Disposable Planet


There can be no better illustration of how every value is trampled underfoot in the corporate rush to riches than the Bush Administration’s antagonism towards efforts to ameliorate the process of climate change.  Although the issue will affect all of humanity and indeed every living creature, it is forced to take a back seat to private profit.  Over time, the continued failure to address climate change will allow the problem to grow until it becomes untamable.  Yet the White House remains untroubled at the prospect, focusing its attention instead on maintaining the “economic competitiveness” of U.S. corporations, in essence revealing a mindset that values short-term corporate profitability more than the protection of the planet.  In the initial stages, it is the Third World that can expect to suffer the most from climate change.  But in time, no region of the globe will remain immune to its baleful consequences.  If the problem is ignored long enough, the funds required to cope with the effects of climate change will outstrip the resources of even the richest nations.  The price for ensuring continued high profits for favored segments of the corporate world will be paid by future generations compelled to live in an increasingly less habitable world.  The philosophy of laissez-faire capitalism, in which everything becomes a commodity and people nothing more than labor inputs and consumers, treats even the planet itself as a disposable object to be milked of its resources, come what may. 

Despite assertions to the contrary by the free marketeers, there is a substantial body of evidence showing that it is human activity that is the driving force behind rising atmospheric concentrations of greenhouse gases, originating primarily from the burning of fossil fuels.  About one-sixth of the Sun’s energy reaching the Earth gets reflected back to space.  That which remains heats the Earth’s surface.  Gasses such as carbon dioxide and water vapor act as a screen by trapping heat radiating back from the planet.  This greenhouse effect is both natural and necessary for the maintenance of a temperature suitable for life.  But the advent of the Industrial Revolution began a process that amplified the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, amounting to an increase of about 35 percent so far.  From a pre-industrial level of 280 ppm (parts per million), the concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere now stands at 379, the highest level in the last half million years.  The pace is expected to quicken in the coming decades, and if no effort is made to limit carbon emissions, greenhouse gas concentrations will rise to between 650 and 1,215 ppm by the year 2100.  [1]

The growing accumulation of greenhouse gasses is not cost free. The UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) calculates that by the year 2100, temperatures will rise a minimum of 2.5 ℉ compared to 1990. But temperature increases could reach as high as 10.4 ℉. A study done by a team of researchers working at Oxford University’s climateprediction.net came to an even more alarming conclusion.  By relying on a distributed computing method, researchers were able to run over 60,000 simulations, resulting in far more extensive modelling than previous efforts based on a few dozen simulations.   Climateprediction.net’s models demonstrated that a doubling of carbon dioxide from pre-industrial levels would produce an increase in global temperatures ranging from 3.4 to 20.7 ℉, although the majority of simulations hovered around 6 degrees. While the timeframe is uncertain, most specialists estimate that a doubling of carbon dioxide levels will be reached by mid-century.  “The danger zone is not something in the future,” concluded physicist Myles Allen of Oxford University.  “We’re in it now.” [2]

The impact on ecosystems and species cannot be understated.   Rising temperatures will transform conditions in ecosystems by altering the competitive balance and suitability for species.  In past centuries, plant and animal life adjusted to changing climate through migration.  Climatic change usually took thousands of years to unfold, but future climate shifts promise to outpace the ability of many plant species to adapt or migrate.  Fossil records indicate that the fastest rate at which plant species can migrate in a single year is little more than half a mile.  Animals, of course, can migrate much more quickly, but urban areas essentially fence in many habitats, placing a limit on the range of movement. [3]

As plants and animals move out of an ecosystem, decline or become extinct, this will have a rippling effect throughout the food chain. The process is already underway.  More than a third of species examined in one study showed significant changes in phenology, distribution or population, and in most cases the shifts corresponded to expectations based on climate change. [4] In Edmonton, Canada, for example, spring flowering occurs eight days earlier than it did sixty years before.  In Great Britain, nest records of 65 bird species demonstrated that egg-laying had advanced by nine days compared to just 24 years earlier while in Europe the vegetative growing season has expanded by 11 days since 1960.  In the United States, it took little more than a third of a century for the sachem skipper butterfly to extend its range 420 miles from California to the state of Washington, an area that was once too cold for it to survive.  These examples are merely indicative of broader patterns that can be expected to accelerate in the years to come. [5]

The disruption of habitats is likely to result in widespread extinctions. A team of researchers led by Chris Thomas of the University of Leeds concluded that at the current rate of warming, by 2050 about 18 percent of species in sampled regions will either be extinct or past the point of no return.  This figure was based on mid-range climate scenarios, and upper-range scenarios showed extinction rates nearly twice as high.  By modelling the association between current climate and species distributions, the team was able to assess “the conditions under which populations of a species currently persist in the face of competition and natural enemies.”  Future distributions were estimated based on projected climate scenarios.  Thomas’s study warned, “These scenarios would diverge even more by 2100.  In other words, minimizing greenhouse gas emissions and sequestering carbon to realize minimum, rather than mid-range or maximum, expected climate warming could save a substantial percentage of terrestrial species from extinction.”  Even at the smallest rate of climate change, the extent of species destruction would be alarming.  “The absolutely best case scenario – which in my opinion is unrealistic – with the minimum expected climate change and all of the species moving completely into new areas which become suitable for them, means we end up with an estimate of nine percent facing extinction,” Thomas said.    That would amount to the loss of about one million species.  [6]

According to an assessment by more than 500 international scientists involved in a three-year study, nearly 150 amphibians have already become extinct, while 32 percent of the rest are in danger of meeting the same fate. Pollution, habitat destruction, and climate change are all factors that are expected to contribute to a sharp decline in the variety of amphibian species.  Achim Steiner, director-general of World Conservation Union, remarked, “The fact that one-third of amphibians are in a precipitous decline tells us that we are rapidly moving towards a potentially epidemic number of extinctions.”  David Wake of the University of California at Berkeley said, “The fate of every species is extinction, but they have a chance to give rise to other species before they go extinct.  These species are going extinct in a blink – not even a blink in geological time.” [7]

Similarly, a study by Stanford University biologists inferred a sharp drop in the number of bird species, based on analysis of more than 600,000 computer data entries. “Our projections indicate that, by 2100, up to 14 percent of all bird species may be extinct and that as many as one out of four may be functionally extinct – that is, critically endangered or extinct in the wild,” reported Cagan Sekercioglu of the Stanford University Center for Conservation Biology.  “Important ecosystem processes, particularly decomposition, pollination and seed dispersal, will likely decline as a result.”   One of the most important functions performed by birds is insect control, and the study found that insectivorous birds are more vulnerable to extinction than others.  [8]

Because air mass is thinner at the poles, greenhouse gasses have a much greater impact on warming in polar regions. Over the last fifty years, temperatures have increased by as much as 7 ℉ in Alaska, western Canada, and eastern Russia, and projections indicate a further rise of 7 to 14 degrees by the end of the century. According to the Arctic Climate Impact Assessment (ACIA), because the region is warming twice as fast as the rest of the globe, this “will have implications for biodiversity around the world because migratory species depend on breeding and feeding grounds in the Arctic.”  Hundreds of millions of birds migrate to the Arctic each year for breeding because of the region’s dearth of predators.  As the region continues to warm, predators will expand their range into the Arctic with devastating results for bird populations, which in turn will affect ecosystems in the south.

