Recent editorials from West Virginia newspapers:
Charleston (W.Va.) Gazette on Greenhouse buildup:
A historic landmark occurred last week. Scientists at a Hawaii mountaintop observatory reported that carbon dioxide buildup in the atmosphere reached 400 parts per million for the first time since the Pliocene Epoch -- 5 million to 3 million years ago, long after dinosaurs died, but before early humans evolved.
Before the Industrial Revolution, atmospheric CO2 had averaged about 280 ppm for at least 800,000 years. But an upsurge of coal, oil and gas burning began a relentless increase in the "greenhouse gas" that forms a heat-trapping barrier in the sky, slowly warming the planet's surface.
If the CO2 buildup keeps climbing past 450 ppm, it may cross a "tipping point" that will trigger the worst dangers of global warming. Arctic ice will melt, raising sea levels and flooding many coastal cities. Storm severity will worsen, inflicting trillion-dollar nightmares akin to last year's Superstorm Sandy. Floods, droughts, wildfires, tropical diseases and other evils will torment humanity. Losses will be enormous.
So far, humanity shows little desire to reduce fossil fuel burning. Appalachia's coal reserves are near an end, but natural gas is surging and oil remains a pillar of the world economy. The U.S. Geological Survey proudly reported this month that oil and gas deposits under western states may be twice as high as former estimates.
One more dreary fact: Methane leaking into the sky by the gas-drilling boom and by melting of arctic tundra is an even worse greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide.
Most people don't notice that a slow-motion calamity already has started. But unless global warming is curtailed by a rapid expansion of renewable energy -- solar, wind, tidal, geothermal, biomass, etc. -- the entire world eventually will feel painful results.
The Herald-Dispatch, Huntington, W. Va., on military must work harder to defend its own from assaults:
People serving in the U.S. military face all kinds of threats and hazards, ranging from enemies in overseas war zones to dangerous training missions on American soil.
Should they also have to contend with an epidemic of sexual assaults that continues to be embedded in all the military branches? Apparently so, according to a new report from the Department of Defense.
What's most troubling about the report is that the military seems to be making little or no headway in combating a problem that repeatedly has gained attention.
The documents released last week show that the number of sexual assaults officially reported by members of the military rose 6 percent to 3,374 in 2012. However, a survey of personnel who were not required to reveal their identities showed the number of service members actually assaulted could be as many as 26,000, a discrepancy explained by the fact that most of those incidents were never reported, officials said. In 2011, the number of estimated assaults was more than 19,000.
The trend is clearly headed in the wrong direction, raising questions about how effective -- and how sincere -- efforts have been in recent years to reverse it. As if to put an exclamation point on how dismal the progress has been, the Air Force's head of sexual assault prevention was arrested earlier this month on charges that he groped a woman in a Northern Virginia parking lot.
Obviously, the message is not being relayed forcefully enough by commanders and the ranks are not listening. ...
Some members of Congress also are contemplating legislation that would take away military officers' authority to overturn convictions for serious offenses such as sexual assault. That is in reaction to an Air Force officer's decision to reverse a jury verdict in a sexual assault case. That's an important step, too.
Increased accountability starting at the top of the command chain and working all the way down could help -- if top officials indeed take action against those who fail to carry out this mission. The key is to let those in charge know that continued failure is not an option if they want to continue their military careers.
The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia, on wasted resources:
The news is familiar.
A man was electrocuted Wednesday and a second arrested in connection with an attempted copper theft in our area.
Familiar, but with a twist this time. According to investigating officers, the pair used a rifle to shoot down a power line owned by Appalachian Power Co. in an alleged attempt to steal copper wire from the line. One of the men then touched the power line and was electrocuted.
Unbelievably brazen and foolish.
And sadly, someone is dead.
The resulting power outage impacted 50 APCO customers in the Thurmond area and lasted about three hours, according to spokesman Phil Moye.
When copper is stolen, it's more than a nuisance for police and the affected residences and businesses.
According to the U.S. Department of Energy, it costs taxpayers over $1 billion a year.
We suggest that if you see suspicious activity around vacant buildings or property, communication towers, construction sites, mines or an electric substation, contact the police.
Copper theft is still a deadly risk that too many are willing to take. Their motivation, more often than not, is a desperation to feed a drug habit.
And it's one that, despite the many deaths and arrests that have resulted from it, continues to be problematic.
Whether it's driven by just plain stupidity or desperation, our hope is that educating the public on copper theft will lead to a decrease in the costly issue.
Costly, in wasted resources, economic losses — and, most importantly, lives.