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Editorial: It’s about time power plants pay for the harm they do

Because a squabbling Congress has been unable to act while the world warms and the weather grows weirder, President Obama reached out Tuesday and by executive action, began turning down the thermostat. The broad, albeit at times vague, plan of action outlined by Obama is no substitute for a tax on carbon or some other measure to make those who generate carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases pay for the harm caused by the emissions.

But it calls upon the EPA to regulate carbon dioxide emissions from existing power plants like PSNH’s Merrimack Station for the first time. That’s a huge step, one that potentially drives another nail into the coffin of the aged coal power plant in Bow and nearly 600 others like it.

The new carbon standards are to be applied on a regional basis and give states flexibility in how to meet them. They will be contested vigorously by the coal and utility industry and face legal challenges and efforts to blunt their effectiveness by Republicans in Congress. But the coal and utility industries have had a free carbon ride for more than a century. They should be required to pay for the damage they do to health and the environment, though for many plants that price will be unaffordable. The headline on the National Geographic’s website yesterday read “Obama unveils climate strategy: End of the line for U.S. coal power?”

Obama’s plan will do more than regulate existing power plants. It includes federal spending to help threatened states and nations prepare to cope with rising sea levels and other consequences of climate change. It raises energy efficiency standards for trucks, buses and other large vehicles, and increases incentives to increase the use of wind, solar and other cleaner power sources. The use of wind as a power source has doubled in the United States in the last three years alone, and solar power quintupled in the last five, according to the Natural Resources Defense Council. Admittedly, starting from a small base made that easy, but federal incentives, plus advances in technology, the environmental group contends, makes it possible to simultaneously reduce the nation’s reliance on coal and the cost of electricity. We hope they’re right.

The new regulations add urgency to the need for a legislative discussion about whether to require that Public Service divest itself of its generating plants, whether the survival of the Bow plant makes sense, and who will pay and how workers might be retrained if the plant is closed.

This past year has been the warmest on record. Some of that warming can be attributed to fossil-fueled power plants, which warm the environment by emitting greenhouse gases and by returning cooling water to the environment in vast quantities. That water, research done by the University of New Hampshire and City College of New York found, loses relatively little of its heat directly to the atmosphere. Instead, the hot water from thermoeletric plants, nuclear power plants included, warms the nation’s rivers and sends warm water into warming seas.

Moving the nation away from fossil-fuel plants, as the president’s plan will do, would cool the waters and clean the air. Its implementation will also put the nation in a better position to ask the world’s other polluters to take steps that may be necessary to keep the planet inhabitable. It’s about time.

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Any link to skeptical science is a joke. All of the cartoonist Cook's surveys have been debunked for crappy data he puts into them and the fact that he does not allow for the papers that denied what he states. Turns out more scientists were against his conclusions than were for them. He is nothing more than a Climate Alarmist. He is not even skeptical of the most extreme alarmists because he is one of them.

And the science to back up your claims is where...?

The problem here is that you can find scientists that will stand behind their respective claims. Research has to be funded and both sides of the argument fund research to back their respective points. This argument as a result is rife with misinformation and questionable claims. The problem with the climate is that if we guess wrong we could poison ourselves off, no going oops. I prefer the better safe than sorry approach. History is against any research funded by related industries, look at DDT, Dioxin, Asbestos, PCB's to list but a few. Coal is a power source left over from the 19th century. Even if you don't buy the connection to greenhouse gasses, coal emissions in the Rust Belt have given us acid rain which just keeps on giving. Acid rain weakens the trees’ natural defenses, making them more vulnerable to diseases. Acid rain has been cited as a contributing factor to the decline of the spruce-fir forests throughout the Eastern United States. Ask any freshwater fisherman in New England about it's effect on even remote lakes. Coal should indeed go the way of the buggy whip, not just because of global warming. Because it's time has gone by.

