Year 3, Month 6, Day 30: Burning Disappointment

Four dozen of the world’s largest cities have taken steps to cut 248 million tons of greenhouse-gas emissions by 2020, according to a report issued Tuesday, an announcement aimed at demonstrating that environmental progress can continue in the absence of a broad international climate agreement.

The news, which New York Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg will deliver along with Rio de Janeiro Mayor Eduardo Paes at this week’s Rio+20 Earth Summit, highlights the fractured policymaking landscape that defines environmental issues today. While more than 130 world leaders will try to hammer out a negotiated statement in Rio by week’s end about their sustainable development goals, many of the concrete steps are being taking by community leaders.

“We’re not arguing with each other about emissions targets,” Bloomberg told reporters in a teleconference Monday. “What we’re doing is going out and making progress.”

The C40 Cities Climate Leadership Group — a network of 59 cities, including Los Angeles; Tokyo; Bogota, Colombia; and Addis Ababa, Ethiopia — was launched in 2005 to provide support for mayors hoping to cut greenhouse-gas emissions in urban centers across the globe. The group analyzed data from 48 cities to determine a suite of policies that are now in place to cut 248 million tons of greenhouse gases, the equivalent of taking 44 million passenger vehicles off the road for a year.

As usual, the conference has fucked the duck. Sent June 19:

The world’s cities have an enormous role to play in the fight against climate change, and the work of the C40 Cities group in setting up realistic frameworks for greenhouse emissions reductions demonstrates what people can do once they focus their attention on the urgency of the problem.

Unfortunately, the same cannot be said of the Rio climate conference as a whole. The Rio+20 Earth Summit’s negotiating text is an embarrassment to its authors and to the participating nations, demonstrating conclusively (as if further proof were needed) the extent to which the economic power of multinational corporations has hindered the development of climate solutions.

Meaningful strategies for coping with the climate crisis will range in scale from individual/local to collective/planetary. There’s much that cities and towns can do to prepare — but without committed leadership at the international level, we’ll never be able to mobilize our resources fully and completely.

Warren Senders

Year 3, Month 6, Day 29: There’s A Reason I Don’t Buy Those Shitty Chisels At The Borg

Sigh. The Marysville, CA Appeal-Democrat offers us a confirmation of the old saw: another day, another dullard.


Real life is foiling climate alarmists’ schemes to transform the world into a green Utopia. About 130 world leaders will gather in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, this week to establish more rules, regulations and transfers of wealth, ostensibly to eradicate poverty and protect the environment.

This is yet another U.N. attempt to advance its war against what first was demonized as “global warming,” then “climate change” — when temperatures flattened out. The movement now frames its mission as “sustainable development.”

Make no mistake, what they hope to sustain is the same tired attempt to move mountains of wealth from nations that create it to nations that don’t, along the way enriching government budgets and lining pockets of facilitators, opportunists and cronies. Think Solyndra.

Changing the real world into an imaginary green holy land has run up against reality. Europe is in economic crisis. Emerging economies in China, Brazil, India and Russia grow more resistant to underwriting costs that would retard their economies.

The conference is a misguided movement directed at an inappropriate demon. If climate zealots got their way, they would retard living conditions, not improve them.

With a 250-word limit, I let myself go a bit. Sent June 18:

Leave aside the question of whether it’s really a pejorative to describe people concerned about the survival of our civilization as “climate alarmists” (everyone agrees that fire alarms are a good thing). Leave aside the fact that the change in terminology from “global warming” to “climate change” was suggested and promulgated by Republican strategist Frank Luntz as a way to make the problem seem less threatening (and only accidentally coinciding more closely with reality).

Let’s look for a moment at your editorial’s outrage at the idea of “sustainability.” Everyone knows: you can’t live beyond your means. Spending more than you make can also be described as “wasting your resources.” Citizens of wealthy nations currently waste more resources than those of poor nations; recognition of this fact is not reflexive anti-capitalism, but a willingness to describe reality clearly.

