Year 2, Month 4, Day 30: Justice Delayed, and All That…


WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court appeared ready to rule that federal judges cannot set limits on greenhouse gas emissions, after a majority of justices suggested Tuesday that such disputes over global warming are better left to Congress and federal regulators.

I’m getting ready for the Violins concert and don’t have much time to devote to this letter, which is just a restructuring of yesterday’s to the WaPo on the same subject.

Sent April 20:

Judging from the Justices’ comments and questions during the Supreme Court’s hearing of AEP vs. Connecticut, it seems likely that the Judicial branch of our country’s government is going to be enjoined from addressing climate change in any substantial way in the immediate future. Yes, as Justice Ginsburg remarked, setting emissions standards is exactly the sort of thing that the EPA does, and in a properly functioning American democracy, the EPA would set and enforce those standards. But there’s the rub: our democracy is no longer functioning properly. When legislators disregard scientific expertise in favor of anti-environmental nihilism, disaster is inevitable; when corporate profits are more important than the continued maintenance of the earth’s biosphere, catastrophe is a certainty. While the court may deny the legal grounds for the states’ action, the fact remains that drastic reduction of greenhouse gas emissions is economically sensible, environmentally essential, and morally necessary.

Warren Senders

Year 2, Month 4, Day 29: Bitch, Bitch, Bitch. All Ya Ever Do Is Bitch.

The WaPo opines on the Supreme Court’s likely dismissal of the states in AEP vs. Connecticut:

There’s a good reason that common law is displaced when the political branches speak. It’s not the place of unelected judges to determine how to distribute the costs of addressing climate change across the economy. In addition, a series of suits against individual polluters or groups of emitters is likely to result in an inefficient patchwork of judicial remedies, varying in scope and expense. Consistently applied regulation at the EPA is far better.

It’s reasonable to worry that the political branches may ultimately fail to enforce even the EPA’s modest greenhouse gas policies; many Republicans are eager to defund the agency’s efforts. If that happens, the plaintiffs will have a better case than they do now. But no one should wish to see America’s climate change policy made in court.

Which is all well and good, but which raises a very pertinent question. Sent April 19:

Nobody wants America’s climate change policy made in court. We want it made in Congress, preferably by legally elected representatives who are both fully informed about the climate crisis and prepared to jettison partisan ideologies for the long-term good of our nation, our civilization and our planet. Failing that, we want climate change policy made by a scientifically competent regulatory body whose goals are consistent with the agency’s name — that is, Environmental Protection. Involving the judiciary was always a long shot; the Supreme Court’s words on the AEP case are unsurprising. Given that the Legislative branch prefers to deny reality while attempting to restrain the Executive’s authority, and the Judicial branch is disallowed from considering the problem at all, the question is forced upon us: if we cannot cope with the gravest threat humans have encountered in millennia, can the American system of government be reasonably called a success?

Warren Senders

Year 2, Month 4, Day 28: Just You, Just Me, Just Us

Another, longer, article on the upcoming SCOTUS decision, this one from the Connecticut Mirror.

It is an indication of her strong ethical core that Justice Sotomayor plans to recuse herself when the Supreme Court hears the AEP vs. Connecticut case. However, given the close ideological ties between the Court’s conservative members and the fossil fuel industry, one has to wonder if Justices Scalia, Thomas, Alito and Roberts feel similar compunctions. Let’s pause to let the laughter die down, and then wonder: given the Republican right’s embrace of increasing the power of individual states, shouldn’t tea-partiers love a ruling that affirms Connecticut’s right to sue? Somehow, though, I doubt that the Koch Brothers and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce are going to advocate for the states — and where the Kochs and the Chamber go, the Supreme Court is sure to follow. Far more likely is a decision that will protect energy corporations from having to deal with the environmental consequences of their irresponsibility.

Warren Senders

Year 2, Month 4, Day 27: Just Make It Stop. Please. Make It Stop.

