Sun Sets on Skeptics of Global Warming (December 5, 2005)
With the release of data on 650,000 years of atmospheric carbon dioxide levels extracted from Antarctic ice cores, the sun has finally set on those who claim current levels of the greenhouse gas are merely natural fluctuations. As covered in Scientific American and elsewhere, the current CO-2 level of 380 parts per million is simply unprecedented.
"We have added another piece of information showing that the timescales on which humans have changed the composition of the atmosphere are extremely short compared to the natural time cycles of the climate system," says Thomas Stocker of the University of Bern in Switzerland, who led the research.Carbon dioxide levels have risen from approximately 220 PPM before the Industrial Revolution to 380 PPM today. The long-term effects of such high levels of CO-2 in the atmosphere are unknown, of course, but studies suggest global warming will be one inevitable result.
In other environmental news, the Wall Street Journal reports that China's recent environmental woes stem from deeper weaknesses in the political system-- deficiencies covered in-depth here in China, An Interim Report. It's the usual suspects: weak central government oversight and industries serving the political needs of local government honchos and their big-bucks allies. One wonders how much of the glorious red in this Big Sur sunset drifted over from Red China:
A recent U.S. study predicts that in the next decade as much as one third of the smog-forming nitrogen oxide emissions in California's air will come from China.South Korean researchers published a study last year showing that more than 40% of sulphur dioxide and other toxic pollutants in that country's air appeared to have originated from China.
One difficulty has been that the State Environmental Protection Administration has only 200 professional employees as opposed to 10,000 that work for its counterpart in the U.S., the Environmental Protection Agency.
Top Chinese officials are also making renewed calls on local provinces to rethink growth priorities that have allowed the construction of plants along river banks and in residential areas.
But China's industrial engine has proven largely incapable of policing itself. Many of its biggest companies remain state-run, and many government agencies continue to play the role of both regulator and owner, leading to potential conflict of interests. So the San Francisco Bay Area's air and water quality agencies have far more staff than the entire EPA of China's central government? Is there any wonder why the policing and monitoring of China's vast pollution problems is so lax? As for the Central government calling on the provinces to shore up their environmental policies: That's akin to demanding the fox do a much better job of guarding the chicken coop. If you're a regional politico, who are you going to listen to: the big-shots in your own area who are building all the new factories and subdivisions putting your constituents to work, or some bureaucrat in Beijing telling you to develop policies and find the money to improve water and air quality? With 200 staffers, just how effective do you reckon the central government's oversight can be?
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