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Opinion: A Fight For Us All-We Want More!

By Jordan Lewis | Counterpoint | September 15th, 2013 |

This Thursday, workers at the Hecht-Stanford dining hall worked out of the job. It was an affirmative statement that they want higher wages, better benefits, and more respect in the workplace. They stood up for themselves and other working people, and for that we should be extremely grateful.

The walkout took place at about noon. I was there, waiting with fellow Counterpoint co-hosts, ready to observe the proceedings. The workers were jubilant, happy to defy the wills of their overbearing bosses, if just temporarily. The workers marched along Ponce De Leon Boulevard and generally were well received by passers-by and motorists. The students that came by were supportive of the effort, though most students were not immediately aware of the walkout or the circumstances that preceded it.

The plight of the Chartwell’s workers is a rallying point in the local community. The crowd at the rally was a diverse set of individuals, from local activists, to Democratic Party leaders, to students, and supporters of labor. Father Corbishley, the chaplain of the St. Bede’s Episcopal Church at UM, was quick to mention that the prophets in the Old and New Testament made eradicating poverty a priority. UNICCO workers who recently received a new contract joined in support of the Chartwell’s employees.

The battle for better wages is not isolated to Chartwell’s. One leader wore a shirt that urged for justice at Wal-Mart, another retailer that pays poverty wages. . The societal costs of low wages and mediocre health care coverage are significant. In one such example, a 300-employee Wal-Mart store could cost $1.75 million per year

in taxpayer subsidies. On a similar note, McDonald’s and Visa put together a budget for somebody making $1,105 a month at McDonald’s (and $955 at a second job, because everybody has the ability to work 2 jobs at the same time). They also budgeted no money for gas to heat homes, and $20 for health insurance (basically acknowledging that one can’t afford health insurance under this budget). The situation at Chartwell’s is not too different; workers are forced to choose between important priorities. They live in some of the worst neighborhoods in Miami—and many make less than the medium income in these neighborhoods. Chartwell’s recently raised the cost of a meal at the dining hall by $1.75 but did not pass on any of those proceeds to its workers, many of whom have been there for over 10 years.

As students, we come to learn important skills such as problem solving and critical analysis; we also should learn how to be proper citizens. A good citizen lifts others in need. The Chartwells workers took a chance to fight for the rights of working people. According to Miss Betty, victory belonged to the Chartwells workers on Thursday. A fair contract isn’t just a victory for Chartwells employees; it’s a victory for the community, for the students, and for millions of Americans who work towards their American Dream every day.

Click the hyperlink below to listen to our interview with Miss Betty
Miss Betty Interview

From Under the Bridge to Into Our Hard Drives: Patent Trolls

By Mike Kanoff | Counterpoint | September 13th, 2013 |

(Image credit: iDownloadBlog)

 

You might be wondering “what on Earth is a patent troll?”, so I’ll tell you– “patent troll” is a label for any person/company/firm/etc. that makes a business of threatening to people for alleged patent infringement: almost homogeneously, these people buy patents from other companies/inventors with absolutely zero intention of using the patents for anything other than ammunition for litigation (not to be confused with the MPAA, the RIAA, or the copyright system in general). Rather than using patents in their intended manner– to ensure an inventor has time to complete his/her invention– the patent troll uses the temporary legal monopoly granted with a patent as a means to extort money from inventors who come up with new ideas/inventions or extensions on previous ideas/inventions that may at first glance seem similar to the patents which the patent trolls hold. It is estimated that any actual litigation that is brought by patent trolls and does not get settled before a court battle leads to the patent trolls losing over 75% of the time.

The patent trolls are not a new phenomenon, but they certainly have grown to prominence since the rise of big software. Software development is unique in that software’s “life” goes by considerably faster than most physical items and it is often the case that something becomes standardized in a fraction of the time of physical items. This creates the opportunity for mass patent trolling: if someone obtains a patent for a piece of software that has become a standard before the patent has expired, it is incredibly likely that someone somewhere has made an improvement on that standard, and since this improvement was not done by the patent holder, the patent troll has a prime opportunity to launch a legal missile. Another litigation-mongering opportunity occurs when a piece of closed-sourced software (not free for everyone to tinker with) resembling an open-sourced software (free for everyone to tinker with) that is not well known gets a patent, and since the open-sourced software wasn’t patented, the new patent owner can try to sue, even if the closed-source software was developed after the invention or even adoption as a standard.

