Year 4, Month 8, Day 9: Just One Small Burp.

The Wall Street Journal notes Gina McCarthy’s confirmation, and includes some words from Yertle the Turtle:

Ms. McCarthy is generally well-respected by both environmental groups and industry leaders. Several senators, however, including Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R., Ky.) faulted Ms. McCarthy for her role in crafting greenhouse-gas standards. Ms. McCarthy has led the EPA’s clean-air office since 2009.

“I don’t blame Ms. McCarthy personally for all of the administration’s policies,” Mr. McConnell said Thursday. “But I believe the EPA needs an administrator who is ready to step up and challenge the idea that the livelihoods of particular groups of Americans can simply be sacrificed in pursuit of some Ivory Tower fantasy.”

Hey, Mitch? Fuck you. July 20:

When Mitch McConnell describes the science of climate change as an “ivory-tower fantasy,” he’s tapping into a long tradition of Republican anti-intellectualism, an epistemological faux populism that had its first contemporary triumph during the administration of President Truman. Those with long memories may recall the purge of “old China hands” from the State Department on suspicions of communist sympathies — a decimation of expertise that laid the groundwork for the USA’s most spectacular foreign policy debacle, our ignorance-propelled misadventure in Vietnam.

History offers plenty of examples of the GOP’s hostility to expertise, but the one which will have the profoundest consequences is undoubtedly the stubborn refusal of Republican lawmakers to recognize the validity of scientific findings on the climate crisis. Long after Vietnam and Iraq have been forgotten, our descendants will still be grappling with the appalling consequences of our refusal to act on a genuinely clear and present danger.

Warren Senders

Year 4, Month 8, Day 8: You Know What Your Problem Is? Your Problem Is That You’re Full Of Sh*t.

The LA Times notes that some Democrats are moving a little bit on climate, with predictable results from the wingnut caucus:

…some GOP members of the panel outlined what they said was a White House conspiracy designed to mislead the public on the threat of climate change. Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.) declared that Obama “believes that government can make better decisions than the people, and regulating carbon dioxide will give him all he needs to make nearly every decision for the American people.”

Liberals on the panel responded with fiery comments of their own. “To deny the fact that the overwhelming majority of scientists who have published peer review articles believe not only is global warming real, but it is man-made, and to continue discussion of ‘we are not sure, let’s look at something else’, is almost beyond intellectual comprehension,” said Sen. Bernard Sanders (I-Vt.).

Experts from the think tanks Climate Central and Climate Solutions then testified about the devastating effects they said global warming is having on the environment, and the need for immediate action.

An executive from the Reinsurance Assn. of America spoke of how the insurance industry is alarmed by what its modeling shows is an increasing frequency of extreme weather events caused by global warming.

Representatives from the conservative Manhattan Institute and the Institute for Energy Research gave opposing testimony, warning the action sought by Democrats in Congress will hurt the economy and have limited effect on the climate.

All-too-believable, alas. July 19:

The prating of self-styled deficit hawks is an utterly predictable element of any attempt at meaningful policies to tackle the climate crisis. It’ll “damage the economy,” or “kill jobs” — a particularly rich accusation coming from legislators who’ve recoiled from job-creation bills like vampires from a cross.

But the point is that intensifying climate change will damage agriculture, creating food shortages. As insect vectors move northward, invasive tropical diseases will become more common. Wildfires and extreme weather are going to clobber communities all over America and the world. In other words, more people are going to die as we approach what biologists coyly call an “evolutionary bottleneck.” Forget “killing jobs.” Failure to address climate change is going to kill people.

If the preservation of a habitable Earth is somehow bad for the economy, that’s a strong argument for changing our economy — not for shirking our responsibilities to our posterity.

Warren Senders

Year 4, Month 8, Day 2: Who Cooda Knowed?

The Silicon Valley Mercury News (CA) reports on the bizarre fundraiser Google hosted for (gasp!) Jim Inhofe:

July 10

Mountain View-based Google is taking some heat for hosting a fundraiser for a U.S. senator who is an outspoken disbeliever in man-made climate change, despite the company’s green rhetoric.

Google’s Washington, D.C., office will host a lunch Thursday, at $250 to $2,500 per plate, to benefit Sen. Jim Inhofe, R-Okla., just a month after Google chairman Eric Schmidt said those who deny climate change and global warming are liars.

Climate change activists plan to picket outside in order to “remind people of Google’s professed culture of ethics, environmental stewardship, and respect for scientific truth which help make Google products so popular,” according to a news release. “They’ll also remind people of Sen. Jim Inhofe’s long record of unethical environmental destruction and promotion of anti-scientific conspiracy theories on behalf of the likes of Koch Industries, his biggest corporate funder.”