Inevitably, warming temperatures can be expected to reduce Arctic ice. Measurements have shown a reduction of more than forty percent in the thickness of sea ice in the Arctic from 1976 to the mid-1990s.  This thinning is continuing at such a rapid rate that computer models now indicate that Arctic summer sea ice will disappear entirely by the end of the century.  “This is very likely to have devastating consequences for some Arctic animal species such as ice-living seals, walruses, and Arctic char, and for local people for whom these animals are a primary food source,” warned the ACIA.  “Should the Arctic Ocean become ice-free in summer, it is likely that polar bears and some seal species would be driven toward extinction.”  Reacting to the report, Tonje Folkestad of the World Wildlife Federation said, “If we don’t act immediately the Arctic will soon become unrecognizable.  Polar bears will be consigned to history, something that our grandchildren can only read about in books.”  Meteorologist Robert Corell noted, “The Arctic is really warming now.  These areas provide a bellwether of what’s coming to planet Earth.”  [9]

The loss of Arctic sea ice will have far-reaching consequences. Jacob Sewell and Lisa Cirbus Sloan of the University of California at Santa Cruz utilized a climate model to determine its impact on other areas of the world.  What they found is that dwindling sea ice will result in fewer storms on the west coast of North America.  “Winter sea ice acts like an insulating lid,” explained Sewell.  “When the lid is reduced, more heat can escape from the ocean to warm the atmosphere.”  The resulting towers of warm air will deflect storms away from the American west coast and towards British Columbia and southern Alaska. Consequently, the American west coast could see a thirty percent drop in precipitation as far inland as the Rocky Mountains.  “Given that water resources in this region are currently stretched close to their limit, a thirty percent drop would have a serious impact,” remarked Sewell.   Inevitably, such changes would necessitate water rationing, and the lack of water for irrigation would seriously impair agricultural production.   The climate model Sewell and Sloan relied on factored in only the impact of contracting Arctic sea ice.  If other climatic factors such as rising levels of greenhouse gasses are taken into account, the resulting scenario becomes much worse.  Even now, Lakes Mead and Powell are at half capacity due to reduced snowpack, and the future looks no brighter.  The Sierra Nevada snowpack, which contributes half of California’s fresh water, is expected to drop anywhere from thirty to ninety percent before the end of the century.  [10]

In the near-term, warming temperatures in Greenland should produce an increase in water vapor that will trigger more snowfall, acting in effect as a counter-balance to the loss of ice due to melting. But as temperatures surpass 5℉, a meltdown of the ice sheet will commence. A recent modelling study places the start of runaway melting on Greenland as early as fifty years from now.  According to Jonathan Gregory of the University of Reading, this process will “probably be irreversible this side of a new ice age.”  If temperatures in Greenland rise above 14 ℉, as many models predict, the ice sheet will disappear completely in one to three thousand years. As the retreat of the ice sheet in Greenland uncovers more land, the amount of sunlight reflected back into space will be reduced accordingly.   Exposed land and ocean absorb more heat from the sun than is the case with ice, so the process will contribute to rising temperatures.  The impact can be quite substantial, as sea ice covered by snow reflects nearly 90 percent of sunlight compared to the ocean’s reflection of only ten percent. [11]

By the end of this century, sea levels are calculated to rise about three feet, primarily because water expands as it warms. Some estimates place this outcome even earlier.  The shrinking ice sheet over Greenland will further contribute to rising sea levels.  Although the process will not be seriously in progress until a few hundred years from now, once the ice sheet has disappeared entirely it will have elevated sea levels by about 23 feet.  However, even the three-foot rise that is expected by the end of the century is cause for alarm.  Bangladesh is likely to lose 20 percent of its land to flooding, with a consequent reduction in agricultural output and expansion of salt water into the ground water.  Low-lying areas in Egypt and China, as well as islands such as the Maldives and the Marshall will be inundated.  Cities situated on coastal areas or river deltas, such as Calcutta, London, New York, Shanghai, and Tokyo, will have to invest billions to construct defenses against the sea.  That may be beyond the means of poorer nations such as Bangladesh, which may have to relocate millions of people.  “I’m afraid that’s almost inevitable,” noted Steve Sawyer of Greenpeace. [12]

At some point, melting Arctic ice flowing into the ocean may begin to alter the Atlantic thermohaline circulation. This is the process which acts as a sort of conveyor belt, sending cold water deep within the Atlantic Ocean in a southerly direction and returning warmer water nearer the surface in a northerly direction.  Known as the Gulf Stream, this flow serves to maintain a temperate climate for Great Britain and Scandinavia.  But the circulation pattern could cease altogether if the saltiness of the ocean water is diluted by too much Arctic freshwater runoff or if the ocean becomes too warm.  Once the Atlantic thermohaline circulation shuts down, temperatures in northwest Europe would drop sharply, more than offsetting the effect of warming temperatures.  In Alaska, the effect would be the opposite, pushing temperatures ever higher.  Although a shutdown is uncertain for the present, most oceanographers place it beyond the end of this century.  Arctic runoff feeds have already begun, causing the North Atlantic to become noticeably less salty in recent years.  The Hadley Centre for Climate Prediction and Research projects the Gulf Stream to slow some 20 percent by mid-century.  “If the thermohaline shutdown is irreversible, we would have to work much harder to get it to restart,” warned Michael Schlesinger of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.  “Not only would we have the very difficult task of removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, we also would have the virtually impossible task of removing fresh water from the North Atlantic.” [13]

Antarctica, which holds about 90 percent of the world’s ice, was long thought to be so stable that little immediate impact was expected from climate change. It was known that glaciers on the northern peninsula were contracting, but recently the British Antarctic Survey found the same process occurring on the west Antarctic ice sheet.  Already the Larsen A, Wilkins, and Larsen B ice shelves, totalling some 10,000 square miles in all, have broken apart.  Because the western ice sheet sits atop a continental shelf that is below sea level, it is vulnerable to breakup triggered by warming water.  The west ice sheet is expected to break apart on a piecemeal basis and slide into the ocean, disappearing altogether in as little as a few hundred years.  That alone would raise sea levels by nine feet.  Chris Rapley of the British Antarctic Survey reports, “We could be seeing the start of a runaway collapse of the ice sheet.  This is a real cause for concern.  We need to marshal world resources to find out what is going on.”  At the far ends of the West Antarctic ice sheet (WAIS), the British Antarctic Survey discovered that ice was flowing into the ocean at the rate of 155 cubic miles per year.  “The previous view was that WAIS would not collapse before the year 2100,” said Rapley.  “We now have to revise that judgment.  We cannot be so sanguine.” [14]

Scientists at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography have calculated the extent of ocean warming after studying millions of ocean temperature readings. They compared the results with climate change simulation models and found they closely matched.  In all of the measured ocean basins, upper ocean temperature readings had more than a 95 percent correspondence with simulation models.  “Over the last 40 years there has been considerable warming of the planetary system and approximately 90 percent of that warming has gone directly in the oceans,” said marine physicist Tim Barnett.  “This is perhaps the most compelling evidence yet that global warming is happening right now, and it shows that we can successfully simulate its past and likely future evolution.  Could a climate system simply do this on its own?  The answer is clearly no.” [15]

Warming ocean temperatures have in turn started to impact aquatic life. A recent study found that nearly two-thirds of fish species in the North Sea had either migrated north or to lower depths over the previous 25 years.  “This is not just a case of individual fish choosing to move into colder waters,” noted marine biologist Alison Perry.  “It points towards an entire population of fish becoming less viable in response to warming.”  Over the past two centuries, oceans have absorbed nearly half of total carbon dioxide emissions, becoming in the process much more acidic.  An increasingly acidic ocean risks killing off coral, shellfish, and plankton in catastrophic numbers.  A near-total destruction of plankton may be in the offing, and as the bottom of the food chain, their loss would have an enormous impact on most marine life.  Carol Turley of the Plymouth Marine Laboratory termed acidification of the ocean “potentially a gigantic problem for the world.  It’s urgent indeed to warn people what’s happening.  Many of the marine species we rely on to eat could well disappear.”  [16]

The situation on land could be just as dire. So much carbon dioxide is being pumped into the air that searing heat waves can be expected to become the norm.  The hottest summer ever recorded in Europe was in 2003, when high temperatures caused as many as 30,000 deaths.  The Hadley Centre for Climate Prediction and Research projects that in about forty years, more than half of European summers will be hotter than that.  That trend will continue, so that in the 2060s, “a 2003-type summer would be unusually cool,” while at the end of the century, summer temperatures will average 10.8 ℉ higher than now. [17]

Some portions of the globe will warm twice as much as others over the course of this century. According to the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research, the highest temperatures will be reached in a band stretching from Saudi Arabia to Central Asia, with African nations not far behind.  Rapidly spreading desertification is inevitable.  In a hint of things to come, the period from 1994 to 1999 saw the Gobi Desert expand by more than 20,000 square miles.  Throughout the world, the percentage of land experiencing severe drought has more than doubled in the last thirty years.  “Global climate models predict increased drying over most land areas during their warm season, as carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gasses increase,” reported Aiguo Dai of the National Center for Atmospheric Research.  “Our analyses suggest that this drying may have already begun.”