Wherever Watertown, Wisconsin is, I just picked up a little squib noting that the SCOTUS is going to hear another climate-change related case:

As the EPA considers rules to reduce carbon dioxide emissions from power plants, Republicans in Congress lead an effort to strip the EPA of its power to regulate greenhouse gases. Arguments will be heard Tuesday, April 19, before the U.S. Supreme Court over the ability of states and groups such as the Audubon Society to sue large electric utilities and force power plants in 20 states to cut their emissions.

With regard to our current Court I am extremely pessimistic despite the presence of Kagan and Sotomayor.

Sent April 17:

The upcoming Supreme Court case addressing the rights of states and organizations to bring utility companies to court over issues of greenhouse gas pollution will pose a pretty conundrum for the court’s conservative majority. In conferring “personhood” on corporations, the Citizens United decision should make it easier for these actions to proceed — but the Court’s overwhelming bias towards the interests of the very wealthiest elements of our society may well make their upcoming decision an example of egregious hypocrisy. It is a grave misfortune that the ideological majority of America’s judicial branch is so firmly lodged in the pocket of giant, greedy, and irresponsible corporate entities. Corporate greed and scientific ignorance make a lethal combination, and it would be especially tragic if this combination of venality, stupidity, and cupidity served to hinder the work of states and environmental groups attempting to mitigate the potential damage from global climate change.

Warren Senders

Year 2, Month 4, Day 26: Coal-Baggers Unite!

This weekend (April 15/16/17) is the Power Shift conference in Washington. 10,000 young environmental activists came to DC to try and influence the power structure. The WaPo, naturally, covered it as a political story: the kids don’t like Obama’s policies! Oh, no!

Sent April 16:

The real story is hardly that environmentally conscious young people are disappointed in President Obama’s energy policies. The real story is that thousands of people came to Washington to offer their dedication and initiative to free our country, once and for all, from its crippling dependence on fossil fuels — and that the print and broadcast media almost completely ignored them. If the standard reporter-to-teapartier ratio had applied to the Power Shift conference, more than five hundred journalists would have filed stories. While the teapartiers have amusing signs and wear amusing costumes, their contribution to public discourse is based on fundamentally erroneous premises — something which cannot be said of the Power Shift participants, whose perspective on public policy is based on hard and irrefutable scientific facts. What must these responsible and forward-looking young people do to obtain fair media coverage? Wear funny hats festooned with lumps of coal?

Warren Senders

Year 2, Month 4, Day 25: Speaking Of Good Examples

It’s always nice to see a whole nation do the right thing. Too bad it’s never the USA.

Developing countries taking the climate initiative
by Marwaan Macan-Markar
April 15, 2011

BANGKOK — Led by countries like Indonesia, 48 developing nations are rolling out a range of pledges to voluntarily cut their respective emissions of greenhouse gases (GHG) by 2020, the year climate scientists say the earth’s rising temperature should peak by if an environmental catastrophe is to be avoided.

Indonesian negotiators confirmed during a U.N. climate change conference here that Jakarta is prepared to cut its GHG emissions by 26 percent on its own accord. But that is not all: the world’s most populous Muslim country is prepared to increase emissions cuts to 41 percent if it receives development assistance that industrialised nations have committed to providing.

“It is a pledge that sends out an important message: Indonesia is prepared to do its share to shoulder the burden of reducing greenhouse gases,” says Shalimar Vitan, economic and justice campaigns coordinator for the East Asia office of Oxfam, the British humanitarian agency. “It also is informing the citizens of the country that Indonesia is eyeing a low carbon development agenda.”

This article was in the Madison Times (WI), and since Bill O’Reilly says Madison is full of “satan-worshipers” I guess I’m probably preaching to the choir in this letter, but what the heaven. Sent April 15:

Indonesia’s readiness to commit to drastic emissions reductions is an object lesson to the United States about the meaning of responsibility. Compared with the industrialized West, the island nation’s contribution to the climate crisis is quite small — but it will feel the effects sooner and more severely. If our nation suffered the effects of climate change proportionally to our contribution, we’d already be deep underwater. Climate-change deniers don’t want to face the environmental consequences of our fossil-fueled economic engine, and who can blame them? I wouldn’t want to face a future of increasingly severe weather, acidified oceans, devastated agriculture and crippled infrastructure either — but we oil- and coal-burning humans unwittingly started all those things. It’s time for Americans to face the reality of our national contribution to a global problem — and follow Indonesia’s lead in emissions reduction. Let’s be ethical citizens of the world — for a change.

