Only a fool or worse ignores moral values - in the end, they always take revenge. Uri Avnery, Is Beirut Burning?, July 26, 2006

First, a word of appreciation for Wallace Mainplace Stadium Cinemas in Merced for showing Al Gore's "An Inconvenient Truth" last week. Thanks, Mainplace, for showing the ecological awareness worthy of the city that boasts it is the "Gateway to Yosemite," where so much of the world conservation movement began.

It is unfortunate that the arrival of a world-class university in Merced has stimulated a huge speculative real estate boom, which has obliterated any sense of the history and tradition of conservation inherited from the nearness of Yosemite and the larger world-class reputation of John Muir.

It is unfortunate that local land-use authorities, state and federal legislators and a number of state and federal regulatory agencies are owned by a small group of large developers.

Consider the City of Merced, for example, its realtor dominated council pushing for all it's worth for a 1.2-million square-foot distribution center adjoining the Mission Interchange to Highway 99, where the UC Boondoggle Merced Campus Parkway will begin. Nine hundred to 2,000 truck trips a day, 24 hours a day, seven days a week will produce an absurd amount of traffic, air pollution and greenhouse gasses -- just the ticket for "The Gateway to Yosemite"!

Consider the City of Los Banos, which has doubled in population in the last decade.

Consider the City of Livingston, which recently -- and according to the County Counsel, probably illegally -- approved a mile-long sewer trunk line beyond its city limits to its wastewater treatment plant, through land owned by Mike Gallo and some other farmers, to open enough development to at least double its size, before the sewer line is extended to Stevinson, where Gallo and Stevinson Ranch plan a new town that will dwarf the existing town of Stevinson.

Consider the Merced County Association of Governments, which plans new, growth-inducing highways, roads and streets without apparently any land-use authority to do so.

Consider UC Boondoggle Merced, its own land-use authority, planning a new town south of the campus.

Consider Merced County itself. Without updating its General Plan to provide public input before it approved the UC project, and almost every subdivision induced by it since. The most air-polluting process -- not to mention information-pollution process -- the county is now considering is a NASCAR level racetrack, with parking for 15,000 fans plus the trucks bringing the race cars, in our Valley air basin, which the federal government calls in a state of severe non-attainment of acceptable air quality, and officials occasionally confess that they cannot imagine how it will come into compliance by next deadline, the one after, or by any deadline.

Consider the subdivisions the county approves on the west side that will receive their water from the federal government, which does not always deliver the full allotment, depending on supply. Consider at least one water district over there that almost seems to be laundering federal water through a complex series of intervening water districts to make it as difficult as possible to see that it is actually federal water, subject to uneven supply.

Consider that prominent occupant of the third floor of the Merced County Administration Building, Rep. Dennis Cardoza, Shrimp Slayer-Merced. It is hard to find in the whole United States Congress a member more adamantly opposed to the kind of law and policy that would begin to address the problem of global warming than Shrimp Slayer, except his beloved chairman, Rep. RichPAC Pombo, Buffalo Slayer-Tracy. Together, they are called the Pomboza, whose habitat is the pockets of a few developers, and they work ceaselessly behind the scenes to create a regulatory climate that will allow developers to turn the area from Sacramento to Fresno into another Los Angeles -- without sea breezes, a movie industry, or huge defense contractors. The Pomboza has no vision for its collective district but more developer contributions to feed its irresponsible political assault on the Public Trust.

For having allowed its elected officials to do these things, Merced richly deserves the slurb it is rapidly becoming. The population seems to be unequally divided between a few bullies and a great many cowardly whiners who were too scared to even be able to think when UC Boondoggle Merced came to town to enrich a few large landowners and a larger group of outside investors. When the chips were down, nobody could see beyond their own greed -- witness the shame of the DA, the sheriff, and the County CAO. No doubt other scandals will follow.

Consider the group of people, normally liberal, many of them now fighting the racetrack and WalMart, who could not see beyond their yearning for proximity to a UC campus and their terror of even being suspected of doubting its complete rightness.