According to the Hadley Centre for Climate Prediction and Research, the “Amazon region is predicted to suffer a particularly strong warming and large reduction in rainfall, and these lead to trees dying back and the region being able to support only shrubs or grass at the most.” Consequently, by 2100, more than three-fourths of the carbon stored in the Amazon region will be released back into the atmosphere.

In some areas, desertification is proceeding very rapidly indeed. “Grazing is the major form of land use on the planet, with the dry, semi-arid and sub-humid regions supporting most of it throughout the world,” said Gregory Asner of the Carnegie Institution Department of Global Ecology.  “Some of these regions are turning into unusable desert so quickly that the United Nations has put the problem at the top of its environmental agenda.”  Rising temperatures will be accompanied by more frequent natural disasters.  “Droughts and floods are extreme climate events that are likely to change more rapidly than the average climate,” Dai points out. [18]  Today there are an estimated 25 million environmental refugees from drought, floods, and desertification, and it is thought that their number will grow to 150 million by mid-century. [19]  The resulting toll in lost productivity, economic ruin, and sheer human misery cannot be calculated.

An increase in temperature of less than 2 ℉ would produce a relatively low rise in hunger in most of the world while some analysts expect agricultural output in North America and Western Europe to show a slight benefit. But in warmer climes, even a small increase in temperatures would reduce crop outputs, so the immediate effect of climate change will be to widen the disparity between the First and Third Worlds.  At some point, rising temperatures will impair agricultural production in the First World too, and in the 2 to 5.4 ℉ range, adverse impacts in all regions will escalate. According to one study, at the upper end of this range, an extra 65 to 75 million people are likely to be threatened by hunger.  A second study suggests that in this temperature range, up to 5.5 billion people will be living in regions experiencing a collapse in crop production.  Once temperatures increase beyond 5.4 ℉, even North America and Western Europe will experience a total collapse of agricultural production. [20]  It is not difficult to imagine the chaos, upheaval and mass starvation that can be expected to result from a global failure of agricultural production.  That future may not be all far off, as several climate models show a temperature rise of this level occurring by the end of the century at the latest, given continued inaction on reducing carbon emissions.

A less-noticed aspect of climate change is the likelihood of explosive growth in insect populations. When winter is mild, far more larvae are able to survive, bringing a greater profusion of pests.  Warming temperatures can also speed up the life cycles of insects, further contributing to burgeoning populations.  The forests of Alaska and western Canada are already plagued by attacks from exploding insect populations.  Rising temperatures have enabled insects to spread their range into higher elevations, exposing wider areas to potential destruction.   Defoliation is progressing at a remarkable rate as flourishing insect populations make their way through the forests of Alaska and Western Canada.  “It’s the kind of thing we see when an area entirely burns up,” said Chris Potter of the NASA Ames Research Center.  “If they aren’t dead, these trees are going to be dead very soon.” Potter’s team concluded that the forests were succumbing to the mountain pine beetle and spruce budworm.  During the period under study, the region experienced several mild winters.  An Alaskan wildlife specialist described the onslaught of beetles.  “They would be in your hair and eyes; you’d have to brush them off.  I’ve heard people saying they could see them in clouds, miles off, coming down the valley.”  In recent years, bark beetles damaged forests throughout the North American west, from Arizona to British Columbia. Drought conditions in the west hampered the natural defenses of trees against burrowing beetles, a problem that will only worsen in the years ahead.  Agriculture can be expected to suffer as well.  Currently, pests, weeds, and plant disease exact a toll of forty percent on the world’s food crops, a percentage that can only grow along with insect populations and weeds.  [21]

Glaciers, storehouses of about 75 percent of the world’s fresh water, are on the path to extinction. Mount Kilimanjaro, for instance, is expected to lose its snowcap by 2020, and Glacier National Park’s name will lose its relevance by 2030.  In Switzerland, the retreat of glaciers has been especially noticeable.  “It’s amazing what huge masses of ice have been lost,” remarked Frank Paul of Zurich University.  “Every hiker in the Alps knows about it; the changes in recent years have been dramatic.”  Glaciers are such an important source that they supply anywhere from forty percent of the fresh water in temperate zones to 95 percent in drier areas.   Inevitably, dwindling runoff from shrinking glaciers will reduce the flow of water in rivers and water levels feeding hydroelectric dams.  “For some species and some people there are going to be big problems because mountain areas feed not just rural people but big cities, especially in Latin America,” pointed out Martin Price of the Center for Mountain Studies.  “It’s a huge issue in the long run because once the glaciers go, you’re down to whatever happens to fall out of the sky and come downstream.” Elimination of fresh water at its source can only exacerbate problems in a more drought-prone world brought about by warming temperatures.  Glaciologist Lonnie Thompson of Ohio State University noted, “It’s a very compelling story.  The glaciers – water towers of the world – are the most visible indicators that we are now in the first phase of global warming.”  [22]

At some point, warming temperatures are sure to trigger runaway effects from feedback loops that send the Earth’s climate soaring at ever faster rates. Water evaporating from the ocean due to rising temperatures will increase water vapor levels in the atmosphere.  Since water vapor acts as a greenhouse gas, the net effect will be to accelerate the warming trend.  Melting permafrost in northern latitudes will lay bare decomposed vegetation that had become buried over the centuries, releasing in the process enormous amounts of carbon dioxide and methane into the atmosphere.  Once this process has advanced to a significant degree, warming trends are likely to become uncontrollable.

There may be as much as 1.85 trillion tons of carbon material stored beneath permafrost. Much of this material is methane, a particularly potent greenhouse gas capable of trapping heat 23 times more effectively than carbon dioxide. Vanishing permafrost is not something that lies waiting in the distant future.  It is happening now.  In one area of Siberia, more than a thousand large lakes have either receded dramatically or disappeared entirely, as water seeps into the ground made mushy from melting permafrost.  These thawing peat bogs may hold up to a quarter the world’s methane stored in the land.  If the ground remains wet, as is the case now, then the methane will be released into the atmosphere.  Botanist Sergei Kirpotin of Tomsk State University concludes that this would lead to an “ecological landslide that is probably irreversible and undoubtedly connected to global warming.”  David Viner of the Climatic Research Unit at the University of East Anglia warned, “When you start messing around with these natural systems, you can end up in situations where it’s unstoppable.  There are no brakes you can apply.  This is a big deal because you can’t put the permafrost back once it’s gone.  The causal effect is human activity, and it will ramp up temperatures even more than our emissions are doing.”

