Year 4, Month 7, Day 25: Because A Fire Was In My Head

The Lexington Herald-Leader (KY) notes the work of local activists, who are planting lots of trees:

Advocates of reforesting surface-mined land in Appalachia hope the Obama Administration’s new push to cut carbon dioxide in the atmosphere could boost their efforts.

Trees suck up and store carbon dioxide, after all, and Appalachia has vast areas where trees could be planted.

“These mined lands are a great potential for sequestering carbon,” said Christopher D. Barton, a forest hydrologist at the University of Kentucky who is active in the reforestation effort.

Barton heads a program called Green Forests Work, which focuses on reforesting surface-mined land in Appalachia. People involved in the program will explore whether President Barack Obama’s emphasis on limiting carbon pollution could mean increased money to plant trees, Barton said.

“We’ve been working every angle that we can to get funding,” he said. “I’m hoping this will open some doors — some additional doors.”

In a June 25 news release about Obama’s plan, the White House said the nation’s forests play a critical role in addressing carbon pollution, removing almost 12 percent of the total U.S. greenhouse gas emissions annually.

It’s a part of what must be done — but only a part. July 7:

As the climate crisis intensifies, it’s increasingly clear that we — all of us — need to develop and implement ways to get the carbon we’ve already burned back in the ground rather than in the atmosphere, where it contributes to the greenhouse effect. And it’s pretty obvious that concerted tree-planting efforts are one of the simplest and most effective ways to go about this. But this vital work must be part of a unified approach that also includes drastic reductions in our greenhouse emissions, or the consequences will be too severe for any number of trees to ameliorate.

Those who call emissions cuts “economically damaging” miss the deeper point: there is only one “economy” that matters in the end, and it’s not the Dow Jones Index. Industrialized civilization’s century-long fossil-fuel binge brought us drastically over the limit on our Bank of Earth credit card, and the bill is due.

Warren Senders

Year 3, Month 8, Day 8: But The Fossil Fuel Companies Are Always Right In The Beginning!

More on ozone layer destruction, this time from the Christian Science Monitor:

Global warming could open new holes in Earth’s ozone layer at latitudes that until now have seemed immune to the ozone destruction that recurs over Antarctica and the Arctic, a new study warns.

The underappreciated keys to this conundrum: water vapor and temperatures in the lower stratosphere, where the ozone layer appears. Both, the researchers say, reach summertime values over the continental US known to encourage ozone-destroying chemicals that are already aloft to attack ozone.

The team makes no attempt to project when significant erosion might be expected to occur. And researchers have yet to make the measurements that would confirm that the reactions the study describes are occurring. Rather, it points to conditions that are appearing and are known to stimulate stratospheric ozone destruction.

The hippies were right then, and they’re right now. Sent July 28:

Any American over a certain age remembers the discovery some decades ago that flourocarbon emissions were destroying the ozone layer in the upper atmosphere. At the time, outraged columnists claimed that changing our spray-can habits was an assault on our traditional values; those who sensibly pointed out the benefits of a life without skin cancer were mocked and derided. Eventually, we changed our spray-can habits (without harming traditional values), and since then, fortunately, that scary hole in the stratosphere has been shrinking.

While we already knew that greenhouse emissions are triggering runaway climate change, the news that water vapor from severe thunderstorms poses a renewed threat to the ozone layer is unpleasantly nostalgic. Transforming our entire culture’s energy economy won’t be easy; it’ll be much harder to give up fossil fuels than it was to shift away from CFCs, but there’s no longer any time to waste. Let’s get started.

Warren Senders

Year 3, Month 7, Day 8: Gonna Build A Big Fence Around Texas….

The Nashua Telegraph (Nashua, NH) is one of many papers reporting on the decision of the Federal Appeals Court’s decision upholding the EPA’s authority to regulate GHG emissions. Note the huge floater left in the bowl by Texas’ AG Greg Abbott:

WASHINGTON – A federal appeals court here ruled unanimously to uphold the Environmental Protection Agency’s authority to regulate heat-trapping greenhouse gas emissions, dealing a setback to fossil-fuel industries, states and lobbying groups that have fought for years to delay action on climate change.


