November 28, 2007

Small Signs of Progress on the Climate Change Front

Yesterday, NPR's All Things Considered broadcast a story about Roscoe, Texas, a hard-scrabble town in the state's western prairie that is undergoing a minor economic renaissance. Home to just 1,300 people, Roscoe's population has steadily declined since it was bypassed by the interstate and routinely buffeted by the fickle nature of cotton farming, but things are looking up now that residents are licensing their land for a wind farm run by Irish firm Airtricity. While they are mightily enthused about the prospect of new income streams, Roscoe residents are not necessarily green in the environmental sense of the word:
"Everybody likes crisis-type situations and [climate change] has gotten very popular, particularly with the media and so forth," says Jim Boston, a cotton and pecan farmer. "There are quite a few scientists feel like this is normal oscillations in the weather patterns and so forth, and that's more or less my viewpoint also."
Whatever their motivation, the fact that townsfolk are helping supply 800 megawatts of renewable, pollution-free electricity is a good thing; that's enough to fully power 265,000 homes.

In other good news, earlier this month the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals sharply rejected the Bush Administration's proposed new pollution standards for most sport utility vehicles, pickup trucks and vans, ordering regulators to draft new plans with tougher restrictions on auto emissions. The court ruled that the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) failed to explain why light trucks are allowed to pollute more than passenger cars, and didn't properly assess greenhouse gas emissions when it set new minimum mileage requirements for cars built between 2008 and 2011. The court also took issue with the White House's refusal to include in the new standards trucks weighing more than 8,500 pounds, a class that includes the Hummer H2, Ford F250 and other popular large vehicles used primarily as passenger transportation.

Even with both of these positive reports, it's worth remembering that climate change sceptics and deniers like Roscoe's Mr. Boston are still out there. Bearing that in mind, it's worth looking over Climate Scepticism: The Top 10 from the BBC. It provides handy rebuttals to ten of the most prevalent sceptics' arguments:

1. Evidence that the earth's temperature is getting warmer is unclear
2. If the average temperature was rising, it has now stopped
3. The earth has been warmer in the recent past
4. Computer models are not reliable
5. The atmosphere is not behaving as models would predict
6. Climate is mainly influenced by the sun
7. A carbon dioxide rise has always come after a temperature increase not before
8. Long-term data on hurricanes and Arctic ice is too poor to assess trends
9. Water vapour is the major greenhouse gas; CO2 is relatively unimportant
10. Problems such as HIV/AIDS and poverty are more pressing than climate change

Remember, Christmas is on the way, and family gatherings that go along with that holiday often bring together people of widely divergent viewpoints. Have fun and be polite, but drop by "the Beeb," and arm yourself with the knowledge to silence the blatherings of your least favorite brother in law!

(For those interested in analysis in greater depth and reliable, reputable explanations of climate change issues, I highly recommend

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