Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Updates From The New York Times

The New York Times had two interesting articles today that caught my eye.

The first - on the front page - is a report that more than 20% of the U.S.'s water treatment systems have violated "key" provisions of the national Safe Drinking Water Act over the past five years. According to the Times, while regulators were made aware of the violations, less than 6% resulted in regulatory action (i.e. fines or other punishment). According to anonymous insiders at the EPA, the lack of action is due (1) to the concern that any fines or other punishments will simply be passed on to taxpayers; and (2) the fact that drinking water cases lack headline appeal.

This report highlights a significant problem with any regulatory regime. It is not enough to simply have laws and regulations. You have to enforce them. Given the EPA's new committment to enforcing water law in the U.S., perhaps we will start to see some action on this issue. (And thanks to Mike Campana over at WaterWired for the heads up on this story.)

The second Times story that caught my eye today is the announcement that the World Meteorological Organization has issued an analysis that the decade of the 2000's (2000-2009) is going to go down as the warmest decade since instrumental record keeping began more than 150 years ago. And though the year isn't quite done yet, 2009 may end up among the top 5 hottest years on record as well. This assessment is apparently consistent with similar independant assessments performed by NASA and the U.S. National Climatic Data Center.

We can only hope that this report puts to rest the argument (usually based on highly cherry picked data) that the Earth is actually cooling globally.

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