This post is a continuously updated compilation of news and opinion on our ever-worsening climate calamity. Items are posted chronologically:
The climate crisis of the 21st century has been caused largely by just 90 companies, which between them produced nearly two-thirds of the greenhouse gas emissions generated since the dawning of the industrial age, new research suggests.
NASA released global temperature data showing that this September tied with 2005 for the warmest September on record.
Climate change will pose sharp risks to the world’s food supply in coming decades, potentially undermining crop production and driving up prices at a time when the demand for food is expected to soar, scientists have found.
If greenhouse emissions continue their steady escalation, temperatures across most of the earth will rise to levels with no recorded precedent by the middle of this century.
Climate scientists are 95% confident — that is to say, surer than ever — that humans are responsible for at least “half of the observed increase in global average surface temperatures since the 1950s.” …weather events that have previously been classified as “storms of the century” could become the storm of “every 20 years or less.”
Sea ice cover in the Arctic has shrunk to the sixth lowest extent on record, according to figures from the National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC).
Every climate scientist I’ve spoken to has said we will blow past 550 ppm [carbon dioxide concentrations] if we continue to put off action. Indeed, we’re on track for well past 800 ppm. Continued inaction on climate change risks the end of modern civilization as we know it.
Northeast Asia is on fire. Yesterday temperatures in Shanghai hit an all-time high of 105.4ºF (40.8ºC), the hottest day in the coastal megacity since Chinese officials began keeping records some 140 years ago — during the Qing dynasty.
Part of the subtext of rightwing anti-environmentalism is that worrying about the planet betrays “softness,” that it’s the domain of “weak” liberals.
Which is why Democrats often feel compelled to couch the climate issue in energy security terms.
Any discussion of how we’re ravaging the earth, altering our climate and polluting the air is off limits for green-bashers, but I’m sure this is perfectly acceptable:
With insurgents increasingly attacking the American fuel supply convoys that lumber across the Khyber Pass into Afghanistan, the military is pushing aggressively to develop, test and deploy renewable energy to decrease its need to transport fossil fuels.
Last week, a Marine company from California arrived in the rugged outback of Helmand Province bearing novel equipment: portable solar panels that fold up into boxes; energy-conserving lights; solar tent shields that provide shade and electricity; solar chargers for computers and communications equipment.
The 150 Marines of Company I, Third Battalion, Fifth Marines, will be the first to take renewable technology into a battle zone, where the new equipment will replace diesel and kerosene-based fuels that would ordinarily generate power to run their encampment.
Even as Congress has struggled unsuccessfully to pass an energy bill and many states have put renewable energy on hold because of the recession, the military this year has pushed rapidly forward. After a decade of waging wars in remote corners of the globe where fuel is not readily available, senior commanders have come to see overdependence on fossil fuel as a big liability, and renewable technologies — which have become more reliable and less expensive over the past few years — as providing a potential answer.
This is a lengthy and valuable piece for anyone wondering why and how we’re letting down future generations. Key excerpts follow:
On April 20, 2010, Senators John Kerry, Lindsey Graham, and Joseph Lieberman, along with three aides, visited Rahm Emanuel, President Obama’s chief of staff, at the White House. The legislators had spent seven months writing a comprehensive bill that promised to transform the nation’s approach to energy and climate change, and they were planning a press conference in six days to unveil their work.
The senators sat around the conference table in the corner of Emanuel’s office. In addition to the chief of staff, they were joined by David Axelrod, the President’s political adviser, and Carol Browner, the assistant to the President for Energy and Climate Change. Lieberman introduced his aide, Danielle Rosengarten, to Emanuel. “Rosengarten working for Lieberman,” Emanuel said. “Shocker!”
Kerry, Graham, and Lieberman knew that Obama’s advisers disagreed about climate-change legislation. Browner was passionate about the issue, but she didn’t have much influence. Axelrod, though influential, was not particularly committed. Emanuel prized victory above all, and he made it clear that, if there weren’t sixty votes to pass the bill in the Senate, the White House would not expend much effort on the matter.
Kerry and some aides were in his office discussing the progress of their bill. Someone mentioned T. Boone Pickens, the author of the so-called Pickens Plan, an energy-independence proposal centered on enormous government subsidies for natural gas, which is abundant, cleaner-burning than other fossil fuels, and sold by a Pickens-controlled corporation at some two hundred natural-gas fuelling stations across North America. Back in 2004, Pickens had helped to fund the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth, a group that ran a sleazy—and inaccurate—ad campaign proclaiming, among other things, that Kerry had lied about the circumstances that led to his Bronze Star and Purple Hearts.
