Month 7, Day 19: Ta-Daaaaaah!

Today is Day 200, which makes this the 200th climate letter I’ve written since making my New Year’s resolution. Yay, me.

Dear President Obama,

The time is rapidly approaching for a showdown on the climate/energy bill in the Senate.

Please use all the resources at your command to persuade Democratic senators like Ben Nelson that their opposition to meaningful climate legislation is shortsighted and misguided. The consequences of global climate change are being felt right here, right now, all over this country and the world. We’re going to have hotter summers and more droughts, which means more wildfires. There are going to be devastating effects on agriculture everywhere in the world, and states like Nebraska are not going to be immune.

In this context, Senator Nelson’s unwillingness even to vote for cloture is absolutely bizarre; he claims it’s because he doesn’t want Nebraskans to pay higher energy bills.

Unfortunately for all of us, the bill for the energy we’ve used in the past century has now come due, and Mother Nature appears likely to cut off our credit. We’re all going to be paying higher energy bills from now on. Genuine climate/energy legislation is the best first step to making sure that our economy won’t be completely crippled in the decades to come.

I’ve written to Senator Nelson, and to Majority Leader Reid. Now I’m writing to you. I hope you can make some of your erstwhile colleagues recognize the nature of the climate crisis. There is no time to lose, and no time to waste.

Yours Sincerely,

Warren Senders

Month 7, Day 18: Keep The Pressure On!

Not much to add to this. Asking Harry Reid to throw a few punches and twist a few arms. Not feeling too hopeful about that.

Dear Senator Reid,

As you move towards bringing the upcoming climate bill to the Senate floor, please take some time out of your schedule to try and talk some sense into your colleague, Senator Ben Nelson. His announced readiness to vote against cloture goes against the grain in multiple ways.

He has previously supported climate legislation on the Senate floor, as happened in 2008, when he voted to proceed on a bill authored by Senators Lieberman, Warner, and Boxer. He has also voted for cloture on a Boxer substitute amendment which would have established a carbon trading system and capped greenhouse emissions. His cited reason is a fear that Nebraskans’ utility bills will go up.

Well, as I’ve written Senator Nelson, everyone‘s utility bills are going to go up, whether we like it or not. And they’re going to go up catastrophically if we don’t do something about the greenhouse gas buildup in our atmosphere — which a recent Purdue University study concluded will lead to a dramatic increase in “killer heat waves” in the American West and Southwest, within a few decades.

Senator Nelson’s obstructionism is short-sighted, selfish and terribly destructive to what may be our nation’s last chance to secure an environmentally sustainable future. Please do not allow him to hijack climate/energy legislation; we have already procrastinated for more than four decades, and now is our time to act.

We can no longer afford to live wastefully, and first off, that means we have to stop wasting time.

Yours Sincerely,

Warren Senders

Month 7, Day 16: You Can’t Always Say What You Want…

My original draft of this letter to Ben Nelson led off with the phrase, “you unspeakable turd,” but I decided to be more polite.

Dear Senator Nelson,

I was distressed to read that you plan on voting against cloture on the upcoming climate bill. Leaving aside the question of the political implications of a failure to support your own party in a simple cloture vote, I want to say that your unwillingness to support meaningful climate legislation is based on faulty reasoning.

You are quoted as saying that “A carbon tax or trade piece would significantly increase the utility rates in Nebraska for businesses, agriculture and individuals,” and thus make it clear that you are placing the interests of your state above the interests of the nation as a whole, and the world as a whole.

Fine. That’s your prerogative. But your stated position is remarkably shortsighted. A recent study by Purdue University scientists predicts that because of the effects of climate change, the upcoming decades will see a dramatic increase in so-called “killer heat waves” in the Western and Central United States. Let’s say your state gets through the 2030s with only three or four crippling heat waves (fewer than expected for your neighbors to the South); that doesn’t mean the following years are going to get better.

They’re going to get worse. A lot worse. And it won’t just be in the Western United States. Everywhere around the globe people are recording the hottest temperatures they’ve ever seen, and not just on isolated occasions, but day after sweltering day after sweltering day.

We are at a point in history where only strong action today can prevent a catastrophic future for our children and their children. No matter how you look at it, that’s more important than this year’s utility bills. If we don’t act now, our great-grandchildren may not be alive to curse us for our inaction.

Please change your mind, and support cloture on climate/energy legislation.

Yours Sincerely,

Warren Senders

Month 5, Day 11: Righteous Anger!

