'Green' governors, a warmer lake, and Al

States, increasingly seen as America's laboratories for seeking and testing policies for curbing greenhouse gases, continued to forge ahead with efforts to police carbon emissions. But they also seem to be aware that the power of one has limits, and maybe even competitive disadvantages. Voilá! A regional agreement.

Such an approach to global warming is needed because the federal government has failed to take a tough approach, said five Western governors Monday, who took first steps to tackle the issue regionally, the Financial Times reported.

Republican Arnold Schwarzenegger of California and Democrats Bill Richardson of New Mexico, Theodore Kulongoski of Oregon, Christine Gregoire of Washington, and Janet Napolitano of Arizona unveiled a plan to set regional standards for carbon-dioxide emissions, track and manage greenhouse gases, and operate a cap-and-trade emissions system for businesses, The Washington Post wrote. Their effort follows an agreement by seven Northeastern and mid-Atlantic states in 2005 to limit greenhouse gases from utility plants.

"In the absence of meaningful federal action, it is up to the states to take action to address climate change and reduce greenhouse-gas emissions in this country," said Governor Napolitano, chair of the National Governors Association in a press release. "Western states are being particularly hard-hit by the effects of climate change."

One answer, NASA climatologist James Hansen told journalists Monday, is no more coal-fired power plants.

"There should be a moratorium on building any more coal-fired power plants until the technology to capture and sequester the [carbon-dioxide emissions] is available. This is a hard proposition that no politician is willing to stand up and say it's necessary."

The waters of Lake Superior are warming up earlier in the year, says Jay Austin, a researcher with the University of Minnesota-Duluth's Large Lakes Observatory. Water temperatures are rising almost twice as fast as air temperatures. As a result, spring turnover, when warmer water layers on top of colder water, has moved up from early July to mid-June, which could affect plants and fish, the Associated Press said.

Even small blips in temperature can put organisms on the move, the Los Angeles Times reported Sunday. "Incremental temperature changes have begun to redraw the distribution of bacteria, insects, and plants, exposing new populations to diseases that they have never seen before," the paper reported.

For example, in Sweden "fewer winter days below 10 degrees F and more summer days above 50 degrees F have encouraged the northward movement of ticks, which has coincided with an increase in cases of tick-borne encephalitis since the 1980s." In Africa, mosquitoes have been moving up mountainsides, bringing malaria to villages never exposed before.

Dr. Paul Epstein, associate director of the Center for Health and the Global Environment at Harvard University, told the Times:

"No one's saying global warming is the whole picture here. But it is playing a role. As climate changes, it's projected to play an even greater role."

In a report this week, the United Nations Foundation and the Sigma Xi Scientific Research Society warned that exceeding global average temperature increases of 2 to 2.5 degrees Celsius above the 1750 preindustrial level would sharply increase the risk of intolerable impacts.

Avoiding the "tipping point," say the 18 scientists from 11 countries who spent two years writing the report, requires that global CO2 emissions peak no later than 2015 to 2020 at not much above their current level and decline by 2100 to about a third of that value.

In British Columbia, some experts believe the Canadian province could be energy self-sufficient by 2025 from renewable sources alone. The GLOBE Foundation in Vancouver reported Tuesday that this would provide a secure long-term energy supply, as well as some insulation from world energy shocks. The province already obtains about 40 percent of its energy from renewable sources.

This year's Academy Awards had a decidedly green hue. Many of Hollywood's glitterati arrived in hybrid Priuses. There they saw "An Inconvenient Truth," the film about Al Gore's anti warming campaign win the award for best documentary.

"It's not a political issue; it's a moral issue," said the former vice president in accepting the award. "We have everything we need to get started, with the possible exception of the will to act. That's a renewable resource. Let's renew it."

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