Except there is NO argument among climate scientists--there is no 'both sides' regarding the fact that added greenhouse gases are enhancing the greenhouse effect and warming the planet. The media habitually seek to provide 'balance'--via "on the one hand..., and on the other..." and so provide a forum for deniers to have their say when findings on climate science are in the news. The effect is the one the deniers want: maintaining the illusion that there is still debate and controversy about the causes of global warming.

From the website: "Skeptical Science is maintained by John Cook, the Climate Communication Fellow for the Global Change Institute at the University of Queensland. He studied physics at the University of Queensland, Australia. After graduating, he majored in solar physics in his post-grad honours year. He is not a climate scientist. Consequently, the science presented on Skeptical Science is not his own but taken directly from the peer reviewed scientific literature. To those seeking to refute the science presented, one needs to address the peer reviewed papers where the science comes from (links to the full papers are provided whenever possible). There is no funding to maintain Skeptical Science other than Paypal donations - it's run at personal expense. John Cook has no affiliations with any organisations or political groups. Skeptical Science is strictly a labour of love. The design was created by John's talented web designer wife."

Over at Reason, Ron Bailey dissects Obama’s latest exercise in central planning: The central planners in communist governments were notorious for issuing massively detailed top-down five-year plans to manage every facet of their economies. Speaking at Georgetown University on Tuesday, President Barack Obama outlined his “new national climate action plan,” which amounts to a federal top-down five-year plan—although he has only four years to implement it. Obama’s plan ambitiously seeks to control nearly every aspect of how Americans produce and consume energy. there even 1 single reader that believes Obama anymore?

Classic red-baiting from the far-right: comparing Obama's proposals for addressing climate change to Soviet and Chinese central planning efforts of the past. It's the climate deniers' M.O.: when the facts are inconvenient and can't support one's position, rely on demagoguery, distortions, and name-calling.

"Scratch a Green, find a Red."

Yup, given the choice common sense says, believe Obama.

Obama and the globul Alarmists plans will have NO impact on climate change." Even if the U.S. stopped emitting all carbon dioxide today (virtually halting all economic activity), the Science and Public Policy Institute found that the global temperature would decrease by 0.17 degrees Celsius—by 2100. These regulations are all pain no gain.' .....Shouldn't a climate change plan address climate change?"

Consider the source of this "study". It has close ties to ALEC and the denier industry in general, including such luminaries as the famous denier/bloviator Christopher Monckon. Its sources of funding are murky, but likely include the Koch Brothers (as is true for Reason magazine, referred to above). It masquerades as a public interest group, but is nothing but a shill for those who would have us believe more CO2 is good for the planet.

Consider any of your sources, they are all left leaning. Your point?

My point, as always: consider the science--for a change.

Your post is not an argument to ignore the problem and therefore do nothing. To the contrary, it suggests the genuine urgency of the problem. A 2009 MIT computer modeling study made 400 runs and came up with a median temperature increase of 5.2 degrees Celsius by 2100, with a range of about 3.4 to 7.2 degrees. The costs of reducing carbon emissions will be far lower than the costs of dealing with the effects of ignoring the problem. An ounce of prevention and all that. To quote the leader of the study: "'Because vehicles last for years, and buildings and powerplants last for decades, it is essential to start making major changes through adoption of significant national and international policies as soon as possible,' Prinn says. 'The least-cost option to lower the risk is to start now and steadily transform the global energy system over the coming decades to low or zero greenhouse gas-emitting technologies.'" This work was supported in part by grants from the Office of Science of the U.S. Dept. of Energy, and by the industrial and foundation sponsors of the MIT Joint Program on the Science and Policy of Global Change.

REAL data has proven ever single model to be 100% WRONG

False. Here is a link to one of literally hundreds of studies that used computer-based climate models to not only model the data, but to test alternative theories about possible sources for global warming.

Randy, alert-alert-alert! Most animals who live in an oxidative atmosphere (like Earth's) PRODUCE C02 as a metabolic byproduct. Then bovines and porcines produce massive amounts of methane. OMG. To quote, "We have found the enemy and they are us".

