Con: Establishing carbon caps is the first job for U.S. lawmakers

Posted: Friday, February 12, 2010

Congress should refrain from linking the results of the Massachusetts Senate election and the fiasco of the Copenhagen climate summit to the real issue: the steady destruction of the environment from the unceasing spewing of environmentally destructive carbon-dioxide gases into the atmosphere.

As permafrost melts and the Arctic and Greenland ice recedes, energy companies are eager to tap new deposits of oil and natural deposits. The Houston boys are even looking at ways to extract now-frozen methane-based hydrates from the ocean floor and under the permafrost.

If we think we now have a problem with carbon-based emissions, just wait until methane is extracted from below the permafrost and ocean surface. Methane hydrates are much more destructive to the atmosphere than current emissions of carbon dioxide.

Although there were high hopes for Copenhagen, the summit attracted too many politicians eager to advance their agendas and global businessmen eager to find a new way to amass profits - mainly through the problematic carbon credit trading contrivance rather than in mitigating the adverse effects of continual pollution of the environment and resulting dramatic changes in the climate around the world.

A recent Ipsos-Reuters poll found that 65 percent of those polled in 23 countries believe that the governments and businesses were taking the necessary actions to stem the effects of climate change.

Of the respondents, 84 percent of those polled in Argentina believed not enough was being done to save the climate. Agreeing with the Argentines were 76 percent of Germans; 65 percent of Russians; 62 percent of Americans; and 55 percent of Japanese.

If these polling results don't convince the Congress that current action is needed, perhaps the wild weather being experienced by some of their constituents will make them take notice of what is in store for the world in the near future.

Recent headlines show that, in fact, global climate change is having an impact on the weather. Tornados in the greater Los Angeles area flipped cars and torrential rains flooded streets in Long Beach. So much for the old song refrain, "It never rains in southern California." The strange weather in southern California was followed by a very rare tornado warning for the San Francisco Bay Area.

This winter has also seen snow fall in Orlando, Fla., and below-freezing temperatures wreaked havoc on Florida's citrus crop and Louisiana's sugar cane fields. Florida's tropical fish industry saw millions of fish die as a result of freezing weather. The late House Speaker Thomas "Tip" O'Neill often mused that "all politics is local." Such a devastating impact of climate change should send a clear warning to the members of Congress whose constituents have been adversely affected by wild alterations in the weather.

But it is not just the weather that poses a problem for American farmers and fishermen. America's continued dependence on oil and an impetus by some in Congress to open up pristine off-shore areas to drilling also poses an environmental threat.

A recent major oil spill in Port Arthur, Texas, put shrimp and fish nurseries at risk. Without a clear commitment to curb America's thirst for carbon-based fuels, such environmental catastrophes will become the order of the day.

If carbon-credit offsets are considered a potential arena for fraud by Wall Street and some climate change data linked to carbon trading interests is considered to have tarnished the otherwise provable science of climate change, Congress can eliminate the profit motive by scrapping carbon trading all together.

But carbon caps - perhaps enforced by across-the-board taxes on carbon emissions - should remain as a priority for the environment and all species, including humans, whose future depends on a livable and sustainable world.

• Wayne Madsen is a contributing writer to the progressive Online Journal ( Readers may write to him c/o National Press Club, Front Desk, 529 14th Street NW, Washington, D.C. 20045.

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