|By Bob Weaver|
While we were sleeping and enjoying our conspicuous consumption, life on earth is at risk, according to several hundred international scientists.
The Bush administration has made a giant leap in acknowledging there is a global warming problem while the polar ice caps melt, but still maintaining the warming is not connected to fossil fuel.
They are relying on the science of a small minority of experts and panels for their conclusions, saying the warming is an "act of God," a cycle of nature repeating itself.
The US and China, likely the biggest users of fossil fuels, have declined to sign-on to most international proposals and agreements acknowledging the problem, apparently in no hurry to seek a solution.
Meanwhile, it takes five to 10 days for the pollution from China's coal-fired plants to make its way to the United States, the price we pay for those cheap goods produced by cheap labor, with WalMart's product line now 70% China originals.
When China's pollution arrives in the USA, it mixes with our own pollution, showing up as the leading cause of smog, acid rain, global warming, and air toxins.
We should not forget mercury-laden water, where even residents along our own Little Kanawha River have been asked to eat only a limited number of fish.
Coal is the fuel of choice in much of the world, which is good news for coal-producing states like West Virginia.
Gov. Joe Manchin has just returned from China, where he praised their latest efforts to clean-up the coal.
Manchin says what China is doing today is what he hopes West Virginia can do in the future.
"They're building a $1.5-billion coal liquefaction (facility). They're working on experimentation with sequestering. They're doing some things knowing that they have to be responsible for their environment also," Manchin said.
"The exchange we could have is working on technology together and research collaboration," the governor said.
Burning coal is a leading cause of smog, acid rain, global warming, and air toxics. In an average year, a typical coal plant generates:
3,700,000 tons of carbon dioxide (CO2), the primary human cause of global warming. That is as much carbon dioxide as cutting down 161 million trees.
10,000 tons of sulfur dioxide (SO2), which causes acid rain that damages forests, lakes, and buildings, and forms small airborne particles that can penetrate deep into lungs.
500 tons of small airborne particles, which can cause chronic bronchitis, aggravated asthma, and premature death, as well as haze obstructing visibility.
10,200 tons of nitrogen oxide (NOx), as much as would be emitted by half a million late-model cars. NOx leads to formation of ozone (smog) which inflames the lungs, burning through lung tissue making people more susceptible to respiratory illness.
720 tons of carbon monoxide (CO), which causes headaches and place additional stress on people with heart disease.
220 tons of hydrocarbons, volatile organic compounds (VOC), which form ozone.
170 pounds of mercury, where just 1/70th of a teaspoon deposited on a 25-acre lake can make the fish unsafe to eat.
225 pounds of arsenic, which will cause cancer in one out of 100 people who drink water containing 50 parts per billion.
114 pounds of lead, 4 pounds of cadmium, other toxic heavy metals, and trace amounts of uranium.
With the USA lacking a meaningful environmental plan to curb fossil fuel problems, the time is quickly arriving when we can no longer blame God.
Maybe, while we are sleeping, we can hear the comforting voices of our political leaders and their corporate pals, assuring us things will work out in the end.