The burning of fossil fuels is the main culprit in the enhanced warming we are now experiencing. Other human activities--like agriculture--can have an effect on climate. Agriculture and deforestation over the last two millennia may have been responsible for some warming during those centuries. The die-off of humans during the plague years of the Middle Ages--the Black Death--and the resulting reforestation of Europe in its aftermath, is thought to likely be responsible for the Little Ice Age. (So much for those who say that human activity can have no effect on the planet's climate.) But the onset of the Industrial Revolution marks the start to the present warming. Cause and effect are clear--the added CO2 from fossil fuel burning has a different chemical signature than plant-based CO2. The added warming we are experiencing "fits" this additional CO2 added to the carbon cycle. No other explanation adequately accounts for the warming--not solar activity, not cosmic rays, not orbital changes. The fossil fuel CO2 we are pumping into the atmosphere is the ONLY explanation that fits all the facts. The level of CO2 now in the atmosphere is higher than it's been in over 2 million years, and the rate at which we've added CO2--over 120 ppm in 150 years--is unprecedented. We are playing Russian Roulette with the planet's thermostat. Or to mix metaphors, Nature always 'bats last' when it comes to environmental change.

How much has it warmed in the last 15 years?

I've responded to the deniosphere claims over and over. Here, in a nutshell, is the evidence that warming continues. The only way deniers can claim warming has 'stopped' is by cherry-picking the start and stop dates for their claim: starting with 1998, an unusually strong El Nino year, and going forward from there. You have to look at the temp. record over a longer time span to see the upward trend.

The link below explains clearly why this claim is untrue, and debunks the likely main source for the claim, showing how 'journalist' [sic] David Rose played fast and loose with the facts.

Bruce, We are high solar cycle - think that plays a role?

For more than 3 decades, until recently, the sun has been in a 'cooling' phase--somewhat less energetic than in earlier decades. At the same time, the planet has been warming. This single fact, more than any other, leads scientists to conclude the sun is not responsible for the present warming. We've only recently entered a period of more active sun spots and somewhat more energy, after an extra long phase with little or no sun spot activity. Here's a video summarizing the evidence for why the sun is ruled out as the cause of the warming.

Short answer: No.

"Fact 6: When other anthropogenic greenhouse gases – methane (CH4), nitrous oxide (N2O), and trace elements such as CFCs – are added to the above CO2 figure (.117 percent), the total human contribution to greenhouse gases is .28 percent."

This cut-and-paste factoid from the denier universe plays a misleading game with statistics. The relatively small amount of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere is sufficient to raise average temperatures on the planet from below freezing to a world-wide average of about 50 degrees F. Adding to that small percentage, as we are doing, is quite sufficient to increase global temperatures.

In case the readers have not heard.........The WORLD IS not Not NOT warming...that is an uncontroversial FACT....THERE is absolutely NO dispute about that FACT ....NONE ....ZIP.....ZERO

Ha ha ha, good one. The only thing that can be taken as fact. is that your comment contains not even an iota of truth.

From the LIBERALS BIBLE...... even the New York Times has at last been constrained to admit what Dr. Pachauri of the IPCC was constrained to admit some months ago. There has been no global warming statistically distinguishable from zero for getting on for two decades.

Given that 2010 tied with 2005 for the hottest year on record, sail's claim is made only by playing games with the numbers--selectively choosing the start and stop dates. And only by distorting the words and intended meaning of Pachauri. Looked at over a longer time, temps continue to rise.

Such a pompous and hypocritical stance from an organization that thrives on the killing of trees in order to get their Newspaper out. Yes trees, the major contributor of removing that Carbon Dioxide out of the air. Bow Power Plant has done dozens of things to reduce any emissions but Monitor doesn't mention that. I personally would like to see the American Coal Burning plant slowly switch to an ever abundant American Natural Gas Plant. The Concord Monitor thriving on dead trees.

It is about time! The US Supreme Court said in 2007 that the EPA could start enforcing standards on CO2. Now lets do it!

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