5 Jul 2011, 12:01am
environment Politics:

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  • Year 2, Month 7, Day 5: As Predicted…

    As expected, on June 20 the Supreme Court rejected the 8-state lawsuit against the utility companies, placing the ball once again in the EPA’s court.

    In an 8-0 decision, the Supreme Court kills a global-warming lawsuit filed by eight states and environmentalists against the nation’s five largest electric power companies. The court says Congress and the EPA already have authority to make rules regulating greenhouse gases and courts need not get involved.

    This one went to the LA Times:

    So it’s unanimous: the EPA has the power to regulate greenhouse emissions and toxic pollutants, and the states do not. The lawsuit against major energy companies was always a long shot, and this ruling is hardly a surprise. What remains for us as citizens is to pressure our federal government to do its duty: preserve the environment for the sake of our children and their children for generations to come. If that doesn’t fall under the general welfare clause of the Constitution, nothing does — for absent a livable planet, all the corporate profits in the world won’t do anyone a bit of good. It is time for the EPA to live up to its mandate, and time for the Obama administration to abandon its timid and incrementalist energy policy. We need to move rapidly; the scientific consensus on climate change is overwhelming, and the danger of catastrophe is undeniable.

    Warren Senders

    Year 2, Month 5, Day 2: Soon They’ll Be Rarer Than Polar Bears

    The Tampa Bay Times reports on recent remarks by former Bush Administration EPA chief Christine Todd Whitman, who appears to be marginally aware that we’re, you know, kind of in trouble here:

    In these tough economic times, it’s no surprise political leaders spend a lot less time talking about combating global warming than about the need to create jobs. But former Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Christine Todd Whitman says people should realize the implications of doing nothing.

    “A decision you can make is let’s do nothing, it’s too costly (to develop nuclear or solar). But understand you’re going to pay a price down the road,” Whitman said in a Political Connections interview airing today on Bay News 9 at 11 a.m. and 8 p.m.

    Whitman, a former governor of New Jersey, is a director of a bipartisan national security think tank called the American Security Project. Last week it released a study estimating that inaction on climate change by 2025 will cost Florida $27 billion, because of hurricane damage, real estate and tourism losses, and electricity consumption.

    Moderate Republicans have their own particular weird types of delusion: to wit, that they matter to their own party any more.

    Sent April 23 (making up for a couple of days of inaction while coordinating the Violins concert):

    Former EPA head Christine Todd Whitman’s words on global climate change are welcome. For Republican politicians, acknowledging the existence of global warming is a form of electoral suicide, but since Whitman is firmly ensconced in the private sector, she presumably feels free to speak without taking inconvenient political truths into account. But the fact is that the so-called “moderate” wing of the Republican Party, where Ms. Whitman pitches her ideological tent, is all but extinct. What’s left is a group of zealots who are fervently pushing an anti-science agenda with catastrophic implications. Like the Bush Administration official who mocked members of the so-called “reality-based community,” today’s Republicans appear to believe that the laws of nature can be neutralized at will, preferably by tax cuts for the wealthy. Ms. Whitman is better able to recognize the reality of global climate change than the sociopathic wreckage of a once-responsible political party.

    Warren Senders

    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 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

    Year 2, Month 3, Day 31: They DO Believe In “Free-Market Fairy Dust,” Though.

    It’s gotta be pretty rare to find an anti-pollution editorial in a Coal State paper. The Lexington Herald-Leader gives us an example:

    And after 20 years of hemming and hawing, it’s time to start controlling the 386,000 tons of toxins that rain down on this country each year from coal-fired power plants, the No. 1 source of air pollution.

    It’s past time, really.

    A bipartisan majority of Congress in 1990 ordered the EPA to get to work on nationwide standards for toxic emissions from power plants. If people should be alarmed about anything, it’s that it’s taken so long and that the health of so many has suffered during the delay.

    As the crisis at the Fukushima reactors reminds us, invisible substances in the air can do grave harm to human health and lasting damage to the environment.