Led by the conservative Chief Judge David B. Sentelle, the three-member appeals panel found that the EPA’s approach to regulating greenhouse gases has been “unambiguously correct.”

Continually facing litigation from environmentalists and industry alike on a multitude of issues, the EPA welcomed the court’s decision. “I am pleased that the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit found that the EPA followed both the science and the law in taking common-sense, reasonable actions to address the very real threat of climate change by limiting greenhouse gas pollution from the largest sources,” said agency Administrator Lisa Jackson.

Plaintiffs decried the decision and warned the economy could be hurt if the EPA continued to regulate greenhouse gas emissions. Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott said the ruling “failed to rein in the unelected bureaucrats at the agency who are holding our country’s energy independence and fragile economy hostage to a radical environmental agenda.”

Of course, if it was a Republican administration’s EPA, they’d be given free rein to regulate environmentalists, don’cha know. Sent June 27:

It’s as predictable as a disco hit: any legal victory for environmentalists cues a chorus of faux outrage from Republican officials. Today, it’s the US Court of Appeals upholding the EPA’s authority to regulate greenhouse emissions, followed by some righteous trumpeting from Texas’ Attorney General Greg Abbott about a “radical environmental agenda.”

Only in Conservastan is a sensible legal decision aimed at holding back the accelerating catastrophe of global climate change “radical” in any sense of the word. The real radicals are the corporate “persons” whose profits depend on a consumer economy entirely dependent on fossil fuels, who continue to pour carbon dioxide into the atmosphere in clear disregard of the overwhelming consensus of climatologists everywhere around the world. No, there is nothing radical about protecting the environment, despite the steady drumbeat of derision from politicians and pundits whose allegiance to their paymasters trumps their responsibility to the common good.

Warren Senders

Year 2, Month 5, Day 29: Happy Whatever.

Another response to the UK plan to reduce GG emissions 50% by 2027, this one going to the San Francisco Chronicle.

Sent May 17:

Britain’s plans for drastic reductions in greenhouse gas emissions show that at least one government in the industrialized West is taking the threat of climate change seriously — which implies that the UK’s political establishment is capable of thinking in the long term. America, however, is paralyzed — incapable of any meaningful response, let alone one that unleashes our country’s creative and adaptive potential. The climate-change denialists currently in controlling the House of Representatives have a pathological resistance to scientific evidence, a proven inability to think beyond the next electoral cycle, and fiscal ties to the fossil fuel industry — a deadly combination of ignorance, cupidity and shortsightedness that should be an immediate disqualification for any elected office in this country. With our country’s unique combination of expertise and imagination, we could handily outdo Great Britain in emissions reduction — if we can stop denying the existence of climate change.

Warren Senders

May 29 is my birthday. I’m 53.

Year 2, Month 5, Day 28: Great. Really Great.

Great Britain does the right thing:

BRUSSELS — Britain is poised to announce some of the world’s most ambitious goals for reducing greenhouse gas emissions — a striking example of a government committing to big environmental initiatives while also pursuing austerity measures.

Chris Huhne, the secretary of state for energy and climate change, is expected to release a statement on Tuesday that the British government will set in law a goal to cut its greenhouse gas emissions about 50 percent by 2025.

That reduction, based on 1990 levels, would be far deeper than the European Union’s goal of cutting emissions 20 percent by 2020, and it would mean that Britain would make faster emissions cuts than other similar size countries, including Germany. The goal could require households to spend on new energy-saving devices for the home. It could also revive stalled government support for large projects, like those that capture power from tides and that bury carbon dioxide emissions.

Sent on May 16:

What a pleasure it is to read about a governmental response to climate change that takes the threat seriously enough, although it’s too bad that the government in question isn’t our own. Britain’s laudable program for phasing out greenhouse emissions shows that there are still a few places in the world where politicians don’t ignore scientific expertise as a matter of policy. In the US, alas, an anti-reality party controls half of Congress, effectively paralyzing us when it comes to climate issues. If global warming’s effects were simply props for the usual political theater, it wouldn’t really matter — but given that they’re increasingly likely to include what biologists delicately call an “evolutionary bottleneck” for our own species as well as countless others, isn’t it time for American politicians to emulate Britain, and get down to the serious work of changing our national energy economy once and for all?

Warren Senders