The protesters say they’ll deliver 10,000 signatures of people from across the nation, calling on Google CEO Larry Page to end his company’s support for politicians like Inhofe.

“We regularly host fundraisers for candidates, on both sides of the aisle, but that doesn’t mean we endorse all of their positions,” a Google spokesperson replied to my email Wednesday. “And while we disagree on climate change policy, we share an interest with Senator Inhofe in the employees and data center we have in Oklahoma.”

This one was easy and fun to write. July 15:

We should be fair to the people who run the world’s most popular search engine.

Perhaps they just didn’t know how to find out about James Inhofe’s obsessive climate-change denialism (“inhofe climate denial” worked pretty well for me). Perhaps they couldn’t find the right search string that would have unearthed the Oklahoma Senator’s gleeful self-description as the number-one “Enemy of The Earth” (“inhofe enemy earth,” in case you’re wondering). Perhaps they’d never noticed that the Center for Biological Diversity last year awarded Inhofe the “Rubber Dodo” award in recognition of his relentless work pushing humanity and countless other species toward what biologists tactfully call an “evolutionary bottleneck” (try “inhofe rubber dodo”).

Or perhaps, given that the Senator’s entire legislative career has consisted of putting his vote up for sale to the highest bidder (“inhofe political corruption”), Google’s executives figured they might be able to simply buy him off. Who knows?

Warren Senders

Year 4, Month 8, Day 1: The Skies That Shine In Your Eyes

The Youngstown Vindicator (PA) offers an analysis of responses to the Obama initiatives:

President Obama had barely announced his new climate strategy late last month when the criticism began. The plan, which will regulate carbon pollution from the nation’s power plants for the first time, is an important step in addressing global warming. Republican reaction in Congress was predictably scathing. And while most green groups praised the proposal, some environmentalists were frustrated, calling it “too little, too late” or “not nearly enough.”

Are they right?

The plan could have been bolder, but only if the administration took bigger political and legal risks. For example, the Environmental Protection Agency might have set a national air-quality standard for carbon dioxide, as it has done for conventional pollutants such as smog and soot, and required the states to issue implementation plans for how they would comply. The EPA has authority under the Clean Air Act to do this, and it would have amounted to an economywide program for cutting greenhouse gas emissions, potentially yielding much bigger cuts than the president’s plan.

But the EPA has consistently rejected this approach, on grounds that it could take more than a decade to implement, would enrage many states and would risk a backlash in Congress. Critics say that this approach is appropriate for ground-level pollution that states can more easily control but not for greenhouse gas concentrations, which are the result of global emissions that the states alone cannot change.

The agency could also make a difference — without setting a national standard for CO2 — by using a little-known provision of the Clean Air Act that addresses international air pollution. If the EPA finds, either on its own or at the request of the State Department, that U.S. emissions contribute to pollution that may “endanger” other nations, it must direct states to revise their pollution plans to prevent the endangerment.

Roger Martella, the EPA’s general counsel in the George W. Bush administration, has called this strategy “the most effective, flexible, economically reasonable and legally supportable means by which to regulate greenhouse gas emissions.” And an NYU think tank has petitioned the EPA to use it.

There’s plenty of blame to go around. July 15:

The accelerating climate crisis makes for perhaps the most precarious high wire any President has ever walked, with multiple aspects inherently outside the realm of comfortable compromise.

When Republican lawmakers eagerly repudiate the few members of their party who accept a worldwide scientific consensus, they make agreement impossible.

By co-opting our political process, purchasing the votes of legislators all over the country, fossil-fuel corporations ensure that any comfortable middle ground is submerged beneath a rising tide of corrupt cash.

When our media maintains a mythical false equivalency in which every climatologist is “balanced” by a paid shill from a conservative think tank, they irresponsibly ensure the failure of the most essential discussion in our species’ history.

But most obdurate of all are the laws of nature: the physics of the greenhouse effect, the atmospheric residence time of greenhouse gases like methane and CO2, and the likely consequences to our species of runaway climate change. These forces care nothing about electoral exigencies or the petty games of our national politics, and leaders of any party who fail to recognize this fact are doomed to ignominious failure.

Warren Senders

Year 4, Month 7, Day 26: Until You’ve Learned The Meaning Of The Blues

The Iowa Gazette’s Jennifer Hemmingsen thinks it’s time for people to talk about climate:

It’s a cliche, but it’s true: We Midwesterners sure like talking about the weather.

