posted by: EJN at November 20, 2008 2:39 PM
Comment #270692

Jimmy Carter did everything to get us on the right track. But he was criticized for it, and the first thing Reagan did was to take the solar cells off the White House and get oil flowing again.” OK attack me when I’m done, I never Criticized carter on his effort, give him A for effort. But those infant systems carter used were a pile of Trash junk Crap, the panels were not the problem it was the redundant and Rube Goldberg design of that early batch hot water solar assited system and the mechanics who installed them were chimps. my father could have made millions installing them in California, even sears was installing them for up to $7,500 A House, they used many controls and circulating pumps that were improperly poorly designed, these controlls ran off electricity ,you had a water holding tank that held 50-60 gallons of warm to hot water, the controlls and thermostats and pumps and relays would open and close at the desired temperature and circulate water to the panels and back to the holding tank, then when you got in the shower the holding tank would flow into your existing natural gas hot water heater at best even in California with it’s 300 plus days of sun you would get a maximum of 3 tanks of warm water.how much sunlight does DC Get. My dad made a wad on repairs, I bought a House in California in 2000 with a abandoned Old batch system installed in 1980 it was disconnected and written on the holding Tank was the companies that made the repairs to it the the list was three foot long.I took the two panels off the Roof and put them in a better sun gathering location and put a tee on my pool pump and that heats my pool most of the year.

Posted by: Rodney Brown at November 20, 2008 3:46 PM
Comment #270704


Rodney: Carter’s emphasis wasn’t on having everyone rush out and buy first generation solar hot water heaters. It was on government money for research and development. Had we given as many tax dollars to alternatives as we have given the oil companies over the years since Carter, in all likelyhood, we would have far better alternative systems today.

Nincompoop: Russ is exactly right. I am reacting to what Obama is actually doing as opposed to what he said he was going to do. As to whether Obama will control the lobbyists and cronies that he wants in his administration or they will control him, time will tell.

Personally, I expect liberals will be defending Obama, making a lot of excuses for why he won’t be able to live up to his promises in much the same way that republicans have defended Bush.

Wealth is power and we always underestimate the influence that it has on our elected officials and the policies that they produce.

Posted by: jlw at November 20, 2008 5:24 PM
Comment #270711

jlw said “Rodney: Carter’s emphasis wasn’t on having everyone rush out and buy first generation solar hot water heaters.” Baloney bully pulpit and all come on there are standards in any industry what was wrong with UL testing one year that’s all for crying out loud, It was a shark feeding frenzy,Honeywell and white -Rodger’s controlls and sears and every midnight fly by nighter half as*ed mechanic made millions on ripping the consumers off.

Posted by: Rodney Brown at November 20, 2008 6:15 PM
Comment #270719

EJN

Meteorologists, oceanographers, climatologists, and people from other related fields that have PhD’s in their subjects, some of whom have studied global warming for 20 or 30 years pretty much all agree that global warming is caused my man. Could they be wrong? Of course, but I don’t want to bet my grandchildren’s life on it.


Rodney

Yes I agree Jimmy Carter was using 35 year old technology. Too bad the conservative movement took us away from alternative energy. We sure need it now. And if Obama has a big new program for wind and solar I expect and hope a lot of people will jump on the money. We need the jobs.

Posted by: Mike the Cynic at November 20, 2008 9:27 PM
Comment #270721

The “conservative movement” didn’t take us away from alternative energy.

Did the “conservative movement” convince rich people in America to finance the development of personal computers? No. But when my not-rich parents bought a Tandy that was literally TEN THOUSAND times slower than this four-year-old model on my desk, back in 1982, they paid more than four times what this computer cost.

Did the “conservative movement” convince rich Americans to finance the development of cell phones, or flat-screen televisions, or any of thousands of items we now take for granted?

No.

People decided, for whatever reason, they wanted those things, and rich people would pay exorbitant prices for them while they were in developemnt. Remember the first color TVs? They were awful, and they cost upwards of a thousand dollars in dollars compared to which todays dollars are worth fifteen cents.

Want this stuff to happen? Get rich people to think it’s sexy, or status-bearing, or just really urgent to have solar power for their house, or solar heating for their hot water, or wind power they can make the power company buy from them when they make too much. Encourage them to buy the hybrid SUV, because they will then be subsidizing development of systems adaptable to smaller cars.

The rich in this country are evenly split between Democrats and Republicans. If stuff ain’t happening it’s not just a problem with the “conservative movenmet”. If only the Democrat rich folks got excited about this stuff you could just let them at it! They would lead the economy into the future.

Then get out of the way.