The common sense underlying our willingness to buy better tools, sturdier clothes, and healthier food even if they’re a bit more expensive (since we save money in the long run) has a name: “sustainability.” With seven billion people on the planet, it’s sensible to figure out ways to stop wasting resources while reducing the sum total of human misery. That’s called “sustainable development.”

While there are undoubtedly “profiteering opportunists” running “sustainability” scams, it’s hard to compare them with the real profiteers: giant oil companies which garner astronomical returns from encouraging all of us to burn their products without regard for the consequences.

Warren Senders

If it’s your birthday today, happy birthday.

Year 3, Month 6, Day 28: Greedy Old Plutocrats

The Tulsa World’s Associate Editor, Mike Jones, is a tad shrill, in an article titled, “Can’t We Agree To Do Something About Climate Change?”:

In Virginia, it can’t even be referred to as “climate change.” It is now “recurrent flooding.” That is the term the Virginia Legislature came upon in order to agree to even discuss the problems plaguing that state.

In the last 100 years, the Virginia coast has seen a 14-inch rise in sea level. That, combined with some wicked rain, has caused the flooding. Whether the Virginians eventually settle their squabble and attempt to solve their problems remains to be seen. It does, however, illustrate the problem the entire country has when it comes to “global warming,” “climate change” or “recurrent flooding.” We can’t even decide what we want to call it.

There are two very stubborn sides in this debate. There is the great majority of scientists, including those with the National Aeronautics and Space Administration and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, who believe that the Earth is changing, getting warmer, and believe that humans have something to do with it.

While the phrase “climate change” is very much present in the article, the word “Republican” is not. Funny how that should happen, no? Sent June 17:

Many of the obstacles to “doing something about climate change” are beyond our control: we cannot alter the amount of CO2 already in the atmosphere, the amount of heat our oceans have absorbed, or the laws of physics and chemistry. Other aspects of the problem are solvable — in theory.

In theory, the people who’ve promulgated conspiracies about SUV-confiscating environmentalists could wake up one morning and realize they’ve been duped. In theory, conservative politicians who’ve embraced climate-change denial could recognize that their human (as opposed to corporate) constituents are suffering — and decide to do something about it.

But as Yogi Berra famously said, “In theory, theory and practice are the same. In practice, they’re not.” As long as half of America’s political system is controlled by authoritarians who cannot admit error, the reason for our inability to act on climate change can be summed up in three letters: G.O.P.

Warren Senders

Year 3, Month 6, Day 27: Poor Planning On Your Part Unfortunately IS An Emergency On My Part

The Asheville NC Citizen-Times notes that emergency responders are going to have more to do in the years ahead:

ASHEVILLE — At age 92, retired meteorologist William Haggard says his fellow residents at Deerfield retirement community always want to know about the weather. They’ll stop him in the hall and say, “It was supposed to rain on Tuesday, and it didn’t rain a drop.”

Haggard just smiles.

But when they ask about climate change, he tells them what the science shows. “It’s going to get progressively worse.”

Haggard headed what was then known as the National Climatic Records Center, housed in the old Grove Arcade, until his retirement in 1975. He worked 27 more years as a forensic meteorologist and consultant.

Haggard outlined the science and the outlook for climate change Friday at the annual meeting of the Disaster Emergency Response Association International, which returned to its Asheville roots for its 50th anniversary.

Nice to hear of a 92-year-old meteorologist who agrees with the scientists. Sent June 16:

It’s revealing that Republican nominee Mitt Romney modified his position on climate change early in his campaign, in order to appeal to anti-science voters — and that he recently mocked President Obama for wanting to hire more firemen and policemen. As Dale Neal’s article makes clear, our first responders are going to be stressed to the limit in a post-climate-change America. More, and more severe, fires. More, and more severe, floods. More infrastructural damage; more unpredictable weather; more of the kinds of disasters that offer opportunities for heroism…or death.

While most emergencies are by nature unexpected, that cannot be said of the looming climate crisis. We’ve had ample warning; scientists and environmentalists have been trying for years to alert us to the dangers ahead. Why bother predicting a future catastrophe if we’re not going to do anything to stop it? Our nation’s emergency responders deserve better than dismissive political pandering.