As great a menace as melting permafrost presents, far more peril awaits in warming oceans.   Methane stored in the ocean’s sediments in the form of gas hydrates is so abundant that the ocean holds considerably more carbon than the entire world reserves of fossil fuels.  In all, the world’s oceans hold forty trillion tons of carbon. How much ocean-based methane will be released in future years is uncertain, and a higher level of warming is required to trigger this process than is the case with permafrost.  But David Archer of the University of Chicago calculates that a temperature increase of 5.4 ℉ would free 85 percent of the ocean’s methane over the course of a few thousand years. Long before that point would be reached the effect would be so catastrophic as to spell doom for the world as we know it.  [23]

The fate of the planet depends on what measures are taken today. Clearly, counter-measures are urgent, yet action has been slow in coming.  The first and only meaningful effort so far has been the Kyoto Protocol to the Convention on Climate Control, an international agreement signed at the end of 1997.  It took almost four years of wrangling before details of the Protocol could be established.  The aim of the Protocol is to put a cap on carbon emission levels, which would otherwise likely increase by sixty percent from 2001 to 2025.  The Kyoto Protocol obligated signatory nations to reduce carbon emissions at a target date of 2012 by an average level of 5.2 percent below 1990 levels.  Obligations varied from one country to another, with the U.S. committed to a seven percent reduction and the European Union eight percent.  However, by all accounts, emission levels would have to diminish fifty to seventy percent in order to stabilize the warming trend.  Therefore, the Kyoto Protocol is by no means a solution.  But it is hoped that the agreement will moderate the surge in carbon emissions and, more importantly, serve as the first step in a process that would eventually produce more meaningful measures in the future.  [24]

U.S. backing for Kyoto was languid from the start, and in time would turn openly hostile. At the 1997 Kyoto conference, the U.S. delegation argued for limiting commitment levels.  A particular bone of contention was the American delegation’s insistence that developing nations be included in the plan.  Well before the conference began, the U.S. Senate passed a resolution by an overwhelming margin of 95-0, urging the United States not to sign any agreement that failed to include developing nations or that “would result in serious harm to the economy of the United States.”

Developing nations, however, were excluded from commitments under the Kyoto Protocol for good reason. Their historical contribution to carbon emissions has been small.  For most of the last two hundred years, it was the developed nations that were filling the air with carbon dioxide.  Even now, there is a vast disparity in emission levels.  In the United States, per capita carbon dioxide emissions are 38 times that of developing countries.  The U.S. alone, with four percent of the world’s population, is responsible for 36 percent of global carbon emissions and a quarter of greenhouse gasses in general.  As Zhong Shukong, leader of the Chinese delegation, remarked in response to American demands at the Kyoto conference, “In the developed world only two people ride in a car, and you want us to give up riding the bus.”

To expect poorer nations to forgo development was patently unfair. “Having fossil fuel energy to thank for their global supremacy today,” pointed out environmental analyst Dinyar Godrej, “it is hypocrisy of the highest order to suggest that industrializing countries are on a level playing field and must compromise their future development in order to cushion the excesses of the rich West.”  The developed nations of the West are far better positioned to invest the necessary capital to support the research and development of energy alternatives and carbon reduction strategies.  The expectation is that developing countries would join the emission reduction process at a later stage, when they could take advantage of technological advances made in the meantime by developed nations. [25]

Even from the standpoint of its modest goals, the Kyoto Protocol has its flaws. A prominent feature of the Kyoto Protocol is emissions trading, a procedure which was included due to strong advocacy by the Clinton Administration.  This process enables countries that exceed their quota to purchase credits from those that do not.  Therefore, a nation need not adhere to its commitment under Kyoto as long as it is willing to buy excess emission levels from another.  Because the base measurement period is 1990, when the Soviet Union was still in existence, Russia and Ukraine have ample credits to offer.  Russia experienced the ruin of its economy with the advent of the free market and a consequent 35 percent drop in carbon emissions.  There is little prospect of the Russian and Ukrainian economies fully recovering to Soviet levels any time soon, so for the foreseeable future developed nations can draw on a large pool of spare credits from collapsed and under-producing economies.

Under Kyoto, developed nations may also earn emission credits by planting or extending forests, on the theory that these would act as carbon sinks and absorb carbon dioxide. The problem is that no one can say for sure how much carbon planted trees will absorb, and forests will soon approach the point where they are no longer able to absorb any more carbon dioxide.  Carbon stored in a tree, furthermore, is released once the tree is cut down.  Another way Western nations can earn additional credits is through the sale of emissions reduction technology to developing countries.  With so many loopholes, it will not be surprising if Western nations increase carbon emissions by Kyoto’s target date of 2012.  Factors such as these give Kyoto the faint whiff of being little more than an exercise in public relations designed to give the appearance of addressing the pressing issue of climate change without actually doing so.  Even so, it can be said that the Kyoto Protocol is better than no agreement at all. [26]

One year after the 1997 Kyoto conference, Vice President Al Gore signed the protocol on behalf of the United States. In one sense this was an empty gesture aside from its inherent publicity value, in that President Clinton never submitted the protocol to Congress for ratification.   Nor was any effort made to lobby Congress to rally support.  If the U.S. position on climate control under President Clinton was one of calculated indifference, it would soon turn to one of open opposition with the change in administrations.  Only two months after President George W. Bush took office, he announced the withdrawal of the United States from the Kyoto Protocol.  The Administration, said James Connaughton, head of the White House Council on Environmental Quality, “strongly opposes any treaty or policy that would cause the loss of a single American job, let alone the nearly five million jobs Kyoto would have cost.”  This statement could only be viewed as ironic, coming from an administration that has presided over the wholesale export of U.S. manufacturing jobs.  It was not jobs that concerned the Bush Administration, for that was only a politically acceptable code word for “corporate profits.”

A serious commitment to Kyoto would entail a fast expansion of research and development, along with the manufacture and operation of new technologies. Kyoto would likely be a boon to the job market and for specific corporate sectors involved in the development and marketing of new technologies.  But in the short term, manufacturing, power, coal, oil, and automotive companies would see their profit margins shrink, while the long-term prospects for the coal and oil industries would be even less rosy.  The Bush Administration’s approach to climate control is based on a reliance on voluntary measures by industry, a policy that is virtually meaningless, not to mention ineffectual in terms of reducing emissions.  A study by the Organization of Economic Development and Cooperation found that companies claiming they would reduce emissions on a voluntary basis failed to perform any better than those that made no such commitment.  Lacking any legal mechanism for curbing emissions, levels in the U.S. are expected to increase by 1.5 percent per year over the next two decades.

The Bush Administration offers a different vision of energy. Shortly after taking office, President Bush tasked Vice President Dick Cheney with developing a national energy policy for the years ahead.  In May 2001, Cheney unveiled the plan, which called for the expanded use of coal, which he called “the most plentiful source of affordable energy,” and the opening of the Arctic Wildlife Refuge for exploitation by oil companies.  “Conservation may be a sign of personal virtue,” Cheney remarked, “but it is not a sufficient basis for a sound, comprehensive energy policy.” [27]

One year later, the U.S. spearheaded a successful effort to remove Robert Watson from his position as chair of the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change because he viewed climate change as a threat that needed to be addressed. Commenting on his removal, Watson said, “It is possible the Bush Administration didn’t like the messages that I was conveying from the IPCC, so they decided to shoot the messenger.  There was a lot of pressure from some in the energy industry.”  Ironically, Rajendra Pachauri, the man the U.S. chose to replace him, proved to be just as outspoken in defense of the planet, leading many in the Bush Administration to denigrate the IPCC and its research. [28]

The Bush Administration is actively engaged on the issue of climate change. Specifically, it is expending considerable effort in trying to kill potential solutions and suppress unwelcome research findings.  The Administration’s response to the report of the Arctic Council was typical.  After four years of research by more than 300 scientists, a council of nations with Arctic territory produced a report on the effect of climate change in the Arctic region.  For months, the Bush Administration worked behind the scenes to water down the report and stop the Council from recommending measures to curb carbon emissions.  An early draft of the report did make recommendations along those lines, but U.S. officials pressured the council to drop them from the report.  State Department officials rather implausibly argued that the council lacked any scientific evidence for its position.  A European delegate observed that the U.S. team was attempting to “sidetrack the whole process, so it is not confronted with the question, ‘Do you believe in climate change, or don’t you?’”

