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Choosing Wind Power or Climate Hell

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  • Tom Gray
    Choosing wind power or climate hell Global Warming Found to Displace Species Rewiring the world s energy Choosing wind power or climate hell By Ross Gelbspan
    Message 1 of 1 , Jan 26, 2004
      Choosing wind power or climate hell
      Global Warming Found to Displace Species
      'Rewiring' the world's energy

      Choosing wind power or climate hell

      By Ross Gelbspan

      Page B2 OP-ED in The Standard-Times on May 18, 2003

      Citing the escalating pace of global warming, Gov. Mitt Romney said
      recently he will import $100 million worth of clean energy into
      Massachusetts.That climate-friendly announcement follows the governor's
      proposed revenue-neutral tax on SUVs and corresponding tax waiver for
      highly-efficient hybrid cars.

      In November, Attorney General Thomas M. Reilly put the state's muscle
      behind climate protection when he joined a multi-state lawsuit against the
      Environmental Protection Agency to reduce carbon emissions that drive
      global warming.

      But, in a stunning display of hypocrisy, Romney and Reilly are opposing the
      proposed windfarm in Nantucket Sound, which would be the largest and most
      productive renewable energy project in the U.S.

      The governor and attorney general are allying themselves with the most
      visible windfarm opponents -- Robert Kennedy Jr. and Walter Cronkite -- who
      have long maintained they approve a switch to renewable energy, but not in
      their back yard.

      Their objection centers on the visual impact of the windmills.

      Reilly, by contrast, contends he is fighting the wind farm over legal
      issues involving the use of public property for private gain -- just as the
      region's fishermen have been doing for generations.

      The U.S. Attorney's office called Reilly's position "a misunderstanding and
      misinterpretation of federal law." The Natural Resources Defense Council
      concluded that current federal and state reviews are more than adequate to
      allow the Cape windfarm's permitting process to move forward.

      The truth is that, barring some unexpected revelation from a pending
      environmental review, there are no negative consequences associated with
      the windfarm. It will encourage fish breeding and, since the developer has
      adopted slower-turning turbines, it is expected to have little impact on
      the bird population.

      Economically, the windfarm's impacts would be extremely positive --
      generating enough clean electricity to power about three-quarters of Cape
      Cod and, according to subcontractor General Electric, creating hundreds of
      new jobs for local residents through a new windmill manufacturing facility,
      which could be located in Quincy, Fall River or New Bedford.

      Given the region's unemployment rate, that is not a marginal consideration.
      Approval of the windfarm would make Massachusetts a leader in integrating
      environmental justice into economic development policy -- rather than
      spending $100 million to import clean energy from Vermont and Canada.

      Can Governor Romney honestly justify the protection of an unspecked ocean
      view at the expense of thousands of people in southeastern Massachusetts
      whose lives are shattered by poverty-driven domestic violence, alcoholism
      and the loss of any personal sense of future?

      Most important is the statement that the Cape Wind facility would send to
      the rest of the world.

      President Bush provoked an enduring rage against the U.S. around the world
      when he withdrew the country from the Kyoto Protocol. By contrast, Holland
      has completed a plan to cut carbon emissions by 80 percent in 40 years. The
      Germans have committed to cuts of 50 percent in 50 years. And Tony Blair
      recently announced the United Kingdom would cut emissions by 60 percent in
      50 years.

      Absent a worldwide switch to clean energy, the Cape and Islands will suffer
      some of the most disruptive and costly consequences of global warming of
      any region in the country -- rising sea levels, stronger storm surges and
      increasingly intense downpours that will accelerate the erosion of coastal

      Last year, around the world, climate change from the world's burning of
      coal and oil contributed to: the deaths of 1,000 people from a heat wave in
      India; the worst floods in memory in Russia, the Czech Republic and
      Germany; the destruction by wildfires of more than 5 million acres in the
      United States and Canada; a prolonged drought that parched half the United
      States; and the displacement by flooding of more than 12 million people in
      South Asia.

      Given a certain future of increasing climatic turbulence, the rest of the
      world is dismayed at the extraordinary selfishness of Americans who
      generate a quarter of the world's carbon emissions with 5 percent of its

      The hypocrisy of Romney and Reilly is compounded by the precious,
      self-indulgent objections by Kennedy, Cronkite and others. During the civil
      rights struggles of the 1960s, the hypocrisy of many white liberals was
      embodied in the phrase: "Some of my best friends are black." Today in
      Massachusetts that hypocrisy has morphed into: "I support renewable energy
      -- but just not here."

      Ultimately, the choice is crystal clear: some distant windmills on the far
      horizon or an indeterminate future in climate hell.