Warren Senders

Year 3, Month 6, Day 26: C Is For Conifers, My Kind Of Trees

The Atlantic gives us a long and detailed discussion of the pine beetle and the havoc it’s wreaking:

DILLON, Colo.–Dan Gibbs keeps dead beetles in the back of his beat-up Chevy Silverado. He has a wooden block with beetles impaled on it, each insect about the size of a grain of rice. He’s got vials of embalmed beetles and their larvae. He carries around pieces of wood that show what those tiny beetles do to a mature lodgepole pine: They drill deep into the trunk and infect the tree with a fatal fungus that stains its wood blue.

Gibbs isn’t a scientist. He’s a commissioner for Summit County, a high-altitude slice of Colorado that’s gaining fame as a ground zero, of sorts, for an epidemic that has devastated pine forests across North America. Twenty years ago, the mountainsides around Dillon were a lush green; these days, they’re gray with needle-less trees.

The pine-beetle epidemic provides perhaps the most visual evidence of climate change in the United States. But that evidence, while arresting, remains circumstantial. Scientific studies linking the factors that drove the epidemic to rising global temperatures haven’t convinced everyone, let alone prompted people here to forsake fossil fuels.

It isn’t just the dead trees. Here, near the headwaters of the Colorado River, the snow is melting earlier–and there’s less of it. Summers are drier. Threats of wildfire and water shortages have grown, changing lives and livelihoods in Colorado and across the West.

Still, it’s not simple to draw a bright line from observable phenomena to climate change. For some policymakers, the lack of clarity is frustrating. Mounting evidence that the planet is warming and that human activity is to blame hasn’t generated any sort of political momentum for action, even as, in places like Dillon, forests are dying in plain sight.

The beatings will continue until morale improves. Sent June 15:

The “undocumented aliens” Americans need to worry about are not the Latinos whom Republican politicians so freely demonize, but the invasive species migrating across our borders as a consequence of climate change. The pine beetle is a case in point.

When wildfires ravaged Arizona a year ago, Senator John McCain blamed illegal immigrants. When Colorado’s dead and dying forests inevitably go up in smoke, the real culprit won’t be a lightning bolt or a smoldering cigarette butt, but the exploding population of an insect species that has turned forests into vast stands of dessicated kindling.

If conservative lawmakers were able to admit the existence and causes of global warming, then we might have a chance to combat pine beetle infestations and the other local symptoms of a planet-wide phenomenon. Alas, anti-science ideology has burrowed beneath the surface of the Republican party, replacing common sense with climate-change denial and inflammable xenophobia.

Warren Senders

Year 3, Month 6, Day 25: What Was It You Wanted, When You Were Kissing My Cheek?

Raise your hand if you think Mitt Romney has changed:

June 13–WASHINGTON — During his first 18 months as governor of Massachusetts, Mitt Romney spent considerable time hammering out a sweeping climate change plan to reduce the state’s greenhouse gas emissions.

As staff briefed him on possible measures and environmentalists pressed him to act, Romney frequently repeated a central thought, people at those meetings said: That climate change is occurring, that the United States has the resources to handle its vast impact but that low-lying poor countries like Bangladesh would suffer greatly.

“It was like a mantra with him,” said a person who attended those meetings who declined to be identified because of the sensitivity of the topic. “His Cabinet members would look at him like, ‘What?’ He was the radical in the room.”

Before doing an about-face toward the end of his term as he began to prepare for his first run for president, Romney pushed to close old coal-fired plants, encourage the development of renewable energy and contain sprawl — steps similar to some President Obama has taken.

If Romney weren’t such a flaming asshole, I’d find that story reassuring. But he is such a flaming asshole, so I’m still scared. Sent June 14:

During his tenure as Governor of Massachusetts, Mitt Romney was distinguished for his readiness to be all things to all people. Given the Bay State’s high percentage of environmentally-conscious voters, it’s not surprising that Romney catered to their concerns. Now that his previous readiness to accept the overwhelming scientific consensus on climate change threatens to alienate him from the ultra-conservatives to whom he must appeal, he’s singing a different tune.