After four years of painstaking research and analysis, scientists involved in the project were disappointed to find that after the report was published, the Arctic Council responded by merely noting its findings and acknowledging that it would “help inform governments.” Such an anodyne assessment was the best that could be given after the U.S. delegation blocked efforts by other member nations to issue a statement on the need for limits on carbon emissions.  The decision not to make any recommendation visibly angered many delegates, in contrast to the American delegation’s pleased reaction.  When asked by a reporter whether the report on climate change in the Arctic would encourage regulation of carbon emissions, White House science advisor John Marburger bluntly responded, “Not in this administration.”  [29]

The Bush Administration’s stance on climate change was indicative of a broader view on environmental issues, in which protections are regarded as vexatious impediments to the right of corporations to maximize profits. The re-election of President Bush in 2004 was interpreted as a public stamp of approval for his policies, which unfortunately was probably the case.  Mike Leavitt, administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) at the time, remarked, “The election was a validation of the philosophy and the agenda.”  Given such a mandate, Leavitt said that environmental protections should only be done “in a way that maintains the economic competitiveness of the country.”  In other words, in any conflict between protection of the environment and corporate profiteering, the environment would be jettisoned every time.  Leavitt noted that more than a third of employees at the EPA would be eligible to retire within four years, giving the Administration an opportunity to fill the ranks with personnel more to the liking of the White House and, presumably, corporations.  [30]

A salient aspect of the Bush Administration’s environmental policy is the management of information.   In his fiscal year 2005 budget, President Bush eliminated funding for the Climate Reference Network (CRN), a series of what was originally intended to comprise 110 observation stations that would record climate data with more precision than existing weather stations.  Its state of the art equipment would have provided a solid statistical basis for analysis of climate trends.  CRN “ties everything together,” said Richard Hallgren of the American Meteorological Society.  “Eliminating it would be an absolute disaster.”   The liquidation of funding raised questions about the existing 56 stations and put on hold the 16 new stations that were scheduled to open, while plans for the remaining stations were scrapped altogether.   Without funds for maintenance, existing stations are expected to degrade.  The elimination of funding for CRN was part of an overall 44 percent cut in the climate observation and services program, which also included a reduction of $2.5 million for five observatories operated by the Climate Monitoring and Diagnostics Laboratory.  “It’s almost as if some people don’t want to know how the climate is changing,” said Kevin Trenberth of the National Center for Atmospheric Research.   “Maybe they prefer uncertainty so that they can avoid taking action.” [31]

Interference from the Bush Administration and the corporate world in the work of scientists has been heavy-handed and persistent. A survey of scientists at Ecological Services in the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) produced some very interesting results.  Despite a management order instructing employees not to answer the survey, even on their own free time, nearly thirty percent did respond.  Of those who responded to the questionnaire, close to two-third felt that the agency’s Ecological Services was not moving in the right direction, and more than twenty percent said they had been “directed to inappropriately exclude or alter technical information” in a scientific document.  Asked if they knew of cases of political appointees intervening in Ecological Services determinations, 73 percent answered yes. Well over half said they knew of cases where “commercial interests have inappropriately induced the reversal or withdrawal of USFWS scientific conclusions or decisions through political intervention.”  And almost half had been personally “directed, for non-scientific reasons, to refrain from making jeopardy or other findings that are protective of species.” [32]

Referring to a prominent Department of Interior official, one scientist wrote, “I have never before seen the boldness of intimidation demonstrated by a single political appointee. She has modified the behavior of the entire agency.” Another wrote, “I have been through the reversal of two listing decisions due to political pressure.  Science was ignored – and worse, manipulated to build a bogus set of rationale for reversal.”  Political meddling in the work of agency employees was a frequent problem, as one scientist confirmed.  “I have never seen so many findings and recommendations by the field be turned around at the regional or Washington level.”  Intimidation in the agency fostered a climate of fear.  “Everyone is afraid to make any decisions or conduct any action that would be viewed as controversial.”  Among middle managers “there is a culture of fear of retaliation.”  Agency officials and the White House, reported another employee, “are so hostile to our mission that they will subvert, spin or even illegitimize our findings.”  One scientist called for “reducing retaliatory reprisals from management for doing complete assessments,” while another suggested, “We need to get back to being advocates for the fish and wildlife resources, not advocates of development and big business.”

Commenting on the results of the survey, Lexi Shultz of the Union for Concerned Scientists said, “The pressure to alter scientific reports for political reasons has become pervasive at Fish and Wildlife offices around the country.” The situation at the agency was only a sample of political pressures and intimidation affecting scientific work throughout the Federal government. “In my more than three decades in government, I have never seen anything approaching the degree to which information flow from scientists to the public has been screened and controlled as it is now,” said James Hansen, director of the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies.  Hansen charged the Bush Administration with wanting to hear only scientific results that “fit predetermined, inflexible positions.”  Evidence of the dangers of climate change is routinely dismissed as not of interest to the public.  “This, I believe, is a recipe for environmental disaster.” [33]

Philip Cooney was for some time chief of staff to the White House Council on Environmental Quality. Before taking that position, he worked for more than a decade for the American Petroleum Institute, a lobby group for the oil industry.  In his post in the Bush Administration, Cooney routinely watered down and altered climate reports from government scientists to downplay or question scientific evidence for climate change.  Cooney also acted as one of the conduits for the petroleum industry to influence U.S. policy on climate change.  Once it became publicly known that Cooney was tampering with scientific reports, he resigned and took a position with Exxon Mobil.

Corporate influence can be quite direct at times. In briefing papers issued to Undersecretary for Global Affairs Paula Dobriansky, the Bush Administration thanked Exxon Corporation for its “active involvement” in the formulation of U.S. climate policy.  One document even goes so far as to ask Exxon for advice on what climate policies it would find acceptable.  Dobriansky was instructed to contact Exxon executives and other business groups for advice on alternatives to the Kyoto Protocol.  Before Dobriansky’s meeting with the anti-Kyoto Global Climate Coalition, an industrial group dominated by Exxon, she was given a briefing paper which said President Bush “rejected Kyoto in part based on input from” the Global Climate Coalition.  The documents show that the Administration agreed with Exxon’s belief that joining Kyoto “would be unjustifiably drastic and premature.”  Clearly, it is the corporate world that determines U.S. climate policy. [34]

The Bush Administration’s concern for the environment is aroused only when there is a direct payoff for corporate profit. On November 16, 2004, the U.S. and thirteen other nations signed an agreement on investing up to $53 million in companies able to control methane emissions in a profitable manner.  The agreement called on signatory nations to help developing countries to rely on U.S. technology and corporate involvement in capturing methane emissions from landfills, coal mines and gas systems.  The plan was a sop to critics of the Bush Administration’s climate policy, and the main intent of the agreement was to enhance the profitability of U.S. businesses in that sector.  “It’s useful,” David Doniger of the Natural Resources Defense Council said.  “But compared to the problem that’s being ignored, it’s small potatoes.”  It was not long before the Bush Administration announced that methane harvested under the plan would be sold to developing nations as a so-called “clean burning fuel.”  The Bush Administration spoke of the plan as creating a “new market in methane.”  For U.S. corporations, the plan was more than “useful.”  It presented opportunities for consultant services and the marketing of technology while methane harvested under the plan could be sold to developing nations. [35]