    Although I didn’t mention Semmelweiss by name, he was very much present in my thinking as I composed this. Mailed March 22:

    It is astonishing in this day and age that some people still deny the harmful potential of microscopic particulates in the atmosphere. By now, most of us agree that germs, bacteria and viruses are the principal media through which disease is propagated — a theory validated in the late 1800s in the face of vehement denial. Why can’t we accept that atmospheric mercury poses a danger to us, to our children, and to the environment in which we live? In large part it’s because the oil and coal industries devote significant resources to obscuring the truth and elevating falsehoods — for example, asserting that pollution regulations on coal plants are “job-killers,” while conveniently ignoring pollution’s catastrophic health and environmental impacts. Similar mendacity is at work denying the planetary impact of CO2 emissions. Why should we trust billionaires whose fortunes depend on our continued consumption of oil and coal?

    Warren Senders

    Year 2, Month 3, Day 25: Rush Would Like That.

    The San Francisco Chronicle documents the insanity in the House of Representatives. Like the BP oil spill, Republican denialism and stupidity makes letter-writing easy. I wish it were a lot harder. Don’t you?

    Sent March 16:

    If only the stakes weren’t so high, we could enjoy the spectacle of the Republican members of the House Energy and Commerce Committee steadfastly denying politically troublesome reality. Forget about adopting a meaningful energy and emissions policy; these worthies not only won’t admit that climate change might present a problem to our country’s agriculture, infrastructure and public health, they’re unwilling to go on record as acknowledging that it even exists. For anyone who’s been following the scientific evidence over the past several decades, the human causes of global warming are undeniable. Unlike the urban legend of Alabama legislators declaring pi equal to three, today’s anti-science Republicans are all too real, and their readiness to ignore evidence and expertise when formulating policy is an embarrassment to America’s reputation, and a source of grave danger to our future as a nation. What will the GOP try to nullify next? Gravity?

    Warren Senders

    Year 2, Month 3, Day 24: Subtract The Second “M”

    It must be really hard to be a progressive in Utah. The Salt Lake Tribune runs a story: one of the Utah Democrats in the House inserted an amendment that acknowledges the existence of climate change, but stops short of noting that it’s caused by humans. And the guy is proud of himself:

    Matheson’s language, which doesn’t require any action, simply says that there’s established science that climate change is occurring and that Congress needs to have a policy to address it.

    Matheson, whose congressional website says that climate change is human-caused, says with such a partisan divide he was attempting to find common ground.

    “My goal was to show there is some basis where this committee can agree on something,” Matheson said later. “The only amendment approved all day was mine. My amendment reached consensus that everyone agrees there is a problem. I think that was a positive step.”

    Additionally, Matheson argued that his amendment doesn’t say human activity didn’t cause climate change.

    And another one of his idiotic Blue Dog pals came up with this reeker:

    Rep. Mike Ross, a fellow Blue Dog Democrat from Arkansas further changed Matheson’s language to say that Congress could only address climate change in a way that doesn’t “adversely affect the American economy, energy supplies and employment.”

    Both of these guys then voted with the Republicans in favor of limiting the EPA’s regulatory authority.

    Sent March 15:

    Rep. Matheson’s self-congratulatory tone with regard to his amendment on climate change is baffling — for anyone who’s actually following the science. At this point, the worldwide climatological consensus is absolutely overwhelming; while Matheson’s own website states that climate change is caused by human activity, his unwillingness to stand up for this belief suggests that he values legislative consensus more than factuality. Acknowledging the existence of climate change without addressing its causes is like describing reckless driving without mentioning the guy behind the wheel. Given the effects of increased extreme weather on America’s agriculture and infrastructure, Rep. Mike Ross’ statement that attempts to deal with climatic transformations must not “adversely affect the economy” is even more absurd. Climate change is what’s going to adversely affect our economy; preparing for it is (or should be) simple common sense. When floodwaters are rising, only an idiot complains that sandbags are too expensive.

    Warren Senders

    This one got published, and is attracting some comments.

    Year 2, Month 3, Day 20: A Little Knowledge May Be A Dangerous Thing, But It’s Better Than A Lot Of Republicans On A House Subcommittee

    As of March 11, the dingalings in the House have voted to defang the EPA. The Times:

    WASHINGTON — A House subcommittee voted on Thursday to strip the Environmental Protection Agency of its power to regulate greenhouse gases, chipping away at a central pillar of the Obama administration’s evolving climate and energy strategy.

