Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Is the Climate Change Issue Getting Too Political?

From cabinet ministers conducting official meetings in odd places to elected global warming deniers getting an ego boost from leaked e-mails purported to reveal global warming as a hoax, is the climate change issue becoming too political?

By: Ringo Bones

Maybe it was the news about The Maldives’ cabinet ministers conducting one of their official meetings 5 meters underwater in scuba gear to highlight the dangers of a sea level rise caused by global warming back in October 16, 2009. Or was it the iconic Nepalese cabinet ministers meeting in the Mount Everest base camp to highlight the dangers of global warming endangering the Himalayan freshwater supply by accelerated glacial melting that lasted just 5 minutes due to hypoxia concerns. Or was it the leaked e-mils purportedly to prove that climate change, global warming, and all that environmental claptrap are nothing more than Marxist-Leninist socialist propaganda out to destroy the White Anglo-Saxon Christian way of life. Whatever it is, it seems like politicians now have the loudest voice when it comes to the climate change issue and its subsequent resolution.

Probably the most damaging to the scientific validity of the overly politically driven climate change debate was those leaked e-mails from the University of East Anglia. Where climate researchers Professor Phil Jones and Professor Kevin Tremberth managed to embroil themselves in a climate change scandal over the use of “value-added data. Not surprisingly, the issue of the leaked e-mails suggesting that climate change is a hoax was enthusiastically embraced by that famous climate change and global warming denier Republican Senator James Inhofe of Oklahoma. Boosting the ego of a known climate change denier is probably the last thing everyone on the planet earning less than 25,000 dollars a year of getting a fair deal out of the on-going UN-sponsored Climate Change Summit in Copenhagen, Denmark.

Given that the coal and crude oil lobbyists of America had managed to fund a “mercenary science” team to deny the existence of global warming for over 30 years due to their almost inexhaustible warchest. Making their demagoguery pass off as legitimate science in the hallowed halls of Capitol Hill. Thus making climate change deniers like the famed Republican Senator of Oklahoma manage to make the consensus of the final agreements reached in the UN Climate Change Summit in Copenhagen tailored more to suit industry. Making the people who live on less than a dollar a day living in climate change prone regions victims of the political demagoguery of Republican Senator James Inhofe of Oklahoma and their ilk.

Even though the UN-IPCC still defends that the science done on climate change and global warming during the past 20 years still has a valid data. I just don’t think that is still enough to convince the politicians at Capitol Hill to formulate effective measures to tackle the problem of climate change by the world's leading producer of unnecessary greenhouse gases – the United States of America. Worse still, the crude oil and coal lobbyists of America even successfully achieved to make global warming denial a part of Evangelical Christian canon during the Bush Administration, making the global fight against climate change an uphill battle – both literally and figuratively.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Bhopal’s Toxic Legacy

After becoming synonymous with the corporate world’s callous disregard to environmental and social responsibility, will the victims of the Bhopal tragedy ever get just compensation?

By: Ringo Bones

A quarter of a century has passed since that tragic industrial accident in Bhopal, India back in December 3, 1984, and yet no one has been successfully prosecuted since then. Instead, Union Carbide had managed to conveniently blame the local rank-and-file of their pesticide plant for the tragedy. With the toxic legacy of that tragedy from 25 years ago still posing a health threat to the local inhabitants, will the victims of the Bhopal tragedy ever get the just compensation that they truly deserve?

The Union Carbide plant in Bhopal, India has been set up mainly to produce the pesticide Sevin in which India being mainly an agricultural country has a high demand for the product. Unfortunately, the two main chemical precursors of the pesticide Sevin – phosgene gas and methyl isocyanate or MIC – can be very deadly to humans when released in the atmosphere – especially in very large industrial quantities.

As a widely used chemical weapon during World War I that makes people drown in their own mucus on dry land, the safety staff of the Union Carbide plant in Bhopal paid special attention to the safe handling of the phosgene gas during the manufacture of the pesticide Sevin. Though methyl isocyanate can kill humans by interfering with the oxygen-transporting properties of hemoglobin, the safety staff assumed that methyl isocyanate is not as toxic as phosgene gas on a gram-by-gram basis, so they placed a lesser importance on its handling safety in comparison to phosgene. Or is it because phosgene has a more familiar smell akin to a combination of newly mown grass and crushed green tomatoes while no one – prior to the tragedy of Bhopal back in 1984 – knows what methyl isocyanate smells like?

Unfortunately, during the night of that fateful accident, the attending personnel had underestimated the volatility of the methyl isocyanate that are being stored in very large quantities in designated storage tanks. After a mishap with the MIC tanks cooling water system, the volatile chemical created so much pressure that it ruptured the safety valves of their storage tanks. Resulting in the release of 40,000 tons of methyl isocyanate gas windward to the sleeping residents of Bhopal. Thus initiating the most tragic industrial accident in history.

Twenty-five years later, 100,000 inhabitants of Bhopal still experience chronic health problems that resulted from the December 3, 1984 accident. Not to mention a generation of children born with genetic disorders due to their parent’s exposure to methyl isocyanate gas. Even the groundwater of Bhopal has been contaminated with carbon tetrachloride from the abandoned Union Carbide chemical plant at concentrations 1,000 times the allowable limit set by the World Health Organization. Even the cow and breast-milk analysis in Bhopal show carcinogen and teratogen levels higher than that compared to other industrial sites elsewhere in the world. Despite of environmental groups like Greenpeace pressuring the Union Carbide Corporation for just compensation for the industrial accident victims of Bhopal, it seems that the victims of history’s most tragic industrial accident has denied justice yet again. Not to mention the on-going environmental degradation that is still imperceptibly claiming victims.