What the public needed and had a right to expect from the university were reflection, perspective and insight into the environmental dangers at hand. Instead it gets a steady dose of idiotic flak, for example the recent statement that the reason so many students flunked out in the first year of UC Boondoggle Merced was because they were first-generation college students; for another example, the lie endlessly repeated that UC Boondoggle Merced is the only "research university in the Central Valley."

No university system in the modern world has a prouder, longer tradition of educating first-generation college students than UC, UC Davis is a world-class research university located in the middle of the Central Valley, and we resent the perpetual UC Boondoggle Merced disinformation campaign published as news in our local paper. Let UC return to its weekly paid supplements, clearly marked as advertising, just like a WalMart supplement. News is something else. We needed and had a right to expect from our public research university reflection, perspective and insight, just as we needed and had a right to expect honesty from our newspaper. We got and still get propaganda from both.

UC Boondoggle Merced's approach to the air quality crisis, directly the result of rapid growth in the Valley to which UC has contributed in our area, is to propose a medical school with an emphasis on respiratory diseases. In a word, UC Boondoggle Merced will capitalize on our air quality crisis and the huge research population it is producing. It will capitalize on the impacts of global warming on the Sierra through its Sierra Nevada Institute, measuring with powerful, emerging technologies just how rapidly the environment deteriorates. Are these the public services UC presents them to be or are they merely more exploitation?

Genius at the command of greed -- oh Joy! The worse the climate becomes, the more refined UC Boondoggle Merced's measurements will become, always assuming it will not become just an annex for research in weapons of mass destruction Livermore Valley citizens force out of UC Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory.

The land-use authorities are blinded by greed. The results are on the ground all around, and this is just the beginning. Development is here and it has its teeth in the throat of the authorities. Farming and its entire support system in the Valley are severely – perhaps fatally – threatened by development. The Valley is the richest farmland in the American West. For it to be paved over, its ecology, air and water destroyed by development, finishes off the possibility of its agriculture evolving out of the admittedly ridiculous state of the moment, caused however by very real economic pressures, into something more wholesome, better balanced, and more productive of crops and of livelihoods in farming. The vital potential this land and the dwindling but still expert farmers on it have to improve and adjust to better ways has already been severely injured. Neither California nor the nation can afford to let this Valley become the next Los Angeles.

The only way to change this course is to care and to participate.

This evening the Merced City Council Chambers was filled with people protesting every aspect of the proposed WalMart distribution center at a meeting called by the city as a scoping session before work begins on the draft environmental impact report. One speaker called for a moratorium on planning for the project until the county General Plan update is finished. Although the project is technically in the city, and therefore subject to the city's rather than the county's General Plan, the city General Plan is also being updated. The consultants and the city had advised the audience that they would not consider the problem of economic blight because the distribution center would not have any competition in the area. This drew pointed criticism from a number of neighbors of the proposed project who, based on the experience of neighbors of the Porterville WalMart distribution center, said their property values would plummet. One speaker from a subdivision near the proposed project said realtor were already discouraging homebuyers from investing in property near the distribution center.

A man with asthma with a grandchild with asthma, who works at a school where asthmatic kids cannot play outside on bad air days, said it best: we should be ashamed of ourselves, we should be thinking of our kids, instead we’re thinking of the dollar.

Developers and their bought-and-sold politicians have no right to pollute our air and water, they said.

Once you destroy this environment, you will not be able to clean it up even if you wanted to. It will become a big monument to capitalist greed, they said.

How many more truck accidents in the tule fog will be caused by the addition of 900-2,000 more trucks per day and night than we already have in winter, they asked.

Consultants preparing the environmental documents should not trust any data WalMart gives them, they said.

Bill Hatch

Published on Monday, July 24, 2006 by the Los Angeles Times

Global Warming-- Signed, Sealed, and Delivered
Scientists agree: The Earth is warming, and human activities are the principal cause.

by Naomi Oreskes

An Op-Ed article in the Wall Street Journal a month ago claimed that a published study affirming the existence of a scientific consensus on the reality of global warming had been refuted. This charge was repeated again last week, in a hearing of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce.

I am the author of that study, which appeared two years ago in the journal Science, and I'm here to tell you that the consensus stands. The argument put forward in the Wall Street Journal was based on an Internet posting; it has not appeared in a peer-reviewed journal — the normal way to challenge an academic finding. (The Wall Street Journal didn't even get my name right!)

