I originally sat down and began this article with the intention of writing a simple commentary dealing with the effects of Global Warming, however in researching the available websites that dealt with the topic; I found that there were several with close ties to industry, (oil, tobacco, etc) that have attempted to paint a picture of "Whacko Environmentalists" and "Alarmist Scientists" overstating the case for global warming. Our government has also not been very forthcoming or honest in their efforts (or lack thereof) in combating global warming. With that in mind; this article will discuss global warming in general and also cover some of the attempts by big business and government to convince us that the affects of global warming will be of minor impact and are at best overstated by environmentalists and scientists.
I recently retired from the workforce and moved to Georgia after living in the New Orleans, Louisiana area for the past 10 years. My wife and I were living there during the Katrina disaster and we lost our home to the storm. After viewing the destruction of both the area and our home; we decided that since we would be retiring within a couple of years, that we would not rebuild in Louisiana, but move inland to a safer area. I firmly believe that Katrina and the stronger Atlantic and Gulf hurricanes we have been seeing in recent years are a direct result of Global Warming. In fact, I would venture to say that you would have a hard time finding a Mississippi or Louisiana Gulf Coast (or Florida) resident that did not believe global warming was affecting our weather and our lives today. I will include my personal experiences with Hurricane Katrina as a part of this story and will also include some of my photographs of the general and personal damages I witnessed in the aftermath of Katrina.
There are more than enough Global Warming websites that deal with the technical aspects, so except where it is necessary to the narrative, I'll try and keep the article as simple as possible. I have linked several good Global Warming websites in the left-hand column and in addition from time to time I will place a link within the narrative where there is a direct connection.
I should start out be saying that if your a "Dyed in the wool, right wing Republican," this article is probably not for you; so please don't waste my time and yours with vitriolic, over the top emails.
Another aspect of the change in our weather that concerns me deeply is the dry or drought conditions in areas that have not experienced that phenomena is decades. In particular, after moving to Georgia, I now find myself in the middle of a second year of severe drought conditions. The state is so dry that recently we experienced the most extensive and most destructive forest fires in the states recorded history. In fact, over two months later these fires have yet to be extinguished and have burned over half a million acres in Georgia and Florida to date.
The drought is not just happening in Georgia and the Southeast; the western states have also experienced record drought in the past two years and are setting records for both the number of fires and for acreage burned. Damages have exceeded 1 billion dollars in the last 4 of 7 years. The Weather Channel states that, "Last year's fire season never really stopped" and Bill Patzert, a climatologist with the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory stated, "Right now we are living in a non-stop fire season." Here in Georgia, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution's headline for June 26 read, "If you think it's hot now, how's 105 sound?" Georgia's state climatologist Professor David Stooksbury, states that "Without tropical systems, we can expect the drought to worsen over the next two months and if the drought conditions persist high temperatures between 100 and 105 could become much more common. The coastal planes could get between 103 and 108." Nate Mayes, a forecaster for the National Weather Service agrees that this is a plausible scenario. 104 of Georgia's 159 counties are now in extreme drought conditions. Our "esteemed" Republican Governor has even gone so far as to state, "I believe in the God that can make it rain and we need to pray for rain."
So, now let me see if I've got this right. We need to pray for rain and it would be a "Good Thing" if we got hit by a couple of tropical systems (read hurricanes). I don't know about the rest of you, but to me it seems that if we have been reduced to the point of praying for rain and hurricanes, maybe it just might be time to pressure your congressmen and or senators to get off the stump and pass some meaningful legislation. At this point, I'm almost as angry at the Democrats as I am at the Republicans. Although, our executive branch has been the main barrier to any progress in fighting Global Warming, neither party is adequately addressing the problem. I'm "ANGRY" and I'm getting angrier by the minute. You and I are also at fault. We sit on our own duffs and complain, but we "do not take any action!" Flood your congress people with email, snail mail, phone calls; let them know that you want something done. Write your local newspaper's "Opinion Sections." Get on committee's, start a BLOG, and lastly think and act to conserve our resources in your own life. Do you really need that full size SUV or full size truck? If not, downsize. I just recently switched from a full size truck myself to a 4 cylinder Toyota in case your wondering if I'm practicing what I'm preaching. This does not mean that I advocate mini-trucks/cars for everyone including farmers and construction folks. Just ask yourself if there is a real need or is it just ego when shopping for your next vehicle.
