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What Goes Around

December 4, 2012 - The UK newspaper The Guardian's e-edition is an excellent source of information about environmental and conservation happenings here in the U.S.  I got kind of a kick out of the headline on this particular story: "Campaigners sue EPA over carbon emissions."  "Campaigners" just isn't a word you ever hear in America.  It's also an odd way of describing the activities of the group concerned.  As it turns out, it's the Institute for Policy Integrity (IPI) who's doing the suing (sorry).  Once upon a time, the abbreviation "NGO" (non-governmental organization) was used to refer to groups like the Institute.  I don't see it much in use these days, however.  That said, campaigning is not at all the reason they exist.

The lack of policy integrity responsible for the threatened lawsuit is the EPA's failure to uniformly and consistently enforce the Clean Air Act, according to the Institute.  A formal notice of intent states that EPA administrator Lisa Jackson must take immediate steps to regulate carbon emissions from cars, planes, and power plants, or expect to be sued.  The IPI originally brought pressure to bear on the EPA regarding the same oversight in 2009.  Numbers of environmental agencies have complained of the EPA's lack of urgency in setting rules for carbon emissions, with some of them having already filed suit.

Michael Livermore is Director of the IPI, and is quoted in The Guardian's article as saying "Hurricane Sandy and the discussion in the media in its aftermath raised the profile of the issue, and delivered a stark reminder that climate change is not going away, the political dynamics of the U.S. Congress notwithstanding."  Certainly climatic events of 2012 should well have succeeded in bringing to a head the vital concerns of scientists and citizens everywhere.  Even now, however, opponents of climate action, accompanied by industrial groups, stand ready to block the EPA from regulating car and power plant emissions, and will meet the Agency in court in order to do so.

A federal appeals court dismissed industry lawsuits in June.  Yet the pressure hasn't stopped; the main oil industry association, the American Petroleum Institute, filed its own lawsuit against the EPA very recently.  This is an attempt to overturn rules requiring gas stations to add biodiesel at the pump.  How much longer these blocking actions will persist is anyone's guess.  At some point, the American public has the right to expect, by law, to breathe clean air.

Matters directly linked to actions taken in the U.S. to curb emissions was the subject of a report issued by the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research and Climate Analytics.  The consequences of unrestrained climate disruption have become increasingly well known: extreme heat waves and drought, inundated coastal cities, water scarcity, declining food production, stronger storms/hurricanes/cyclones, and loss of biodiversity.  One such link was unknown to me, and that is the link between American stubbornness, in the face of growing evidence of our role in upsetting climate balance, and climate change in Syria

Certainly the internal strife playing out in that beleaguered country has become the topic of incessant, insistent news coverage.  Aggravating factors have yet to be mentioned.  Syria has endured six years of drought so severe that hundreds of thousands of people from rural areas have migrated to cities in the hope of finding both jobs and scarce resources.  The Potsdam Institute reports that " ... the role of disaffected rural communities in the Syrian opposition movement has been prominent compared to their equivalents in other 'Arab Spring' countries ...".  Turkey suffers, too, as migrants by the thousands cross its border to avoid the chaos.

Yes, we can continue to do nothing.  Anyone who thinks a day of reckoning  does not await us has little knowledge of history.

Important note: If you haven't read Dave Roberts' article regarding IPI's lawsuit, you've missed a good one.  Go to  http://grist.org/climate-energy/obama-can-tackle-carbon-and-doesnt-need-congress/.

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