NY Times Triples on Climate Change

The NY Times has three op-eds this morning dealing with climate change:

  1. An op. ed. by Bruce Usher argues for a clean energy strategy: “The United States still has a very long way to go to curtail emissions, but the states are heading in the right direction, and national energy policy must build on their efforts. Congress should extend federal financing, tax credits and loan guarantees for renewable energy projects and for upgrading transmiss ion lines. It should also develop clear environmental standards for extracting natural gas from shale. The American desire for energy security and for new jobs creates an opportunity to pass an energy bill in the next Congressional session.”
  2. Another op. ed. by Veerabhadran Ramanathan and David Victor argues for beginning with the non-CO2 greenhouse gases: “Other potent warming agents include three short-lived gases — methane, some hydrofluorocarbons and lower atmospheric ozone — and dark soot particles. The warming effect of these pollutants, which stay in the atmosphere for several days to about a decade, is already about 80 percent of the amount that carbon dioxide causes. The world could easily and quickly reduce these pollutants; the technology and regulatory systems needed to do so are already in place.”
  3. Jack Hedin, a Minnesota farmer, writes about the impacts that changing climate has had on his farm.  He reports that: “The weather in our area has become demonstrably more hostile to agriculture, and all signs are that this trend will continue. Minnesota’s state climatologist, Jim Zandlo, has concluded that no fewer than three “thousand-year rains” have occurred in the past seven years in our part of the state.”  He worries about the future: “Climate change, I believe, may eventually pose an existential threat to my way of life. A family farm like ours may simply not be able to adjust quickly enough to such unendingly volatile weather.”

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Reader Comments

5 Replies to “NY Times Triples on Climate Change”

  1. Veerabhadran Ramanathan and David Victor write that “the world could easily and quickly reduce” tropospheric ozone.

    The operative word there is “could.” Another word I can think to respond to that sentence is “bullshit.”

    Man, I love these ivory tower guys. I have been working for more than three years to convince my local government of Takoma Park, Md. (the so-called “Berkeley of the East”) that it should ban gas-powered leaf blowers. I have avoided the “noise” argument, contending instead that the air pollution caused by lawn care equipment in general — and blowers in particular — is a significant contributor to high levels of health-endangering ozone. High levels of ozone pollution lead to the Code Red and Code Orange days we get back here with more and more frequency.

    I have documented the levels of nitrogen oxides and ozone as collected at a monitoring station located at an elementary school. I have presented all the local politicians with thick binders of information — excerpts from EPA studies, regulations, scientific papers. I’ve even managed to get a few intelligent enviros on board.

    Bottom line — they don’t want to do it. They don’t want to tell people how they should “care” for their lawns.

    It matters not where you are. The notion that it is “easy” to convince governments to tell people to eschew such “labor-saving devices” is unrealistic and ridiculous. It’s hard. It’s near-impossible. Facts don’t seem to matter — facts like the number of days of work lost because of ozone pollution or the number of school days lost, the number of deaths — yes, deaths, according to the National Research Council of the National Academies of Science and Engineering — caused by high ozone levels.

    None of it matters. No matter whether your community is “green” or “carbon black,” if elected officials try to tell people they can’t have perfectly manicured and spotless lawns, those officials will be castigated as tyrants who are trying to stifle the creativity and freedom of the people.

    Much of the debate about climate change diverts attention from other serious pollution problems — like ozone. But ozone pollution just ain’t sexy. So, we’ll continue to have folks flying around the world arguing for 350 or whatever they will be arguing for. Meanwhile, the world’s getting sicker.

    If you guys out there in Berkeley-land want to get involved, go check out Orinda next door, where Peter and Susan Kendall have been fighting to get rid of leaf blowers. So far, they haven’t been able to make it happen. The issue is the same, the dynamics are the same. The “antis” are seen as NIMBYs, the politicians are scared (not sure why), the people will remain besieged by the pointless tending of lawns that should just be replaced with Astroturf and denuded of trees lest they create more leaves.

    So, happy reading. Let’s all cogitate some more and ponder what to do. Please don’t mind me or my asthmatic friends. We’ll be gasping for breath.

  2. Several years ago the EPA along with our local newspaper and environmental groups, were clamoring for new ozone regulations. They made a false claim that 436 people suffered premature death from ozone pollution in our city every year. When skeptics asked for proof such as names, dates, medical records, etc., the EPA failed to produce one name and could not produce any medical records to back-up its outrageous lie about human deaths. “Premature” deaths from air pollution is junk science that is not credible . Ordinary citizens can not trust the EPA to tell the truth.

  3. bqrq, your comment ignores many years of scientific research about existence and nature of environmental risks, and ozone’s risks in particular. Here are summaries of just a few recent scientific articles documenting ozone’s risks in particular.
    http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/04/080422135728.htm
    http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2006/02/060216231940.htm
    http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/06/070621143648.htm
    http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/09/070930083243.htm
    http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/09/070930083243.htm
    http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/07/090723175500.htm
    Some of these sources criticize the EPA for being too lax in its standard-setting.
    EPA’s inability to identify dead bodies has nothing to do with the validity of the methods used in these studies, which demonstrate ozone’s risks, including the risk of premature death. Your use of rhetoric like “outrageous lie” to describe EPA’s use of accepted scientific methods and conclusions is rather inapt.

  4. Bqrq (Bacharach? If you are, croon me a tune about livin with smog)

    Here’s a link to web resources on the 2008 Natl Research Council report I cited:

    http://dels.nas.edu/Report/Estimating-Mortality-Risk-Reduction-Economic/12198

    “The report concludes that short-term exposure to current levels of ozone in many areas contributes to premature deaths and that such deaths are more likely among individuals with pre-existing diseases and other susceptibility factors but not limited to people who are already within a few days of dying. The link is strong enough that the EPA should include ozone-related mortality in its health-benefit analyses for future ozone standards. The report also concludes that if ozone has a threshold — a concentration of ozone below which exposure poses no risk of death–it is probably at a concentration below the current public health standard.”

    At some point, we have to accept consensus reports like those issued by the National
    Research Council and not deride them as “junk science.”

    The report was prepared because, acc. to NRC,

    “Evidence of a relationship between short-term exposure to ozone and mortality has
    been mounting, but because interpretations of the evidence have differed, the U.S.
    Environmental Protection Agency asked the Research Council to analyze the ozone-
    mortality link and assess methods for assigning a monetary value to lives saved.”

    http://www.nap.edu/catalog.php?record_id=12198#toc Table of Contents. You can read it at your leisure.

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Dan Farber

Dan Farber has written and taught on environmental and constitutional law as well as about contracts, jurisprudence and legislation. Currently at Berkeley Law, he has al…

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