Year 4, Month 12, Day 25: Stop Making My Head Hurt.

Oh, for fuck’s sake. The LA Times:

WASHINGTON — The Environmental Protection Agency plans to substantially reduce inspections and civil enforcement cases against industry over the next five years, arguing that focusing on the biggest polluters would be the most effective way to clean up air and water.

In a draft strategic plan, the EPA proposes to cut federal inspections by one-third from the 20,000 inspections it conducted in the last fiscal year, ended Sept. 30.

Moreover, it plans to initiate about 2,320 civil enforcement cases a year, compared with the 3,000 cases initiated last fiscal year, a 23% reduction.

The EPA said the shift for fiscal years 2014 to 2018 is not a retreat from enforcement but a more effective allocation of resources.

“From our work on the biggest enforcement cases, such as the BP Deepwater Horizon spill, to aggressively pursuing smaller cases that can reduce harmful health impacts and have the greatest environmental benefit, our enforcement work will continue to save lives and protect our environment,” said Alisha Johnson, an agency spokeswoman.

Representatives from industry organizations that frequently criticize the EPA, such as the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the National Mining Assn., had no comment on the proposed changes.

Well, they wouldn’t, would they? Sheesh. December 11:

It’s hard to find a positive spin on the news that the EPA will be cutting back on its inspections of climate polluters. “More efficient use of resources” is pretty weak tea, at a time when the urgency of the climate crisis is no longer disputed by any reasonable person. What we need is more inspections, not fewer. What we need is more funding for the EPA, and policies in place that will enable the Agency to actually fulfill its mandate to protect our environment.

The history of medicine has shown over and over that intelligent early diagnosis saves both money and lives, and this is equally true for the planet’s health. Environmental inspections are essential for tracking pollution output, and are necessary both for predicting future outcomes and mitigating their impacts on society. Such superficially plausible thrift is a virtual guarantee of far costlier outcomes in the coming years.

Warren Senders

Year 3, Month 4, Day 23: Houston, You Have A Problem…

The Houston Chronicle reports on the latest cloud of bafflegab from the denialist masterminds:

Four dozen former NASA astronauts, engineers and scientists have written a letter to the space agency decrying its advocacy of “catastrophic” climate change.

“As former NASA employees, we feel that NASA’s advocacy of an extreme position, prior to a thorough study of the possible overwhelming impact of natural climate drivers is inappropriate,” states the letter, addressed to administrator Charles Bolden.

“We request that NASA refrain from including unproven and unsupported remarks in its future releases and websites on this subject.”

Among the signatories are seven Apollo astronauts, including Harrison “Jack” Schmitt and Walt Cunningham, and two former directors of Johnson Space Center.

Although not explicitly named in their letter, the 49 signatories are unhappy with the outspoken head of NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies, James Hansen, who is one of the world’s most prominent climate scientists.

Jackasses. Sent April 14:

When a planetary physician of the highest possible stature excoriates those who are hindering meaningful action on climate change, it’s news. “A moral issue comparable with slavery” — strong words from James Hansen, a man with unimpeachable scientific credentials and a self-evident ethical core. How can those poor oppressed conservative think-tanks fight back? It’s a standard move in the climate-change denial business: when something happens that might move public opinion even a little bit toward recognition of a global emergency, they’ll launch a Letter Signed By Many People (LSBMP).

Dr. Hansen is a NASA employee? They’ll counter with an LSBMP signed by forty-nine NASA astronauts and engineers (including a few scientists for good measure). Sounds impressive, but none of the signatories are climate scientists. Their use of the LSBMP to deliver spurious expertise confirms the moral force of Dr. Hansen’s argument. The scientific argument, of course, was settled long ago.

Warren Senders

Year 2, Month 4, Day 25: Speaking Of Good Examples

It’s always nice to see a whole nation do the right thing. Too bad it’s never the USA.

Developing countries taking the climate initiative
by Marwaan Macan-Markar
April 15, 2011

BANGKOK — Led by countries like Indonesia, 48 developing nations are rolling out a range of pledges to voluntarily cut their respective emissions of greenhouse gases (GHG) by 2020, the year climate scientists say the earth’s rising temperature should peak by if an environmental catastrophe is to be avoided.

Indonesian negotiators confirmed during a U.N. climate change conference here that Jakarta is prepared to cut its GHG emissions by 26 percent on its own accord. But that is not all: the world’s most populous Muslim country is prepared to increase emissions cuts to 41 percent if it receives development assistance that industrialised nations have committed to providing.

“It is a pledge that sends out an important message: Indonesia is prepared to do its share to shoulder the burden of reducing greenhouse gases,” says Shalimar Vitan, economic and justice campaigns coordinator for the East Asia office of Oxfam, the British humanitarian agency. “It also is informing the citizens of the country that Indonesia is eyeing a low carbon development agenda.”

This article was in the Madison Times (WI), and since Bill O’Reilly says Madison is full of “satan-worshipers” I guess I’m probably preaching to the choir in this letter, but what the heaven. Sent April 15:

Indonesia’s readiness to commit to drastic emissions reductions is an object lesson to the United States about the meaning of responsibility. Compared with the industrialized West, the island nation’s contribution to the climate crisis is quite small — but it will feel the effects sooner and more severely. If our nation suffered the effects of climate change proportionally to our contribution, we’d already be deep underwater. Climate-change deniers don’t want to face the environmental consequences of our fossil-fueled economic engine, and who can blame them? I wouldn’t want to face a future of increasingly severe weather, acidified oceans, devastated agriculture and crippled infrastructure either — but we oil- and coal-burning humans unwittingly started all those things. It’s time for Americans to face the reality of our national contribution to a global problem — and follow Indonesia’s lead in emissions reduction. Let’s be ethical citizens of the world — for a change.

Warren Senders

25 Sep 2010, 11:36pm

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  • Month 9, Day 26: My Aunt Lives In Texas; Maybe She’ll See This Letter!

    The Austin Statesman ran an AP article on the current climate talks at the UN, which are of course completely paralyzed.

    While the deadlocked UN climate talks are an indicator of just how much remains to be done in educating people everywhere in the world about the dangers of climatic disruption, they also point to some sad facts about our nation. An America that honored both scientific expertise and the notion of “personal responsibility” would have acted long ago to cut greenhouse emissions and end our dependence on fossil fuels. The citizens of such an America would recognize that the scientific evidence for human causes of global heating is overwhelming, and would take responsibility for grossly disproportionate carbon dioxide emissions (4.5 percent of the world’s population; 20 percent of the world’s CO2). Such an America would lead the world in restoring the planet’s health, and helping poorer nations cope with the devastating effects of climate chaos. Alas, our country’s inability to address climate change has made risible our hubristic claim to a transnational moral authority.

    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