Kerry had an inspiration. “I’m going to call T. Boone,” he said. Frangione was surprised. “You really want to call that guy?” she asked. Kerry told an aide to get Pickens on the phone. Minutes later, Kerry was inviting Pickens to Washington to talk. Rosengarten, who watched Kerry make the call, thought it was “a show of extraordinary leadership.” The following week, Pickens and Kerry sat in two upholstered chairs in the Senator’s office. Between them loomed a giant model of Kerry’s Vietnam swift boat. Kerry walked Pickens through the components of the bill that he and his colleagues were writing, but Pickens seemed uninterested. He had just one request: include in the climate legislation parts of a bill that Pickens had written, called the Natural Gas Act, a series of tax incentives to encourage the use of natural-gas vehicles and the installation of natural-gas fuelling stations. In exchange, Pickens would publicly endorse the bill.
On March 31st, Obama announced that large portions of U.S. waters in the Gulf of Mexico, the Arctic Ocean, and off the East Coast—from the mid-Atlantic to central Florida—would be newly available for oil and gas drilling. Two days later, he said, “It turns out, by the way, that oil rigs today generally don’t cause spills. They are technologically very advanced. Even during Katrina, the spills didn’t come from the oil rigs, they came from the refineries onshore.” From the outside, it looked as if the Obama Administration were coördinating closely with Democrats in the Senate. Republicans and the oil industry wanted more domestic drilling, and Obama had just given it to them. He seemed to be delivering on the grand bargain that his aides had talked about at the start of the Administration.
But there had been no communication with the senators actually writing the bill, and they felt betrayed. When Graham’s energy staffer learned of the announcement, the night before, he was “apoplectic,” according to a colleague. The group had dispensed with the idea of drilling in ANWR, but it was prepared to open up vast portions of the Gulf and the East Coast. Obama had now given away what the senators were planning to trade.
This was the third time that the White House had blundered.
That evening, hours after the meeting ended, a bubble of methane gas blasted out of a well of the Deepwater Horizon oil rig, in the Gulf of Mexico, setting the rig on fire and killing eleven men. At the time, it seemed like a tragic accident, far away and of little consequence…
Read the whole story, it’s well worth it.
David Corn has an excellent post on the GOP’s new pledge:
The House Republicans on Thursday released a manifesto outlining what they intend to do should they triumph in the coming congressional elections. The glossy document, which is adorned with photographs of the Statue of Liberty, Mt. Rushmore, and cowboys, is high-mindedly titled “A Pledge to America: A New Governing Agenda Built on the Priorities of Our Nation, the Principles We Stand For & America’s Founding Values.” And it offers few surprises … Below is a list of words and phrases and the number of times they are each mentioned in the 45-page “Pledge.”
Climate change: 0
Environment: 1 (“political environment”)
Alternative energy: 0
This comports with the right’s stunningly irresponsible and dangerous tendency to deny a threat that dwarfs virtually anything humanity faces.
Climate deniers are winning the public opinion battle, even though evidence of warming is piling up astonishingly and alarmingly fast.
A historic oil spill that could have spurred major action has been excised from the national psyche with fairy tales. Meanwhile:
Thousands of fish have turned up dead at the mouth of Mississippi River, prompting authorities to check whether oil was the cause of mass death, local media reports said Monday. The fish were found Sunday floating on the surface of the water and collected in booms that had been deployed to contain oil that leaked from the BP spill in the Gulf of Mexico, the Times-Picayune reported. “By our estimates there were thousands, and I’m talking about 5,000 to 15,000 dead fish,” St Bernard Parish President Craig Taffaro was quoted as saying in a statement. He said crabs, sting rays, eel, drum, speckled trout and red fish were among the species that turned up dead.
And now this:
The Obama Administration has decided to side with polluters when it comes to the Clean Air Act (CAA), providing a brief to the Court arguing that Federal administrative and regulatory action obviates any standing for states or private entities to use CAA “nuisance” provisions to act in protection of their citizens’ or their own interests.
Over the past century, nuisance law provisions have proved a powerful tool for dealing with polluters who, for whichever set of reasons, are falling outside serious governmental action to curb the damage their “externalities” are causing others.
The Obama team’s action is almost incomprehensible. As Joe Romm notes
“As with the decision to embrace offshore drilling, we’ll no doubt eventually learn that this decision — which lies somewhere on the scale between between unproductive and counter-productive — was made without serious input from those in the administration who represent science or the environment. … I couldn’t find anyone who thinks this moves makes much sense. NRDC’s David Donger told the WSJ, “We are appalled.”
