Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Some Republican Senators Still Cool to Global Warming-And What is a Ton of Gas?

At the Senate Committee on Education, Health & Environmental Affairs Committee hearing on the Global Warming Solutions Act, CP had an interesting conversation with the paid-spinner/lobbyist for the Maryland Chamber of Commerce, an organization that has consistently had its head in the sand when it comes to environmental protection. Here we are faced with the greatest global crisis in history and along comes little Maryland to take this one small step, and by the way, it won't even be until 2012 when its full force comes into effect, and we find the pro-business folks whining yet again about how business is unfairly going to suffer. It's sort of like Southern plantation owners complaining that paying slaves would hurt their profit line. Okay, that's a bit "out-there" but for the entire industrial era, business has gained because of government policies and subsidies and the ability to wantonly pass costs directly on to the "environment" which is to say the public domain of air, water and even land. Then it becomes the public that has to pay to clean it up and suffer the consequences and everyone whines about it costing more, whereas all we are doing is paying real costs for the first time!

Although the exchange with the lawyer-lobbyist was pleasant and respectful, Eastern Shore Republican Richard Colburn and Baltimore/Harford Republican Andrew Harris peppered the panel of expert scientists with leading and skeptical questions. Hey guys-get with the program. Global warming is here. It's real. It's a threat. Quit beating around the bush. Colburn,a profoundly conservative veteran Senator who never seems to "get" any issue unless it completely fits his red-blooded litmus test, asked one scientist why he described Hurricane Isabel as a "wakeup call." "We've had hurricanes before, haven't we?" asked the man who represents low-lying and severely threatened Eastern Shore counties.

Harris, a conservative yet vastly more articulate and brighter light than the lumbering, knuckle-dragging Colburn, never the less, started picking apart data that he thought indicated global warming is a naturally occuring event, only slightly accelerated by human activity. He then spent about ten minutes going back and forth about whether expected sea level rise was just a matter of inches. Good grief!

Stuart Jordan, a distinguished astrophysicist, pointedly picked apart each and every objection made by Harris and Colburn. However, as is often the case when a bunch of busy people take all day to come to Annapolis to address a few Senators for a few minutes, neither Harris or Colburn paid any attention, and thumbed through papers and glanced at their laptops as Jordan and others explained the science.

Republican Janet Greenip asked a reasonable question about the definition and meaning of a ton of gases. Senator Paul Pinksy, the firebrand Democrat who introduced the bill to his fellow committee members, suggested that one of the scientists soon to speak would answer her question. When her questions was addressed and answered by the next panel, Greenip was out of the room. Colburn was busy having his second soda delivered to him by an aide. No doubt, he would be making some more gas over that one. And what exactly is a ton of gas? Come to listen to some of these people and you will get a good idea.

Below is the testimony provided by Capital Punishment, who could not stick around after the 1 pm hearing actually started at 1:45 and was still dragging on by late afternoon.

Good afternoon. My name is Paul Foer. I am a Maryland native and a resident of Annapolis since 1981. Please pass this bill. We may look back one day and see this as the single most important piece of legislation considered in the General Assembly in this century. Is this hyperbole? Not if the predictions of the drastic and dramatic upheavals which are possible due to global warming are anywhere near accurate. This is not about a tweaking of the tax code, a piece of special interest legislation or some kind of bond issue or regulatory matter. If the predictions are anywhere near accurate, then this bill does not go anywhere near what we really need to do. But it is an important step.

Our collective future as state and global citizens will not be secured through market forces or technical solutions, but through nothing less than serious planning and overwhelming changes in how we live, organize and manage our societies. I suspect this is why so many have been so ruthlessly vocal in their denial of and opposition to what is now widely known to be a fact. Our coastal state, intersected by our lovely Bay is seriously threatened. Allstate Insurance, now known as perhaps the most misnamed company in the insurance business, has run its actuarial numbers and sees a more flood-prone and stormy future, perhaps before most of us have thought about it. Maybe we will all be in good hands with Allstate running our state government.

Maryland is a small state, but a highly developed, densely populated, wealthy state with a highly educated populace. We are looked to as a leader in environmental protection. We can send a strong message by acting now.

Global warming is real threat here and now. This bill should not be the final say in the matter. We must redirect vast financial, technical and managerial resources to combat and prepare for the worst. Since the beginning of the industrial revolution, we have accelerated the destruction of our planet’s fragile, living systems. We have gotten rich and comfortable at the expense of the planet. We have borrowed against the future by depleting our natural resource asset base. We have passed on the byproducts and waste directly into the environment by fouling our air, land and water.

We must act now. Future generations will judge us by our resolve to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions. Please vote for this legislation and please make this your top priority as a lawmaker and a citizen. Thank you.


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