Year 3, Month 12, Day 2: When You Care Enough To Send The Very Best

The Boston Globe reports on a recent Town Hall meeting held by Ed Markey (MA-07) on Boston’s vulnerability to a Sandy-like storm:

There could be enough water in Boston for boats to float through parts of the Back Bay and fish to swim across the Public Garden if a super storm were to hit Boston years from now. That was a worst-case prediction displayed on color-coded maps in Faneuil Hall today as part of a forum on the potential impact of climate change.

The maps detailing potential flooding, on stage as part of a “What If Sandy Happened Here?” forum, factored in rising sea levels and suggested that by 2050 a severe 100-year storm could also send floodwaters lapping into Central Square and Harvard Square in Cambridge.

“Sandy was a warning,” US Representative Edward Markey, a Malden Democrat long active in climate change legislation, said as about 150 people filled the Great Hall, where he led a town hall-style meeting on the costs Greater Boston could face if a super storm hits.

Cast as a gathering to contemplate the havoc climate change could cause, the meeting drew together speakers who focus on the issue and an audience that included many area activists.

“This reaffirms the need to put greater energy and greater effort into convincing others that this issue is significant,” James Kaufman, president and CEO of The Laboratory Safety Institute, a health, safety, and environmental affairs nonprofit in Natick, said after the hour-long meeting.

Maria Cooper, president of the environmental group Green Decade Newton, said the forum was “all the more inspiring because we can see that people are getting it. This is urgent stuff that we need to address in our everyday lives.”

Did I mention that I love my Congressman? Sent November 26:

Representative Markey deserves high praise for his relentless calls for action on global climate change, starting long before Superstorm Sandy returned the accelerating greenhouse effect to the national conversation. It’s particularly galling to compare the Congressman’s work on this issue with the anti-science positions of Republican members of the House of Representatives, who appear to be in a contest to see who can most enthusiastically advocate the most regressive ideas (such as Georgia’s Paul Broun, who recently described evolution, embryology, and cosmology as “lies from the pit of Hell.”).

Based on meticulous computer modeling and the careful analysis of massive amounts of data, climate science is as impartial as it gets. The GOP’s relentless politicizing of the by-now-completely-resolved debate on the causes and dangers of global warming is another symptom of their scientific illiteracy. Ed Markey’s research and advocacy on behalf of humanity’s future isn’t political strategizing, but reality-based humanitarianism.

Warren Senders


Year 3, Month 8, Day 29: He Said WHAT?

The Waltham News-Tribune (MA) notes that Ed Markey (MA-O7) has some harsh words for candidate Romney’s ludicrous energy plan:


U.S. Rep. Ed Markey, the ranking Democrat on the Natural Resources Committee, lambasted Mitt Romney for his just-released energy plan that he said was a gift to the oil industry and would put alternative energy in jeopardy.

“Mitt Romney has finally released his energy plan and not surprisingly given the fact that he met with the oil barons just two days ago in Texas, it is a plan which says that it is not ‘all of the above,’ but ‘oil above all,’ that it is a plan that gives the oil industry everything that it has ever dreamed of,” Markey said on Thursday.

The Malden Democrat said the former Massachusetts governor’s plan would “do away with the tax breaks for the wind industry” while keeping the $4 billion in tax breaks given to the oil industry.

“Which industry does not need a tax break?” Markey asked reporters in front of the State House.

In a speech in New Mexico on Thursday, the Republican presidential candidate laid out his energy plan, which reportedly would give states more responsibility for oil drilling permits on federal lands and sets a goal of energy independence by the end of a second term.

That’s my congressman! Sent August 24:

Ed Markey’s remarks about Romney’s energy plan are right on target. While ordinary Americans are struggling to get by, big oil and big coal are already the world’s most profitable industries, raking in billions — and Romney wants to give them even more tax breaks, effectively asking the public to subsidize more multimillion dollar bonuses for their executives.

Let’s not forget that these industries have a lengthy rap sheet of safety and environmental violations — but Mitt would loosen even the poorly enforced regulations currently in place. Notice that the rest of the world’s developed and developing nations are investing heavily in renewable energy sources — while this retrogressive proposal does the opposite.

Finally, consider the overwhelming scientific evidence linking fossil fuels to global climate change. As a world leader, America’s energy economy should be an example of responsible planetary stewardship — not Romney’s reckless glorification of waste and inefficiency.

Warren Senders

Month 12, Day 3: It’s Not Just A River In Egypt.

Naturally, they’re going to discontinue the Committee on Global Warming, since the world is getting cooler and stuff. Also.