These scenarios sound perfectly viable for patent trolls, but in reality, the “perfect patent troll situation” rarely occurs. Most often, the later example– of closed-source software patents being used to attack open-sourced software– is the case. Or not at all; sometimes the patent trolls simply choose someone who has just enough money to pay a settlement, but not enough to want to go to war with the patent trolls, which can get pretty costly, easily reaching the millions mark for a regular patent case. This is where the problem lies: the immoral patent trolls lose over 75% of the time, but simply by bringing a suit, they are almost guaranteed a settlement because the target often won’t be able to afford a lawsuit, even if they are innocent.

The solution? Make it so that it’s in the patent trolls best interest to be actually right about bringing a suit. Make it so that the plaintiff pays the fees if the case is found to be a pile of garbage. This would make it so that the average target of the patent trolls would be able to go to court and win ~75% of the time. This isn’t a fix in itself, but it’s a start. To be honest, I think the entire patent system is far outdated and needs to be updated from scratch to the modern world. Somewhere in that reform, I think the best way to stop wrong patent lawsuits is to place risk on the accuser as opposed to how it is now where the risk is all on the defendant. As a side note, it would be nice if there were no software patents, given the building-block nature of software itself, but I seriously doubt that a majority would go along with removing patents for software.

 

NSA Took a “Look-See” at Al Jazeera’s Internal Communications

By Mike Kanoff | Counterpoint | September 1st, 2013 |

http://www.rawstory.com/rs/wp-content/uploads/2012/05/Digital-surveillance-image-via-Shutterstock.jpg

(Image Credit: The Raw Story)

Since all the headlines are being dominated by the Syria situation, there isn’t a lot of current material for me to write about in my column, so this week, I’ll quickly touch on the favorite punching bag for the tech world at the moment: the NSA. A while ago, it was revealed by some of the documents Edward Snowden obtained and then released that the agency had hacked into Al Jazeera’s internal correspondences. The information comes a week after the revelations that the NSA had hacked into UN video calls.

I understand that “Al Jazeera” and “Al Qaeda” share an “Al” prefix, but seriously? It’s a news network, not a terrorism organization. The report cited communications sent to the network by “interesting targets” as the reason for the hacking. Even if the so-called “interesting targets” were anything/anyone that should be on the U.S.’s radar, it is unacceptable that the government is/was able to tap into a news source’s communications, no matter how “anti-American” their bias may be.

While anyone could probably guess what I think about this from the above paragraph, I think it’s worth mentioning that this seems to be part of a bigger pattern recently: as we learn more about the PRISM program and the NSA in general, the doomsayers’ predictions are starting to come true. As I said earlier, a while back it was revealed that the NSA spied on the UN video conferences, which is worthy on an article itself, but I’ll only invoke the fact that we are friendly and cooperative with the UN for now; the news that the PRISM program was used by low-level NSA employees; and also that NSA employees had regularly used the program to spy on their love interests, among other notable pieces of Snowden’s leaks. Taken separately, these are “only” egregious, but taken together, the chilling effects on personal liberties are potentially massive.

Personally, I think it’s time for another Amash Amendment to go up for a vote; this needs to stop.

Counterpoint Recap 08/16: What To Do With Egypt

By Meg McGee | Counterpoint | August 18th, 2013 |
Counterpoint's Meg McGee has "the last word" after every new edition of Counterpoint.  After reading her latest recap, hear audio of the discussion she's referencing embedded below the post:

On last Friday’s show, our panelists William Ng, Matt De La Fe, and I discussed the US policy towards Egypt and the regional implications if it becomes a failed state. President Obama’s decision to cancel the semi-annual military exercises came as no surprise, as Egypt’s military is a little pre-occupied right now. However, there was no talk of cutting the $1.3bn in aid just yet. Even though the US talks about its commitment to democracy and human rights, it continues to bankroll countries that have a questionable human rights record.

De Le Fe wanted to draw comparisons between Egypt and Syria AND Iran. I don’t think making generalizations about three different Middle Eastern states is very educated. Egypt and Syria are not the same. In Syria, the military is punishing every Syrian not just a select few. In Egypt, the government crackdown is against the pro-Morsi supporters. Egypt is certainly not Iran, either. Egypt is majority Sunni, Iran (and Syria) are majority Shia. Iran is not a failed state and the revolution in 1979 was against a US-backed shah. Anyone with a history book can figure that out. One similarity I did find between Egypt and Syria is this: they are both backed by superpowers. People complain about Putin supporting the Syrian regime while they commit mass murder but one could argue Obama is doing the same by not cutting aid with Egypt. But I digress.

