Cleaning up our emissions

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By Optic Editorial Board

Global warming. Climate change. Extreme weather. Call it what you want, just recognize it as an environmental upheaval of epic proportions. Earth and Humanity are moving toward the edge, and it doesn’t appear reversible given today’s political and economic paradigm.

Forget the argument that all this is a hoax — the science, coupled with empirical observation is there, that the earth is indeed warming.

And never mind the debate over how much humans are contributing — even if we’re only partly to blame, to do nothing to reduce our carbon emissions would still be wrong. Humanity — with the U.S.A. as the necessary leader  — must clean up its act if we’re going to leave future generations a planet worth inhabiting.

But just in case there are still doubters among us, let’s review the facts, according to information gathered by National Geographic:
•Average temperatures have gone up 1.4 degrees Fahrenheit since 1880, more rapidly in recent decades; in fact, 11 of the past 12 years are among the hottest on record since 1850.
• The Arctic is melting, so fast that at this rate if will be ice-free by the summer of 2040. Meanwhile, glaciers and mountain snows are dissipating — Montana’s Glacier National Park, for example, has gone from 150 glaciers in 1910 to only 27 now — while coral reefs in tropical climates are dying off because of rising sea temperatures.
• Then there are the extreme weather events — wildfires, heat waves, droughts, storms or more. Climatologists say they will become more frequent (in fact, they already are) as the world’s climate changes. Superstorm Sandy is just the latest example of how severe these weather events are becoming.

The evidence is overwhelming, and yet the U.S., the world’s leading energy consumer, gives little more than lip service to any effort to move toward cleaner, renewable energy sources. Why? It’s a classic case of short-term vs. long-term benefits, and unfortunately our economic and political processes are built for immediate gratification.

Long-term planning is just not something this nation is good at.
There is, however, one man who could make a difference: President Obama. We’ll find out soon enough whether he’s willing to invest the necessary political capital into a serious response to global warming.

With re-election behind him, perhaps he can quit giving so much lip service to the fossil fuels industries and get more aggressive in promoting cleaner alternatives. In his first term, he imposed higher fuel-efficiency standards on the auto industry and funneled stimulus money into wind and solar energy development, but the nation is nowhere close to where it needs to be. Maybe in his second term he’ll be more courageous in his actions.