Year 3, Month 11, Day 2: But They Say There’s A Hell. What The Hell? What The Hell Do They Think THIS Is?

The Dallas Daily News runs a NYT article on climate ignorage in the Presidential campaign:

WASHINGTON — For all their disputes, President Barack Obama and Mitt Romney agree that the world is warming and that humans are at least partly to blame. It remains wholly unclear what either of them plans to do about it.

Even after a year of record-smashing temperatures, drought and Arctic ice melt, none of the moderators of the four general election debates asked about climate change, nor did any of the candidates broach the topic.

Throughout the campaign, Obama and Romney have seemed most intent on trying to outdo each other as lovers of coal, oil and natural gas — the very fuels most responsible for rising levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.

Obama has supported broad climate change legislation, financed extensive clean energy projects and pushed new regulations to reduce global warming emissions from cars and power plants. But neither he nor Romney has laid out a legislative or regulatory program to address the fundamental questions arising from one of the most vexing economic, environmental, political and humanitarian issues to face the planet.

Should the United States cut its greenhouse gas emissions, and, if so, how far and how fast? Should fossil fuels be more heavily taxed? Should any form of clean energy be subsidized, and for how long? Should the United States lead international mitigation efforts? Should the nation pour billions of new dollars into basic energy research? Is the climate system so fraught with uncertainty that the rational response is to do nothing?

Many scientists and policy experts say the lack of a serious discussion of climate change in the presidential contest represents a lost opportunity to engage the public and to signal to the rest of the world U.S. intentions for dealing with what is, by definition, a global problem that requires global cooperation.

“On climate change, the political discourse here is massively out of step with the rest of the world, but also with the citizens of this country,” said Andrew Steer, the president of the World Resources Institute and a former special envoy for climate change at the World Bank. “Polls show very clearly that two-thirds of Americans think this is a real problem and needs to be addressed.”

Nothin’ to see here, folks. Move along, move along. Sent October 26:

It must be difficult to be Mitt Romney — agreeing on one hand with the scientists who’ve studied the problem of climate change, yet prevented from stating his agreement definitively in public by the anti-intellectual intransigence of the tea-party conservatives who comprise his (not entirely willing) electoral base. Given Romney’s pathological aversion to a definite commitment on anything beyond the idea that he deserves to be president, such cowardice is understandable, although hardly a recommendation for the position he seeks.

President Obama’s reluctance to discuss climate change, however, most likely springs from a strategic avoidance of controversy. Given the firestorm of opprobrium engendered by his adoption of Republican ideas about health care, one can only imagine the howls of outrage from conservatives were he to actually make the long-term future of our civilization a legislative priority. Through judicious executive orders, he has made significant strides on energy efficiency and environmental responsibility without engaging our know-nothing congress the futile and ugly wrangling that characterized the eventual passage of the Affordable Care Act.

While neither candidate represents an optimal choice for those cognizant of the magnitude of the climate crisis, there is no equivalence between their respective silences on the subject.

Warren Senders

Year 3, Month 10, Day 30: Put Your Money Where Your Money Is.

Time Magazine wonders “Why Climate Change Has Become the Missing Issue in the Presidential Campaign”. I wonder, too.

We’re in the final few months of what’s shaping up to be the hottest year on record. In September, Arctic sea ice melted to its smallest extent in satellite records, while the Midwest was rocked by a once-in-a-generation level drought. Global carbon dioxide emissions hit a record high in 2011 of 34.83 billion tons, and they will almost certainly be higher this year. Despite that fact, the more than two decade-old international effort to deal with climate change has hit a wall, and the upcoming U.N. global warming summit in the Qatari capital of Doha — whose residents have among the highest per-capita carbon emissions in the world — is unlikely to change that hard fact.

Given all that, it might seem reasonable to think that climate change —a nd how the U.S. should respond to it — would be among the top issues of the 2012 presidential election. We are, after all, talking about a problem that has the potential to alter the fate of the entire planet, one that requires solutions that utterly alter our multi-trillion dollar energy system. Climate change has been a subject at the Presidential or Vice-Presidential debates since 1988, as Brad Johnson, who surveys environmental coverage for ThinkProgress, pointed out this week. Yet through all of the 2012 debates, not a single question was asked about climate change, and on the stump, neither candidate has had much to say about the issue — with Mitt Romney more often using global warming as a punchline, and President Obama mentioning it in passing, at most.