The Republicans’ decision to disband the Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming is unsurprising but disappointing. As the warning signs of climatic tipping points steadily accumulate, the anti-science, anti-reality GOP has found denial a fine coping mechanism. Too many disturbing statistics about the facts of global climate change? Defund the organizations producing the statistics. Too many highly qualified climatologists pointing out that the scientific consensus on human-caused global warming is essentially unanimous? Eliminate the congressional forum where scientists can provide testimony. It highlights the abysmal state of our country’s politics that Republicans consider ignoring facts and belittling expertise a sign both of political cleverness and moral fiber. Even as they continue to advocate funneling further billions of dollars in taxpayer subsidies to Big Oil, these hypocrites tout the elimination of one of the most important committees in the house as a sign of fiscal responsibility. They are financially, morally, scientifically, and ethically wrong — but that’s never stopped the Republican party before.

Warren Senders

Month 9, Day 16: One Of The Good Guys

Very tired. Looked through lots of newspapers but their coverage was all about the primary elections, with nothing I could link to climate. So I decided to send a fan letter to my Rep.

Dear Representative Markey,

I write to thank you for your ongoing efforts in the vital area of climate change. Two things are becoming more and more obvious. First, the upsurge in unusual and extreme weather all over the world is a consequence of the increased concentration of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere — an increase directly caused by human activity. Second, the Republican Party is now the home of climate-change denialism. For example, an examination of voting records and public statements shows that every single GOP candidate for a Senate seat is a climate-change denier. Every one; no exceptions.

Because of the growing urgency of the problem, this is an exceptionally troublesome development. Never before in our nation’s history has an existential threat of such magnitude been treated with such indifference by so many. It is not, of course, just Republican Senatorial candidates who are “climate zombies;” some Democrats as well have fallen prey to an anti-science mindset that bodes ill for the futures of our nation and the world.

Given that robust legislative action is unlikely to happen in the current political environment (I can only imagine your frustration at watching the Markey-Waxman bill languish without action from the Senate) it is absolutely essential that any effort made to curtail the regulatory power of the Environmental Protection Agency be rejected. The EPA needs as much power as possible if we are to have a hope of accomplishing the needed regulation of greenhouse gases from American industries and consumers.

Please continue your work in this area. Generations to come will thank you for standing up for their right to sustainable lives on a healthy planet.

Yours Sincerely,

Warren Senders

Month 8, Day 10: He’s One Of The Best

My congressman said something great.

Rep. Edward Markey (D-Mass.) suggested a novel use Saturday for a 100-square-mile ice sheet that has broken off Greenland.

“An iceberg four times the size of Manhattan has broken off Greenland, creating plenty of room for global warming deniers to start their own country,” Markey said in a statement. “So far, 2010 has been the hottest year on record, and scientists agree arctic ice is a canary in a coal mine that provides clear warnings on climate.”

I figured I’d indulge myself tonight and send him a congratulatory letter. I imagine the poor guy’s always getting hammered by wingnuts. So here’s my Dear Ed letter:

Dear Congressman Markey,

Your remarks about the obstructionist approach of the Republican party on climate change issues are absolutely correct. I am sickened by the behavior of climate denialists, and fear its consequences for all of us.

It is a sad commentary on the present state of our politics that just about the only good news I’ve had on climate for a long time is the fact that you called them out for the selfish, sloppy, cynical sociopaths they have become. No words are strong enough to express my gratitude to you — or my outrage at the dysfunctional wreckage they have made of our system of government.

In the past, “climate change” was in the future. As the recent extreme weather events all over the world show us, the past is over. Climate change is now. And yet our media represent the subject as something still being debated, with a one-to-one ratio between climate scientist and industry shill. When they report on Russian fires, Connecticut’s storms and flooding, or the heat wave in New York, the connection with climate change is never made. It is a dangerously irresponsible omission.

In the battle for media attention, the best bumper-sticker wins. Climate-change advocates need better soundbites to prevail, in a media system that is rigged against us.

Ask your colleagues: if ninety-seven out of a hundred oncologists told you, “it’s cancer,” would you go to the hospital? Or would you choose to trust the three percent of them who said they “weren’t sure?” Why, then, do you choose to ignore the ninety-seven percent of climate scientists who are telling us we’ve got a serious problem?

Tell your colleagues: if a freak snowstorm in Washington, DC disproves global warming, then the swollen belly of a starving child disproves world hunger.

And I think we should start calling that iceberg “Inhofistan.”

These people have no shame, conscience or scruples. Keep speaking as strongly as you did today.

Yours Sincerely,

Warren Senders

Month 6, Day 15: Don’t Get Mad, Get Madder!

I have a houseguest & I’m really tired. I just opened up this piece on Daily Kos, read it, got outraged, and wrote Ed Markey and Henry Waxman a letter asking them to get a little tougher on the gang of criminals who are obviously in charge of British Petroleum.

