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    Strong Global Warming Facts Sway Doubters
    Posted on Tuesday, July 12, 2005 @ 20:31:03 GMT by vlad

    General Overtone writes: Published on Monday, July 11, 2005 by Atlanta Journal-Constitution

    by Jay Bookman

    As a father and if he's lucky, he says, maybe as a grandfather someday David Ratcliffe is of course concerned about what we might be doing to our planet. Just because he's also the CEO of Atlanta-based Southern Co. one of the nation's largest electric utility companies and also one of the largest corporate contributors of greenhouse gases in the country doesn't make him immune to such concerns.

    Yet, under Ratcliffe's leadership, Southern Co. remains in stubborn denial that its emissions of carbon dioxide are contributing to a problem of literally global dimensions. That doesn't mean that Ratcliffe is evil or uninformed, because he's clearly neither. It means he's human.

    As Southern's CEO, Ratcliffe takes seriously his obligation to stockholders to keep operating costs as low as possible. As head of an electric utility, he feels an equally important obligation to his customers to "keep the lights on for them," as he puts it. Over the more than 30 years that he has worked at Southern Co. and its affiliate, Georgia Power, Ratcliffe has made those company priorities an integral part of his value system.

    Not surprisingly, he sees global warming as a threat to those priorities, and he clings to the claim that it's just an unproved theory as a way to justify his stance that it does not demand government action or regulation.

    For others, though, that narrow perspective is becoming harder to sustain, even among those who previously dismissed climate change as a problem.

    "Personally, I feel the time has come to act to take steps as a nation to reduce the carbon intensity of our economy," Paul Anderson, Ratcliffe's counterpart at Duke Energy, said this spring. "Any actions must be mandatory, economy-wide and federal in scope." At least two other major utilities, American Electric Power Co. and Cinergy Corp., have also recently acknowledged the need to take action.

    In the political world, the ice is melting as well, so to speak.

    "Look, everybody knows that there's a human component [to climate change]," says Stephen Hadley, President Bush's national security adviser. "The question is, what are we going to do about these things . . . and that's what we're trying to focus on."

    Even Bush himself, long a vocal skeptic, is now being forced to admit the truth, twice acknowledging in recent days that mankind is altering the planet's climate.

    "Listen, I recognize that the surface of the Earth is warmer and that an increase in greenhouse gases caused by humans is contributing to the problem," he told a news conference in Denmark on his way to the G-8 summit.

    Like Ratcliffe, Bush tried to ignore the obvious as long as possible because he understood its implications. But the facts are just overwhelming.

    Since the early '80s, scientists have been predicting that global temperatures would rise substantially, and they've done so. According to NASA, the four warmest years on record have been, in order, 1998, 2002, 2003 and 2004.

    Scientists have also been predicting that climate change would lead to storms that were both more powerful and more numerous, and as the folks on the Florida Coast can attest, that has happened as well. Here in Georgia, they've predicted more precipitation extremes, with long dry spells alternating with periods of intense rainfall and flooding, and that's what seems to be happening.

    Of course, none of that proves for a fact that the scientists are right. It's certainly possible for all those things to be occurring for natural reasons.

    But when somebody tells you that he can flip a quarter and make it come up heads 10 times in a row, and then proceeds to do so, you have a choice. You can dismiss it as just luck, because that's one possible explanation. It is, after all, mathematically possible to get 10 heads in a row.

    But personally, I'd think that guy was onto something. And I sure wouldn't want to bet the well-being of my children and grandchildren that he wasn't.

    Jay Bookman is the deputy editorial page editor. His column appears Mondays and Thursdays.

    2005 Atlanta Journal-Constitution



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