Editor’s Viewpoint: Icing on the cake: warming’s yin/yang
Finally, some good news coming out of Alaska — and don’t think I’m going to take a couple of cheap shots at its former governor. If anything, Sarah Palin reminded Americans that the $7.2 million we paid for the state was a bargain, considering its natural beauty, much less its abundant resources.
Alaska’s good news is for its residents, because more land is being created. New earth, weighed down by ice for centuries, literally is emerging from its deep sleep. Of course, the downside is that Alaska’s glaciers are melting, causing Mother Earth to push more of her skin up to where seals, polar bears and golfers can play. In fact, one property owner told a newspaper reporter recently that he had opened a nine-hole golf course in 1998 on land that was under water 50 years ago. He said that his driving range would have been covered by high tides back then, but now that more land is showing up, he is considering adding another nine holes.
Alaska’s landscape is changing in other ways, too. Land is rising so quickly that the sea levels are dropping — despite liquefying glaciers — causing water tables to fall, and streams and wetlands to dry out, only to be replaced by more land.
Global warming itself has been emerging, as its political fortunes have shifted. However, as with any issue, eventually the discussion turns to economics. For example, globally, world leaders at this month’s G8 Summit were having a difficult time setting targets to cut greenhouse gases. The more prosperous countries already had agreed to reduce their emissions by 80 percent by 2050, but the developing countries, notably China and India, wouldn’t accept a 50 percent reduction by that date, and probably will not without assurance of financial help. Domestically, Congress is wrestling with the proposed cap-and-trade climate change bill. The issue comes down to money: how to reduce industrial emissions of carbon dioxide with the least damage to businesses, consumers and, ultimately, a fragile economy.
Cap-and-trade already has spawned a small but potentially viable set of businesses, including a national market to reduce acid rain and several regional markets in nitrogen oxides. The best example, though, is the Chicago Climate Exchange, which operates the nation’s only cap-and-trade system for all six greenhouse gases.
Likely, some form of national and worldwide emissions agreements and legislation will be passed, but knowing we won’t be able to turn down the world’s thermostat immediately, I’m considering buying a little land in Alaska before it gets too hot down here in the lower 48. I hear they are making more of it every day.
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