Here are two different reasons. Which do you think it is? Sent October 23:

As the evidence for global heating goes from merely overwhelming to absolutely incontrovertible, look for conservatives to begin their transition into the next phase of climate-change denial: arguing that liberals were the ones to politicize the discussion, thereby making meaningful policy impossible.

In this context, President Obama’s reluctance to raise the subject can be understood as a strategic move; by offering nothing for the anti-science GOP to push against, he’s denied them one of their most convenient rhetorical antagonists. Mr. Romney, who has previously acknowledged the existence and severity of the climate crisis, is now governed entirely by his basest political instincts, and cannot address scientific reality without antagonizing his supporters.

Another interpretation, of course, is that both candidates’ behavior is wholly conditioned by the corrosive influence of fossil fuel corporations, whose profits would be adversely affected by any move toward mitigation of the metastasizing greenhouse effect and its consequences.

Warren Senders

Year 3, Month 9, Day 27: Suck On This!

The Bend Bulletin (OR) runs the same McClatchy story on the two campaigns’ approaches to climate issues:

Romney has said previously that he believes climate change is occurring and that human activity is a contributing factor.

During the Republican primary season, though, he said he didn’t believe it was the right course to spend “trillions and trillions” to reduce carbon emissions.

More recently, he said in a questionnaire submitted to Science Debate, a nonprofit organization focusing on science issues in the presidential campaign, that he believes human activity contributes to global warming and that policymakers should consider the risk of negative consequences.

Frank Maisano, a lobbyist whose firm represents energy interests and who has been involved in climate change discussions for 15 years, cautioned not to read too much into Romney’s dig about the rise of the oceans. It was designed to show Obama is “a little bit out of touch,” he said.

“Right now, you need someone who cares about you rather than these larger, soaring rhetorical issues,” Maisano said.

Sheesh. Sent September 20:

So according to a representative of the energy industry, climate change is a “soaring rhetorical issue.” How bizarre. When Frank Maisano suggests that discussion of our civilization’s future happiness and prosperity of our civilization is “rhetoric,” he’s really saying that the short-term profitability of his clients in the oil and coal business is more important than the world our children and grandchildren will inhabit.

When ocean acidification has broken the food chain, when extreme weather has devastated agriculture, when vanishing glaciers have ended water supplies for innumerable cultures everywhere around the planet, when rising seas have wiped entire nations off the map — will Mr. Maisano and his colleagues finally put down their quarterly reports and address the catastrophic transformations they have wrought?

To be sure, we need action even more than “soaring rhetoric.” But Republicans and energy lobbyists offer only a toxic blend of legislative paralysis and mendacious misrepresentations.

Warren Senders

Year 3, Month 9, Day 25: She Said She Said…

The Anchorage Daily News runs a McClatchy story comparing the two presidential candidates’ approach to climate change:

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — It was just six words, but when President Barack Obama gave a shout-out to global warming in his acceptance speech this month, he reintroduced an issue that had all but disappeared from the political debate.

“Climate change is not a hoax,” Obama said, an assertion that brought Democratic National Convention delegates to their feet, as he pledged to continue approaching energy policy in a way he said would “continue to reduce the carbon pollution that is heating our planet.”

In a year when the political debate has lacked nearly any discussion of climate change, some environmentalists have struggled to summon enthusiasm for the Democratic president they helped elect in 2008 in part because of his views on global warming. So they rejoiced when the president rebutted a taunt tossed out by Republican candidate Mitt Romney the week before. Romney had quipped in his own acceptance speech in Tampa, Fla., that Obama “promised to begin to slow the rise of the oceans and heal the planet.”

“My promise is to help you and your family,” Romney added.

It was a rhetorical flourish, an attack line offered to make the point that Romney understands the kitchen table issues that, he says, the president doesn’t. But environmentalists heard it as heresy.

“Twenty years from now, history is going to judge the next generation on how they responded to the destabilization of our climate,” said Michael Brune, executive director of the Sierra Club. “With a couple of short sentences, Romney made clear what’s at stake in this election.”

