Year 2, Month 4, Day 15: Soon They’ll Write Legislation By Stirring Bird Entrails With A Stick.

The LA Times reports an extremely welcome piece of news:

WASHINGTON–The Obama administration and its Senate allies beat back a months-long effort by Congressional Republicans to strip the Environmental Protection Agency of its ability to regulate greenhouse gases, the heat-trapping emissions most scientists believe is the main contributor to global climate change.

The votes were the culmination of efforts in both chambers of Congress over the last few months to cut back on the EPA’s regulatory powers.

The efforts focus on limiting EPA’s program to reduce carbon dioxide emissions from vehicles and more recently, stationary sources like power plants and oil refineries, the biggest emitters of greenhouse gases.

I’ll take what I can get, these days. Sent in a state of extreme exhaustion on April 6:

Most of this country’s citizens recognize that clean air, clean water and resilient regional ecosystems are important and essential components of our national well-being. Sadly, this appears lost on scientifically ignorant GOP legislators whose eagerness to undercut any and all environmental programs seems almost gleefully nihilistic. At a time when the incontrovertible facts of global climate change are accepted by the overwhelming majority of the world’s experts in climate science, Senator Inhofe’s opposition to meaningful action on the reduction of greenhouse emissions is petulant, not principled. Meanwhile, erstwhile climate action advocate Lindsey Graham renounced his principles when he faced the electoral consequences of the tea-party’s anti-reality stance. While the defeat of Republican efforts to gut the Environmental Protection Agency is good news for all Americans, the fact that our politics is massively populated by people who reject scientific evidence when it’s ideologically inconvenient bodes ill for our future.

Warren Senders

Month 5, Day 16: Quick and Dirty

Busy tonight. Lots of stuff to do, a long day of teaching tomorrow, and a small gig in the evening. Not a lot of time to invest — so I went to Time Magazine’s website and found their article on the Kerry-Lieberman bill. The letter is a rehash of many of this week’s themes.

The Kerry-Lieberman climate/energy bill’s inclusion of offshore drilling is a testimonial to the destructive influence of political expediency. The Deepwater Horizon disaster needs to be a game-changer. We must learn that fossil fuels are vastly more expensive than we’ve been led to believe; their true costs must include health effects, environmental destruction, catastrophic global warming, and the extremely expensive wars we require to protect our sources. Senator Lindsey Graham, until recently a third partner in the climate legislation, said in a recent statement that abandoning offshore drilling “isn’t realistic.” Maybe so…but it is completely delusional to think that we can continue as we have. “Business as usual” creates climate legislation designed around political exigencies; “business as usual” is a state of profound and complete denial. The Kerry-Lieberman bill needs to be passed — and it needs to be strengthened significantly. America has to kick the fossil fuel habit without delay.

Warren Senders

Month 5, Day 12: Idiots Ahoy!


Dear Senators Kerry, Lieberman and Graham,

Today will see the unveiling of the Climate Bill you’ve been working on. I fear that the events of the past few weeks have made your approach to offshore drilling ludicrously out of date. The disaster of the Deepwater Horizon platform and British Petroleum’s pathetically inadequate response make it clear what our attitude towards Big Oil needs to be: No More. Similarly, the West Virginia mine disaster and the callously insensitive response of Massey Coal make it clear what our attitude towards Big Coal needs to be: No More.

No More Mountaintop Removal. No More Offshore Drilling. No More Subsidized Waste, Fraud and Inefficiency. No More Subornation of Congress by the Fossil-Fuel Industry. No More Mendacity. No More Misrepresentation. No More Corporate Irresponsibility.

No More Taking Carbon Out Of The Earth And Putting It In The Atmosphere.

When a newly released report from the National Academy of Sciences suggests that a 21-25 degree level of warming is possible over the next several centuries, and further points out that this would render the planet effectively uninhabitable — and states unequivocally that this warming is a possible consequence of “business as usual,” isn’t it obvious that we cannot continue to do business as usual?

We have to stop. Senators, whatever happened to the American “can do” spirit? Where is your confidence in the industrial sector of our country? Where is your confidence in American know-how? American ingenuity? American resourcefulness? The American sense of responsibility?

