Saturday

If it’s well below freezing now, how can there be ‘global warming’?


The average temperature lows and highs for January in my hometown are usually about 20º to 40º. So, if it’s well below freezing now, how can there be ‘global warming’? Well,  global warming refers to the whole planet, not only America, or your hometown.




As an example, a strong low pressure system in the Arctic will serve to continue making some areas of the world very cold, while others still get very hot. Warmer than average annual temperatures in the Arctic as a direct result of global warming also alter the normal course of the jet stream, changing temperatures as far south as the United States. 

“Warm temperatures in the Arctic cause the jet stream to take wild swings, and when it swings farther south, that causes cold air to reach farther south. These swings tend to hang around for a while, so the weather we have in the eastern United States, whether it’s cold or warm, tends to stay with us longer."- Jennifer Francis, research professor of marine and coastal sciences at Rutgers University says in a press release.

For further reference on this type of weather and climate phenomena, please see: https://news.nationalgeographic.com/2017/07/global-warming-arctic-colder-winters-climate-change-spd/https://inhabitat.com/climate-change-and-the-polar-vortex-to-blame-for-unpredictable-weather/

And: https://scijinks.gov/polar-vortex/

America vs. the environment

Urban development in America has come at the expense of the environment, ostensibly in order to boost the economy. The boost in the economy from urban development was meant to boost American society. A much more logical, sustainable framework, would be working with nature in order to create strong economies and communities in American cities.

It seems that instead of learning from the lessons from the historical success and failures of urban development in American cities, public policymakers under this new White House administration have been willfully ignoring the lessons of the past; namely that economic, environmental, and social concerns are to be woven into a cloth of sustainability in order to create strong, vibrant, resilient American cities.

Just as one example, the current Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is doing very little to actually protect the environment. It’s more than just that top administrators at the EPA seem to minimize (or deny) the existence of anthropogenic climate change; it is that the EPA, the Trump administration, and many Republican members of Congress have been working to roll back environmental regulations, so that fossil fuel companies are now allowed to literally dump pollution and toxins in America’s waters and air. (see: https://newrepublic.com/minutes/140704/trump-caps-off-long-day-letting-coal-companies-dump-waste-streams)

In light of this, it is imperative to keep reminding the American people of the benefits of sustainability to their individual lives, their communities, as well as the overwhelming benefits of sustainability to society as a whole, including the economic benefits of sustainability and renewable energy. Public pressure should create the necessary political change and the leverage, in the form of public will, to create true public-private partnerships to advance environmental sustainability in the United States.

It is important to recognize the efficiency advantages of renewable, clean and sustainable energy and sustainable 21st-century technologies versus fossil fuels and other unsustainable, 20th-century technologies. Also equally important is recognizing the many advantages of energy efficient, sustainable technologies such as electric vehicles over cars with internal combustion engines; and also LED lights vs. incandescent lights, for just a couple examples of modern 21st-century sustainable technology that is preferable to 20th-century technologies.

Historical lack of sustainability in United States cities

American cities developed and expanded substantially during the industrial revolution. Many U.S cities both depended on fossil fuels for urban expansion, and developed their fossil fuel production capabilities and fossil fuel infrastructure rapidly at the beginning of the 20th century. Some American cities also dedicated the majority of their municipal resources to developing fossil fuel infrastructure and products during the industrial revolution and afterward, during the late 19th century and the 20th century. (see: https://study.com/academy/lesson/the-industrial-revolution-impacts-on-the-environment.html)

As city developers, and new residents, of American cities began to feel more and more separate from the land Americans had conquered, pillaged, and reaped the resources from nature for the production of energy and manufacturing goods; people felt more at ease with taking advantage of natural resources (primarily in order to live comfortably in America, enjoying the spoils derived from mass consumption and exploitation of the earth’s finite natural resources). As urban environments became increasingly separate from the land, and from nature, U.S. cities were increasingly defined as “other than” the natural environment. Despite natural resources being finite, the U.S. has continued extracting, transporting, consuming, and disposing of natural resources- creating pollution, exacerbating climate change, and treating the resources from the earth like a “bottomless sink”.

