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Penny Wise, Future Foolish

September 3, 2012 - The accelerated melting of Arctic ice during the summer has been a huge story for the last week or two.  While I don't intend to write about it, it surely deserves a nod of recognition.  You can find excellent lists of stories concerning this aspect of climate change at algore.com.

Detroit's about-face regarding improved fuel efficiency may be the one and only benefit of the various bailouts that took place in '08.  Obama bought their good will by keeping them around, at the same time telling them he was going to let them return the favor.  I guess the car makers figured they could still be saved by the Republicans if the target dates were far enough away.  Nonetheless, an industry-wide average of 54.5 mpg for passenger cars will, as of the past week, go into effect in 2025.  Buses and trucks must likewise improve their EPA rating, only for them the deadline is already looming: 2014 - 2018.

We're still nowhere close to acknowledging that, one way or the other, cars do not have a place in a world with normal weather, and air fit to breathe.  Nor will electricity power us into the future as we glide hither and yon on bullet trains.  At the rate global warming is propelling us into a human-powered future (see first paragraph), I think it's unlikely they'll even be part of anything but the briefest of transition periods.

Are you learning to re-skill, re-use (my 60-year-old husband just repaired an old pair of running leggings!), and recycle?  The time has come.  Dont' worry that you are unable to do things as perfectly as you might wish.  The time to practice, practice, practice is now.

And now, under the heading The Further Dismantling of All That's Right With America, comes the following story:

Republicans have cut the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's budget for the third year in a row.  Specifically, the Carbon Cycle Greenhouse Gases Group, Global Monitoring Division, whose job it is to analyze air samples from around the world for the presence and concentration of dozens of gases.  The Group has, over a period of decades, created records to which newer samples can be compared.   These comparisons help scientists in determining and understanding how, and how much, the atmosphere has changed.

The baseline data, available to the public, clearly indicates that carbon dioxide is on the rise.  At a critical juncture in the 1980's, the NOAA's records helped researchers to establish that a hole had developed in the ozone layer.  This vitally important record is now being threatened.  A dozen sampling sites have already been closed; planned tall tower sites, used to sample the air at higher elevations, will be shelved; and existing tall towers could be shut down.  Thus far, the NOAA's budget has been cut 15%.

For these reasons, 50 researchers published a letter last week in the journal Science.  In the letter, they state the following: "Despite the growing importance of greenhouse gases observations to humanity, substantial budget cuts at NOAA have resulted in curtailment of our ability to observe and understand changes to the global carbon cycle ... As scientists, we believe that preserving the continuity of these vital time series must remain a priority for U.S. carbon cycle research."  Scott Lehman, a professor at the University of Colorado's Institute for Arctic and Alpine Research, says the recent, targeted cuts to NOAA's research arm are "new and unprecedented."

Defense spending needs to be cut deeply and immediately.

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