Year 2, Month 5, Day 23: Dark As A Dungeon

Hillary Clinton and Ken Salazar are going to the meeting of the Arctic Council, and are expected to contribute toward an agreement on the mitigation of “black carbon,” which is contributing significantly to Arctic ice melt, reports the Washington Post.

Much of the policy debate over global warming has focused on the role of carbon dioxide emissions, which are caused by fossil-fuel burning and remain trapped in the atmosphere for hundreds of years. But, with its initiatives to curb greenhouse gas emissions stalled in Congress, the Obama administration has been compelled to explore alternative ways to slow Arctic warming that do not require United Nations-brokered treaties or complex cap-and-trade scenarios.

At this week’s meetings in Greenland, attended by diplomats of the Arctic Council, Clinton will be joined by Interior Secretary Ken Salazar. Aides said they plan to highlight the role played by “black carbon” — essentially soot from inefficient combustion, such as natural gas flaring, wood stoves and the controlled burning of agricultural waste.

Such pollutants play an outsize role in Arctic warming, scientists say, essentially causing ice to melt faster than can be explained by rising temperatures alone. But instead of an international treaty, Arctic Council nations will be encouraged to adopt measures unilaterally to control emissions of soot as well other “short-term drivers” of Arctic warming, administration officials said.

Sent May 12:

The rapid losses of Arctic ice provide a sobering confirmation of the reality of global climate change, and reinforce the crucial fact that the time for meaningful human intervention is rapidly dwindling. The presence of Secretaries Clinton and Salazar at the Arctic Council meeting is a positive sign of engagement from our government; while “black carbon” is only one piece of the puzzle, it’s something that doesn’t require the acquiescence of the Republican-run House of Representatives. The GOP’s decades of anti-science advocacy, coupled with the profound innumeracy and scientific ignorance of many media figures, has created a political culture in which acknowledging reality is fatal to Republicans’ electoral opportunities. Eventually, of course, the greenhouse effect and the laws of physics will win; they always do. We are fortunate that at least a few members of our government recognize the danger and are prepared to act before it’s too late.

Warren Senders