What this demonstrates is not that Romney is a closet environmentalist, but that science means nothing to him unless it serves his electoral ambitions. Climate-change denial is Mr. Romney’s current position of convenience; who knows how many contortions we’ll see over the next few months?

If Mr. Romney saw a house on fire, he’d take a public opinion poll before calling 911. The climate crisis is too crucial an issue to be subsumed by the political maneuvering of a hypocritical presidential aspirant.

Warren Senders

Year 3, Month 6, Day 24: If There’s A Hole Behind Your Face, Why Not Rent Out The Empty Space?

The STUPID is really thick on the ground in North Carolina. The Charlotte Observer for June 13:

With virtually no debate, the state Senate on Tuesday nixed restricting development on the state’s coast based on global warming science.

Lawmakers passed a bill that restricts local planning agencies’ abilities to use climate change science to predict sea-level rise in 20 coastal counties. The bill’s supporters said that relying on climate change forecasts would stifle economic development and depress property values in Eastern North Carolina.

The bill has sparked outrage in some circles. It was ridiculed this month on the television show “The Colbert Report.” Despite the controversy, it has repeatedly cleared every hurdle in the GOP-led legislature. In the Senate Tuesday, the only comments were a few brief remarks in favor of the measure as a victory of common sense over alarmist research.

The practical result of the legislation would be that for the purposes of coastal development, local governments could only assume that the sea level will rise 8 inches by 2100, as opposed to the 39 inches predicted by a science panel.

This story will never get old. Sent June 13:

It is easy enough to mock the ludicrous attempts of North Carolina politicians to legislate measurement, and certainly the property owners and residents of coastal areas will need something to laugh about after four or five decades of steadily rising sea levels. But it is also important to recognize that this is part of a long-standing battle: ideologically-driven conservative politicians — versus facts and experts.

Republicans have embraced anti-intellectualism with steadily increasing fervor for decades. Science, once extolled as the source of American technological might, is now viewed with fear and suspicion. Nowhere is this more evident than in the GOP’s rejection of climate scientists — whose inconvenient predictions have a habit of turning into inconvenient realities.

A Bush administration official once mocked writer Ron Suskind as a member of the “reality-based community,” noting, “That’s not the way the world really works anymore. We’re an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality.” While the North Carolina legislature has learned Karl Rove’s lesson well, the Atlantic Ocean may not be so obliging.

Warren Senders

Year 3, Month 6, Day 23: Above Us Only Sky…

Heh. Here’s a head-scratcher, from the Christian Post:

When it comes to the issue of global warming, the label conservative and liberal won’t necessarily help you determine if an evangelical Christian is a proponent or skeptic. Why? Because even within the inner core of conservative evangelical circles people are divided over the issue, with both sides asserting that science is clearly on their side. Take The Christian Post, for example: Dr. Richard Land, CP’s executive editor, is among those who are skeptical that humans tip the scales toward global warming, while Dr. Joel C. Hunter, CP’s senior editorial adviser, believes controlling human behavior may be in order.

Moreover, the prospects for a global decision to control carbon because of warming have dropped precipitously over the last three years because of a worldwide economic downturn, much to the consternation of evangelical and secular activists alike. Skeptics are delighted. But activists also point to a recent article in The New Yorker, which reports that President Barack Obama will make climate change a priority if he gets elected to a second term.

So which side is correct? And how should Christians view the future of the global warming debate, both inside the Christian community and out?

These god-botherers make my guts tired. Imagine there’s no heaven. It’s easy if you try. Sent June 12:

When it comes to climate change, believers face two crucial questions.

The first addresses their relationship to scientific expertise: since climatologists are, in effect, planetary physicians, can members of the faith community accept the data and analyses of climate scientists just as they accept the advice of a medical specialist?

The second addresses an pillar of many Christian faiths: are believers who eagerly anticipate the Rapture ready to concede that our civilization is instead threatened by global warming — a wholly profane immolation of believers and infidels alike?