The US may not have that much influence within Egypt’s internal politics. As IR theorist Stephen Walt stated recently in Foreign Policy Magazine, “Aid to Egypt’s military isn’t buying the United States any leverage and U.S. aid is dwarfed by the funds that the Gulf Arab states are pouring in.” And to those that say Egypt is an “existential threat” to Israel’s security, when the first Egyptian revolution happened, some American military officials feared that with the Muslim Brotherhood in charge in Egypt, they would not uphold the peace treaty with Israel. However, the Muslim Brotherhood had every intention on keeping a close relationship with the US because they received $1.3 billion in aid from them yearly. The Brotherhood’s Islamic politics did not hamper its foreign policy especially towards Israel and the US because of the amount of influence it had.

But now that the Muslim Brotherhood is being ousted from Egyptian politics, the US can’t be sure how far their money will go. My policy recommendation would be to significantly reduce or cut completely the amount of aid Egypt gets. We don’t know how the Egyptian coup will play out, but one thing is for sure: there will be blood. So the US should decide now if they want blood on their hands through the continued support of the military, or do they want to do stay out of another country’s internal politics. (The latter would be a surprise)

 

Below is audio of the discussion on the crisis in Egypt and the options available to the U.S. government.  Counterpoint airs live Fridays at 1p.m. EST

Counterpoint Clip: Clashes in Egypt and Foreign Aid by Wvumnews on Mixcloud

Attack on Tor

By Mike Kanoff | Counterpoint | August 8th, 2013 |

(Image Credit: Tor Project)

 

Before I start, here’s a reference for those who aren’t totally sure about what Tor is or how it works–

(Image Credit: EFF)

 

Near the end of the weekend, somebody (I’ll get to who later) compromised Freedom Hosting, a hosting service that was heavily invested in Tor (The Onion Router). The company was responsible for a huge chunk (about half) of the hidden network’s sites and many of the more well-known ones including Tor Mail, a completely anonymous email service. The details of the attack are starting to be sorted out, but a few facts have already been nailed down. The move comes after Freedom Hosting’s founder, Eric Eoin Marques, was arrested on suspicion of child pornography, so many are speculating that the two events are related.

 

Tor network was originally conceived by the Navy as a way of anonymizing communications between correspondents, but was abandoned mid-way through development. It was later picked up by DIY-ers and completed into what we see today. Due to the nature of the network, any one user cannot identify another, even for server-client interactions, making a breach of anonymity from the inside near-impossible. The exploit in question was placed on Freedom Hosting’s sites after the company was either seized or otherwise compelled to do so (details unconfirmed at time of writing) and injected a JavaScript executable that made the target send an unencrypted request over HTTP to a specified server in Virginia, exposing the IP address of the user that normally would be impossible to find. Therefore, I’ll admit that the title of this piece is somewhat misleading: the network itself has not been compromised, but the company that hosted a majority of it has.

 

So: who did it? Many (myself included) initially speculated that the exploit was the work of the FBI, citing the arrest of Eric Marques, and the fact that it’s the FBI’s job (more or less) to take down child pornographers. As the matter was looked into it became apparent that the server receiving the non-encrypted IP addresses was owned by a corporation in Virginia that routinely leases server space to agencies like the FBI and NSA, prompting more speculation. However, at time of writing, nobody has stepped forth to claim credit for the exploit, leading some to wonder if it was a non-official entity. The latest evidence in the exploit points toward its purpose to be solely identifying and not actually hacking, so at this point, it’s anyone’s guess. Hopefully more will become known later this week.

 

If a state actor is responsible, I seriously question the motives. We can all agree that child pornography and abuse is bad by any measure, but taking down essential services that people the world over use to keep safe from tyranny or even just to keep private is not the way to go about removing it. Take Tor Mail mentioned earlier: with the recent revelation that the NSA is monitoring literally everything on the Internet, is it not reasonable that there was a push towards anonymous encrypted email? Heck, I myself have/had (depending on the outcome of this situation) a Tor Mail for the simple reason that I don’t like being spied on. Even if Eric Marques is guilty of hosting and distributing child pornography, I believe a more effective and efficient way to go after those responsible would have been to target the specific websites which are accused of doing so rather than the entire company that may or may not have hosted them. The FBI has previously been allowed to run a child pornography site before, and doing so in this instance would have made for a much shorter list of names than half of Tor network.

