Posts Tagged ‘greenhouse gases’

Accuracy, accuracy, accuracy

February 16, 2010

More than a century ago, a legendary New York City newspaper man by name Joseph Pulitzer famously barked “Accuracy, accuracy, accuracy!” at his newsroom staff.

He knew that a single incorrect report could undermine his newspaper’s credibility, and that getting the story right was more important than getting it first.

Unfortunately, the United Nation’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change did not adhere to Pulitzer’s golden rule when it published its landmark 2007  global warming report. At least two seemingly inadvertent and inconsequential, but sloppy, errors in the report have fueled climate-change skeptics and thrown up roadblocks for a historic effort to curb greenhouse gas emissions in the United States.

No, there’s no evidence that the Himalayan glacier will melt by 2035, the IPCC had to admit last month. Nor have scientists been able to determine that Africa’s crop yield will be cut in half by 2020 unless steps are taken to curb global warming, as the group reported in its 2007 report.

Some members of the Geneva-based group have acknowledged that procedures for reviewing and including data in IPCC reports must be tightened. But the damage had already been done.

Today, the state of Texas challenged the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s finding that greenhouse gases are a hazard to people, saying the agency’s December finding was based on flawed science.

“With billions of dollars at stake, EPA outsourced the scientific basis for its greenhouse gas regulation to a scandal-plagued international organization that cannot be considered objective or trustworthy,” Texas Attorney General Abbott said in a statement.

“Prominent climate scientists associated with the International Panel on Climate Change were engaged in an ongoing, orchestrated effort to violate freedom of information laws, exclude scientific research, and manipulate temperature data…so EPA should not rely upon it to reach a decision that will hurt small businesses, farmers, ranchers, and the larger Texas economy,” he charged.

Texas, a major emitter of greenhouse gases, would probably have sued anyway. But IPCC’s errors gave the state a convenient argument at the right time.

Also today, three large energy companies – Conoco, BP and Caterpillar – pulled out of a coalition of corporations and environmental groups that is pushing Congress to pass a climate-change bill.

Among their complaints: The bill doesn’t do enough to promote natural gas as an alternative to carbon-based energy, and it will hurt the nation’s transportation sector.

Whatever goodwill there was for energy legislation this year seems to have eroded in a matter of a few weeks. Opposition against the bill is gaining steam, and we can thank some sloppy reporting for turning the clock back on climate change policy.

Where’s my cheap charter flight?

December 2, 2008

“You went to India?” Lisa asks surprised over lunch.
Yes, just like that. And to London, Amsterdam, Tallinn, Prague, Hong Kong and Italy (twice) – in the span of just two years.
How unconscionable of us, considering that air travel has become Europe’s fastest-growing source of greenhouse gases – and even though the region is in a desperate race to meet its Kyoto obligations. (Unlike the United States, which wouldn’t even sign the treaty to halt global warming.) 1055986_clouds_and_shadows4

Indeed, a nation as eco-minded and prominently green as Sweden is breaking all-time records for long-distance air travel thanks to a still-booming charter travel industry. I did my best fueling this trend while living there for two years, thanks to cheap flights and generous vacation benefits.

And here I am, picking on Americans who still drive around in their big SUVs when they just as easily could bike, walk or take public transportation. I can’t feel holier than thou, knowing that by taking one round-trip to Asia, I emitted as much carbon dioxide as I would have if I drove my car 9,000 miles for several years. Which, of course, I don’t. Where’s the logic here?

Well, for one, it sounds a lot more cosmopolitan and global to tell people, “We had to land in Azerbajan so the plane could refuel,” or “We spent two days in Palermo,” than to say “I sat in traffic for an hour on the Beltway trying to get to work,” or “We’ll drive up to New York for the holidays.” A well-traveled person is perceived to be educated, cosmopolitan, experienced, smart…

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As for the Swedish charter tourists who flock to far-flung destinations such as Thailand, Brazil or India, traveling is neither about class nor world citizenry. They’re just after cheap beer and sun. Here’s the story I reported for The Christian Science Monitor earlier this year on the globetrotting Swedes.