Even now, in the 21st century, it is difficult for cities to extricate themselves from the investment that has been put into the fossil fuel industry and the culture of mass production and mass consumption that permeates the United States.

Positive signs, negative signs

A current example of a clear direction in public policy that balances needs for sustainability of both the economy and the environment, in this case through legislation, is the 2008 Act 129 in Pennsylvania. Act 129 of 2008 amended Section 2807 of the Public Utility Code [in Pennsylvania] by adding a requirement for electric distribution companies (EDCs) with greater than 100,000 customers to submit, for PUC approval, a smart meter technology procurement and installation plan.” [1] 

An example of a public policy direction that ignores environmental concerns in favor of economic concerns, is the dismantling of the Clean Power Plan by this current White House administration, and the trashing of EPA regulations since January 2017. The EPA, and federal administration officials, and some state and local policymakers, have rolled back environmental regulations to the point that fossil fuel companies are now allowed to literally dump pollution and toxins in America’s land, waters and air. [2] 

As Ari Kelman points out in The Natural Landscape of New Orleans, “too often, urban space and landscapes are portrayed exclusively as socially produced, as products of only human efforts. As long as this remains the case, as long as cities are seen only as social artifacts, we will ignore the importance of urban nature, maintaining a false and destructive dichotomy between nature and culture.” [3]

Solutions

There are a few different ways to produce environmental sustainability results in the United States. One way is through state legislation, and public-private partnerships on environmental sustainability concerns as seen in Act 129 in 2008 in Pennsylvania. Another is the combination of government incentives and private initiatives for environmental sustainability in states like California- see https://www.green.ca.gov/.

The most substantial progress in environmental sustainability is coming with mainly private efforts, which do often get some government subsidies, as seen in the case of Tesla - see: https://rctom.hbs.org/submission/tesla-leading-the-charge-toward-a-more-sustainable-future/. Tesla’s research, development, promoting, deployment, and implementation of electric cars, EV infrastructure, and electric battery energy storage for residential, commercial, and industrial use, is a comprehensive plan for an environmentally sustainable future. [4] 

The most important legislation on environmental sustainability concerns America has ever developed, the Clean Power Plan, created with the Obama administration, has been significantly curtailed, if not shut down completely, by the current White House administration/ current EPA administration (https://www.cnbc.com/2018/08/21/trump-administration-to-replace-obamas-clean-power-plan.html).

The Clean Power Plan was a set of federally mandated regulations and laws that aimed to significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions and other pollution from industries across many sectors in the United States, among other environmental sustainability concerns that the legislation addressed. [5]

Ken Kimmell, president of the Union of Concerned Scientists, a nonprofit based in Cambridge, Massachusetts, released a statement on August 21, 2018, which says, “t
he [new White House proposal to replace Obama’s Clean Power Plan] fails to meet EPA’s mandatory duty to curb global warming emissions from major sources such as power plants, which account for… 28% of US greenhouse gas emissions…” [6] It is now up to individual U.S. states to continue to implement sustainable technologies to stabilize greenhouse gas emissions.

As William Greider notes in The Nation: “Industrial capitalism (including all of us who consume its output) is rapidly devouring the one form of capital that cannot be replaced– not just air, water, and the land’s raw resources, but the life-supporting ecosystems themselves. Climate change and global warming are a subset, not the whole, of what threatens. The social imperative is far more daunting than most people imagine– the objectives of zero waste, zero destruction. We need (and soon) an economic system that mimics nature itself…where disruptions and imbalances occur but are self-correcting, self-restoring.” [7]

One reason that America is not a global leader on environmental sustainability concerns, especially with the ongoing demise of the Clean Power Plan, is because much emphasis is placed on whether or not America can “afford” environmental sustainability solutions. But can America “afford” not to? To at least make a good faith effort vis-à-vis environmental sustainability solutions like clean energy, energy efficiency, and sustainable mass transit? Advancing environmental sustainability simultaneously advances economic and social sustainability, so it is in the best interest of all Americans for us to put our collective best foot forward on this subject.


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