Good News in New York

Today the news came out that New York will not allow fracking. The evidence that it contaminates the environment is too strong for responsible officials to ignore. I am not sure what was the most decisive, but the presence of benzene in the air around drilling sites was pretty alarming.

A second bit of good news is the recognition of Cuba by the US government. This is long overdue. The danger of Communism so close to our shores, a bugboo for Republicans, never was very convincing to me, once the Soviet Union had collapsed. We need to have normal relationships with our neighbors, even if our political systems differ considerably. Not that I want to visit Cuba! Key West is close enough for me.

A third bit of good news, not so recent actually, is the decline in unemployment. Obama inherited an immense disaster, thanks to his Republican predecessor, GW Bush. The country is just now regaining the position it had lost.

A fourth bit of good news are the tremendous discoveries being made in science and technology. The detection of sudden methane emissions on Mars suggests that there may have been life on the planet; every day it seems that there are new medical and scientific breakthroughs.

The one fly in the ointment is the immense power the Republican party has gained in the last election. The good news was a little too slow in reaching the public. These grinches could well spoil it all.


Move Away from Fossil Fuels

The following letter from me appeared in the Schenectady Gazette last Saturday:
A retired engineer named Russ Wege in the December 8 Schenectady Gazette “Science is not settled on climate changes” goes over some of the known history of climate change, noting that temperature has gone down sometimes when carbon dioxide levels were rising. But are we really expected to believe that climate scientists are unaware of the history of climate change? Temperature fluctuates, and to perceive trends, one has to consider the totality of relevant data. On a time scale of hundreds of thousands of years, global temperature and carbon dioxide levels are correlated. There is evidence from many independent sources that the planet is warming (polar migration of tropical ecosystems, glacial melting, and sea level increase for example). There is convincing evidence that carbon dioxide has been increasing rapidly since the 1950s (the Keeling curve) and that this is due to the burning of fossil fuel (Suess effect). Carbon dioxide is a greenhouse gas that causes the atmosphere to retain heat. Numerous quantitative models that are based on the known physics of carbon dioxide and other climatic factors, and that accurately model past global temperature, all predict that temperatures will rise from 2 to 5 centigrade degrees before the year 2100. Carbon dioxide is a major player in all of these models (IPCC Report).
Ecologists have taught us that the characters of biomes (such as deserts, prairies, or tropical forests) are determined by rainfall and temperature. We know that even small changes in temperature can upset an ecosystem. Thus, the whole arrangement of the biosphere could change as a result of global temperature changes. Like it or not, we depend on the current arrangement of the biosphere. The biggest cause of current global warming is our burning of fossil fuel. Mr. Wege thinks there is nothing to be done, but surely it is unwise to keep on adding to the problem.

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