The Earth at risk - LancasterOnline: Editorials

The Earth at risk

Intelligencer Journal: In Our View

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Posted: Saturday, April 21, 2012 4:17 am | Updated: 7:20 pm, Thu Sep 12, 2013.

March was a record-breaker. A total of 15,272 warm temperature records were broken in the United States That made it the warmest March on record.

Alas, the month doesn't stand alone. The first three months of 2012 were the warmest on record for the contiguous United States, averging 6 degrees above normal.

Were this a solitary event, it could be discounted as an aberration. But the record on global warming shows an alarming trend:

n Last summer was the second warmest in U.S. history at 75.7 degrees.

n 2007 was the fifth warmest year worldwide.

n Since the 1990s, Greenland's ice sheet has been losing roughly 48 cubic miles of ice each year.

As we mark Earth Day on Sunday, one thing is clear: Climate change is occurring. Temperatures are rising. And while some dispute the theory that mankind is responsible for the changing climate, more than 98 percent of the world's scientists (according to the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences) contend that not only is climate change attributable to mankind, time is running out to reverse course.

What especially concerns the International Energy Agency is what is happening around the world.

Brazil, which once acted as sponge for carbon pollution, is poised to become carbon emitter because of deforestation and drought.

And China, once a backwater when it came to industry, has become the biggest emitter of greenhouse gases thanks to the construction of coal plants to meet its growing electricity needs. China now emits more greenhouse gases than the United States and Canada combined.

The United States, however, remains No. 1 in per capita emissions among large economies with a rate of 18 tons per person. China's rate is 6 tons per person.

In fact, the U.S. has been on a coal-plant building binge in recent years as operators attempt to beat new energy emissions limits.

The Obama administration's proposal earlier this month to limit greenhouse gases from new power plants probably will mean that no new coal-fired U.S. plants will be built after this year, but most experts do not expect to see coal decline as a major power source through 2035.

Options do exist, however. Natural gas plants meet emissions standards and the growth in that industry could offer a path to meet power needs and cut emissions.

During Tuesday's Republican gathering at the Lancaster County Convention Center, U.S. Rep. Joe Pitts disagreed with the Obama administration's energy policies.

"I don't care what you think about global warming," Pitts said. "The middle of a recession is the worst possible time to push through legislation that would restrict access to affordable energy."

But the International Energy Agency stated last fall that the world has fewer than five years to change course before greenhouse gases will exceed sustainable levels.

Capping carbon makes sense Delaying jeopardizes people's health.