Monday, November 30, 2015

The battle for Planet Earth

The "endangerment finding" is the first step in allowing the EPA to enforce the Clean Air Act by regulating emissions from fossil fuels used in cars, power plants, oil refineries and other industries.

The battle for Planet Earth


Here's today's Daily News editorial. You may also get a chuckle out of Will Bunch's related post.

THE ENVIRONMENTAL Protection Agency announced Monday that it has determined that six heat-trapping "greenhouse gases" - especially carbon dioxide and methane - pose a danger to public health.

This "endangerment finding" is the first step in allowing the EPA to enforce the Clean Air Act by regulating emissions from fossil fuels used in cars, power plants, oil refineries and other industries.

The announcement came, not coincidentally, on the day that representatives from 190 countries began meeting in Copenhagen to try to begin . . . to take the first steps . . . to lay the groundwork . . . to create a structure . . . for a future plan . . . to reduce global warming. Tentatively, that is.

President Obama reportedly plans to commit the United States to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions by 17 percent from their 2005 levels by 2020 (really only 4 percent if measured using the same standards as the rest of the world does).

The EPA announcement also allows him to demonstrate that his administration could take action against global warming even if Congress doesn't pass the "cap and trade" legislation now stalled in the Senate.

With the time running out in the race to prevent a global catastrophe, that's all he has.

The awful truth is that, while there is a scientific consensus on global warming in the United States, there still isn't a public consensus. For that we can thank eight years of obstruction by Obama's predecessor.

A report this week by the Center for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington illustrated the influence that industry exercised in the Bush administration: At least 22 Bush-era officials walked out of the White House and into big jobs in the energy industry.

The anti-environmentalists have also scored another victory by pumping up a scandal over e-mails hacked from a British research center that they claim show scientists inflating evidence of global warning, a charge disproved by multiple news organizations.

Yet even as the Global Meteorological Organization declared the past decade to be the hottest on record, many Americans likely paid more attention to an op-ed in the Washington Post by Sarah Palin that ripped the Copenhagen summit for its alleged "agenda-driven" science.

Even though the EPA's announcement is a big step forward, experts warned that any new regulations likely will be challenged in court, and tied up for years. Still, even the threat of the EPA regulations could leverage congressional action on cap and trade. (That's the program to gradually cap emissions by allowing "cleaner" industries to trade pollution credits with "dirtier" ones, reducing economic hardship and providing incentives to develop alternative energy sources.)

Some environmentalists say cap and trade is too little, too late, but it's probably the only action that's politically possible. At the same time, passing it will be an ordeal - if the fight over health care is any indication of how Congress deals with legislation that displeases its corporate donors.

MEMBERS OF CONGRESS should meet Mohamed Axam Maumoon, 15, who lives in the Maldives, a group of islands in the Indian Ocean and who is attending the Copenhagen conference.

Most of Maumoon's homeland is just above sea level, making it one of several countries that would be destroyed if the predicted rise in sea level caused by global warming isn't averted.

In an interview, Maumoon posed this question to the world: "Would you commit murder? On the basis that you know what you're doing is wrong and you can see that the victim is begging for mercy and for you to stop what you're doing, yeah, would you commit murder?"

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Earth to Philly is a weblog focusing on earth-conscious technology, trends and ideas, from a Daily News perspective. We look at the "green" aspects of your home, business, food, transportation, style, policy, gadgets and artwork. If you have a Philly-related story, Click here to let us know about it!

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Look for Jenice Armstrong to supply tips on green living as well as occasional columns on the subject of Green. She also blogs at Hey Jen.

Becky Batcha stays tuned for the here-and-now practical side of conservation, alternative energy, organic foods, etc. - stuff you can do at home now. Plus odds and ends.

Laurie Conrad recycles from her ever-growing e-mailbag to pass along the latest travel deals, fashion statements, household strategies, gadgets, cool local events and other nuggets of interest to those who appreciate a clean, green world.

Vance Lehmkuhl looks at topics like eco-conscious eating, public transportation and fuel-efficient driving from his perspective as a vegetarian, a daily SEPTA bus rider and a hybrid driver, as well as noting the occasional wacky trend or product. Contact Vance with your 'green' news.

Ronnie Polaneczky sees the green movement through the eyes of her 12-year-old daughter, who calls her on every scrap of paper or glass bottle that Ronnie neglects to toss into the house recycling bins. Ronnie will blog about new or unexpected ways to go green. She also blogs at So, What Happened Was...

Sandra Shea and the DN editorial board opine on any green-related legislation or policy. And we'll pass along some of the opeds on the subject that people send us.

Jonathan Takiff will be blogging mainly about consumer electronics - those things that we love to use and that suck too much energy. He'll spotlight green-conscious gizmos made in a responsible fashion, both in terms of materials used and the energy it takes to run them.

Signe Wilkinson draws the comic strip Family Tree, which follows the Tree family as they try to live green in the face of nattering neighbors, plastic-wrapped consumer products, and the primal teenage urge to spend vast quantities of money on hair care products of dubious organic quality.

In addition to these updates from our newsroom bloggers, watch for an occasional feature, Dumpster Diver Dispatches, from Philadelphia's original "green" community of artists, the Dumpster Divers. You'll learn about creative ways to reuse and recycle while you reduce, and about the artists who are making little masterpieces from what others throw out.

  • Dispatch #1: Margaret Giancola's rugs from plastic bags
  • Dispatch #2: Dumpster Divers in City Hall (Art in City Hall series)
  • Dispatch #3: Wild wood, New Jersey
  • Dispatch #4: Dumpster Divers award winners announced
  • Dispatch #5: From sweaters to colorful cuddling
  • Dispatch #6: Green artists retake South Street Sunday
  • Dispatch #7: Isaiah Zagar: He's a Magic (Gardens) Man

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