Opinion Outpost April 26

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Climate change

As each decade passes, knowledge of Earth’s past becomes progressively less effective as a guide to the future. Civilization enters a dark age in its practical understanding of our planet.

Our foundation of Earth knowledge, largely derived from historically observed patterns, has been central to society’s progress.

But as Earth warms, our historical understanding will turn obsolete faster than we can replace it with new knowledge. Some patterns will change significantly; others will be largely unaffected, though it will be difficult to say what will change, by how much, and when.

Civilization’s understanding of Earth has expanded enormously in recent decades, making humanity safer and more prosperous. As the patterns that we have come to expect are disrupted by warming temperatures, we will face huge challenges feeding a growing population and prospering within our planet’s finite resources. New developments in science offer our best hope for keeping up, but this is by no means guaranteed.

— William B. Gail
The New York Times

Sure, there are plenty of reasons to be terrified about the future of the planet: melting ice sheets, intensifying heat waves, vanishing rainforests, falling temperature records, dying elephants, bleached out coral and kids in China don’t know the sky is blue.

This stuff is serious. It’s real. It’s bad.

But — know what? — it’s not the full picture.

In celebration of Earth Day, a day on which more than 155 countries were signing a landmark U.N. agreement on climate change, here are five reasons Earth is not as doomed as you think.

  1. 195 countries have agreed to fight pollution.
  2. Solar energy has gotten waaaaay cheaper.
  3. The world invested twice as much in clean energy last year as in coal and gas.
  4. Electric cars are getting popular.
  5. China finally is starting to clean up its act.

— John D. Sutter
CNN

Now consider the dire prediction regarding global warming and think of climate like golf. It is easy to see where the ball has landed after it has been hit, but difficult to construct a model to predict with much confidence where the next ball will land. There are just too many variables.

The actual record of global land-ocean surface temperatures shows that they have been rising at a rate of 0.67°C (1° Fahrenheit) per century (measured in terms of the deviations of annual mean global temperatures from the 1951-80 average). At that rate, it will take more than 500 years for the earth to heat up 4°C (7° Fahrenheit)—the temperature that many scientists claim would be catastrophic. Even by fitting a curve to the data, rather than a straight line, it still would take more than 130 years to reach the danger level. Yes, temperatures are rising, but not at a catastrophic gloom and doom rate.

—  Terry L. Anderson
Fox News

Foreign policy

There is no question that things in the Middle East have gotten much worse during Obama’s tenure. That doesn’t answer, however, the remaining question of whether a different policy would have produced better results.

There is scant evidence that it would have.

In reality, no one has come up with a better alternative to Obama’s approach of trying to keep a lid on the hostilities and point toward what he calls a “cold peace” in the region.

The Middle East seethes with religious and ethnic conflicts. The United States isn’t going to resolve them. In fact, we should stay out of them to the extent possible.

Pointing toward a cold peace is the soundest guide to U.S. policy in the region that’s been enunciated.

— Robert Robb
USA Today

As President Obama and United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon prepare to leave office in the coming months, there are increasing calls for these world leaders to back a new Israeli-Palestinian peace initiative.

Some are planning an international summit; others call for a renewed focused on mediated peace talks. A number of policymakers and peace process experts also have proposed a U.N. Security Council resolution that would set parameters for a final agreement.

While Israel welcomes the good intentions of our friends, the truth is such initiatives are not enough. The modern history of Israeli-Arab peacemaking has taught us that only direct negotiations between the two sides can actually achieve results.

Our peace treaties with Egypt and Jordan, which have weathered years of upheaval in the Middle East, have proved that bitter enemies can settle their differences if they sit down to talk. Direct negotiations cannot be replaced by international conferences, presidential speeches, or even U.N. Security Council resolutions.

— Danny Danon
Los Angeles Times

 

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