As an atheist, I’ll take my chances with an End Times of genuinely Divine origin, but describing a civilizational collapse caused by industrial CO2 emissions as a fulfillment of the Book of Revelations is the eschatological equivalent of cheating at solitaire. If evangelicals look forward to the End Times, they must combat climate change, lest they find themselves fooled by a secular Apocalypse.

Warren Senders

Year 3, Month 6, Day 22: The Check Is In The Mail…And I Love You.

Color me unconvinced:

Call it the greening of Wall Street.

In the wake of a $30 billion commitment to new environmental investments by Wells Fargo in April and a $40 billion promise from Goldman Sachs this month, Bank of America will announce a 10-year, $50 billion initiative of its own on Monday.

Facing bad publicity on practically every front, the big banks are highlighting what has quietly become a hot growth area in recent years — backing projects and companies in sectors like renewable energy, emissions reduction and reduced-carbon transportation.

Bank of America officials said the initiative encompassed steps including underwriting initial public offerings for so-called green companies, making loans to consumers who buy hybrid vehicles and helping developers to retrofit old factories as well as investing in renewable energy.

I’ll believe it once I see Bank Of America stuff and mount Don Blankenship on a pedestal in their lobby, naked, with a carrot up his keister. Sent June 11:

It’s difficult to describe $50 billion over the next decade as a half-hearted first step, but that’s exactly what Bank of America is doing. With its long history of providing finance for the fossil fuel industry, BoA has an environmental record entitling it to more than a modicum of suspicion. Yes, energy efficiency (mostly from reducing its own emissions), energy infrastructure, transportation, and the other areas mentioned are important and worthy of support — but the bank’s continued funding of the coal industry (almost seven billion dollars in 2010 and 2011 alone) provides powerful evidence that this is a Potemkin investment strategy designed to deflect criticism without making any meaningful changes.

The announcement’s timing (one week before the Rio+20 United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development) is also suggestive of a public relations strategy rather than a robust commitment to protecting our environment at a time when the climate crisis looms over our posterity.

Warren Senders

Year 3, Month 6, Day 21: Post-Modernism As Policy, Chapter 29

North Carolina isn’t the only state with a stupidity surplus. Virginia is in the running:

State lawmakers ran into a problem this year when recommending a study on rising sea levels and their potential impacts on coastal Virginia.

It was not a scientific problem or a financial one. It was linguistic.

They discovered that they could not use the phrases “sea level rise” or “climate change” in requesting the study, in part because of objections from Republican colleagues and also for fear of stirring up conservative activists, some of whom believe such terms are liberal code words.

On its website, for example, the Virginia tea party described the proposed “sea level rise” study this way: “More wasted tax dollars for more ridiculous studies designed to separate us from our money and control all land and water use.”

The group urged its members to contact elected officials right away to defeat the measure: “They will pass this without blinking if we don’t yell loudly.”

So lawmakers did away with all mention of sea level rise, substituting a more politically neutral phrase: “recurrent flooding.”

The amended study, while fixed on the same research, sailed through the General Assembly and was signed by Gov. Bob McDonnell, who also has raised questions about what is causing slightly higher temperatures on the planet.

How I wish this was unbelievable. Sent June 10:

Everybody seems to be risk-averse when it comes to discussing the problems that accompany the accelerating greenhouse effect. Democratic politicians tend to avoid the issue entirely if they can, while Republicans simultaneously cater to the emotional needs of their voter base (who entirely deny the existence of climate change) and the financial demands of their funders (who refuse to take responsibility for mitigating the mess they’ve helped create).

While Virginian lawmakers don’t want to use words like “sea-level rise,” because they’ve acquired negative political associations, North Carolina’s gone one step further, actually banning any techniques of measurement that could potentially yield troublesome numbers. “Ignore it and it will go away” works fine for the night-time fears of childhood, but it makes for a poor climate policy; it is long past time for America’s politicians to address the crisis rather than using terminological hairsplitting as an excuse for inaction and complacency.

Warren Senders