One of the major website efforts to trivialize Global Warming is perpetuated by "Global Warming Organization," http://www.globalwarming.org/index.php designed and maintained by an organization called "The Cooler Heads Coalition," which in turn was created by "The National Consumer Coalition" which was a project set up by "Consumer Alert." Is this convoluted enough for you yet? Wait, it gets worse! I also noted that none of these websites except the Global Warming one have been updated since March 2007 and when searching for the website for "Consumer Alert," I find that the domain name for http://consumeralert.org has not been renewed, yet their website for Global Warming is still online. However now the 2007 copyright information states, "The Guardian."
One of the organizations which is also part of Cooler Heads is the "60 Plus Association." The president of this organization, James L. Martin wrote an article " Seniors and Global Warming," which warns us senior citizens that if Kyoto passes, we are in big trouble. One line reads as follows: "Senior citizens will be the ones really burnt if this foolish global warming (Kyoto treaty) is implemented." Now, who exactly is the "60 Plus Association?" "Source Watch" states, "Though 60 Plus claims to be a citizens' group, they are actually a front group for the pharmaceutical industry. That bill died in the senate, but Big Pharmaceuticals paid them and similar front groups well - more than $5 million dollars by most accounts (see below). The misinformation of those 'soft money' issue ads helped elect a lot of drug-industry-friendly congresspersons." and the AARP also stated in its 2003 bulletin, "Moreover, an investigation by the AARP Bulletin shows that virtually all of their largest contributions in recent years have come from the same source - the nation's pharmaceutical industry."
Now lets look at Cooler Heads themselves. This group was begun on May 6, 1997 and their stated purpose was "To dispel the myths of global warming by exposing flawed economic, scientific and risk analysis." Cooler Heads was formed as a project of the "The Competitive Enterprise Institute" and was originally chaired by former CEI director Marlo Lewis and directed by CEI Director of Global Warming Myron Ebell.
According to Source Watch and Exxon Secrets Organization, CEI has received over 2 Million Dollars of funding from Exxon Mobile from 1998 through 2005 either through corporate giving or through their foundation. Information on CEI can be found at EXXON SECRETS - FactSheet or at Source Watch - Competitive Enterprise Institute And Global Warming. I could go on , however I hope that by now even the most strident right-wingers can see the light of day where this multi-armed group of nay-sayers is concerned.
Another organization, that attempts to cast doubt on global warming is "The Heartland Institute." This organization receives funding from both the oil industry (Exxon) and tobacco (Phillip Morris). A now defunct website, "Global Warming Cost.org" was funded by the "Western Fuels Association." http://conservativebookclub.com even lists a book, "The Politically Incorrect Guide to Global Warming and Environmentalism" by Christopher C Horner, (and surprise, surprise; Chris Horner is a senior fellow with the "Competitive Enterprise Institute").
With Bush and conservative Republicans dragging their feet on actually doing something to fight Global Warming and Big Oil and many major corporations actively lobbying and fighting any changes in order to preserve their obscene profits at our expense there is little likelihood that we will see significant improvement any time soon and this is where I also fault the Democratic Party. Although, political activists like Al Gore are doing all they can to raise awareness; the main body politic of the Democratic Party has not gotten onboard and even appear to be trying to distance themselves from the issue. At the very least they are not doing all they can to raise the issue and begin taking the needed steps.
In a what might be considered a paradox; warming of the world's oceans could cause a change to a colder climate in Northern Europe and England. This is because climate change could be interfering with the thermal engine that drives the "Gulf Stream." Temperatures in Northern Europe average about 18 degrees (F) higher because of the stream. However, researchers have discovered that over the last 12 years the current has slowed by 30 percent. For a look at the mechanics of why this is happening, check out the article in the British newspaper "Guardian Unlimited."
