When it comes to reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, the cliché “time is of the essence” applies. The fabled Northeast Passage is becoming a reality as a result of the polar ice cap shrinking. Two German cargo ships navigated across Russia’s northern shore, according to a recent announcement by the company, Beluga Shipping Gmbh. The cargo ships sailed from South Korea to Siberia without icebreakers.
A new study found that climate change effects are spreading throughout the Arctic region. While the earth warmed by about 0.7 degrees Fahrenheit (0.4 degrees Celsius) over the last 150 years, the Arctic warmed two to three times that amount. Eric Post of Penn State, who led the team of researchers, proclaimed, “The Arctic as we know it may be a thing of the past.”
In August, U.S. government scientists said satellite data showed that the northern polar ice cap is steadily shrinking. Thinner seasonal ice accounts for 70 percent of total Arctic ice. In the 1980s and 1999s it was 40 to 50 percent. Thicker ice is less than ten percent of the Arctic winter ice, down from 20 percent two years ago.
The U.S., the self-proclaimed leader of the free world, has not yet passed legislation to reduce GHG emissions through regulation. In June the House passed a climate change bill that would regulate GHG emissions, but the Senate has yet to pass a similar bill.
Last week, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar annouced that the Obama administration expects the Senate to pass climate change legislation. “Right now we are focused on this crusade for healthcare reform for the country and that’s where our time and energy will go for the days ahead,” Salazar said. He added, “We want both (healthcare and climate bills). The president has been very clear that these are two big issues for the United States and for our time.”
Senate Democrat leaders said last night they might delay taking up climate change legislation until next year. Senate majority leader, Harry Reid, said, “We are going to have a busy, busy time the rest of this year…And, of course, nothing terminates at the end of this year. We still have next year to complete things if we have to.”
Last April, the Environmental Protection Agency said GHG emissions are a threat to “to “public health and welfare” in an endangerment finding. In 2007, the 2007 Supreme Court ruled that GHG gases are pollutants and subject to Clean Air Act regulation. The ruling required the EPA to determine if climate change is a threat to human health and if so, regulate GHG emissions.
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