Thursday, August 04, 2005

Decline of Western Civilization Part VI—The Hummer and the Ice Berg

August 4, 2005

Well, at least it didn’t fall on the White House—The Larsen B ice shelf in Antartca collapsed over the austral summer in an event unprecedented in 10,000 years, according to American and Canadian researchers. You would have to go back to the end of the last ice age to find an equal. According to the paper published in Nature [$], the hunk of ice that fell off the Larsen is about the size of Luxembourg. Cause: probably global warming. In five years, the shelf has shrunk by 5,700 square kilometers (3,500 square miles). The conclusions were based on six ice cores taken from the vicinity of the ice shelf. The shelf has been thinning for years, but apparently reached, you should pardon the expression, a tipping point at the end of March when 50 billion tons fell off into the Weddell Sea, creating thousands of large ice bergs. It all happened in 35 days. The ice is floating so by itself, that won’t raise sea levels, but it could speed up the motion of ice on the land toward the sea which will. Remember that great scene in “The Day After Tomorrow” (an otherwise really stupid movie) in which a tsunami attacks Manhattan? That kind of stuff. But what is our government doing about all of this? Read on.

Let’s skip the details and jump right to the evasions—The U.S., Australia, China and India—countries that are unhappy with the Kyoto protocol, have issued a new pact to develop technologies that will combat global warming by reducing greenhouse gasses, thereby actually eliminating the need to do something. It would make it unnecessary to actually make sacrifices and would finesse the Kyoto protocol, which the U.S. and Australia, alone among developing nations, refuse to adopt. Kyoto demands that greenhouse emissions be cut by 5.2 percent below 1990 levels by 2008. That would require the world’s largest polluter (us) by far to to take real action rather than pass energy bills like the bill it passed last week, which dumped billions of dollars of tax relief to energy companies who make billions in profits every week and takes no action whatsoever. The U.S.’s criticism is that Kyoto doesn’t include developing nations in its restrictions. For the U.S. to fulfill Kyoto would probably mean putting restrictions on the big SUVs some Americans seem to love (”what, give up my Hummer?”) and the pickup trucks they don’t need, and it would mean putting restrictions on power plants owned by companies that pay millions to Congresspersons as election bribes. Not us.

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