Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Bush administration taps climate change believer

I found this on the Guardian website. Notice how they crow over this choice for the advisory board. Then too, they exhibit scorn over the Administration's reluctance to support their position or stance on AGW.

This appointment of Swackhamer is surprising. She's from Minnesota and has expressed alarm at the effects of AGW on the planet. She says:

One profound change, she said, would be a shift in Minnesota's forests. The deciduous forests — maples, oaks and elms that grace the Twin Cities area — gradually would move north, leaving prairie grasslands to fill in behind. The stately conifers — spruce, fir, tamarack and some pines that define northern Minnesota's beauty — would disappear into Canada.

Expert opinion varies on whether Minnesota would see more or less precipitation in a warmer future. And the precipitation question plays into shifts of forest lines. But there is plenty of expert support for the scenario Swackhamer outlined.

Opposite opinion:

Some climate change is, of course, natural. Climate has been shifting Minnesota's landscape for thousands of years. Peering through microscopes at grains of pollen extracted from muddy lake bottoms and bogs, scientists have seen the evidence that 12,000 years ago spruce trees covered most of Minnesota. About 10,000 years ago, when the glaciers had melted back into Canada, pines, oaks, and other deciduous trees replaced spruce.

Between 8,000 and 5,000 years ago, the summers became warmer and drier, and water levels fell. According to pollen records, prairie plants took root in western Minnesota around this time. Birches and pines moved north as prairie plants pushed eastward into Wisconsin. As the climate began cooling around 6,000 years ago, the trees began migrating south and west again. The prairie-forest border shifted westward and remained fixed from about 500 years ago until 1850, when Euro-Americans arrived with their axes and plows. Agricultural weeds, such as ragweed, become common in the pollen records from this time, while the percentages of forest and prairie species decline.

So, maybe this is a throwaway appointment. Let's hope so. Its disappointing nonetheless.

The US environmental protection agency -- hardly known as a bastion of climate consciousness -- makes an interesting personnel choice

It may be impossible to sum up in words how purposefully the Bush administration has delayed addressing the threat of climate change. The prospect of a new president who is committed to limiting carbon emissions has sparked new hope that the US can come back from the brink of environmental laxity.

And today we see another potential sign of positive change on the horizon.

The US environmental protection agency, the same body that was dragged into court for dragging its feet on climate policy, has named Deborah Swackhamer the new chief of its Science Advisory Board (SAB), the independent panel that gives advice on the impact of government regulations.

Happily, Swackhamer is a strong proponent of sacrifice and conservation to control emissions.

"We can't afford to wait," the University of Minnesota water resources scientist said earlier this year. "We must make these changes now for our children to see an impact."

The SAB was plagued during the first year of the Bush administration by allegations of corruption and conflicts of interest among its ostensibly independent members. Swackhamer's two-year appointment is an encouraging sign -- particularly if the next president and his advisers pay her perspective more heed than that of her predecessor, M Granger Morgan of Carnegie Mellon university, who has long urged the Bush administration to act on climate change.

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