 

While this story is still developing, I want to end on a slightly inquisitive note: this happened during DEF CON (a hacker’s convention), meaning a good number of the people who bother to look into this kind of thing were busy out of town, and also on the heels of the NSA’s XKeyscore revelation, which “collects nearly everything a user does on the Internet.” These combined make me somewhat suspicious of this incident; more so than I normally would be for a compromise of a major anonymity service.

Not Aiding the Enemy, But Still Found Guilty

By Mike Kanoff | Counterpoint | July 31st, 2013 |

Image Source: (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky, File)

Unsurprisingly, I’m writing about Bradley Manning this week. In case you missed it, Bradley Manning has finally been given a verdict: guilty of more than a handful of crimes, but not guilty of one very important charge– aiding the enemy. I’ll get more into the specifics of that charge later, but the remaining 20 charges carry a combined maximum of 136 years in prison, so PFC Manning is anything but in the clear. The sentencing has already begun, and could last into the last days of August.

I’ve written on Manning before, so I won’t go into the back-story again, but I think it’s worth mentioning that he has already spent three years in prison before his trial, so it has been agreed upon that his sentence should be reduced by 1,274 days. Anyway, time to move onto the big charge: aiding the enemy and why even though he has been found guilty of other crimes, this one is a win for whistleblowers. Most of the logic behind going after Manning as harshly as the military did was something along the lines of “if it’s available for everyone in the world to see, then that includes our enemies, so therefore public disclosures are equal to giving the information directly to the enemy.” As I’ve argued before, this is not the case here, even though that line of reasoning may seem valid, one must take intent into account: if one’s intention is to truly “aid the enemy,” then it follows that one would not inform one’s own side of such aid, as making information public would. Instead, by releasing information publicly, it allows both sides to see it, giving a “heads-up” to both parties: the “enemy” side gets information X and the “non-enemy” side gains the information that the “enemy” side has information X, which could be useful to the “non-enemy” side.

Further to that point, Manning’s information was not immediately disclosed; it was given to Wikileaks, providing a window of time in which the military could have changed tactics, had any even been compromised in the first place. Given those two points, I believe Manning when he says that he was merely a whistleblower rather than a traitor.

As for the other charges: any wrongdoing Manning may have done is far outweighed by the benefit to the public’s right to know. This should be true of all whistleblowers: exposing something that needs to be exposed should not come with a life imprisonment threat.

More on the PFC Manning case this Friday during the show [1pm EST].

Counterpoint Recap 7/26: The Value of Higher Education

By Meg McGee | Counterpoint | July 29th, 2013 |
Counterpoint's Meg McGee has "the last word" after every new edition of Counterpoint.  After reading her latest recap, hear audio of the discussion she's referencing embedded below the post:

On Friday’s show, we covered a slue of topics, the smoking ban on campus, the Miami-Dade county’s decision to take funding out of libraries, Detroit’s bankruptcy, and the passing of a student loan deal in Congress.

Our entire panel agreed that the cost of college/university is skyrocketing and something should be done to change it. However, our topic grew into a larger discussion over if college is valuable in order to succeed. Matt De La Fe, our conservative contributor, argued that college degrees aren’t necessary for success and that there are plenty of jobs one can go into without a degree. While I think this argument is valid (to an extent), it is far from the reality we live in these days. Yes, there are celebrities, athletes, musicians, artists, and other innovative people in our society that make millions of dollars without having finished college. But the chances of that happening to an average Joe are not that high and if nothing else, a Bachelor’s degree is a safety net in case your multi-million dollar idea goes awry.

Everyone knows the economy and job market is bad, especially for young Americans and post-grads. So naturally, having a college degree gives you a slight advantage over someone who only has a high school diploma. The days of skipping out on college are over, there is no Woodstock, there are no protest movements, millennials have to get to work. We have to go to college and college is not cheap. So while there is no one putting a gun to our heads forcing us to take out enormous loans for college, our society leaves us with few other choices. For me, I have to go to school for what I want to do and not just undergrad but grad school and PhD. program. I think a lot of young Americans are taking huge risks by having $100k in loans but it certainly beats the alternative to working at McDonald’s with no degree. A college degree is the new high school diploma.