      Ross Gelbspan, a former editor and reporter at The Philadelphia Bulletin,
      The Washington Post and the Boston Globe, is author of The Heat Is On
      (Perseus Books, 1998). He maintains the website: www.heatisonline.org

      Global Warming Found to Displace Species

      January 2, 2003
      The New York Times, by Andrew Revkin

      Global warming is forcing species around the world, from California
      starfish to Alpine herbs, to move into new ranges or alter habits in ways
      that could disrupt ecosystems, two groups of researchers say.

      The two new studies, by teams at the University of Texas, Wesleyan,
      Stanford and elsewhere, are reported in today's issue of the journal
      Nature. Experts not associated with the studies say they provide the
      clearest portrait yet of a biological world driven into accelerating flux
      by warming caused at least in part by human activity.

      Plants and animals have always had to adjust to shifting climates. But
      climate is changing faster now than in recent millenniums, and many
      scientists attribute the pace to rising concentrations of heat-trapping
      greenhouse gases.

      In some cases, species' ranges have shifted 60 miles or more in recent
      decades, mainly toward the poles, according to the new analyses. In others,
      the timing of egg laying, migrations and the like has shifted weeks earlier
      in the year, creating the potential to separate species, in both time and
      place, from their needed sources of food.

      One academic not associated with the studies, Dr. Richard P. Alley, an
      expert on past climate shifts who teaches at Pennsylvania State University,
      said that climate had changed more abruptly a few times since the last ice
      age and that nature had shifted in response. But, he noted, "the
      preindustrial migrations were made without having to worry about
      cornfields, parking lots and Interstates."

      Citing the new work and studies of past climate shifts, Dr. Alley saw
      particular significance in the expectation that animals and plants that
      rely on one another were likely to migrate at different rates. Referring to
      affected species, he said, "You'll have to change what you eat, or rely on
      fewer things to eat, or travel farther to eat, all of which have costs."

      The result in coming decades could be substantial ecological disruption,
      local losses of wildlife and extinction of some species, the two studies said.

      The authors express their findings with a certainty far greater than in the
      last decade, when many of the same researchers contributed to reports on
      biological effects of warming that were published by the Intergovernmental
      Panel on Climate Change, the top international research group on the issue.

      The authors of one of the new Nature papers, Dr. Camille Parmesan, a
      biologist at the University of Texas, and Dr. Gary Yohe, an economist at
      Wesleyan University, calculated that many ecological changes measured in
      recent decades had a 95 percent chance of being a result of climate warming
      and not some other factor.

      "You're seeing the impact of climate on natural systems now," Dr. Yohe
      said. "It's really important to take that seriously."

      Some butterflies have shifted northward in Europe by 30 to 60 miles or
      more, with the changes closely matching those in average warm-season
      temperatures, Dr. Parmesan said. The researchers were able to rule out
      other factors — habitat destruction, for example — as causes of the changes.

      Some of these changes meshed tightly with variations in temperature over
      time. Dr. Parmesan cited bird studies in Britain. There, populations of the
      great tit adjusted their egg laying earlier or later as climate warmed
      early in the 20th century, then cooled in midcentury and warmed even more
      sharply after the 1970's.

      Over all, Dr. Parmesan's study found that species' ranges were tending to
      shift toward the poles at some four miles a decade and that spring events,
      like egg laying or trees' flowering, were shifting 2.3 days earlier a decade.

      Around Monterey Bay in California, warmer waters have caused many
      invertebrates to shift northward, driving some species out of the bay and
      allowing others to move in from the south.

      Authors of both new papers said they were concerned that such significant
      ecological changes had already been detected even though global
      temperatures had risen only about one degree in the last century.

      They noted that projections of global warming by 2100 ranged from 2.5 to 10
      degrees above current levels, should concentrations of carbon dioxide and
      other heat-trapping gases, which flow mainly from smokestacks and
      tailpipes, continue to rise.

      By comparison, the world took some 18,000 years to climb out of the depths
      of the last ice age and warm some five to nine degrees to current conditions.

      "If we're already seeing such dramatic changes" among species, "it's really
      pretty frightening to think what we might see in the next 100 years," said
      Dr. Terry L. Root, an ecologist at Stanford University who was the lead
      author of one of the new studies.

      The two teams of researchers used different statistical methods to analyze
      data on hundreds of species, focusing mainly on plants and animals that
      have been carefully studied for many decades, like trees, butterflies and
      birds. Both teams found, with very high certainty, a clear ecological
      effect of rising temperatures.

      Several of the researchers said the effects of other, simultaneous human
      actions, like urban expansion and the introduction of invasive species,
      could greatly amplify the effects of climate change.