You should read that piece, too. It’ll make you mad. Maybe you should get mad — and write a letter to someone!

Dear Representatives Markey and Waxman,

We need to understand a few things about what’s going on in the Gulf of Mexico right now. It is absolutely crucial that congressional hearings bring up some of the following questions:

1. Why is British Petroleum apparently giving orders to the Coast Guard — and why is the Coast Guard taking orders from BP? A recent CBS News clip documented an incident of local television journalists being turned away from taking photographs of dead and dying sea life, saying: “A boat of BP Contractors, with 2 Coast Guard officials on board, told us turn around under threat of arrest — explaining ‘This is BP’s rules — it’s not ours’ ” In my naivete, I had the impression that the Coast Guard worked for the people of this country, not a British-owned oil company.

2. Why is BP failing to do genuine cleanup work in threatened areas? Booms have been put in place in wildlife protection areas, but no follow-up or monitoring has been instituted. The result? The only thing actually being contained is bad publicity for BP. The oil, meanwhile, is killing birds, sea turtles, fish and dolphins, and it’s only going to get worse. Frankly, we need more bad publicity for British Petroleum.

3. Why is BP making cleanup contractors sign agreements not to talk to the media? This company blatantly ignored safety regulations, gamed the system to its benefit for decades, and now (through its own negligence and carelessness) poised to wipe out both unique local ecologies and unique local economies. They should not be in a position to dictate terms to their contract employees.

Reporters from the New York Daily News interviewed BP contractors, who took them to locations where dolphin carcasses were dead and rotting. The contractor interviewed said, “When we found this dolphin it was filled with oil. Oil was just pouring out of it. It was the saddest darn thing to look at. There is a lot of cover-up for BP. They specifically informed us that they don’t want these pictures of the dead animals. They know the ocean will wipe away most of the evidence. It’s important to me that people know the truth about what’s going on here. The things I’ve seen… They just aren’t right. All the life out here is just full of oil.”

4. Why is BP unable to handle calls from Gulf area residents? Shortly after the Deepwater Horizon disaster happened, BP set up call centers to handle questions and concerns. But according to a Houston television station, they’ve over 200,000 phone calls have been received…but they go nowhere. People whose lives and communities are under terrible threat are made to think their messages are being formally documented when in fact they are not even written down by call center operators.

The overall impression of BP is one of a malicious and often criminal incompetence made possible by a feeble regulatory environment. While congressional hearings cannot get the oil back into the earth, they can be a big step towards ensuring that such a disastrous failure of regulation never happens again.

I’m hoping to see British Petroleum executives testifying under oath, with jail sentences available for any who are in contempt or who are proven to have perjured themselves. There is no need to be nice to these people; they’ve destroyed one of our country’s most important natural resources, and the full extent of the damage they’ve caused won’t be understood for years.

Their incompetence and criminality are yet another set of very good reasons to end our national dependence on oil; it makes these people wealthy and powerful, and they don’t deserve wealth or power — they deserve jail time.

Yours Sincerely,

Warren Senders

Month 5, Day 6: Variations on a Theme

Haven’t written to Ed Markey in a while; didn’t feel as much of a need, since ACES passed the House. But in the wake of this awful event, I thought I should tell him to raise a little hell.

Dear Representative Markey — I write as one of your constituents, and as an American citizen who is hopeful that in the wake of the Deepwater Horizon disaster, the Earth-destroying systems that comprise the fossil fuel industries may finally be brought to bay. The recent tragedy in a West Virginia coal mine showed us again the ugly face of the coal industry (personified exactly by the avatar of greed, Mr. Don Blankenship); the catastrophe in the Gulf of Mexico shows us again the utter unconcern of British Petroleum (and the rest of Big Oil) for the environmental effects of their activity.

The objection raised to renewable energy is invariably that it is “too expensive.” As we can see in the last two months’ news, it is actually oil and coal that are too expensive: too expensive in lives, in environmental destruction, in cleanup bills, in the costs of war, in health effects, in contributions to global warming.

I write this letter to ask you and Representative Waxman, as the “point people” for energy and climate issues in the House, to stand up and tell the American people that we need to confront our deadly addiction to fossil energy head on; we must educate ourselves about the true costs of oil and coal.

We have to start learning, and stop burning.

There is no time to lose, and none to waste.

Yours Sincerely,

Warren Senders

cc: Rep. Henry Waxman

Month 4, Day 4: I’d Loooove to See George Will Under Oath!

I thought I’d ask Ed Markey to hold some more hearings on all the industry-funded denialists we keep seeing on the boob tube and in print. I’d love to see George Will get quizzed, wouldn’t you?