Posted by: Lee Jamison at November 20, 2008 10:20 PM
Comment #270724

Lee
There’s a difference, when personal computers, cell phones, flat-screen televisions, or any of thousands of items we now take for granted were developed they were not in direct competition with one of the biggest industries around. Oil, coal and gas have done whatever it takes to stop alternative energy, a long with those who did their bidding (Ron, George, Bill, and George). The Reagan revolution did make sure we had plenty of fusel fuel, and stop damn near all work on alternative energies.

Posted by: Mike the Cynic at November 20, 2008 11:10 PM
Comment #270725
stop damn near all work on alternative energies.

Bull

Posted by: Rhinehold at November 21, 2008 12:53 AM
Comment #270732

Mike: Meteorologists, oceanographers, climatologists, and people from other related
Mike: fields that have PhD’s in their subjects, some of whom have studied global warming for 20
Mike: or 30 years pretty much all agree that global warming is caused my man.

The key words in your response above are “pretty much all”, and those words are not true.

MANY “Meteorologists, oceanographers, climatologists, and people from other related fields that have PhD’s in their subjects…” think it is caused by man.

At the same time, many DON’T think it is caused by man. A few still haven’t reached a conclusion.

Of the many who are firmly convinced that mankind’s actions are causing the problem, there is even less consensus as to what can or should be done about it and whether anything we can or should do will actually make enough difference to matter.

For example, some who are firmly convinced that mankind is causing warming think all we need to do to stop the progression is to end the practice of raising domesticated animals for food, arguing that CO2 and CH4 emitted by domestic food animals far outweighs that emitted by any other source for which man is responsible.

Mike: Could they be wrong? Of course, but I don’t want to bet my grandchildren’s life on it.

But this assumes not only that the experts who blame mankind’s activities are not wrong about that, but also that whatever mitigation activities are undertaken a) will do enough good to help and b) not cause some other unforeseen negative consequence that is as bad or worse.

Suffice it to say that if the problem mankind’s activities are causing is so big that it will potentially result in loss of life to future generations, I doubt there’s anything we can do to mitigate the problem that won’t per se cause every bit as serious problems.

For example, let’s assume that we need to stop the use of hydrocarbon fuel for automobiles and trucks to reverse the effects of global warming (not that I believe for a second it would be that “easy”, but just for the sake of argument let’s suppose).

Also suppose that X number of lives would then not be lost or negatively impacted as a result of global warming being halted. My thinking is that because of such things as less farm productivity resulting in less food production resulting in more starvation and higher transportation costs resulting in more concentrated population density resulting in more murder deaths in urban areas, the X lives saved by halting global warming will be very nearly nullified by the Y lives lost due to not using hydrocarbon fuels in automobiles and trucks.

In other words, you assume that we must do something to stop global warming and that whatever we do will have no negative effect on the lives of our grandchildren.

Without knowing specifically what you’re proposing we do to counteract global warming, it’s wrong to accept that assumption.

Posted by: EJN at November 21, 2008 8:59 AM
Comment #270734

Mike,

There’s a difference, when personal computers, cell phones, flat-screen televisions, or any of thousands of items we now take for granted were developed they were not in direct competition with one of the biggest industries around.
Are you kidding?

The cell phone industry as we know it could only develop at the expense of one of the largest industial monopolies in the world of the 1970s-AT&T, which was dismantled in the 1980s under the Reagan Justice Department, you may recall. Television didn’t compete with radio? Flat-screen doesn’t directly compete with CRT? The Automobile didn’t directly compete with the RAILROADS, easily the largest industrial powers of the late 19th century?

Computers compete with EVERYTHING.

What rock did you grow up under?

Posted by: Lee Jamison at November 21, 2008 9:44 AM
Comment #270787

There are so many small creeks and rivers in the North east. one mans dream will come true and notice the small footprint. http://www.popularmechanics.com/science/earth/4281705.html?series=15

Posted by: Rodney Brown at November 22, 2008 1:48 PM
Comment #270788

in the comment section this person claims 0 fish kill and no dams. Website: www.fieldstoneenergy.com
Anders, I would like to invite you to take a look at our approach to power generation. Zero fish kill, no dams and power an order of magnitude greater than turbine technology. www.fieldstoneenergy.com

Posted by: Rodney Brown at November 22, 2008 1:56 PM
Comment #270791

http://www.fieldstoneenergy.co :)

Posted by: Rodney Brown at November 22, 2008 2:06 PM
Comment #270793

grrrr copy and paste.

Posted by: Rodney Brown at November 22, 2008 2:08 PM
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