Have they been replaced by American irresponsibility, ineffectuality, incompetence, and insularity?

Judging by the discrepancy between what we need and what we’ll get, the answer is “yes.”

Our descendants will judge us harshly. But don’t feel too bad. If we continue “business as usual,” they’ll inherit an unimaginably hostile world — and they’ll probably be too busy struggling to survive to waste much energy on assigning blame. Drill, Baby, Drill!

Yours Sincerely,

Warren Senders

Month 5, Day 5: Pleading With The Powers That Be

Continuing on this theme — this time writing to the Climate/Energy bill trio. Please write some letters yourself!

Dear Senators Kerry, Lieberman and Graham —

It should be obvious to you that offshore drilling is no longer a viable option for America’s energy policy. We have delayed long enough — it is time for America to confront, and end, its addiction to fossil fuels. The disaster of the Deepwater Horizon is just the latest in a steady stream of catastrophes which illuminate the unfortunate fact that oil and coal are not cheap sources of energy. Fossil energy is only cheap when we don’t include the costs of cleanup, of health effects, of long-term ecological damage, and the expensive wars we wage to protect our sources. Renewable energy sources are only expensive when we don’t consider the benefits of positive environmental effects, more locally-based energy sources, greater reliance on conservation and efficiency, and avoiding some of the worst effects of CO2-induced atmospheric warming.

The Deepwater Horizon is a signal event in the history of our energy policy. It must be recognized as a clarion call to our nation’s citizenry, an “Environmental 9-11” that alerts us to the terrifying consequences of continued reliance on fossil energy.

America needs to wake up and face reality. Are you going to continue to offer sops to the oil and coal lobbies…or are you going to take the necessary steps to transform our energy equation once and for all? Our descendants’ lives hang in the balance.

For once, Senators…do the right thing.

Yours Sincerely,

Warren Senders

Month 4, Day 25: Special Jackass Edition

I read two posts at the GOS. First, the regular “State of the Climate” report summarizing NOAA data. And second, the news (which does not surprise me one whit) that Lindsey Graham is in a snit about the Senate’s taking up immigration reform all of a sudden…so he’s abandoning the climate bill. What a jackass.

Dear Senator Graham,

I understand you’re mad at the Democrats because they’re trying to work on immigration reform — so you’re going to refuse to be involved with the climate legislation you’ve been crafting with Senators Kerry and Lieberman.

Now, I’m not going to lump you in with ignoramuses like your Republican colleague James Inhofe, whose version of a climate/energy strategy appears to be “wait for the Rapture” — but I am endlessly amazed by the capacity of Republican politicians to pass off specious and illogical arguments as if they were irrefutable fact.

So the Senate is going to work on immigration reform? Does that affect the work you’ve been doing? Apparently the United States Senate can’t do two things at once?

Let me remind you of two things. First, according to NOAA analysis: The combined global land and ocean average surface temperature for March 2010 was the warmest on record; this was also the 34th consecutive March with global land and ocean temperatures above the 20th century average. Locations all over the world reported temperature anomalies this month, many of which were all-time record highs. The planet is getting warmer, and it’s doing so more rapidly than climatologists expected even a few months ago. We’re in genuine trouble, and inaction is not a viable option.

Second, the bill you’ve been working on is loaded with giveaways to the fossil fuel industry; from an environmental perspective it’s as weak as it could possibly be and still address climatic concerns at all. Which is to say, it obviously reflects your input.

So — why would you decide at the last minute to abandon support for a bill you helped write? Even though this bill is weak, it’s a start. Your readiness to run away from it looks more like a wounded ego — and what kind of man lets an insult to his pride stand in the way of fulfilling his responsibilities?

Pathetic. Yours is a singular combination of political and moral cowardice that bodes ill for the future of our country and our world.

Yours Sincerely,

Warren Senders

Month 3, Day 22: More Fart Jokes, Please.

I’m listening to health-care debate, so I’ve only got a small fraction of a brain. Here’s the latest terrifying news: more on polar methane. I really wish I could remain ignorant of all this.