I heard BP CEO Tony Hayward’s little interview on CNN. So I wrote him a letter. I’m going to email it to BP’s press office, mail it to BP’s home office, and send another copy into outer space: Hayward is described as living “near Sevenoaks, Kent, United Kingdom.” So I’m going to address an envelope just that way and send it. It’s too bad that the very rich and powerful (see Cheney, Richard) cannot be located by the people whose lives they influence.

Dear Mr. Hayward —

I was distressed to listen to your brief interview on CNN in which you brushed aside questions about British Petroleum’s willingness to assume greater liability for the Deepwater Horizon disaster. Senator Ben Nelson, commenting on your appearance, said that he had no confidence that your corporation would waive the $75,000,000 limit of damage liability — that is to say, he had no confidence that British Petroleum would do the right thing.

Because, Mr Hayward, abdicating your corporate responsibility for a disaster you caused is the wrong thing to do. To be sure, such a selfish and irresponsible action will no doubt be viewed favorably by BP’s stockholders, whose losses will thereby be mitigated.

And that, sir, is why, more than politicians, corporations are feared and reviled by the great majority of the world’s population. Because a group of shareholders dispersed in multiple locations around the planet can influence corporate behavior in ways that will condemn entire communities and ecosystems to an oil-soaked oblivion. Because the profit imperative drives corporate behavior; because corporations don’t have to eat petroleum-poisoned fish; because corporations have no consciences; because while British Petroleum may pump oil from the Gulf of Mexico it does not mean that British Petroleum “feels” any responsibility for the damage it’s done — because corporations don’t feel anything.

And because you have elected to surrender your humanity to the profit motive and become the nominal leader of a corporation, it means that the image of an oil-soaked seabird gasping its last breath is not a grotesque and horrifying atrocity, but a Public Relations problem. The public must be distracted from the dead birds, from the poisoned fish, from the devastated ecosystems, from the crippled industries, from the blighted bays.

Let me tell you something, Mr Hayward. This time, the public won’t be distracted. British Petroleum created one of the greatest environmental catastrophes our planet has yet experienced. It is obvious in retrospect that your corporation was ill-prepared for any eventuality other than the optimal one; it is increasingly obvious that your corporation’s record of compliance with even the weakest safety and environmental regulations is abysmal. This is your disaster, and there are thousands of people throughout the world who will not rest until everyone knows that British Petroleum refused to pay to clean up the mess it created.

Perhaps I’m wrong, and your corporation will act decisively in the public interest. I hope so; demonstrating that BP takes its responsibilities seriously would give the citizens of the world an example of corporate good citizenship. But if I were a betting man, my money would be on “irresponsible, avaricious sociopathy.”

Are you going to prove me wrong?

Yours Sincerely,

Warren Senders

14 Apr 2010, 8:22am
environment Politics:

leave a comment

  • Meta

  • SiteMeter

  • Brighter Planet

    Brighter Planet's 350 Challenge
  • Month 4, Day 14: Because Someone Told Me So…

    A diarist at DK who goes by the handle patrickz wrote a piece the other day called “John Kerry Is Trying To Pass A Climate Bill and He Needs Your Help.” To my pleasure, he referenced me and my letter-writing campaign (using the word “epic,” no less)….and included a sample letter of the sort he asks people to send to Ben Nelson, of the famous “Cornhusker Compromise.”

    So I did. It’s not as good as patrickz’s but that’s okay.

    Dear Senator Nelson,

    I write to you as as a concerned citizen. It is my understanding you do not support the American Clean Energy and Security Act in its present form, because it includes “cap and trade” — and that you are firmly against any kind of “carbon tax,” because you believe that incentives for innovation and infrastructure development are the best way to move the country towards energy efficiency and environmental responsibility.

    Well, incentives are certainly important; no argument there. But it is an undeniable fact that the best incentive to lower CO2 emissions is to price carbon according to its true cost, which necessarily includes the health impacts of atmospheric particulates from coal, the poisoning of our national rivers and streams, the expensive wars we wage to protect our sources of oil, and the destruction of the polar ice caps. To burn our energy resources, pushing Earth’s climate to a point of no return — this is truly generational theft, for it may take thousands of years for our planet to recover from the damage we’ve done and the damage yet to come. Simply put, there isn’t any tax high enough to recover these costs. Furthermore, it’s also quite clear by now that increased conservation and a transition to green energy will improve our standard of living, not destroy it. The only things that will be affected negatively are the quarterly balance sheets for big oil and big coal companies. Unless we start now, we haven’t a hope of avoiding economic and environmental catastrophe.

    Please change your mind on this issue. A bill without a price on carbon is a terrible mistake. Our descendants will not forgive us our failure to act responsibly.


    Warren Senders