It looks increasingly improbable that Mitt is going to get anywhere near the oval office. Good. Sent September 18:

It stretches credulity that a significant percentage of Americans continue to reject the reality of climate change. This is both an environmental and an educational crisis; too many of us spurn the evidence of both science and our senses in favor of the comforting untruths peddled by a fossil-fueled media.

Scientific discourse is couched in careful and meticulous language; responsible climatologists will shy away from definitive statements connecting, say, a particular extreme weather event with the burgeoning greenhouse effect. That’s because science deals with probabilities, correlations and complexities — not in polemics. But there’s a reason these specialists are exceptionally worried: the evidence for runaway atmospheric warming is unequivocal and unambiguous, and the likely effects of even moderate warming are devastating to agriculture, infrastructure, and the integrity of local and regional ecosystems.

By steadily ignoring the science of climate change, both our media and politicians have been profoundly irresponsible. A crisis of planetary magnitude demands a commensurate response — and there can be no moral justification for continued ignorance.

Warren Senders

Year 3, Month 9, Day 24: You Never Give Me Your Money…

The Macon, GA, Telegraph runs a story on the role of climate questions on the campaign trail. Several paragraphs are devoted to the cognitive dissonance of Republican environmentalists. Let’s all quiet down and stop giggling.

Romney has said previously that he believes climate change is occurring and that human activity is a contributing factor. During the Republican primary season, though, he said he didn’t believe it was the right course to spend “trillions and trillions” to reduce carbon emissions. More recently, he said in a questionnaire submitted to Science Debate, a non-profit organization focusing on science issues in the presidential campaign, that he believes human activity contributes to global warming and that policymakers should consider the risk of negative consequences.

Frank Maisano, a lobbyist whose firm represents energy interests and who has been involved in climate change discussions for 15 years, cautioned not to read too much into Romney’s dig about the rise of the oceans. It was designed to show Obama is “a little bit out of touch,” he said.

“Right now, you need someone who cares about you rather than these larger, soaring rhetorical issues,” Maisano said.

Jim DiPeso of ConservAmerica had the same reaction.

“(Romney) acknowledged that science has shown there is a human role in global warming,” said DiPeso, who represents a national grassroots organization of conservation-minded Republicans who would like to see a fiscally conservative approach to capping carbon emissions.

DiPeso said he hopes Romney’s acknowledgement will give Republicans lower down on the ticket the freedom to talk about climate change, an issue that once had Republican support. Policymakers may differ on how to address emissions, but carbon dioxide molecules are apolitical, he said.

“Because we’ve gotten to the point where a good Republican can’t acknowledge the real science that backs up climate change without being cast as some sort of infidel, or somebody who’s not a real conservative,” he said.

Poor puppies. Sent September 17:

I wouldn’t read too much into Mitt Romney’s statements about the human causes of climate change; the erstwhile Massachusetts governor is widely known for his ability to take multiple contradictory positions on any issue. And while it’s good to know that there are some conservatives out there who are genuinely concerned about the looming climate crisis, it must be hard for them to reconcile their free-market fetishism with the tough transformations the next century will demand of America’s energy economy.

The grotesquely inflated subsidies and tax breaks for the fossil fuel industry need to end. These taxpayer dollars would be far better spent on preparing American infrastructure for a century of devastating storms and increasingly unpredictable weather, and our national investment in renewable energy needs to increase by many orders of magnitude over the next decade. These requirements won’t be solved with the economic pixie-dust of the “free market,” but through the collective will of hundreds of millions of Americans demanding that their government work once again in their best interests, instead of the corporate welfare recipients in the oil and coal industries.

Warren Senders

Year 3, Month 8, Day 29: He Said WHAT?

The Waltham News-Tribune (MA) notes that Ed Markey (MA-O7) has some harsh words for candidate Romney’s ludicrous energy plan:


U.S. Rep. Ed Markey, the ranking Democrat on the Natural Resources Committee, lambasted Mitt Romney for his just-released energy plan that he said was a gift to the oil industry and would put alternative energy in jeopardy.