Warren Senders

Year 2, Month 4, Day 24: I Don’t Know Much About Science, But I Know What I Like

The local MetroWest Newspaper describes the recent study showing that people in Massachusetts are convinced that climate change is happening…but are somewhat unclear on how bad it is or, you know, who dunnit.

And they quote a scientist, an environmentalist, and a tea partier:

“I don’t know what I believe, because I’m not a scientist,” Greater Boston Tea Party head Christen Varley of Holliston said.

Varley, who grows some of her food and recycles, cited an earlier email controversy at a research center and mistakes in some reports. If the government tries to make changes, she said, it should do so with incentives, not regulations and mandates.

Sent April 14:

When Christen Varley, the spokeswoman from the Greater Boston Tea Party, says, “I don’t know what I believe, because I’m not a scientist,” it sounds very much like an endorsement of scientific expertise — always a good stance to take on a question of science! I assume that , if she were a scientist, she’d know what she believed about climate change — because scientists make it their business to know the facts. I’m not a scientist either, but I know enough about science to follow the issue, and I would like to assure Ms. Varley that there is no longer any scientific dispute either on the magnitude of the climate crisis, or the fact that it’s caused by human activity. That many Americans don’t recognize the problem’s urgency or severity is a demonstration of the influence of corporate power on our news media. It’s also a terrible shame.

Warren Senders

Brief Update…

…”Violins Against Climate Change” was a spectacular success. We sold out the hall (actually running out of chairs!) and raised a whole buncha money for I will be posting videos and photos this week.

Year 2, Month 4, Day 23: I Miss Abbie Hoffman.

The New York Observer notes that Bill Clinton and Michael Bloomberg are teaming up to “save the planet.” Bold environmental strategy, or timid capitulation to corporate predators? You decide.

As is often the case, it took me almost as long to find the LTE link as it did to write the letter in the first place. With the exception of the closing sentence this is a standard “false equivalency” screed.

Sent April 13:

Bill Clinton’s analysis of the media coverage of climate change is entirely correct. For decades, America’s news outlets have been the focus of non-stop intimidation from right-wing ideologues claiming “liberal bias” on any story reporting facts they find inconvenient or undesirable. Couple this with a relentless focus on celebrity gossip and a steady shortening of attention span, and you have the recipe for disaster: while the burgeoning climate crisis will affect every soul on this planet in unpredictable and drastic ways, our television, radio and print outlets persistently downplay the severity of the emergency. When scientific debate is a televised competition between talking heads, it’s the loudest sound bite that “wins.” Just when we most need wisdom and insight, our media serves us false equivalency and shouting matches. While the world gets hotter and hotter, they’re yelling “theater!” in a crowded fire.

Warren Senders

Year 2, Month 4, Day 22: Move Over, Earthlings! The Planet {!Z@p&rd*p*!} Needs Lebensraum.

Chronic morosity and worriage is not generally compatible with prosidic goofiness. But today I made an exception for this LTE to the Reno News & Review, which ran a short piece about the pod people on the Energy and Commerce Committee.

This one was mailed a while back but somehow failed to make it onto the schedule for posting. Mailed March 17:

It reads like the plot of a late-night “B” movie: aliens take over the bodies of American politicians and start passing laws undermining America’s support for science. If the current crop of GOP legislators were actually extras in a “Plan 9 From Outer Space” knockoff, we’d be able to sit back and munch popcorn while making jokes at their expense. Given the potential for crippling impacts on American agriculture, infrastructure and public health from runaway climate change, it’s astonishing that the Republicans on the House Energy and Commerce Committee won’t even admit the problem exists, let alone take steps to address it. These cynical opportunists really do walk, talk and legislate like enemies of our species, making a compelling case for the “alien enemy” hypothesis. Unfortunately, these invaders from the Tea-party Nebula are entirely real, and their anti-science agenda is endangering both our global reputation and our national future.

Warren Senders