My study demonstrated that there is no significant disagreement within the scientific community that the Earth is warming and that human activities are the principal cause.

Papers that continue to rehash arguments that have already been addressed and questions that have already been answered will, of course, be rejected by scientific journals, and this explains my findings. Not a single paper in a large sample of peer-reviewed scientific journals between 1993 and 2003 refuted the consensus position, summarized by the National Academy of Sciences, that "most of the observed warming of the last 50 years is likely to have been due to the increase in greenhouse gas concentrations."

Since the 1950s, scientists have understood that greenhouse gases produced by burning fossil fuels could have serious effects on Earth's climate. When the 1980s proved to be the hottest decade on record, and as predictions of climate models started to come true, scientists increasingly saw global warming as cause for concern.

In 1988, the World Meteorological Assn. and the United Nations Environment Program joined forces to create the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change to evaluate the state of climate science as a basis for informed policy action. The panel has issued three assessments (1990, 1995, 2001), representing the combined expertise of 2,000 scientists from more than 100 countries, and a fourth report is due out shortly. Its conclusions — global warming is occurring, humans have a major role in it — have been ratified by scientists around the world in published scientific papers, in statements issued by professional scientific societies, and in reports of the National Academy of Sciences, the
British Royal Society and many other national and royal academies of science worldwide.

Even the Bush administration accepts the fundamental findings. As President Bush's science advisor, John Marburger III, said last year in a speech: "The climate is changing; the Earth is warming."

To be sure, there are a handful of scientists, including MIT professor Richard Lindzen, the author of the Wall Street Journal editorial, who disagree with the rest of the scientific community. To a historian of science like me, this is not surprising. In any scientific community, there are always some individuals who simply refuse to accept new ideas and evidence. This is especially true when the new evidence strikes at their core beliefs and values.

Earth scientists long believed that humans were insignificant in comparison with the vastness of geological time and the power of geophysical forces. For this reason, many were reluctant to accept that humans had become a force of nature, and it took decades for the present understanding to be achieved. Those few who refuse to accept it are not ignorant, but they are stubborn. They are not unintelligent, but they are stuck on details that cloud the larger issue. Scientific communities include tortoises and hares, mavericks and mules.

A historical example will help to make the point. In the 1920s, the distinguished
Cambridge geophysicist Harold Jeffreys rejected the idea of continental drift on the grounds of physical impossibility. In the 1950s, geologists and geophysicists began to accumulate overwhelming evidence of the reality of continental motion, even though the physics of it was poorly understood. By the late 1960s, the theory of plate tectonics was on the road to near-universal acceptance.

Yet Jeffreys, by then Sir Harold, stubbornly refused to accept the new evidence, repeating his old arguments about the impossibility of the thing. He was a great man, but he had become a scientific mule. For a while, journals continued to publish Jeffreys' arguments, but after a while he had nothing new to say. He died denying plate tectonics. The scientific debate was over.

So it is with climate change today. As American geologist Harry Hess said in the 1960s about plate tectonics, one can quibble about the details, but the overall picture is clear.

Yet some climate-change deniers insist that the observed changes might be natural, perhaps caused by variations in solar irradiance or other forces we don't yet understand. Perhaps there are other explanations for the receding glaciers. But "perhaps" is not evidence.

The greatest scientist of all time, Isaac Newton, warned against this tendency more than three centuries ago. Writing in "Principia Mathematica" in 1687, he noted that once scientists had successfully drawn conclusions by "general induction from phenomena," then those conclusions had to be held as "accurately or very nearly true notwithstanding any contrary hypothesis that may be imagined…. "

Climate-change deniers can imagine all the hypotheses they like, but it will not change the facts nor "the general induction from the phenomena."

None of this is to say that there are no uncertainties left — there are always
uncertainties in any live science. Agreeing about the reality and causes of current global warming is not the same as agreeing about what will happen in the future. There is continuing debate in the scientific community over the likely rate of future change: not "whether" but "how much" and "how soon." And this is precisely why we need to act today: because the longer we wait, the worse the problem will become, and the harder it will be to solve.

Naomi Oreskes is a history of science professor at UC San Diego.