Until our country is able to get the costs of education down across the board, we will see more students not being able to go to a 4-year institution and instead having a high-unemployment rate for young adults. Though Congress passed this deal, there are still provisions in it to keep interest rates rising on student loans. I think student loan debt is a problem that Wall Street is cashing in on and once the “bubble” explodes, we could see another financial crisis affecting the next generation of Americans.

Below is audio of the discussion on student loans and the value of a college degree.  Counterpoint airs live Fridays at 1p.m. EST

Counterpoint Clip: Student Loans and the Costs of College by Wvumnews on Mixcloud

 

Amash Amendment Fails: Close But No Wired-for-Sound Cigar

By Mike Kanoff | Counterpoint | July 25th, 2013 |

(Image Credit: Florida Today)

 

Well, I was kind of hoping to be writing about a win for the Amash Amendment, but I suppose a loss will have to do. In case you missed it, the U.S. House of Representatives voted and ultimately defeated (205-217 with 12 abstaining) an amendment to the Defense Appropriations Bill that would have taken away funding for the NSA’s blanket telephone spying. The day before the vote, the White House and NSA chief Gen. Keith Alexander held “emergency meetings” to urge Congress to vote against it.

 

Me being… me, I have to admit that I’m more than a little disappointed that this amendment didn’t pass. It would have been a quick and clean way to put a full stop to blanket phone surveillance while still allowing for targeted surveillance of suspects under investigation. That said, when the White House is scared enough to hold “emergency meetings” ahead of domestic spying prevention votes, I get hopeful. As the advocacy organization Demand Progress put it: “even though we lost, the other side is flipping out right now.” Not bad for an amendment that was voted on only two days after it left committee.

 

So where does this leave us? It seems to me that more or less, the vast majority of people are against the NSA’s surveillance programs (multiple ones have been revealed now: PRISM, ECHELON, BLARNEY, etc.) but it appears as though the tide is only starting to turn on the issue. Obama has welcomed “discussion” on the issue, but it seems almost impossible to have a well-formed discussion about it since the programs are already in place and running: it’s like a kid asking a parent’s permission to eat a cookie after he’s already started eating the cookie. As for curbing the surveillance programs, we might have to wait for the 2014 election cycle: all House seats and 33 Senate ones are up for grabs and at the rate the “spying discussion” is going, it could hopefully become a major issue.

 

In the meantime however, I would remain hopeful: the Amash Amendment might have failed, but that was only looking at phone surveillance, which has historically been less antagonizing than Internet surveillance. It might be just a tick away from justifiable to retain phone metadata, but I have a feeling that Internet surveillance won’t go over so well when the time comes.

 

 

Climate Change Series | Part III: Ideas

By Jordan Lewis | Counterpoint | July 25th, 2013 |
This post is part of a series aimed at providing one perspective to the broad topic of climate change.  Overall, this series will include mention of the causes of climate change, how it affects us and personal ideas from the writer on approaches that can be taken to solve this complex and global issue.  Facts are facts, but any personal views expressed throughout this series are those of the writer alone.  For this particular post, it is important to note that the author, Jordan Lewis, is the former president of UM’s Young and College Democrats. His sources are disclosed below this post, however.                                                                                                                                                                                                                     —————————————————————————————————————————————————————–

The President’s Plan

 Last month, the President unveiled his plan for addressing climate change. It sets us in the right direction but in my opinion does not come close to solving the problem adequately. It is, however, cognizant of the political divide and does not require any action from Congress, only Executive Orders.

  • President Obama’s plan to direct the EPA to work with state and local governments to limit carbon pollution at power plants is a common-sense but still significant move.
  • The President set a goal to double wind and solar energy by 2020.
  • The FY 2014 budget will increase research by 30%.
  • The President set a goal to have a performance equivalent of 54.5 MPG by 2025.
  • The administration released plans to make rural utilities more sustainable, and to help make electricity generation more efficient.
  • The administration will also develop fuel standards for heavy trucks in the future.
  • The federal government will consume 20% of its electricity from renewable sources by 2020.

While these measures are positive, and show a commitment to fighting climate change, they aren’t aggressive enough to lower our footprint to responsible levels.