One of the major contributors to Global Warming is the "Slash and Burn" clearing of rainforests, which releases huge amounts of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. 25 to 30 percent of all the carbon dioxide released to the atmosphere annually is contributed by deforestation. There is strong evidence that Carbon Dioxide, alone is responsible for as much as 50 percent of global warming.
The prediction by NOAA for the 2007 hurricane season is for 13 to 17 named storms with 7 to 10 becoming hurricanes and with 3 to 5 of those becoming major hurricanes. They state that the probability is at 75 percent. They also state that there is a 20 percent chance of a near normal hurricane season. This would mean a 95 percent chance of at least 11 named storms and 6 hurricanes, with 2 becoming major. One of the leading arguments that global warming opponents use is that hurricane seasons are cyclic with cycles of less and more hurricanes; what they fail to mention is that this does not address the increased intensity and strength of the storms we are seeing and will be seeing in the future.
There is a preponderance of evidence that documents the rising temperature of the world's oceans and even government institutions such as the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, (NOAA) will readily admit that warming oceans will produce larger and more intense storms. Camille in 1969 came ashore with higher winds than Katrina and caused intense damage, but it was more localized in area. Katrina on the other hand caused damage all the way from Mobile, Alabama to the west of New Orleans, Louisiana. The earth surface temperature has risen 1 degree Fahrenheit since 1900 and from 1955 to 1998 alone, the temperature of the upper 9800 feet of the oceans has risen .067 degrees Fahrenheit. This may not sound like much, but if that increased ocean heat were instantly released to the atmosphere, it would cause in the range of a 50 degree rise in worldwide temperature. Global Warming is not a theory; it is a FACT!
As I stated in the beginning of the article; my wife and I were living in the New Orleans area when Katrina struck. Our home was extensively damaged and we decided to move inland when I retired, (in March of 2007). I remember watching the news as Katrina intensified and moved ever closer to us. We at least had the means to evacuate, unlike so many of the poor in downtown New Orleans. We left the day before Katrina hit and headed to our granddaughter's in Albany, Georgia; there we checked into a hotel that turned out to be a blessing, (They gave us 30 days free stay). The day after the storm, I received a request from my company to head back to Mississippi (Pascagoula) where I was working as a government contractor at the local shipyard to access our damages and begin recovery efforts. I rented a car, placed two five gallon containers of gas in the trunk and headed south. There was no gas to be had once I got past Tallahatchie.
The shipyard was a mess; they had been inundated with over 6 foot of water above the yard surface. Needless to say, our company trailer and equipment were ruined. In addition, the extended stay hotel I had been staying at during the work week had also taken extensive damage even though it was well inland (route 90) from the Gulf. They had no power and I had to change rooms from the back side to the front as my old room was open to the weather and had flooded. We did have several contractors staying at the hotel and they had gas generators, which we hooked up to provide lighting and showers. We drank bottled water and ate MREs for the first 3 weeks, however things gradually improved. Lowe's was one of the first businesses to reopen, which was a real blessing to the locals as they were now able to purchase repair material.
FEMA was the pits. They were slow to start, bureaucratically inept, and just generally frustrating to deal with. I finally got tired of waiting and purchased my own trailer, which I lived in for about a year and a half until I retired to Georgia. After that experience, I decided that I would leave RV'ing to others. I never want to set foot in another trailer/RV as long as I live! (My Trailer)
It took over a year to get the shipyard back to some semblance of order and even today, two years after Katrina struck, the yard is still not at 100 percent. It is even worse for the local residents of both Mississippi and Louisiana. There are still whole neighborhoods that have not been restored and some that never will. I took some photographs of the damage in the Ocean Springs, Mississippi area and of the damage to our home. I've put some of them online for you to view in Katrina Damages Album.
I pray for those of my friends still in the Gulf Coast area. I know that the probability of more Katrina type storms is high and in the case of New Orleans where the Levees were once again rebuilt to a standard that will not withstand a major hurricane, I can only pray that most will get out in time when the next major storm strikes, as it surely will.
God Bless and Protect each and all of you,
P.S. If there are global warming links you would like to see added to the list in the left-hand column or if you would like to submit an article/commentary for inclusion in the website; please email me at: The Salty Sailor.
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