Even the modest measure of goodwill engendered for Doniger and other environmentalists from such a dubious plan was to be short-lived. Only one week after signing the agreement on methane, the U.S. was negotiating a treaty on phasing out the use of methyl bromide, a pesticide that contributes to depletion of the ozone layer.  The pesticide has also been linked to prostate cancer and neurological damage in farm workers.  The United States and 15 other industrialized nations requested delays in the phase out, arguing that they qualified for “critical use exemptions.”   Under terms of the 1987 Montreal Protocol, methyl bromide was to have been eliminated by 2005.  The Bush Administration had already won approval to continue using the pesticide in 2005, and negotiators granted permission for the U.S. to continue its use in 2006 as well, albeit at a somewhat reduced level.  U.S. officials opposed the modest reduction, however, and international negotiators promised that they would revisit the issue later to determine whether the higher limit would be restored.  It is probable that the outcome will be favorable for U.S. corporate farming.  “It’s time for the U.S. to stop defending the status quo use of this chemical by agribusiness and start pushing these growers to complete the phase out,” commented Doniger.  Mario Molina, who shared a Nobel Prize for his work on damage to the ozone layer, was disappointed that the agreement allowed the continued use of methyl bromide. “We are worried about the situation with respect to methyl bromide.  From the point of view [of] the science, which does show that it contributes to ozone depletion – if we pursue the objective of restoring the ozone layer, then it is important that we limit the emissions of methyl bromide.” [36]

Signatories to the Kyoto Protocol met in Buenos Aires in December 2004 for an annual treaty conference. At the top of the agenda was discussion and planning for future steps to be taken after the expiration of the Kyoto Protocol in 2012.  Even before the conference began, the head of the U.S. delegation, Undersecretary for Global Affairs Paula Dobriansky, warned, “We think it’s premature to be discussing post-Kyoto 2012 arrangements.”  During the conference, the U.S. delegation argued that by investing in research on cleaner burning energy technology, the U.S. was addressing the issue of climate change.  The U.S. attitude on Kyoto was dismissive.  “Kyoto is a political agreement,” U.S. delegate Harlan Watson sniffed.  “It’s not based on science.”  The American delegation argued vociferously for voluntary efforts to curb carbon emissions.  “Our policy is that we do not support mandatory targets or timetables,” Dobriansky said.  “We believe the convention could serve more effectively as a form for guiding efforts, strengthening the exchange of information and reviewing progress rather than acting as a regulatory structure.”  A delegate from Tuvalu expressed frustration with the U.S. delegation.  “They’re trying everything possible to discredit any dialogue that would impact on certain economic interests.” [37]

In discussions on the future of the Kyoto framework, the U.S. delegation sought to stifle progress on agreements relating to the continuation of its provisions. When an Argentinean delegate proposed a series of informal meetings over the following year, the U.S. delegation demanded that there only be one meeting scheduled, at which future steps could not be discussed.  Furthermore, the U.S. delegation insisted, “there shall be no written or oral report” produced from that meeting.  “They are trying to hold back even informal discussions,” a dismayed Jennifer Morgan of the World Wildlife Federation said.  In the end, after much argumentation, it was agreed that only one meeting would take place, and it would be only for the purpose of promoting “an informal exchange of information.”  There was widespread disappointment with the outcome of the conference.  “This is a new low for the United States, not just to pull out, but to block other countries from moving ahead on their own path,” said Jeff Fiedler of the Natural Resources Defense Council.  “The U.S. is the lone major emitter among developed nations that has not pledged to reduce greenhouse gasses,” pointed out Paul Bledsoe of the National Commission on Energy Policy.  “The result is that Europe believes the U.S. is willing to risk the health of the world for the sake of its economic hegemony.” [38]

The stakes could not possibly be higher. To delay action on limiting carbon emissions is to court disaster.  Because of climatic inertia, any effort to mitigate global warming will have a long response time.  Even if there were to be no further carbon emissions whatsoever, temperatures would continue to rise for the next hundred years.  The longer effective measures are put off, the deeper the cuts in emissions that will have to be made. With each passing year of inaction, it becomes substantially harder to ameliorate climate change.  A rise in temperature to 3.6 ℉ above pre-industrial levels is widely regarded as the outer limit, beyond which effects will become uncontrollable. In order to limit rising temperatures to that level by mid-century, it is necessary to cut emissions by 50 to 70 percent from 1990 levels.  Even with an effort on that scale, it is estimated that there is only an even chance of stabilizing temperatures at that raised level.  Any deferral of mitigation efforts would require far deeper cuts.  “We’re already committed to a significant amount of climate change, even if we could stabilize concentrations at some point,” reports Gerald Meehl of the National Center for Atmospheric Research.  “And the longer we wait, the worse it gets.” [39]

The modest goals set by Kyoto are within reach given current technology. In the United States, a greater emphasis on hybrid vehicles and a dramatic expansion of mass transit would be effective measures.  Aside from a few cities such as Washington, DC, New York City and Chicago, mass transit in most cities and towns ranges from inadequate to nonexistent. Significant improvements could be made on inter-city travel as well.  A vast expansion of rail service, including high-speed rail, would help to reduce the reliance on air travel.  Travel by air produces 19 times as much greenhouse gas emissions as trains, and exhaust from an airliner has nearly three times the warming effect of land-based carbon dioxide.  At the current rate of increase, air travel will eventually account for 15 percent of global greenhouse gasses. [40]

However, development and expansion of Amtrak service violate every precept of the free market philosophy, and President Bush’s proposed budget for fiscal year 2006 called for the total elimination of funding for Amtrak, aside from a slight amount in support of commuting. The Bush Administration expressed the hope that severing funding would force Amtrak into bankruptcy proceedings, thereby allowing its assets to be sold at knock-down prices to corporate vultures.  Congress did not go along with that proposal, but neither was there any indication that Amtrak would ever be adequately funded. Not to be deterred, the Bush Administration fired the president of Amtrak for opposing plans to dismantle the rail service.

It is imperative that an ambitious research and development program be developed if there is to be any hope of significantly mitigating climate change. The Bush Administration is pinning its hopes on the development of cleaner burning fuel, which is a nonstarter in terms of producing a significant reduction in emission levels.  The second approach favored by the administration is the capture and sequestering of carbon emissions into mine shafts or the ocean.  At present there is no effective process for capturing carbon emissions nor is there the technology for injecting carbon dioxide into the land or sea.  The concept of filling mine shafts with carbon dioxide is questionable, given the potential for its release back into the atmosphere over time and the danger of contamination of aquifers.  Pumping vast amounts of carbon dioxide into the ocean is a far worse option and one that courts climatic disaster.  Such a reckless plan would imperil marine life and accelerate the warming of ocean waters, with a consequent risk of triggering methane emissions.

The Bush Administration remains fixated on approaches that maintain present energy-use patterns, arguing that any other solution would hurt the “economic competitiveness” of U.S. corporations. To be sure, conversion to more planet-friendly technologies would reduce short-term profit margins for many companies as they replace or modify equipment and technology.  Tax write-offs might not compensate entirely for the extra expenditures.  The few companies producing and marketing alternative energy solutions would stand to gain, but the rest of the corporate world could expect a measure of decline in short-term profitability.  The Bush Administration has also expressed concern that adherence to the Kyoto Protocol would result in a decline in the global market share for U.S. corporations relative to competitors from developing nations not yet included in the plan.  More importantly, Washington is committed to protecting the interests of the powerful oil and coal industries.  For all of these reasons, the Bush Administration rejects any solution which fails to maintain current energy patterns.

