Global Warming: Two Arguments

Though I like the first best, both are important to read.

The first is from the National Review, and here are the first few paragraphs:

The Environmental Protection Agency has won a victory at the Supreme Court, with a solid majority of the justices, including Antonin Scalia and John Roberts, signing off on its regulation of greenhouse gases emitted by power plants and other entities already subject to its permitting process. In a separate ruling, the Court forbade the EPA from extending its scope to entities not currently under its jurisdiction based solely on expected greenhouse-gas emissions. President Barack Obama’s plan to issue a presidential fiat requiring that states reduce their greenhouse-gas emissions by 30 percent will not affected by the rulings. Justice Scalia warned the EPA not to get ahead of itself: “Our decision should not be taken as an endorsement of all aspects of EPA’s current approach,” he wrote, “nor as a free rein for any future regulatory application” of the so-called Best Available Control Technology (BACT) rules. Instead, “our narrow holding is that nothing in the statute categorically prohibits EPA” from implementing its contemplated greenhouse-gas controls.

So, a limited victory, but a victory nonetheless on the fundamental matter of using the Clean Air Act — a piece of legislation intended to fight air pollution in the form of ground-level ozone, sulfur, lead, particulate matter, and the like — to empower the agency to regulate carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases on the theory that doing so will help prevent or reduce global warming, an issue that is separate from the questions of smog and industrial toxins that the Clean Air Act was written to address.

When the administration’s emissions-reduction rules were announced, EPA administrator Gina McCarthy described the issue in the habitual progressive language of crusade: “We have a moral obligation to act,” she said.

Do we?

Global warming, or global climate change, if you prefer, is, as the name indicates, a global phenomenon. The United States is, according to the Department of Energy’s Carbon Dioxide Information Analysis Center, responsible for about 14 percent of the world’s carbon-dioxide emissions, not bad for a country that produces 22 percent of the world’s economic output. The generation of electricity, according to the EPA, is the source of just under one-third of U.S. greenhouse-gas emissions — 32 percent, to be precise. Given the trends in the rest of the world, especially in China and India, this reduction, if achieved, would be minuscule by global standards, 30 percent of 32 percent of 14 percent of global emissions, or about 1.3 percent.

Retrieved June 28, 2014 from

The second is from the New York Review of Books, and here are the first few paragaphs:

We may be entering the high-stakes endgame on climate change. The pieces—technological and perhaps political—are finally in place for rapid, powerful action to shift us off of fossil fuel. Unfortunately, the players may well decide instead to simply move pawns back and forth for another couple of decades, which would be fatal. Even more unfortunately, the natural world is daily making it more clear that the clock ticks down faster than we feared. The whole game is very nearly in check.

Let us begin in Antarctica, the least-populated continent, and the one most nearly unchanged by humans. In her book about the region, Gabrielle Walker describes very well current activities on the vast ice sheet, from the constant discovery of new undersea life to the ongoing hunt for meteorites, which are relatively easy to track down on the white ice. For anyone who has ever wondered what it’s like to winter at 70 degrees below zero, her account will be telling. She quotes Sarah Krall, who worked in the air control center for the continent, coordinating flights and serving as “the voice of Antarctica.” From her first view of the landscape, Krall says, she was captivated:

I felt like I had no place to put it…. It was so big, so beautiful. I thought it might seem bare, but that b word didn’t occur to me. Antarctica was just too full of itself.

Describing her walk around the rim of Mount Erebus, the most southerly active volcano on the planet, Krall adds: “It’s visceral. This land makes me feel small. Not diminished, but small. I like that.”

In another sense, though, Antarctica is where we really learned how big we are, if not as individuals then as a species. Scientists have long reckoned that we must be filling the atmosphere with carbon dioxide as we burn coal and gas and oil, and indeed the first instrument designed to measure its abundance—erected in the late 1950s on the slopes of Hawaii’s Mauna Loa—found that more CO2 accumulated with each passing year. But that measurement didn’t tell us much about the past. To understand how much danger we were in required knowing how the planet had responded to atmospheric carbon in the distant past. If you take a core sample of an ice sheet, the tiny air bubbles trapped in each layer can give you a good idea of the successive amounts of CO2—and by far the longest ice cores can be collected in the Antarctic.

Retrieved June 28, 2014 from

About David H Lukenbill

I am a native of Sacramento, as are my wife and daughter. I am a consultant to nonprofit organizations, and have a Bachelor of Science degree in Organizational Behavior and a Master of Public Administration degree, both from the University of San Francisco. We live along the American River with two cats and all the wild critters we can feed. I am the founding president of the American River Parkway Preservation Society and currently serve as the CFO and Senior Policy Director. I also volunteer as the President of The Lampstand Foundation, a nonprofit organization I founded in 2003.
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