U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry became the highest-ranking American official to visit Antarctica when he recently landed aboard a C-17 Globemaster military cargo plane for a two-day trip.
And a grand trip it was …
Kerry stopped at the United States’ McMurdo Station, which is partially covered by the Ross Ice Shelf — a floating body of ice as big as France. It’s the largest ice shelf in the world.
He took helicopter tours of sights such as the McMurdo Dry valleys — a cold and arid area that holds scientific interest.
He saw Blood Falls, a bizarre glacier that appears reddish due to a combination of iron and saline water pouring out of it.
And the Secretary visited the famous hut where Ernest Henry Shackleton, the Antarctic explorer, lived in 1908. He even got a close-up picture of an Adélie penguin.
State Department photo
From there, Kerry jetted off to Morocco where he spoke on the dangers of a warming planet.
But why are we paying a boatload of money for this lame duck to gallivant to far-off places … while he puts more greenhouse gas into the atmosphere?
There’s no real diplomatic reason for such a trip. And the State Department’s spokesman couldn’t provide an estimate on how much it cost.
One reporter said there was concern this that trip was simply for Kerry to “knock Antarctica off his bucket list” on the taxpayers’ dime.
His staff claims the trip was a learning opportunity for Kerry to hear from scientists about the impact of climate change on the frozen continent.
How valid are these concerns?
Some experts believe that the West Antarctic ice sheet is melting from below. That’s because the surrounding ocean has delivered warm, salty water to submerged glaciers. They estimate that if the ice sheet is lost, seas could rise 10 feet.
On the other hand, a NASA study found that it isn’t losing ice mass after all. And a British survey discovered that the Antarctica Peninsula has been cooling since 1998.
Then there are those who agreed with President-elect Donald Trump when he tweeted:
How real global warming is, what’s causing it, and what should be done can be debated until pigs fly.
But one thing can’t be disputed: Kerry didn’t have to go to the bottom of the earth on a once-in-a-lifetime adventure trip to further his effort to fight climate change.
He could have easily, and for a fraction of the cost, headed to California for a whiff of Gov. Jerry Brown’s war on cow farts.
A kick in the udders for dairy farmers
In September, Brown signed a law for a 40% emission reduction from short-lived climate pollutants, such as methane, by 2030. He’s also calling for a 75% reduction in the disposal of organic waste by 2025.
Brown had farts and belches in his crosshairs with the original bill.
Brown said the law is “the critical next step in our program to combat climate change.”
Dairy farmers say it stinks …
They claim that California’s crackdown on flatulent cattle won’t cool the planet a millionth of a degree. And it’s just another blow to their over-regulated industry.
Rob Vandenheuvel, general manager of California’s Milk Producers Council, said of the new law,
"The producers feel this is a serious grab of power toward regulating manure management."
What’s more, the cost of complying comes out of their pockets.
You see, pre-existing regulations control prices on dairy products. So farmers aren’t allowed to charge prices that reflect increased cost of production.
Digesters that suck up methane run $2 million each. And you need 400 cows to produce enough biogas to make the equipment pay for itself. Such an expense could send small organic dairies on their way out.
Brown had the smelly beasts’ farts and belches in his crosshairs with the original bill. But that was removed because the technology to control them doesn’t exist.
You can bet, though, that Brown will sniff out a way to regulate California’s 1.8 million cows and their farts. Maybe a catalytic converter for cows is the answer.
Don’t laugh. A company in Argentina is experimenting with a Fart Pack, which collects gas directly from a cow’s digestive tract.
Until technology catches up with demand, California’s new law gives authorities at the state’s Air Resources Board the power to monitor and report cows’ emissions of such gases.
At the same time, the whole dairy industry will be watching how it all works out for Brown and his cow fart crusade. After all, as California goes so goes the nation. And regulations on breaking wind could drift across our nation.
A bigger concern:
After cows, will Congress pass a law that monitors Americans who have a history of farting and belching? Will bar owners be prohibited from selling pickled eggs? Pinto beans removed from restaurant menus?
Perhaps we’re overreacting, and it’s just a jobs bill in disguise … a way to employ displaced politicians and bureaucrats — Democrats and Republicans — many who are highly qualified to track cow flatulence.
The Uncommon Wisdom Daily Team