"10 Ways the Sequester Will Expose Americans to Greater Health Risks and Other Perils". That link-baity headline is the intro to a slew of alarmist clap-trap from the: Center for American Progress (CAP).
The truth is, it is not known which programs or projects will be cut as a result of sequestration. Ezra Klein of the Washington Post has a much more reasonable take on Congress’s inaction (unlike CAP, Klein seems to have read and comprehended the Budget Control Bill):
The sequester is set to cut spending across the board. But how? We know an awful lot about what the sequester can’t do. It can’t cut Social Security, Medicaid, military salaries or any number of of exempt programs. It can’t mess with federal pay scales. It can’t favor certain programs over others. But the actual process by which cuts are to be determined, and who is involved in that process, is more obscure.
The problem, budget experts say, is that the Budget Control Act was simultaneously very strict in its dictates and not specific about what those dictates mean. “The law states that the ‘same percentage sequestration shall apply to all programs, projects, and activities within a budget account,’ ” former OMB director Peter Orszag says. “That’s pretty restrictive, giving little room for creativity.”
What room there is comes from defining exactly what is meant by “programs,” “projects” and “activities.” “There is not a standard definition,” Stan Collender, a longtime Congressional budget hand currently at the PR firm Qorvis, explains. “It’s not something that exists anywhere else in nature.”
Above: one of several fires on the Cuyahoga River in Ohio. Used as a dump for about two centuries, it caught fire on a regular basis. “When the Cuyahoga burst into flame in 1969, it was not a huge deal to locals. After all, the river had burned almost every decade over the previous century,” writes James Salzman. The Cuyahoga was not the only river to catch fire. Indeed, dozens of rivers around the nation were terribly polluted (Salzman tells of a fall into the Charles River in Boston in the ’70s. He went to hospital for skin treatment).
It is inconceivable to think that our rivers were actually this bad, but they were: there were no environmental laws, and no system of regulations or penalties. Waste was dumped into rivers for decades and decades. The Cuyahoga fires were an accidental symbol of deterioration that verged on scandal. Now rivers are pretty much cleaned up thanks to the Clean Water Act, which just turned 40.
Duke environmental law professor, James Salzman wrote about the Clean Water Act (CWA) for Slate. Salzman’s article, “Why Rivers No Longer Burns” shows that politicians can work together, so long as they have the guts to actually govern. He writes that the Clean Water Act is one of the greatest successes in environmental law. It’s a short overview of how the CWA came to be. I remember being inspired to go to law school when I read similar short articles on the environment. Perhaps you will too…
In 1972, a landmark law reversed the course of this filthy tide. Today, four decades later, the Clean Water Act stands as one of the great success stories of environmental law. Supported by Republicans and Democrats alike, the act took a completely new approach to environmental protection. The law flatly stated there would be no discharge of pollutants from a point source (a pipe or ditch) into navigable waters without a permit. No more open sewers dumping crud into the local stream or bay. Permits would be issued by environmental officials and require the installation of the best available pollution-control technologies.
The waste flushed down drains and toilets needed a different approach, so the Clean Water Act provided for billions of dollars in grants to construct and upgrade publicly owned sewage-treatment works around the nation. To protect the lands that filter and purify water as it flows by, permits were also required for draining and filling wetlands. Protecting our nation’s waters may seem like common sense today, but the idea of nationally uniform, tough standards against polluters was both original and radical. Thinking big, the Clean Water Act’s preamble declared that the nation’s waters would be swimmable and fishable within a decade, with no discharges of pollutants within a dozen years. These weren’t idle boasts.
2010 fire-climate paper shows strong East-West difference in fire trends in 21st Century. (West burns.) Temperature to become prime driver of fire. Abstract:
Recent bursts in the incidence of large wildfires worldwide have raised concerns about the influence climate change and humans might have on future fire activity. Comparatively little is known, however, about the relative importance of these factors in shaping global fire history. Here we use fire and climate modeling, com- bined with land cover and population estimates, to gain a better understanding of the forces driving global fire trends. Our model successfully reproduces global fire activity record over the last millennium and reveals distinct regimes in global fire behavior. We find that during the preindustrial period, the global fire regime was strongly driven by precipitation (rather than temperature), shifting to an anthropogenic-driven regime with the Industrial Revolution. Our future projections indicate an impending shift to a temperature-driven global fire regime in the 21st century, creating an unprecedentedly fire-prone environment. These results suggest a possibility that in the future climate will play a consider- ably stronger role in driving global fire trends, outweighing direct human influence on fire (both ignition and suppression), a reversal from the situation during the last two centuries.
We have already experienced close to 1 degree Celsius of that increase, which accounts, at least in part, for last summer’s colossal fires and record-setting temperatures - and it’s now clear that we’re just getting started.