“Mitt Romney has finally released his energy plan and not surprisingly given the fact that he met with the oil barons just two days ago in Texas, it is a plan which says that it is not ‘all of the above,’ but ‘oil above all,’ that it is a plan that gives the oil industry everything that it has ever dreamed of,” Markey said on Thursday.

The Malden Democrat said the former Massachusetts governor’s plan would “do away with the tax breaks for the wind industry” while keeping the $4 billion in tax breaks given to the oil industry.

“Which industry does not need a tax break?” Markey asked reporters in front of the State House.

In a speech in New Mexico on Thursday, the Republican presidential candidate laid out his energy plan, which reportedly would give states more responsibility for oil drilling permits on federal lands and sets a goal of energy independence by the end of a second term.

That’s my congressman! Sent August 24:

Ed Markey’s remarks about Romney’s energy plan are right on target. While ordinary Americans are struggling to get by, big oil and big coal are already the world’s most profitable industries, raking in billions — and Romney wants to give them even more tax breaks, effectively asking the public to subsidize more multimillion dollar bonuses for their executives.

Let’s not forget that these industries have a lengthy rap sheet of safety and environmental violations — but Mitt would loosen even the poorly enforced regulations currently in place. Notice that the rest of the world’s developed and developing nations are investing heavily in renewable energy sources — while this retrogressive proposal does the opposite.

Finally, consider the overwhelming scientific evidence linking fossil fuels to global climate change. As a world leader, America’s energy economy should be an example of responsible planetary stewardship — not Romney’s reckless glorification of waste and inefficiency.

Warren Senders

Year 3, Month 6, Day 27: Poor Planning On Your Part Unfortunately IS An Emergency On My Part

The Asheville NC Citizen-Times notes that emergency responders are going to have more to do in the years ahead:

ASHEVILLE — At age 92, retired meteorologist William Haggard says his fellow residents at Deerfield retirement community always want to know about the weather. They’ll stop him in the hall and say, “It was supposed to rain on Tuesday, and it didn’t rain a drop.”

Haggard just smiles.

But when they ask about climate change, he tells them what the science shows. “It’s going to get progressively worse.”

Haggard headed what was then known as the National Climatic Records Center, housed in the old Grove Arcade, until his retirement in 1975. He worked 27 more years as a forensic meteorologist and consultant.

Haggard outlined the science and the outlook for climate change Friday at the annual meeting of the Disaster Emergency Response Association International, which returned to its Asheville roots for its 50th anniversary.

Nice to hear of a 92-year-old meteorologist who agrees with the scientists. Sent June 16:

It’s revealing that Republican nominee Mitt Romney modified his position on climate change early in his campaign, in order to appeal to anti-science voters — and that he recently mocked President Obama for wanting to hire more firemen and policemen. As Dale Neal’s article makes clear, our first responders are going to be stressed to the limit in a post-climate-change America. More, and more severe, fires. More, and more severe, floods. More infrastructural damage; more unpredictable weather; more of the kinds of disasters that offer opportunities for heroism…or death.

While most emergencies are by nature unexpected, that cannot be said of the looming climate crisis. We’ve had ample warning; scientists and environmentalists have been trying for years to alert us to the dangers ahead. Why bother predicting a future catastrophe if we’re not going to do anything to stop it? Our nation’s emergency responders deserve better than dismissive political pandering.

Warren Senders

Year 2, Month 11, Day 2: Is Being An Opportunistic Hypocrite Genetic, Or A Lifestyle Choice?

The Wall Street Journal notes that the Mittster has been inconsistent on climate change. Heh heh heh heh.

Rivals of Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney on Friday repeated their accusations of flip-flopping on core issues, after he told an audience on Thursday that he didn’t know what caused global warming.

Mr. Romney said earlier this year that human activity played a role.

“Mitt Romney’s positions change, often dramatically, depending on the audience or location,” said Ray Sullivan, a spokesman for Texas Gov. Rick Perry, also a GOP candidate. “Voters need to consider the fact that Romney, in one week, changed positions on man-made global warming, capping carbon emissions and Ohio’s efforts to curb union powers.”

It took me longer than I expected to write this letter, given that it was essentially a rephrasing of yesterday’s. Sent October 29:

Having learned early on that an inadvertent bit of truth-telling can deep-six a politician’s aspirations, Mitt Romney should know never to question conservative shibboleths.