 

A Responsible Plan For Now and In the Future for the USA

We need to take aggressive steps to combat climate change. Here are some policy ideas to help mitigate climate change:

 Efficiency:

  • Encourage automobile makers to enhance MPG standards, sooner. The technology exists to produce 40-MPG compact cars immediately, and President Obama’s proposal of 54.5 MPG could and should be met sooner. We can and should aim higher. Provide incentives that make electric vehicles, hybrids, and other efficient vehicles affordable on the marketplace.
  • Provide more tax-incentives for energy-efficient appliances and machinery.
  • Encourage sustainable agricultural practices, with a lessened reliance on fertilizers.
  • Set higher efficiency standards for electricity generation (like the Obama plan at power plants).

Rebuild Our Country

America’s infrastructure is in need of repair. A stimulus package would create millions of jobs and make our country stronger and more energy-efficient.

Build efficient roads and bridges.

Invest in renewable energy projects. Solar and wind powered energy sources are available and are not being used to the extent in which they could be used. Allocate funds for research.

Invest in Mitigation Strategies

  • Climate change will bring about many of the negative impacts as explained above. We need to invest in strategies that protect against some of these impacts.
  • Explore building seawalls along our coasts to mitigate sea level rise.
  • Explore crops that are more adept to warmer climates.
  • Build irrigation systems that save water, including microirrigation (as used in Israel)
  • Erect buildings that can sustain extreme winds and other forces of nature.

Engage in global pacts to reduce carbon emissions

  • By not ratifying the Kyoto Protocol, it indicated that we were not willing to take significant steps to reduce climate change.
  • By entering into international agreements, we will spread goodwill that will encourage other countries to limit their emissions.

Reduce our dependence on coal and oil

Coal and oil are dirty fuels that form a major part of carbon emissions. Carbon is the most utilized fossil fuel in the world but also the dirtiest. Oil is ubiquitous in American transportation and industrial production.

Reducing our dependence on oil saves consumers money, enhances national security, and will reduce air pollution in our cities.

We should make it a priority to phase off coal and oil use as soon as possible. In order to fill our energy needs, we can utilize natural gas. Natural gas is the cleanest burning fuel and is generally abundant in the United States. There are significant environmental hazards to natural gas extraction. Natural gas extraction involves a technique called hydraulic fracturing, in which chemicals, water, and sand are blasted into wells in order to draw gas to the surface. This has threatened our water supplies and allowed gas to seep out into homes. Americans must know what chemicals are used in these fracking techniques, and safeguards set in place to protect our water supply.

Finally, natural gas should be used as a transition from fossil fuels to renewable energy sources.

Avoid the production of wasteful synthetic fuels, including Keystone XL  

Synthetic fuels, such as tar sands, require additional energy input, and present enormous environmental damages. Keystone XL is a tar sands project. Let’s discuss the Keystone XL Pipeline:

  • Tar sands are a mixture of sand, clay, water, and a viscous oil-like substance called bitumen, which can then be refined to produce oil. These tar sands are abundant in Alberta, Canada.
  • The tar sands project has caused massive deforestation and environmental degradation in Canada. In order to fully reach these tar sands, it will require the destruction of an area larger than Florida[1].
  • Each barrel of tar sands produces three types the amount of greenhouse gases as regular oil.
  • Tar sands are an environmental hazard, containing arsenic, mercury, lead and other carcinogens. It endangers aboriginal communities and the communities by which the Pipeline would pass by.
  • The Keystone XL Pipeline would run across America’s Rockies and through areas vital to ensuring our food supply. The most critical area it would cross is the Ogallala Aquifer, which supplies 30% of the water used for irrigation for agriculture[2]. A spill of this corrosive, toxic oil would threaten our nation’s breadbasket for a significant time to come. Early portions of the pipelines have already leaked, three times in South Dakota. There were 12 spills in this past year.
  • The tar sands would be refined in America but shipped overseas. It would not reduce dependence on foreign oil.
  • The tar sands project could actually cost Midwest farmers 20 cents per gallon in higher fuel costs[3].
  • Major unions oppose this project because there are few decent, permanent jobs to oppose the pipeline. It will create 35 permanent jobs (according to the State Department) while creating 51 coal plants worth of carbon[4].
  • Other nations are opposed to allow such a pipeline in their sovereign territory.
  • NASA scientist James Hansen described the Keystone XL as “game over for the climate.”
  • Simply put, President Obama’s plan to reduce the impact of climate change will be a mere paperweight if he approves the Keystone XL pipeline.

