Saturday, April 07, 2007

Easy riding on the "highway to extinction"

The Court ruling also strikes a blow against the pudgy, middle-aged jackasses who drive Hummers.
It's been a bad week for fossil fuel apologists.

On Monday, the Supreme Court (over the objections of its recent neocon appointees) disciplined the automobile industry with a ruling that gave the EPA the authority and responsibility to regulate global warming pollution from our motor vehicles.

For the nation as a whole, these so-called "tailpipe" emissions account for about 1/4 of our global warming pollution. But that share is much higher in Maine, where hydroelectricity produces a greater share of our electricity and we generally drive more. Maine was actually one of the plaintiffs in the case, and the ruling will help us and other Northeastern states to go ahead and enact our own fuel-efficiency standards for cars.

The Supreme Court also ruled, unanimously, that Duke Energy could no longer avoid investing in pollution control equipment at its oldest coal-fired power plants, which have been grandfathered out of Clean Air Act regulations for decades now (related: Good News From the Midwest).

Then, on Friday, the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change followed up Volume One: The Truth (in which thousands of climatologists agreed that climate change is happening and that we're "very likely" to be responsible) with the second part of its assessment report: The Consequences. With lots of dire warnings and hundreds of pages of evidence, this document would make Chief Justice John Roberts himself reconsider his pandering devotion to ExxonMobil.

The report included degree-by-degree projections of global warming and its consequences, which some of the scientists described as a "highway to extinction." Add one more degree Celsius to our average 1990 temperatures, and between 400 and 1700 million people won't have enough water, infectious diseases will increase, and most amphibian species will die out. Add two more degrees of Celsius, and 2 billion people will suffer from water shortages while between a quarter and a third of the world's species will be near extinction.

These are the more modest projections, which could come true by 2050 at our current rate of carbon pollution. If global warming were a highway, this report would make a disturbing warning sign: famine, drought, and mass extinction, one degree straight ahead (look for it between the mall and the car dealership).

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