More from the NYT:
Matt Pawa, an attorney representing plaintiffs in the case, said he and his colleagues expected the White House to stay out of the matter. During a meeting with more than 30 administration lawyers at the solicitor general’s office on June 24, it seemed they had “a lot of friends in the room,” he said.
“We feel stabbed in the back,” Pawa said. “This was really a dastardly move by an administration that said it was a friend of the environment. With friends like this, who needs enemies?”
Top attorneys at environmental advocacy groups are buzzing about the brief, sources say. Some feel betrayed by a White House that has generally been more amenable to environmental regulation than its predecessor.
“This reads as if it were cut and pasted from the Bush administration’s briefing in Massachusetts,” said David Bookbinder, who served as the Sierra Club’s chief climate counsel until his resignation in May.
With the right ascendant, and with Democrats in full election panic mode, I fear this dreadful year for environmentalists — and for the environment — will only get worse.
I’ve written about the pathology of climate and gulf denialists, now here’s a look at the psychology of a climate alarmist:
- Hates cooking (herself)
- Hates breathing (filth)
- Hates swimming (in flood waters)
- Hates people (who condemn her kids by denying reality)
- Hates freedom (to pollute, to drill, to spill, to despoil)
- Hates silence (when the future is at stake)
- Hates wealth (at the expense of well-being)
- Hates pleasure (at the expense of responsibility)
- Hates intelligence (in the service of greed)
- Hates politicians (for being cowards on the gravest threat facing humanity)
With that in mind, here’s an example of a climate alarmist in action:
Collapse this time around will be global. We will disintegrate together. And there is no way out. The 10,000-year experiment of settled life is about to come to a crashing halt. And humankind, which thought it was given dominion over the Earth and all living things, will be taught a painful lesson in the necessity of balance, restraint and humility. There is no human monument or city ruin that is more than 5,000 years old. Civilization, Ronald Wright notes in “A Short History of Progress,” “occupies a mere 0.2 percent of the two and a half million years since our first ancestor sharpened a stone.” Bye-bye, Paris. Bye-bye, New York. Bye-bye, Tokyo. Welcome to the new experience of human existence, in which rooting around for grubs on islands in northern latitudes is the prerequisite for survival.
We view ourselves as rational creatures. But is it rational to wait like sheep in a pen as oil and natural gas companies, coal companies, chemical industries, plastics manufacturers, the automotive industry, arms manufacturers and the leaders of the industrial world, as they did in Copenhagen, take us to mass extinction? It is too late to prevent profound climate change. But why add fuel to the fire? Why allow our ruling elite, driven by the lust for profits, to accelerate the death spiral? Why continue to obey the laws and dictates of our executioners?
…We face a terrible political truth. Those who hold power will not act with the urgency required to protect human life and the ecosystem. Decisions about the fate of the planet and human civilization are in the hands of moral and intellectual trolls such as BP’s Tony Hayward. These political and corporate masters are driven by a craven desire to accumulate wealth at the expense of human life. They do this in the Gulf of Mexico. They do this in the southern Chinese province of Guangdong, where the export-oriented industry is booming.
The leaders of these corporations now determine our fate. They are not endowed with human decency or compassion. Yet their lobbyists make the laws. Their public relations firms craft the propaganda and trivia pumped out through systems of mass communication. Their money determines elections. Their greed turns workers into global serfs and our planet into a wasteland.
Simple, effective message from NRDC:
Gulf Denialism is the corollary to climate denialism, which Greenpeace explains in this detailed report:
Current efforts to deny climate science are part of an organized campaign that dates back 20 years, when the fossil fuel industry first formed a lobbying apparatus to stifle action on global warming, the environment group Greenpeace said on Wednesday.
In a report titled “Dealing in Doubt: The Climate Denial Industry and Climate Science,” the group accused ExxonMobil of being the ringleader of what it called a “campaign of denial.”
Exxon was a prominent member of the now-defunct Global Climate Coalition, one of the first industry groups established in 1989 to refute findings of the then-newly formed UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).
Since Exxon’s 1998 merger with Mobil, the oil giant has spent $23 million on stoking opposition to climate action, Greenpeace said. It continues to fund 28 groups that run denial campaigns, according to the report, though the oil giant is hardly alone in betting against climate change.
The report said that the think tanks at the forefront of challenging the science of warming — such as the Heartland Institute, the Cato Institute and the American Enterprise Institute (AEI) — receive a majority of their climate-related funds from a raft of utility, coal, oil and car interests.
I’ve been pretty blunt about the anti-environmental movement:
Of all the wrongheaded ideas proudly trumpeted by America’s right, anti-environmentalism occupies a unique position: it is at once the most devoid of a rational or moral foundation and the most dangerous. It is selfish, crass, illogical, willfully blind, a denial of the undeniable reality that humans are pillaging irreplaceable natural resources and spewing filth into the air and water and soil at unsustainable rates.