Young Willard Romney was only 20 when he watched his father’s 1968 presidential run spin out of control when George Romney spoke of being “brainwashed” by advocates of the Vietnam war. While history has vindicated the Michigan Republican’s apostasy on our Southeast Asian misadventure, primary voters at the time rejected him soundly. So it is today, with the conservative base unified in its absolute denial of climate change.

Like father, like son. Historians will undoubtedly recognize Romney the Younger’s timid statement on global warming as a piece of truth-telling uncannily similar to that which sank Romney the Elder’s presidential run. Anti-science Republican absolutists will never acknowledge climate change, and Mitt’s subsequent equivocations may not be enough to undo the damage done by his brief flirtation with the truth.

Warren Senders

Year 2, Month 11, Day 1: Please Lie To Me!

The former governor of my state is a soulless sociopath with the intellectual depth of a life-size Ken doll. The Boston Globe for October 28:

Is Mitt Romney tweaking his position on global warming?

The former Massachusetts governor had been one of the few Republican presidential candidates to embrace the scientific consensus that human activity contributes to climate change. But in a speech in Pittsburgh on Thursday, he sounded like more of a skeptic.

“My view is that we don’t know what’s causing climate change on this planet,” Romney said in the speech, a clip of which was posted by the liberal blog Think Progress. “And the idea of spending trillions and trillions of dollars to try to reduce CO2 emissions is not the right course for us.”

Romney gave a different answer in June, when he was asked whether humans contribute to climate change.

“I don’t speak for the scientific community, of course,” Romney said at a town-hall meeting in New Hampshire. “But I believe the world’s getting warmer. I can’t prove that, but I believe based on what I read that the world is getting warmer. And number two, I believe that humans contribute to that.”

I wrote a similar letter to the Globe years ago, and they published it. Maybe this one will work, too. Sent October 28:

Mitt Romney learned a valuable political lesson from his father’s experience: don’t tell the truth if you can help it.

Returning from a 1967 visit to Vietnam, George Romney remarked that his earlier support for the Vietnam War was the result of “brainwashing” by U.S. military and diplomatic officials in Vietnam, and the ensuing storm of bad publicity ran his presidential campaign into a ditch.

While the light of history shows that the elder Romney was telling the truth, that didn’t help him with the Republican electorate, then as now acutely sensitive to any flouting of its shibboleths. Romney the younger’s acknowledgment of climate change is a similar misstep; it’s gratifying that our erstwhile governor has taken his father’s experience to heart and is now walking back his heretical stance on scientific expertise.

Mitt’s finally figured it out: when it comes to wooing GOP primary voters, facts are best left unaddressed.

Warren Senders

Year 2, Month 6, Day 17: King of Hearts

Mitt Romney acknowledges the existence of climate change. Gosh. The NY Daily News is all a-flutter:

Mitt Romney, the newest Republican to declare himself a candidate for President, sounded suspiciously like a Democrat when he said Friday that global warming is real.

“I don’t speak for the scientific community, of course,” Romney said at a Town Hall-type meeting in New Hampshire. “But I believe the world’s getting warmer.”

Romney then added, “And number two, I believe that humans contribute to that.”

That’s heresy in many GOP circles – and a position the other Republican candidates have not taken in public.

Damned if I know what to think about this. I just used it as the hook for a standard Republicans-are-idiots screed. Sent June 3:

It’s testimony to the weirdness of American presidential politics that a perfectly reasonable statement from a Republican contender is viewed as an unforgivable deviation from the party line. The cries of outrage over Mitt Romney’s words on global climate change are coming from the GOP’s mainstream, which has now completely rejected actual science in favor of increasingly improbable conspiracy theories involving Al Gore and compulsory re-education camps for SUV drivers. The few remaining conservatives who are prepared to acknowledge the overwhelming scientific consensus on the human causes of global warming have been relegated to their party’s “lunatic fringe,” which must be an unusual experience for them. While Mr. Romney’s words confirm that he’s not completely off-the-wall, in an electoral environment which values wackiness over factuality, that won’t work in his favor. Someday Republicans will acknowledge the laws of physics — but it’s not going to happen before the 2012 election. Unfortunately.

Warren Senders