Enforce legislation to limit carbon emissions for industry

Despite efficiency increases and sustainable-use strategies, Congress should develop a plan to limit emissions from industry and factory groups. Cap and trade systems and carbon taxes are among the options that have been considered throughout the world. Cap and trade sets limits on carbon pollution and uses a market scheme where firms can purchase more credits on the open market. Such a proposal passed the House in 2009 but was not voted on in the Senate. A carbon tax scheme would place a tax on carbon emitters that could be offset by lowering other taxes on citizens. In terms of limiting carbon emissions, the carbon tax may have more might. Neither is politically feasible at the moment.

Utilize urban planning techniques and mass transportation

The government should emphasize sustainable urban planning strategies. The benefit of sustainable cities is that transportation costs are lower, for consumer products and transportation to work. Less land is required, allowing more land to be set aside for green space. Finally, the cities provide an opportunity to utilize effective mass transportation systems. Our systems should be made to run on renewable fuels and should be attractive for residents to travel on.

Research techniques to remove carbon from the atmosphere

We need to prepare for climate change getting worse in the future. Thus, we must invest in research to find sequestration methods that are effective. Sequestration removes carbon dioxide from power plants (carbon capture and storage) and the environment and stores it in the Earth or other place that will not contribute to climate change. Carbon capture technology is already being implemented, but other sequestration techniques are still under study.

Encourage contraception and population controlA way to fight climate change would be to provide low-cost contraception to developing countries. This would not only lower demand for fuels and climate footprint, but also improve standards of living and the status of women. It’s a win-win.

Engage in Reforestation practices in the United States and across the world

The United States should invest in setting aside land to allow native forest to regrow, adding to biodiversity and taking carbon out of the atmosphere. We should encourage other nations to protect their forests.

Encourage personal responsibility and the 3 R’s

As a society, the American people should look to make changes in our lifestyle to lower our carbon footprints. We should buy less, reduce, reuse, and recycle. We can reuse a lot of household items and keep them out of landfills. By recycling products, we save energy that would be used to make them. We could make one less trip on an airline this year. We should look to purchase goods that are recyclable and use paper instead of plastic and Styrofoam. We should look to kick our habit of buying plastic water bottles that are expensive, carbon intensive, and clog up landfills. American tap water is cheaper, cleaner, and healthier than most bottled water. Finally, we should look to eat less meat. Consumption of meat produces carbon dioxide at several levels. Land is cleared in many developing countries to raise cattle, removing carbon sinks, and with the burning of trees, releasing it into the atmosphere. Up to 45% of all of the land on the Earth is occupied with livestock grazing[5]. Cattle also require larger grain (100 times more water) inputs than other crops. Finally, cattle belch methane, a potent greenhouse gas, into the environment.

Encourage the purchase of locally made products

We can also reduce our carbon footprint by buying locally, at farmers markets and mom-and-pop stores, rather than from overseas. Cargo ships account for 3% of carbon emissions, but that’s small compared to the footprint of a commercial airliner. Buying local helps the environment and local businesses. Everybody benefits and it puts people to work. With the trade deficit so starkly in favor of China, it’s time to put our resources to work to encourage the purchase of more American products, including enforcing the label “Made in x” for all products coming from overseas.

 

Climate change is a threat to us, our children, and our grandchildren. We need to fight for a future and press our leaders to limit emissions in order to have a liveable world for the next generations.

Sources:


[1] http://ran.org/what-are-tar-sands

[2] http://www.nrdc.org/land/files/TarSandsPipeline4pgr.pdf

[3] http://www.tarsandsaction.org/keystone-xl-facts/

[4]http://thinkprogress.org/climate/2013/04/17/1885621/keystone-pipeline-will-create-only-35-permanent-jobs-emit-51-coal-plants-worth-of-carbon/

[5] http://opinionator.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/05/15/we-could-be-heroes/

Climate Change Series | Part II: Why Care?