Wind and solar power are much-admired alternatives based on renewable energy. However, these solutions are at an immature level of development and hold more promise for the future than for the present.  Sizable investments are necessary before the full potential of these alternatives can be realized.  Unfortunately, there is little or no political will for doing so, given the potential threat to the coal and oil industries.  Solar power is currently very expensive and incapable of generating large amounts of power.  Currently in the conceptual stage is an ambitious project in Australia for the construction of a giant solar tower that would be the tallest structure in the world, sitting atop a glass panel spanning more than four miles across.  It remains to be seen whether the project will ever be initiated, let alone reach fruition, but successful implementation would result in a plant capable of generating only 200 megawatts of power. [41] That is a disappointingly modest capacity for such an elephantine project.

At this stage, wind power is a more affordable option, but not without problems. The supply of wind is variable in nature.  A power plant can charge only on the basis of reliable capacity, and wind farms tend to average about thirty to forty percent of capacity, while further reserves cannot be called upon during periods of peak electric load.  Wind can play a part in contributing to the total power supply in a given area as long as it does not comprise too large a share. [42]  Until greater strides are made in the development of these technologies, the role of renewable energy must remain a minor one.  However, it is crucial that vast sums be invested in the development of these technologies, as this is the only way to accomplish the deep cuts in carbon emissions that are necessary to stabilize climate change.

A rapid switchover to small hybrid cars is also an unlikely prospect given the growing popularity of oversized vehicles. An even more important step would be to expand mass transit.   But in a societal environment in which waste and excess are the norm and profit is the defining measure of value, it appears that there is no possibility of a bold program to develop mass transportation on any meaningful scale.  In the near term, a more realistic scenario could be the construction of power plants based on nuclear energy, a source that is both emission-free and affordable.  Nuclear energy is far more frugal in its use of resources than oil or coal-based power plants and capable of generating high-intensity power. [43]  But here too, an ambitious nuclear plant construction program does not appear to be in the cards.

Such myopia places all of humanity at risk. Absent determined pressure for change from an aroused public, the earth will offer an increasingly forbidding environment for future generations.  What is known is alarming enough: searing temperatures, the collapse of agriculture and fishing, the extinction of species, flooding of low elevation coastal areas, and refugees by the millions fleeing environmental devastation.  So finely tuned is the earth in all of its interrelationships, that every loss will lead to chain reaction effects, and to multiply loss upon loss is to trigger consequences beyond our imagination.  It is nothing short of criminal that such a fate awaits the planet and future generations solely because political leaders prefer to give precedence to the maximization of corporate profits.  This is the free market philosophy in its purest expression, when the planet and even life itself cannot be allowed to threaten the right of the wealthy to reap more riches.  A system that depends on military and economic might to maintain the privileges of the few while sowing death, starvation, poverty, exploitation and ruin for the many has no right to go on calling itself  “efficient” and “the system that works.”  Not when those who benefit already possess far more than they will ever need, while crushing the aspirations of billions of people throughout the world, and not when corporate greed and avarice threaten to ruin the very planet itself.

[1] Geoffrey Lean, “Global Warming Spirals Upward,” The Independent (London), March 28, 2004.         Impacts of Europe’s Changing Climate, European Environmental Agency, Copenhagen

[2] D.A. Stainforth, et al, “Uncertainty in Predictions of the Climate Response to Rising Levels of Greenhouse Gases,” Nature, January 27, 2005.

Michael Hopkin, “Internet Project Forecasts Global Warming,” Nature, January 26, 2005.

Richard Black, “Alarm at New Climate Warning,” BBC News, January 26, 2005.                                 Jenny Hogan, “Soaring Global Warming ‘Can’t be Ruled Out’,” New Scientist News Service, January 26, 2005.

[3] John Houghton, Global Warming: the Complete Briefing, Third Edition, Cambridge University Press, 2004.

[4] John Lanchbery, “Ecosystem Loss and its Implications for Greenhouse Gas Concentration Stabilisation,” paper delivered at the Avoiding Dangerous Climate Change symposium, Exeter, Great Britain, February 2, 2005.

[5] Camille Parmesan and Hector Galbraith, Observed Impacts of Global Climate Change in the U.S., The Pew Center for Global Climate Change, Arlington, November 2004.

[6] Chris Thomas, et al, “Extinction Risk from Climate Change,” Nature, January 8, 2004.

“Global Warming Threatens Millions of Species,” New Scientist News Service, January 7, 2005.

[7] Maria Cone, “Threat to Amphibians Rising,” Los Angeles Times, October 15, 2004.

Steve Connor, “Alarm as Global Study Finds One-Third of Amphibians Face Extinction,” The Independent (London), October 15, 2004.

[8] “Global Bird Populations Face Dramatic Decline in Coming Decades, Study Predicts,” Science Daily, December 20, 2004.

[9] Peter N. Spotts, “An Arctic Alert on Global Warming,” Christian Science Monitor, November 9, 2004.

Press Release, “New Scientific Consensus: Arctic is Warming at Unprecedented Rate, Burning of Fossil Fuels is Culprit,” Natural Resources Defense Council, November 8, 2004.

Alister Doyle, “Woes of Warming Arctic to Echo Worldwide via Birds,” Reuters, November 10, 2004.

Steve Connor, “Meltdown: Arctic Wildlife is on the Brink of Catastrophe,” The Independent (London), November 11, 2004.

Bradley S. Klapper, “WWF: Global Warming May Kill Polar Bears,” Associated Press, January 29, 2005.

Susan Joy Hassol, et al, Impacts of a Warming Arctic, Cambridge University Press, 2004.

[10] “Arctic Melt May Dry Out US West Coast,” New Scientist News Service, April 11, 2004.

Juliet Eilperin, “Arid Arizona Points to Global Warming as Culprit,” Washington Post, February 6, 2005.

[11] John Houghton, Global Warming: the Complete Briefing, Third Edition, Cambridge University Press, 2004.

“Greenland Ice Cap ‘Doomed to Meltdown’,” New Scientist News Service, April 7, 2004.

Jason A. Lowe, et al, “The Role of Sea Level Rise and the Greenland Ice Sheet in Dangerous Climate Change and Issues of Climate Stabilisation,” paper delivered at the Avoiding Dangerous Climate Change symposium, Exeter, Great Britain, February 1, 2005.

Michael Byers, “On Thinning Ice,” London Review of Books, January 6, 2005.

Geoff Jenkins, et al, Stabilising Climate to Avoid Dangerous Climate Change, the Hadley Centre for Climate Prediction and Research, January 2005.

Susan Joy Hassol, et al, Impacts of a Warming Arctic, Cambridge University Press, 2004.

[12] John Houghton, Global Warming: the Complete Briefing, Third Edition, Cambridge University Press, 2004.

David Fogarty, “Asia Faces Living Nightmare from Climate Change,” Reuters, November 29, 2004.

[13] “Sleeping Giants,” New Scientist, February 12-18, 2005.

Press Release, “Arctic Rivers Discharge More Freshwater into Ocean, Reflecting Changes to Hydrologic Cycle Caused by Warming,” American Geophysical Union, January 19, 2005.

“Shutdown of Circulation Pattern Could be Disastrous, Researchers Say,” Science Daily, December 20, 2004.

Geoff Jenkins, et al, Stabilising Climate to Avoid Dangerous Climate Change, the Hadley Centre for Climate Prediction and Research, January 2005.

[14] Jenny Hogan, “Antarctic Ice Sheet is an ‘Awakened Giant’,” New Scientist News Service, February 2, 2005.

“Antarctic’s Ice ‘Melting Faster’,” BBC News, February 2, 2005.

“Sleeping Giants,” New Scientist, February 12-18, 2005.

