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Testifying at the EPA

Ordinary citizens can testify on important issues.

One of the nice things about living in a democracy is that individual citizens can express their views.

On May 24 the Environmental Protection Agency held a public hearing in DC on its proposed regulation that would set limits on CO2 emissions from new coal-fired power plants — it would not affect existing ones or those already approved.

The hearing went from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. with breaks for lunch and dinner, and any interested person could sign up to speak for five minutes.

The Lorax was also there to support the proposed regulation, but did not testify.

The schedule was fully booked, with witnesses ranging from DC residents expressing personal health concerns to experts with reams of data. In my testimony I summarized some points from my recent Patch blog about climate change and presented the two charts from that blog — one showing how plant "hardiness zones" in the US have shifted northward since 1990, the other showing that, for the last several decades, the average temperature in the earth's northern latitudes has been rising steadily while the area of polar sea ice has been shrinking — and both trends appear to be accelerating.

I also mentioned working on some environmental issues at CIA in the early 90s and being persuaded by the 1992 book "The Economics of Global Warming" by a respected economist, William Cline. After presenting the evidence and arguments on both sides, he concluded that the case for global warming was not absolutely proven, but was very strong. He determined that the potential consequences were very bad and in that situation the rational response was to begin taking steps to mitigate the consequences. And since 1992 the evidence has gotten much stronger, including shrinking glaciers around the world and insects causing problems in regions that used to be too cold for them. CO2 also causes other problems, such as making the oceans more acidic, which marine biologists say will kill off all the earth's coral reefs.

The proposed CO2 regulation is only a small step and EPA can't impose a carbon tax, which would be the most cost-effective approach. But the Supreme Court has ruled that it has not only the power, but also the duty to take action to limit CO2 emissions that are within its power.

I also mentioned the overwhelming consensus among scientists that climate change is a serious, human-caused problem with potentially catastrophic consequences. And not only climate scientists, but also those in other fields, such as physicist Stephen Hawking and biologist E. O. Wilson, who has written about humans destroying the biosphere that sustains us.

To conclude, I said that in my CIA career I had never worked on an issue as clear-cut as the threat posed by global warming, and suggested that EPA ask CIA for its analysis of the problem and what other countries were doing to address it.

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

Kir George Karouna June 24, 2012 at 09:46 PM
Carbon Dioxide is only 0.04% of the atmosphere and the man made component is only 0.03 % of that. It doesn't seem to be reasonable to conclude that it contributes any significant amount to global global warming. Water vapor is 85% of the greenhouse gasses. If there has been any global warming aside from the shifting of the axis of the earth's rotation, which has been argued to have cause the warming of the earth after the ice ages, then I believe that it was the paving of our roads and the increase of houses with their roof reflection. Sun storms cause noticeble heat spells. During the first week of january in 1948 Ann Arbor, Michigan sweltered for a week of 60 degree weather. That was explained by a sun storm which was directed at MI. Kir Geroge Karouna
Dick Kennedy June 28, 2012 at 04:29 PM
I think your figures are correct but they miss the point--it doesn't take much CO2 to have a warming effect, and scientists knew that in the 19th century. At that time, CO2 levels were about 280 parts per million (ppm) in the atmosphere, roughly what it been for the previous 700,000 years. Now it is 392 ppm--that's a huge increase and it's still rising by 2 ppm every year and it's entirely due to human activity.

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