Today marks the end of a three-day environmental conference in Washington, D.C. aimed at assessing the current state of our globe and the best plan of action to make sure it doesn’t get any worse. There is no need to worry, however. After all, with George W. Bush in office and Congress on his side, we can all rest assured that they are working together diligently to make sure that the environment is protected, even if that means slighting the oil industry by implementing restrictions on various emissions.
Of course, that was just a little holiday humor meant to take the edge off of studying for exams. What is actually being done regarding the environment is quite frightening and just a bit appalling. Consider the fact that, according to many leading scientists, the current rate of emissions growth will almost certainly lead to the dwindling of snow-dependent water supplies, global death to vulnerable ecosystems like coral reefs, intensified storm and drought cycles, wider extinction of species and perhaps the eventual melting of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet which could raise sea levels a century or two from now 15 feet or more.
Then consider the fact that atmospheric levels of the heat-trapping gases, mainly carbon dioxide from burning coal and oil, have increased by more than a third since the start of the Industrial Revolution and are expected to double from pre-industrial concentrations by the end of the century. Finally, consider the fact that Bush’s big plan to curb this destruction is to conduct ten more years of research before any meaningful reforms are made.
Why is Bush so scared of actually taking a stand on the environment? Well, why was he so scared to take a stand on the recent corporate scandals, and why does he continue to ignore the plummeting economy while all but begging for a war against Iraq?
Of course, the Bush administration’s reasoning for research instead of action is that no one can pinpoint exactly how much global warming will be too much. They say they must know what the threshold is so that they will know how to go about staying under that threshold. Now, that might sound like sound logic, but it just doesn’t hold up when examined more closely.
We know that serious repercussions are in store if we continue on the path that we have been traveling. Granted, no one can say exactly when or how bad those repercussions will be, but we know that they are coming. So what will ten more years of study accomplish? Should we feel safe that as the coasts disappear from rising sea levels and species start to drop like proverbial flies, at least we can say, “Thank God for those ten years of study or else we wouldn’t have known this was coming?” Does it really matter whether the threshold is 350 parts of carbon dioxide per million or 450 parts per million? Either way, shouldn’t we be doing something to make sure it doesn’t get close to either of those numbers?
In the end, with the current state of the environment and the current presidential administration, maybe the states are going to have to take matters into their own hands. Maybe we will have to do our government’s job and make sure that special interest groups and oil companies do not control the fate of our environment. If not, the citizens of Miami had better learn to hold their breath for a long time if they want to survive those rising sea levels.

December 6, 2002


The Miami Hurricane

Student newspaper at the University of Miami

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The Miami Hurricane is the student newspaper of the University of Miami in Coral Gables, Florida. The newspaper is edited and produced by undergraduate students at UM and is published in print every Tuesday.