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Victor Yannacone

January 18, 2008 @ 12:00 am EST


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This morning’s topic raised a few eyebrows, "Global Warming Fact or Fiction." Our speaker was respected attorney and environmentalist Victor Yannacone. Victor has numerous credits to his name including being a founding member of the "Environmental Defense Fund" and lead attorney on the Agent Orange legal suit in support of Viet Nam era soldiers.
The title of his address was a little misleading. The argument presented was that the activities of human beings are not the cause of global warming. The larger impact on the phenomenon are other naturally occurring forces. There is a problem, but to ham string the United States with rules that will inhibit economic growth, is not fair because developing countries such as China and India are not bound by the same rules. Moreover, according to Yannacone, human activity accounts for only about 1% of the greenhouse gasses. I challenged Yannacone’s premise when he said that the same phenomenon has occurred numerous times over the life of the planet. I reminded him that the ice cores from which we get our data on CO 2 goes back 700,000 years, and that data suggests that the CO 2 has been dramatically higher since the industrial revolution.
You can take issue with his premise, and I did, but what he went on to say was more interesting. Conservation and alternative fuels need to be a major part of our future. He then brought the story back home. He did not cede his original proposition, but stated we must reduce our use of fossil fuels by a better use facilities we have. The Long Island Railroad should have at least one tie that binds the three track systems together. He suggested the Port Jefferson Medford and Patchogue could be tied together to create a loop. This would make the railroad more useful for intra-island transit. Housing should be more clustered and in a mixed use grouping.
"The present model under which Long Island operates is dead." The entire country needs to build the equivalent of the interstate highway system to deliver our electrical power. Building a robust rail system and electrical transmission system will substantially mitigate the greenhouse gasses that people talk about, but Yannacone was approaching some of the same conclusions without the vitriol that is usually directed to the Hummer owners  
Aha….we have an ally after all. LIMBA has been advocating for a robust rail freight system for years. We now get less than 2% of our freight by rail. If we increased that amount to 10%, we would take 325,000 tractor trailers off the highways each year.
It was a very encouraging presentation because the challenge presents enormous development opportunities according to our speaker.