    The sharply partisan vote was preordained by the Republican takeover of the House. Republicans and their industry allies accuse the administration of levying taxes on traditional energy sources through costly environmental regulations, threatening the economic recovery and driving jobs overseas.

    Many Republicans also argue that global warming is an unproven theory and that no action is needed to combat it, and they are backed by lobbies representing manufacturers; small businesses; agriculture; and the chemical, coal and oil industries; all of which have a big financial stake in hamstringing the E.P.A.

    Bitter. Bitter and mordant. That’s me.

    Sent March 11:

    It is a sad irony: as polar icecaps melt faster and faster, as freak weather events seem daily less freakish and more the norm, our House of Representatives escalates its own fight against “climate change.” Note the quotation marks — this is not a battle against a concept rather than a genuine enemy. Rather than develop strategies to ensure that our nation is prepared to cope with the compounding crises triggered by the runaway greenhouse effect, Republican legislators are developing strategies to ensure that we are protected from the dangers of climatological expertise. Just as George W. Bush’s post-9/11 advice was to “go shopping,” our petroleum-controlled congress wants us all to keep buying, driving, and consuming, securely confident that all those heat waves, anomalous storms and rising sea levels are unrelated to our warming atmosphere. Scientific ignorance is a short-lived bliss; our eventual national awakening will be ugly and painful.

    Warren Senders

    Year 2, Month 3, Day 4: And The Straw Boss Hollered ‘Well Damn Your Soul!’

    The Courier-Press (KY) runs an article about another House Republican who’s gunning for the EPA. Because Kentucky is a coal state, this guy is in their pocket, and he wants to remove the EPA’s authority to regulate emissions in order to make the lives of the mining companies easier. Easier for Kentuckians who’re part of the profit chain from Big Coal, too — at least in the short run. In the long run? Don’t even ask.

    The recent Republican attempts to defund or defang the Environmental Protection Agency are examples of short-term, politically-driven thinking at its most egregious. Rep. Whitfield knows perfectly well that the current Congress will never pass any legislation addressing the threat of global climate change, since a majority of its members were elected with the help of money from the petroleum and coal industries. The problem that we face is that the greenhouse effect is a result of the laws of physics and chemistry; climate change is inherently long-term and non-political. While muzzling the EPA may benefit Kentucky’s economy for a few years, does anyone seriously believe that the coal companies will really care about the state and its citizens once the coal’s all gone, the mountains are leveled and the streams poisoned? By carrying out the bidding of his corporate masters, Rep. Whitfield is doing a disservice both to his constituents and to the country as a whole; by treating the environment and its advocates as enemies, conservatives make a livable future for our descendants more and more unlikely.

    Warren Senders

    Year 2, Month 2, Day 22: The Terrible Threat of تغير المناخ

    The Newberg Graphic (OR) has a guest editorial with a good strong statement in favor of the EPA’s authority, and a good chastisement of the Republicans’ behavior.

    I figured it would be a good idea to provide some additional moral support. This letter’s not as coherent as some; I’m just too damn tired. Sent Feb 13:

    The intersection of coal and petroleum money with the electoral process has produced a breed of politicians far more cognizant of the short-term requirements of their cash suppliers than of the long-term well-being of their constituents. While West Virginia’s Jay Rockefeller is a Democratic case in point, the majority of anti-environmental voices in Congress belong to Republicans. Less than two months into the 112th Congress, these GOP stalwarts have rejected decades of scientific evidence and publicly insulted EPA Chief Lisa Jackson. The coming decades of climate chaos will bring enormous disruptions to our agriculture, infrastructure, public health and political stability; when we face a threat far greater than any terrorist organization, we need thoughtful preparation and mitigation, not the GOP’s kindergarten-level squabbling. It’s too bad climate change wasn’t represented by a scary dictator and the possibility of an expensive war; the Republican caucus would have been beside themselves with enthusiasm.

    Warren Senders