Michael McCarthy, “Dramatic Change in West Antarctic Ice Could Produce 16Ft Rise in Sea Levels,” The Independent (London), February 2, 2005.

[15] Press Release, “Scripps Researchers Find Clear Evidence of Human-Produced Warming in World’s Oceans,” Scripps Institution of Oceanography, February 17, 2005.

Maggie Fox, “Ocean, Arctic Studies Show Global Warming is Real,” Reuters, February 17, 2005.

Steve Connor, “The Final Proof: Global Warming is a Man-Made Disaster,” The Independent (London), February 19, 2005.

[16] Geoffrey Lean, “Seas Turn to Acid as They Absorb Global Pollution,” The Independent (London), August 1, 2004.

Michael McCarthy, “Greenhouse Gas ‘Threatens Marine Life’,” The Independent (London), February 4, 2005.

Steve Connor, “Why Global Warming Puts Bib on the Menu,” The Independent (London), May 13, 2005.

[17] “Phew, What a Scorcher – And it’s Going to Get Worse,” Agence France-Presse, December 1, 2004.

Alex Kirby, “Europe Heatwaves ‘Soon Routine’,” BBC News, December 14, 2004.

[18] “Drought’s Growing Reach: NCAR Study Points to Global Warming as Key Factor,” National Center for Atmospheric Research, January 10, 2005.

Fred Pearce, “A Searing Future,” New Scientist News Service, November 11, 2000.

David Fogarty, “Asia Faces Living Nightmare from Climate Change,” Reuters, November 29, 2004.

“High-Flying Observatory Reveals Land Changing to Desert,” Science Daily, December 21, 2004.

Geoff Jenkins, et al, Stabilising Climate to Avoid Dangerous Climate Change, the Hadley Centre for Climate Prediction and Research, January 2005.

[19] Andrew Simms, “Unnatural Disasters,” The Guardian (London), October 15, 2003.

“Refugees, Disease, Water and Food Shortages to Result from Global Warming,” Agence France-Presse, February 2, 2005.

[20] Bill Hare, “Relationship between Increases in Global Mean Temperature and Impacts on Ecosystems, Food Production, Water and Socio-Economic Systems,” paper delivered at the Avoiding Dangerous Climate Change symposium, Exeter, Great Britain, February 2, 2005.

John Houghton, Global Warming: the Complete Briefing, Third Edition, Cambridge University Press, 2004.

[21] Dinyar Godrej, The No-Nonsense Guide to Climate Change, Verso (London), 2001.

“Bugs Ravage North American Forests,” New Scientist News Service, December 15, 2004.

Paul R. Epstein and Gary M. Tabor, “Climate Change is Really Bugging Our Forests,” Washington Post, September 7, 2003.

Susan Joy Hassol, et al, Impacts of a Warming Arctic, Cambridge University Press, 2004.

Mark Lynas, High Tide: the Truth About Our Climate Crisis, Picador, 2004.

[22] Ed Cropley, “Melting Glaciers Threaten World Water Supply,” Reuters, November 17, 2004.

Ceri Radford, “Melting Swiss Glaciers Threaten Alps – Scientist,” Reuters, November 15, 2004.

Charles J. Hanley, “World’s Glaciers Slowly Disappearing,” Associated Press, January 30, 2005.

[23] Dinyar Godrej, The No-Nonsense Guide to Climate Change, Verso (London), 2001.

Michael Byers, “On Thinning Ice,” London Review of Books, January 6, 2005.

Miguel Bustillo, “Arctic Warming is Drying Up Lakes, Study Finds,” Los Angeles Times, June 3, 2005.

Fred Pearce, “Climate Warning as Siberia Melts,” New Scientist, August 13-19, 2005.

Ian Sample, “Warming Hits ‘Tipping Point’,” The Guardian (London), August 11, 2005.

“Sleeping Giants,” New Scientist, February 12-18, 2005. (“5000 billion tonnes” (British) = 5 quadrillion tons (U.S.); British billion =  12 zeros.  U.S. billion = 9 zeros).

Fred Pearce, “Climate Change: Menace or Myth?”, New Scientist, February 12-18, 2005.

[24] James Gustave Speth, Red Sky at Morning, Yale University Press, 2004.

Dinyar Godrej, The No-Nonsense Guide to Climate Change, Verso (London), 2001.

[25] Jeremy Leggett, The Carbon War, Routledge, 2001.

James Gustave Speth, Red Sky at Morning, Yale University Press, 2004.

Dinyar Godrej, The No-Nonsense Guide to Climate Change, Verso (London), 2001.

“Climate Change: the Big Emitters,” BBC News, July 23, 2004.

[26] Ross Gelbspan, Boiling Point, Basic Books, 2004.

Dinyar Godrej, The No-Nonsense Guide to Climate Change, Verso (London), 2001.

“Climate Change: the Big Emitters,” BBC News, July 23, 2004.

[27] “Russian Handover Turns Kyoto Protocol into Full-Fledged Treaty,” Agence-France Presse, November 18, 2004.

Ross Gelbspan, Boiling Point, Basic Books, 2004.

John Heilprin, “Bush Sees Jobs at Risk in Climate Treaty,” Associated Press, February 15, 2005.

George Monbiot, “No Longer Obeying Orders,” www.monbiot.com, June 10, 2004.

[28] “Climate Scientist Ousted,” BBC News, April 19, 2002.

Haider Rizvi, “Robert Watson – ‘The United States Decided to Shoot the Messenger’,” Tierramerica, June 16, 2002.

[29] Juliet Eilperin, “U.S. Wants No Warming Proposal,” Washington Post, November 4, 2004.

Michael Byers, “On Thinning Ice,” London Review of Books, January 6, 2005.

“Clear Effects of Global Warming, Except on U.S. Policy,” Detroit Free Press, December 18, 2004.

Bart Cameron, “Group Passes on Addressing Global Warming,” Associated Press, November 25, 2004.

[30] Elizabeth Shogren and Kenneth R. Weiss, “Environment Officials See a Chance to Shape Regulations,” Los Angeles Times, November 10, 2004.

[31] “NOAA Loses Funding to Gather Long-Term Climate Data,” Science Magazine, January 14, 2005.

[32] “U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service Survey Summary,” Union of Concerned Scientists, February 2005.

“Survey of U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Ecological Services Employees,” Union of Concerned Scientists, February 2005.

Julie Cart, “U.S. Scientists Say They are Told to Alter Findings,” Los Angeles Times, February 10, 2005.

[33] “2005 USFWS Ecological Services Survey Selected Essays,” Union of Concerned Scientists, February 2005.

Julie Cart, “U.S. Scientists Say They are Told to Alter Findings,” Los Angeles Times, February 10, 2005.

“NASA: Bush Stifles Global Warming Evidence,” Associated Press, October 26, 2004.

[34] Andrew C. Revkin, “Bush Aide Softened Greenhouse Gas Links to Global Warming,” New York Times, June 8, 2005.

John Vidal, “Revealed: How Oil Giant Influenced Bush,” The Guardian (London), June 8, 2005.

Julian Borger, “Ex-Oil Lobbyist Watered Down US Climate Research,” The Guardian (London), June 9, 2005.

[35] Michael Janofsky, “U.S. and 13 Other States Agree on Push to Gather Methane Gas,” New York Times, November 17, 2004.

John Heilprin, “Methane Targeted by U.S. as McCain Raps Bush on Global Warming,” Associated Press, November 16, 2004.

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[36] Juliet Eilperin, “U.S. Gets Another Reprieve on Use of Pesticide by Farms,” Washington Post, November 27, 2004.

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[43]  James M. Taylor, “Nuclear Power Wins Endorsement of Engineers,” Environment News, January 1, 2005.

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