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Monday, July 26, 2010

Monday morning coming down

Well, another weekend comes and goes and Water Blogged can only look back fondly, recalling late-night homemade pizza, a great and greasy Sunday morning breakfast, and a rocky paddling trip that nearly made us Water Logged, yet became very much worth it when it yielded an enchanting encounter with a juvenile gray whale.

You have to have money to make pizza and greasy breakfasts on weekends, however, so WB returns to the working world on Monday to find that scientific progress has not stopped. For example, it now demonstrates what should be starkly obvious: virtually all climate scientists agree on the basic concepts of anthropogenic climate change, and those who dispute anthropogenic climate change tend to have "substantially" less expertise and profile than their counterparts.

Unfortunately, there are some oyster farmers in Oregon and Washington who may have good reason to sign their names on the list of the converted: scattered accounts report that their oyster larvae are dying before they can settle and begin to develop, and climate change's ugly twin, ocean acidification - the chemical result of increasing concentrations of carbon dioxide in seawater - has been identified as a prime suspect by researchers and by the oyster growers themselves. Ocean acidification reduces the availability of carbonate ions, which are essential for the construction of oyster shells. Researchers are finding evidence of surprisingly strong ocean acidification in the Puget Sound region, due to both nutrient runoff and to increasing concentrations of carbon dioxide in sea water, and there is a gathering sense that the oyster crash and acidification trend are interconnected.

Not to be deterred by these or a million other damning indictments of the effects of our energy use, a guy who is probably really, really rich is getting his back up to defend a proposed pipeline that will connect the Alberta oils sands with Texas. The Tyee, citing the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, reports that the oil supplied by this pipeline, when it is combusted, will result in over 80% more CO2 emissions than the products of 'standard' oil. That such a massive and carbon-intensive project is even being considered by a cost-conscious business is a strong indication of the degree to which nobody expects strong energy legislation, with some kind of carbon capping system, to ever pass in the U.S.  Such a brazen move should be a slap in the face to the Democrats, if they weren't busy beating everyone to the punch: the Democrats in the U.S. Congress, faced with that country's last best chance to pass important energy legislation before the 2010 elections, gave up with nary a nasally whimper, and by doing so once again exhibited their party's trademark lack of spine, fight, and nerve. However, they perhaps felt justified in leaving energy legislation to die by the roadside after reading the news that China has surpassed the U.S. as the world's #1 energy user.

And so as we embark on the week of July 26-30, we find ourselves in a world in which it is increasingly certain that anthropogenic climate change and ocean acidification are real, and that even now their effects may be moving from predictions in clean and orderly pages of scientific journals to ugly reality in the waters of rural oyster farms. Yet we find ourselves leaderless, much as we did last week and the weeks, months, years, and yes, decades, before that.

My question to you: Our ecological challenges, most notably climate change and ocean acidification but also overfishing, deforestation, biodiversity loss, and abuse of nutrient cycles, are problems that require solutions with long time horizons. Can we expect to get solutions to these long-term problems from elected politicians when we have governing institutions that are based upon rapid election cycles? After all, why would a rational and sane politician propose measures that very well could cost them their job, while only yielding benefits 50 or 100 years down the line? Should we expect - can we expect - politicians to be that altruistic, when most of us can't be bothered to walk more than 2 blocks without hopping into our cars?


  1. Your last sentence says it all! While we busy ourselves pointing a finger at politicians we forget the adage that there are three more pointing back at us.

  2. Governments are the last to change. Time for us all to suck it up and treat driving as a luxury, unplug the dryer, and make a bedroom in the basement when its hot instead of turning on the A/C. For starters...

  3. The following article in the Province exemplifies the dour effects from the vicious cycle of our oil dependency.