Dear Senators Kerry, Lieberman and Graham,

I write to urge you to include language in your proposed climate legislation that specifically addresses the problem of polar methane release. A recent study reported in Science News* indicates that microbes living under ice sheets in the polar regions may be churning out huge amounts of this powerful greenhouse gas. If this wasn’t bad enough, we already know that methane is already entering the atmosphere as the permafrost cap that’s been keeping it underground melts, due to increased atmospheric temperatures.

Climatologists’ projections of global warming haven’t yet taken this methane into account, which means that even the worst of the worst-case estimates are undoubtedly too optimistic. We need a world-wide Manhattan Project, bringing together the top scientific minds of the planet to address these multiple interlocked problems.

Rather than allowing that methane to enter the atmosphere and trigger incalculable damage to planetary ecosystems, we need to solve the problem of harvesting and collecting it for use as fuel. While burning methane also releases CO2 (which means that it is unsuitable as a long-term fuel source) this approach is vastly preferable to allowing it to trigger a greenhouse tipping point that would lead us much closer to the Venusian worst-case scenario outlined by Dr. James Hansen.

Any proposed climate legislation needs to acknowledge the magnitude of this problem, and outline steps to engaging the world’s scientific expertise and imagination on methods of ameliorating it.

There is no time to lose.

Yours Sincerely,

Warren Senders

* – (

Month 3, Day 17: Graham is a Cracker

Read earlier today that Huckleberry Graham was getting his knickers in a twist because the Democrats were going to pass Health Care Reform through reconciliation. If they do this, he whined, why, it’ll jus’ make it impossible for anythin’ to get done afterwards.

This is the Republican who’s working with Kerry and Lieberman on a climate bill. Ick. It sure sounds to me like he’s preparing to abandon the process.

“Now that those dreadful Democrats have gone and ruined bipartisanship, I just can’t bring myself to associate with any of ’em!” (sobs, dabs temples with eau de cologne)

What a jackass. So I wrote him a letter.

Dear Senator Graham,

I’d written to you, Senator Kerry and Senator Lieberman recently on the issue of your work on climate change legislation. It is self-evident to any thinking person that global climate change is the most important existential threat that humanity will face in the coming century.

I was distressed to learn of your recent statements on ABC’s “This Week” to the effect that if Health Care legislation is passed using the reconciliation process, it might “poison the well” as far as creating any sort of bipartisan initiative on another issue.

Really? This sounds to me like you’re not as serious about climate legislation as your previous statements would indicate. If you agree that the future of this country and of the planet we all inhabit is at stake, then it is terribly immature to allow pique at being legislatively outmaneuvered to stop you from doing productive work elsewhere.

It is too important for all of us that the U.S. Senate gets meaningful climate legislation passed this year. There is no time to waste, and there is a lot more at stake than Senatorial ego.

Thank you for your attention.


Warren Senders

Month 3, Day 11: The Three Messketeers

RL Miller posted an excellent piece at Kos yesterday pointing out that the trio of senators responsible for generating climate legislation is busy meeting with representatives of the world’s biggest contributors to the current carbon situation.

John Kerry is my senator. Lindsey Graham may be a Republican, but he’s been making vaguely sensible noises about climate. After Lieberman’s grotesque behavior over health care it’s hard to take him seriously, but he is apparently much more resolute on climate than on HCR.

But I gotta say, it’s a sad day when two-thirds of my hope for substantial climate legislation rests with Lindsey Graham and Joe Lieberman.

Anyway, they got a letter.

Dear Senators Kerry, Graham and Lieberman,

I am a constituent of Senator Kerry’s, and a firm believer in the need to address the issue of global climate change immediately. America must regulate its emissions of CO2; once we commit ourselves, much of the rest of the world will follow suit. We cannot pretend to be a world leader if we wait for other nations to go first.

I’m glad that the three of you are developing a climate bill, and I hope that it is sufficiently robust to make a difference. But I was very distressed to learn that you had met recently with “hydrocarbon enablers” like the American Petroleum Institute, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, major electric utilities, the National Association of Manufacturers, the cement industry, and mining interests, and that (according to The LA Times) your message to these groups was, “Tell us what you need to support this bill. Be specific.”

