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Guest Opinion: Precedent in recent history

"Today, our planet faces new challenges, but none pose a greater threat to future generations than climate change," President Obama wrote in his proclamation for April's Earth Day. "As a Nation, we must act before it is too late," he said.

"Today, our planet faces new challenges, but none pose a greater threat to future generations than climate change," President Obama wrote in his proclamation for April's Earth Day. "As a Nation, we must act before it is too late," he said.

As to real future threats, a short distance north of the U.S. capitol smoke was rising over Baltimore as thousands of frustrated and disadvantaged youth rioted, torching cars and stores. Across the nation, the education and employment gap between the children of the well off and the less well off widens. This is just one of the symptoms of unequal wealth distribution in the U.S. And we have less than 5 percent of world population and nearly 25 percent of incarcerated prisoners.

Another "threat to future generations" can be experienced by driving on America's pot holed urban streets; beneath the streets hundred year old water pipes steadily deteriorate; a thousand bridges need major repair; and deferred maintenance bills accumulate for those future generations. In the Midwest, large parts of the Ogallala Aquifer, our largest irrigation water resource, decline by 3 feet per year as we irrigate crops to make biofuels. Nature replenishes the Ogallala about one inch per year.

Trace gas carbon dioxide is one part in 2,500 in the atmosphere. Stable water vapor is the primary greenhouse gas (GHG). There has been no global warming in the 21st Century; tornado intensity has declined and no Force 3 or stronger hurricane has reached the U.S. mainland in 10 years. There are good reasons to burn less coal, as it releases mercury, arsenic, sulfur and the soot which smothers China's cities. Plant food carbon dioxide emissions may not be one of those reasons.

The latest in a long series of international climate change conferences will be held in Paris in December. As with the other meetings, little will be accomplished as developing nations led by China and India will insist that developed nations are responsible for atmosphere GHGs, produced as they gained wealth for their people. China and India will continue to burn fossil

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fuels as they seek to grow their economies. Developed nations, they insist, owe a "climate debt" to the less developed world, and they suggest a $100 billion annual fund be transferred to less wealthy countries.

The Obama administration recently submitted its pledge to the U.N. Convention on Climate Change. The pledge would lock the U.S. into reducing GHG emissions more than 25 percent by 2025 and "economy-wide emission reductions of 80 percent or more by 2050." As the Laws of Chemistry and Physics are not taught in law school, the President offered no specifics on how this would be achieved.

The White House's Climate Assessment implies that extreme weather is getting worse due to human-caused climate change.Even the U.N. doesn't agree with him on that one: In its 2012 Special Report on Extreme Events, the U.N.'s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change says there is "high agreement" among leading experts that long-term trends in weather disasters are not attributable to human-caused climate change.

Any current drought, flood, or storm has a precedent in recent history.

Rolf Westgard, St. Paul, is guest faculty on energy subjects for the University of Minnesota adult ed program. His current spring quarter class is "Powering the Future: Fossil Fuels, Nuclear, and Renewables."

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