Green-bashers stubbornly negate what is directly before them. In the face of irrefutable evidence that environmental degradation is a mortal threat, they put their hands over their ears, shut their eyes and scream, “Not true!” This isn’t about good faith questioning of science, much as these naysayers pretend it is. It isn’t about genuine skepticism, much as they want to believe it is. There is no moral imperative underlying their belief (or lack thereof). It’s about unbridled hostility at the suggestion that we must all make shared sacrifices. It’s about refusing to acknowledge that the environmental movement has been right to sound the alarm. It’s about laziness. And greed. And irresponsibility. And colossal shortsightedness. Forget about the tragedy of the commons, this is the abject and gleeful refutation of common sense.
…This is our only planet. It’s the only place we can survive. We can’t afford to take chances. We can’t afford to do anything less than everything in our power to rectify the problem. We have no choice but to be alarmists — there’s no second chance. We get it wrong and we’ve doomed our children and their children. For what? Because we don’t want to recycle? Because we don’t want to stop polluting? Because we don’t want to bother making sacrifices? Because we don’t want some eager young kid who cares about the earth to dictate to us? Because we don’t like Al Gore? How profoundly selfish can someone be, to deny what they see with their own eyes: car fumes, bus fumes, truck fumes, factory fumes, chemical waste, human waste, toxins coursing through our waterways, in our food, filth we create in immense quantities turning our planet into a garbage dump. If anything, we should be outdoing one another trying to address the issue, not smugly questioning the need for action under the guise that the science is imperfect. Reversing the damage we’re doing to the earth should be a priority for every citizen. Instead, environmentalism is treated like an annoyance that the media will occasionally poll about and that we bring to the fore once every April.
I can think of few things more irresponsible and reprehensible than gambling with humanity’s future by pretending that our actions have no consequences. This is about the world my daughter will inhabit, so it’s as personal as it gets for me. And it is truly disturbing that rather than use the Gulf calamity as an inflection point and an opportunity to wake the country out of its environmental stupor, a Democratic administration would aid and abet oil companies in ‘disappearing’ the BP spill. It’s obvious why the White House and Democratic leaders don’t want to discuss the dangers and damaging effects of the spill: it’s bad for their electoral prospects in November.
How utterly cynical and craven. But reality has a way of intruding whenever politics trumps principle:
Two congressmen on Thursday questioned why the Obama administration made a major announcement about what happened to the oil in the Gulf of Mexico earlier this month without the science to back it up .
Massachusetts Democratic Rep. Ed Markey demanded that NOAA surrender the data and algorithms behind its increasingly controversial estimate, so that independent scientists could assess the credibility of its conclusion that the vast majority of the oil BP spilled in the Gulf is gone.
At a subcommittee hearing he chaired, Markey said the report was premature, has led to false confidence, and could be flat wrong.
…According to two congressional sources who were on the call, Lehr said the decision to release the oil budget to the media was made by the White House — not by administration scientists. Lehr reportedly also said that scientists had concerns about it being released.
Coming along with the capping of the well, it was a public relations coup for a White House eager to get the oil spill story off the front pages, reassert control over a narrative that had gotten away from them, and calm fears.
The White House also spun the report in a particularly favorable way. Deciding whether most of the oil is gone or not depends primarily on one’s views about oil that’s dissolved or been dispersed. When the report came out, administration officials encouraged the view that the approximately 50 percent of oil estimated to be dissolved or dispersed no longer posed a risk — was, essentially, gone. By contrast, some independent scientists have been saying for months that subsurface oil is likely causing massive environmental damage, even if it can’t easily be seen.
Since the oil budget went public, several independent scientists have called for the release of its supporting data. Others have reached their own, conflicting conclusions.
One group organized by the Georgia Sea Grant this week calculated that 70 to 79 percent of the oil remains underwater, and concluded that “the media interpretation of the report’s findings has been largely inaccurate and misleading.”
And in a major, peer-reviewed article in Science magazine, scientists at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution on Thursday described their discovery in June of a plume of hydrocarbons that is at least 22 miles long and more than 3,000 feet below the surface of the Gulf of Mexico. That’s about the size of Manhattan.
Furthermore, the scientists found that contrary to the NOAA report, the oil was not “biodegrading quickly”– at least not at that depth.
I’ve been railing against Gulf Denialism for weeks and I’m glad to see that media coverage of this deadly serious issue is ramping up again. If Republicans weren’t in the pocket of oil companies, we’d be seeing the most serious crisis this administration has faced.
UPDATE: watch this PBS report…