It should be obvious to the meanest intelligence that the API, the Chamber of Commerce and the rest of these organizations will only support climate legislation if it does not affect them in the slightest. While I am in principle a supporter of “good faith” negotiations, there must surely be a point where the principle of good faith has been abused irretrievably. The world’s largest contributors to our CO2 dilemma are not interested in anything except gutting meaningful climate legislation; asking them for their support is an absurdity.

We need a totally new energy equation in this country, and we need it soon. The changes in the world’s climate are too huge and too potentially devastating to allow our country’s biggest polluters to stand in the way of action; “business as usual” is only a plan for profit, not a plan for the planet.

Do not allow industry representatives to weaken your climate bill. Make it stronger instead. Much stronger.

We’re counting on you.

Yours Sincerely,

Warren Senders

Year 1, Month 2, Day 2: To Huckleberry Graham, The Distinguished Senator from South Carolina

I was looking for something else to do in today’s letter. It’s been getting tiring sending stuff out to the same media outlets and politicians, which is why I wound up writing Secretary Chu yesterday. This one goes out to the only Republican who has dared to say anything at all about climate change, Lindsey Graham. He’s pretty much an idiot in most other areas, but he’s taken quite a bit of heat from his tea-bagger constituents for daring to assert that climate change exists. He just issued a very tepid press release, so I used that as the theme for my letter, which falls into the category of Faint Praise for the Faint of Heart.

Dear Senator Graham,

As an outspoken Massachusetts liberal, I suspect that there are few areas where you and I would find agreement. But today I want to write in support of your willingness to buck the Republican Party’s denialist stance on global climate change. To deny that anthropogenic global warming exists is to embrace an anti-science agenda which will undercut America’s continued economic and technological advancement. To deny that global climate change poses a profound long-term threat to humanity as a whole is to ignore the words and projections of the scientists who have studied climatic phenomena in depth and who know more about the subject than anyone else. Make no mistake, denialism is a willful embrace of ignorance, and while ignorance sometimes makes for good politics, it always makes for bad policies.

By acknowledging the existence of global climate change, you have the potential to transform the debate from a “Democrats vs. Republicans” squabble to a genuine conversation between the informed and the ignorant.

In your press release of January 27, you state that, “The energy legislation that was passed by the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee is not strong enough to lead us to energy independence. The climate change legislation passed by the House of Representatives and Senate Environment and Public Works Committee is too onerous on business and does not enjoy bipartisan support.” The first sentence is absolutely correct. The proposed legislation needs to be several orders of magnitude stronger in order to make a real difference in the area of energy independence. Your second sentence, however, does American business an injustice.

I firmly believe that American industries are second to none in their potential for innovation. To suggest that our business sector would be hindered by stringent climate-change legislation is a vote of no confidence in the ability of American industry to compete successfully under any conditions.

Let us not forget that global climate change poses the most severe existential threat that humanity has ever faced. We cannot afford to flunk this test, for it will only be given once; there are no opportunities for re-takes, and failure is fatal for all of us. Dr. James Hansen notes that the “worst-case” scenario involves uncontrolled melting of Arctic methane, triggering a runaway greenhouse effect which could move Earth’s temperatures well above the “uncomfortable” level and up to the “Venus” level.

In which case American business won’t have anybody left to buy its goods.

Granted, this is a “worst-case” scenario. But to anyone who’s been paying attention, it is a shocking reality that climatologists’ “worst-case” scenarios have been coming true as often as not over the past few years. We owe it to the future of our economy, our country and the world as a whole to get this one right.

We should be giving strong tax breaks for businesses which demonstrate genuine engagement in the struggle to reduce their carbon footprints; we should enforce strong tax penalties for businesses which ignore scientific reality in favor of short-term profit. And we must do a better job of educating the public. A strong Republican voice acknowledging the reality of global climate change and the importance of integrating scientific research into environmental and energy policy is a huge component of such public education, and I hope you will continue to tell both your colleagues and constituents the truth, regardless of its political implications for you.

Yours Sincerely,

Warren Senders