And this piece at DK is the other part of the puzzle. Who’s giving the denialists all their funding? Koch Industries, that’s who.

Dear Representative Markey — Thank you for all you have done so far on the crucial issue of global climate change. The Waxman-Markey legislation is an excellent start on a realistic approach to this greatest of all threats.

Unfortunately, the Republican opposition and their enablers in the print and broadcast media are continually disseminating misinformation that serves to confuse the public and to render the debate unintelligible to the average person. This is tragic; since the effects of climate change don’t differentiate between Republicans and Democrats, the denialists are simply making their own futures more uncertain and terrifying.

Now that the so-called “Climategate” or “Climatehack” scandal has been conclusively debunked by the British House of Lords, can we ask you and Rep. Waxman to hold further public hearings on the industry connections of prominent climate change deniers? These people are mendacious in the extreme, and they’re doing it in large part because they’re paid well, often by Koch Industries, as Greenpeace’s recent report makes stunningly clear. Theirs is a malign combination of cupidity and stupidity that has done incalculable damage already (George Will comes immediately to my mind. How about you?)

It is up to the Democratic leadership in the House and Senate to expose these frauds and corporate shills for what they are. Without clearing the air of their misleading statements and deliberate obfuscations, genuinely robust climate legislation will be terribly weakened. And there is no time to waste.

Yours Sincerely,

Warren Senders

Month 3, Day 14: It’s PI Day!

Heavy rain brought down our landline and FIOS internet last night. I’m piggybacking on my neighbor’s wireless at the moment. No time to write anything original; I’m sending my Senators and my Rep a version of yesterday’s letter, opposing the Tongass logging bills.

Dear Senators Kerry & Brown / Representative Markey,

This letter is to request you to oppose S. 881 and H.R. 2099, legislation addressing usage considerations with regard to land that is currently part of Alaska’s Tongass National Forest. These bills will permit Sealaska, an Alaskan Native corporation, to log 80,000 acres of the Tongass. While it is important to secure economic benefits for Native Americans, it’s crucial to recognize that the Tongass is one of the country’s top “carbon banks” (carbon-storing forests).

Pacific Northwest forests, including the Tongass, store one and a half times as much carbon as this country burns in a year. It is an act of profound environmental irresponsibility to allow such a carbon bank to be logged off. Sealaska may need to cut 80,000 acres of trees to maintain their balance sheet, but our country’s environmental balance is far more endangered than theirs.

Maintaining and expanding our national forests is a crucial element of our national environmental policy. Not only are these forests crucial carbon banks (and therefore one of our first lines of defense against CO2 emissions), they possess inherent value as places of beauty, peace and respect for the natural world. When our country learns to stop thinking of them as commodities worth so much per board foot, we will have, perhaps, grown up a little.

Please oppose this legislation.

Thank you,

Warren Senders

Month 3, Day 8: When the Methane Hits The Fan…

Stickin’ with the North Pole farts for the time being. I’m on my way out to a gig, so my brain is pretty close to empty. When I’m tired and distracted I write workmanlike letters that address the issues without rhetorical flourishes. This is one of them.

Dear Representatives Waxman and Markey,

I write to urge you to initiate action on the extremely troubling news of Arctic methane release. According to a recently-published article in the journal Science, billions of tons of methane under the sub-sea permafrost in the Arctic ocean is now entering the atmosphere. This is certain to accelerate the greenhouse effect even further, since methane is 25 times as powerful as carbon dioxide in trapping heat,

Climatologists’ prediction models haven’t yet been revised to account for the new data, but it’s pretty clear (unless you’re a FOX News commentator, a Republican, or George Will) that our current “worst-case” scenarios are hopelessly optimistic.

While this news is sure to trigger a round of fart jokes from Sean Hannity and his colleagues, it is a sad fact that while some of us strive to ensure humanity a safe and sustainable future, our corporate sector is heavily invested in denying the nature of the threat. With the recent Supreme Court decision in Citizens United opening up the floodgates to corporate influence in elections, we can look forward to thinly disguised climate denialism saturating our airwaves in the months leading up to November’s election.

Will the American public fall for it? Will our nation’s citizens believe it when they’re told that “Carbon Dioxide is life,” or “Methane is good for you?” Given the precipitous decline in scientific literacy in our country over the past several decades, I think it’s all too likely that this latest news won’t be treated with the respect it deserves.

I urge the two of you to initiate action in the House of Representatives. A sub-committee needs to study the problem and make recommendations for legislative action. America has to lead the world in addressing these crises.

There is no time to waste; no time to lose.

Yours sincerely,

Warren Senders