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Consequences Strike As Political Leaders Wrangle Over Global Warming

By James Donahue

President George W. Bush was tangling with world leaders over the issue of global warming this week at another G-8 Summit in Japan. While there has been an agreement among all 16 participating nations that cuts in greenhouse gas emissions must be made, the leaders were unable to agree on how to do it.

Earlier in the week the core group of the G-8 Summit pledged to cut carbon emissions in half by 2050. A group of five emerging nations, China, India, Brazil, Mexico and South Africa, however, refused to sign onto this goal. They said they are holding out until the United States takes more aggressive steps to cut pollution.

Meanwhile, back on the home front, California Senator Barbara Boxer, who chairs the Environment and Public Works Committee, accused the Bush Administration of a cover up of key information in a greenhouse gas emissions report. The erased pages from the report were clearly designed to stop the Environmental Protection Agency from controlling industrial emissions.

This has been a major issue that has frustrated environmentalists since Mr. Bush took office in 2001. This president denied from the start that global warming was occurring, and went out of its way to strip the EPA of its ability to use existing legislation to control industrial pollution of the air, ground and water. Mr. Bush also has refused to cooperate with other world nations in forcing a reduction of heat trapping emissions, even though industry in the United States has been shown to be among the biggest polluters of the air.

But as the old adage goes, the chickens are coming home to roost. Two major news events this week are directly related to climate change. They are big Bertha, a hurricane churning out over the Atlantic, and an extreme fire alert posted for an already blazing State of California.

The hurricane Bertha is somewhat of an anomaly because of the way it formed. It broke all records for becoming the furthest east-named storm prior to August 1. Dr. Phil Klotzback, a Colorado State hurricane expert, says it is rare when a hurricane develops in that part of the Atlantic, just off the coast of Africa, during July.

Such storms, Klotzback explained, develop later in the season, usually after August 1, and track westward across the tropical Atlantic. Many of them swing north to die out over the open Atlantic, but some reach the Gulf of Mexico or strike the east coast of the United States.

It is significant that the surface temperature of the Atlantic, in the area where Bertha formed, is running 2-3 degrees C above average. That Bertha formed the way it did, quickly growing to a Class C storm, may be a warning that we are in for a bad hurricane season in the months to come.

In California, where thousands of fire fighters, assisted by National Guard troops, are already suffering battle fatigue from weeks of fighting an estimated 1,700 forest fires, weather forecasters are warning this week that conditions are right for “explosive fire growth potential” from the Oregon state line to an area just north of Los Angeles.

They said extreme heat, with temperatures reaching past 100 degrees Fahrenheit, accompanied by very dry air and gusty winds are capable of turning fires already in existence, and any new blazes sparked by dry lightning or human activities, into raging fire storms.

Mike Richwine, division chief with the state Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, said the warning comes in the midst of an already “unprecedented” start to the California fire season when 1,700 fires broke out in a 48-hour period starting on June 21, when a dry band of lightning storms struck the state.

A Butte County blaze reportedly destroyed 50 homes and forced the evacuation of 10,000 people even as this report is being filed.

Meteorologist Suzanne Anderson warned of “explosive fire growth potential,” especially in blazes still being fought in the Big Sur and Santa Barbara regions, where hundreds of homes are threatened.

No longer in the news, but just as significant, is the damage caused by a band of severe weather fronts that marched across the Midwest last month, bringing hundreds of tornadoes and extreme flooding that left streams and rivers overflowing their banks. Flooding in some areas were recorded as the worst ever experienced in known history. Entire communities were wiped out.