By Jordan Lewis | Counterpoint | July 24th, 2013 |
This post is part of a series aimed at providing one perspective to the broad topic of climate change.  Overall, this series will include mention of the causes of climate change, how it affects us and personal ideas from the writer on approaches that can be taken to solve this complex and global issue.  Facts are facts, but any personal views expressed throughout this series are those of the writer alone.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      —————————————————————————————————————————————————————–

The Effects of Climate Change

Sea level rise would threaten the world’s coastal cities, including Miami. Over 100 million people live within three feet of sea level. In the developing world, sea level rise would hit the hardest, causing massive refugee crises and deaths from disease and other impacts. The effects will also be felt at home. According to Jeff Goodell of the Rolling Stone, with just three feet of sea level rise, 1/3 of South Florida will be underwater. With six feet, ½ of South Florida will be gone. The Florida Keys are already vulnerable to sea level rise[1]. Since 1920, South Florida has seen over 9 inches of sea level rise.[2] The projected sea level rise is double that. South Florida expects to see a sea level rise of 9 to 24 inches in the next 50 years. NOAA projects a general sea level rise from 2.5 to 6.6 feet by 2100[3].

Temperature projections are varied due to uncertainties about carbon emissions in the future. If we lower our emissions, warming will slow, but the converse is also true. The IPCC expects a global temperature increase of at least .2 degrees Celsius per decade for the next two decades[4]. Even if we stopped emitting carbon today, the result of carbon dioxide already in the atmosphere would increase. The UN Framework Convention on Climate Change recommends a hard limit of 2 degrees Celsius warming. After this point, dangerous positive feedback mechanisms would enhance carbon inputs into the atmosphere and thus increase warming. Such feedbacks include the release of methane from Arctic permafrost, release of carbon from the oceans, desertification, forest fires, increased water vapor (a greenhouse gas), and a loss of albedo from Arctic glaciers (Snow and ice reflect heat back towards the atmosphere. Without such cover due to climate change, this capacity is reduced.)

v  Plant life will migrate toward the poles, and up to ¼ of all organisms will go extinct, including the polar bear.

v  Extreme weather events will happen more often. Without natural barriers to erosion, the effects of such storms will be worse.

v  Rainfall patterns will change. Some areas will receive record amounts of rain while others will go into prolonged drought. In areas such as China and Northern Africa, the movement of desert threatens arable land.

v  Certain diseases such as malaria will thrive due to warmer climates, putting much of the tropical and semi-tropical world at risk.

v  Damage caused by climate change will be measured in trillions of dollars. The Stern Review estimates damage due to climate change at about 5% of global GDP[5].

v  Water supplies will be critically reduced due to salinization, increased evaporation, and drought. It has been said that the next wars will be fought over water supplies.

v  Many parts of the world that depend on agriculture, including the Midwest, could suffer from drought and increase pestilence, decreasing global yields. Changes in ocean salinity will impact fisheries around the world and the economies that depend on fishing.

 

Sources of Greenhouse Gases

Climate change is caused by greenhouse gas emissions. Here is the breakdown of greenhouse gas emissions in the United States[6]:

  • Electricity: 33%
  • Transportation: 28% (90% of which is petroleum)
  • Industry: 20%
  • Commercial and Residential: 11%
  • Agriculture: 8% (fertilizers, livestock)
  • Deforestation combines for 20% of worldwide greenhouse gas emissions.
  • Cement: 4% worldwide
  • Aviation: fastest growing: 3.5% worldwide
  • Garbage: 3% worldwide

More information worldwide[7]:

  • Coal: 25% Gas 19% Oil 21%
  • Direct Emissions: 34.6% (Agriculture, Land Use, Waste)
  • 76% CO2 15% Methane 7% Nitrous Oxide
  • The atmospheric carbon levels have passed 400 parts per million, the highest level in 3 million years. Some scientists have advocated for 350 ppm as a safe level. We’re far from that[8].

 

Sources:


[1] http://www.rollingstone.com/politics/news/why-the-city-of-miami-is-doomed-to-drown-20130620?page=2

[2] http://www.miamiherald.com/2013/07/05/3485930/debbie-wasserman-schultz-says.html

[3] http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2012/12/06/noaa-sea-level-rise/1750945/

[4] http://www.ipcc.ch/publications_and_data/ar4/wg1/en/spmsspm-projections-of.html

[5] http://webarchive.nationalarchives.gov.uk/+/http:/www.hm-treasury.gov.uk/independent_reviews/stern_review_economics_climate_change/stern_review_report.cfm

[6] http://www.epa.gov/climatechange/ghgemissions/sources.html

[7] http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/wonkblog/wp/2013/05/31/this-giant-chart-shows-where-all-our-greenhouse-gases-come-from/

[8] http://americablog.com/2013/05/global-warming-heat-trapping-co2-concentration-passes-400-ppm-milestone.html