      For example, the quino checkerspot butterfly, an endangered species with a
      small range in northern Mexico and Southern California, is being pushed out
      of Mexico by higher temperatures while also being pushed south by growing
      suburban sprawl around Los Angeles and San Diego, Dr. Parmesan said.

      "The butterfly is caught between these two major human factors —
      urbanization in the north and warming in the south," said Dr. Parmesan, who
      has spent years studying shifting ranges of various checkerspot species.

      Dr. Alley said the studies illustrated the importance of conducting much
      more research to anticipate impending harms and devise ways to maintain
      biological diversity, for instance with green "wildlife corridors" linking
      adjacent pockets of habitat.

      'Rewiring' the world's energy

      By Ross Gelbspan

      Boston Globe op-ed, Dec. 21, 2003

      Climate change isn't just another issue in this complicated world of
      proliferating issues. It's the issue that -- unchecked -- will swamp all
      others. Unfortunately, the urgency of the climate crisis is overwhelmed by
      competition from other major problems. We are under attack from terrorists.
      We are apprehensive about the aftermath of the Iraq war. Our trick-or-treat
      economy is as unnerving to investors as it is cruel to workers. These
      diverse challenges may be susceptible to a common solution -- a rapid
      worldwide transition to clean energy.

      A clean energy revolution would reduce our dependence on oil and our
      exposure to the political volatility in the Middle East. Conversely, since
      it generates a quarter of the world's carbon emissions, America's
      continuing indifference will likely guarantee more attacks from people
      whose crops are destroyed by weather extremes, whose homelands are going
      under from rising seas and whose borders are overrun by environmental
      refugees, according to the head of the UN's Intergovernmental Panel on
      Climate Change, Rajendra Pachauri.

      Any meaningful deterrent to anti-US terrorism requires a major change in
      our posture toward developing countries. Energy investments in poor
      countries generate far more wealth and jobs than equivalent investments in
      other sectors. Transferring clean energy to poor countries would begin to
      address the economic desperation that fuels most anti-US sentiment. A
      public works program to rewire the globe with clean energy would accelerate
      economic development around the world.

      Our coal and oil burning attack the systems that have made this planet
      hospitable for 10,000 years. We are heating the deep oceans, melting ice
      caps, triggering a wave of chaotic weather, and changing the timing of the
      seasons. We are living on an increasingly narrow margin of stability.
      Nature's non-negotiable demand requires humanity cut its use of carbon
      fuels by 70 percent in a very short time, according to more than 2,000
      scientists reporting to the UN panel.

      One approach involves three interactive policies which, while cutting
      emissions, would simultaneously create millions of jobs around the world:

      []Redirect energy subsidies in industrial nations. The United States spends
      $20 billion a year to subsidize coal and oil; industrial countries overall
      spend about $200 billion. If those subsidies were phased out and equivalent
      subsidies created for renewable energy sources, oil companies would use
      them to retool and retrain their workers to become aggressive developers of
      fuel cells, wind farms, and solar systems.

      []Create a fund of $300 billion a year to transfer clean energy to poor
      countries. Virtually all developing countries would love to go solar;
      virtually none can afford it. The fund could come from a small tax on
      international currency transactions, which total $1.5 trillion every day. A
      tax of a quarter-penny-per-dollar on those transactions would yield about
      $300 billion a year for windfarms in India, solar assemblies in El
      Salvador, fuel cell factories in South Africa, and vast solar-powered
      hydrogen farms in the Middle East.

      Alternatively, financing could involve a carbon tax in industrial countries
      or a tax on airline travel.

      []Establish a binding fossil fuel efficiency standard that rises 5 percent
      per year. Starting at its current baseline, each country would raise its
      carbon efficiency 5 percent -- producing the same amount next year with 5
      percent less carbon fuel or 5 percent more with the same amount of carbon
      fuel -- until the 70 percent reduction was attained.

      Because no economy grows at 5 percent for long, emissions reductions would
      outpace economic growth. Domestic emissions trading could help countries
      meet the progressively more stringent goal. Nations would initially meet
      the goal through low-cost efficiency measures. When those cheap
      efficiencies become exhausted, countries would meet the rising efficiency
      goal by drawing progressively more energy from non-carbon sources. That, in
      turn, would create mass markets for renewables that would lower their costs
      and make them economically competitive with fossil fuels.

      A plan of this type would propel the metamorphosis of oil companies into
      energy companies. The progressive efficiency standard would make renewable
      energy a central engine of global economic growth. Competition for the new
      $300 billion a year market in clean energy would power the process.

      A real solution to climate change has the potential to begin to mend a
      fractured world.

      Ross Gelbspan is author of "The Heat is On" and the forthcoming "Fevered

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