And why not? It’s not only the constant variation (run out of things to say about humidity? Wait a week and we’ll be talking about how dry it’s been), and vital importance to our rural economy, the subject also plays to our strengths.

Chatting about weather levels the field. Anyone can play. You can ante up with wisdom from your grandparents, share what you heard on the Weather Channel or just make your own observations (“Boy, it’s like an oven out there”). You can spout predictions without being confrontational and end disagreements with a smile and a shrug. We’ll get what we get, after all. You can’t control the weather.

And I guess that’s why what should be a breezy transition to talking climate change instead has been so fraught and frustrating: So many of those old rules don’t apply.

We do need clarity in our national discourse. July 8:

With all due respect to Jennifer Hemmingsen, it’s not just Midwesterners who love talking about the weather. From Iowa to India, Iceland to Indiana — it’s one of the most universal of subjects. And no wonder: while daily conditions may vary in interesting ways, the fact is that every aspect of our complex and interdependent culture is built on a single foundation: the relatively benign, relatively predictable climate which has made our agriculture-based way of life possible.

While the weather may vary from day to day (giving us something to discuss), our environment’s current transformations are something altogether different. The accelerating greenhouse effect is trapping heat in the atmosphere, increasing evaporation as the air temperature rises. More humidity means more precipitation — and more heat means more frequent storms, along with a general rise in all sorts of unpredictable extreme weather — all, needless to say, bad for agriculture.

But unlike the weather, everybody’s doing something about the climate (especially the industrialized societies which are responsible for the lion’s share of greenhouse emissions), while nobody’s talking about it. To mitigate what looks ever more like a future of crop failures, infrastructural collapses, and humanitarian crises, our elected leaders and our media establishment must address the causes and consequences of climate change.

Warren Senders


Year 4, Month 7, Day 23: Paging Celine Dion!

The Detroit News talks about the Obama proposals:

Climate change is potentially the biggest environmental challenge facing this country and the world, and President Barack Obama has now acted forcefully in releasing on June 25 a Climate Action Plan that will help America address the problem. Michigan and the Midwest generally have disproportionately higher greenhouse gas emissions, due in particular to our generally high rate of coal combustion in power plants. Reducing these emissions needs to become a higher priority if we are to avoid significant impacts to our health and the environment in the state and beyond.

We are already seeing climate-related changes in our environment. There has been increased general warming in regional temperatures as compared to those for the freeze-free season, which has ongoing implications for our agriculture sector. The early extreme warming in 2012 followed by frost led to significant losses of Michigan apples and other fruit crops, including a 90 percent decline in tart cherry production in 2012 compared to 2011, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Climate change also poses public health threats in the state and region, including increased incidence of Lyme disease and West Nile virus, increased ozone pollution (which can exacerbate asthma) and increased heat stress. A recent study estimated that under a high global emissions scenario, Chicago could experience heat waves like 1995 (which resulted in nearly 700 deaths) every other year by the middle of the century. Temperature projections for Detroit and other cities in the region are similar.

The barnacles analogy is new; it’s going to take some refining over the coming weeks. July 5:

Thanks to a consortium of politicians with deep financial interests in preserving the status quo, our nation has not yet developed meaningful legislative responses to the threat of climate change. President Obama’s June 25 proposals for executive action offer a variety of rational ways to address the burgeoning climate crisis, but it is stretching things to say that his plan “moves in the right direction.”

From car-friendly suburbs to the complex infrastructures of consumerism, contemporary American society is entirely built on the rapid conversion of coal and oil into other forms of energy. Just as barnacles on the hull of an ocean liner are powerless to affect its progress, we — environmentalists and denialists alike! — are carried toward the treacherous shoals ahead. Obama’s proposals may offer a modest hope of slowing this progress, but until our politicians’ corporate paymasters acknowledge the danger, we’re still on a collision course with disaster.

Warren Senders

Year 4, Month 7, Day 22: Never Mud-Wrestle With A Pig

The San Antonio Express-News shares news about the looming fight in the Big Sky State:

Obama’s plan to fight climate change announced last week would include executive action to place limits on carbon pollution from new and existing power plants, while expanding development of renewable energy.

Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz said the president’s energy policy will still embrace traditional energy sources such as coal and oil.

Republican leaders in Montana are unconvinced. They predicted dire consequences for the state, calling the plan a war on energy and a job killer.

“This is a war on Montana energy, Montana families and small businesses and Montana jobs, and I will remain steadfast in the fight to stop the President’s job-killing agenda,” U.S. Rep. Steve Daines said in a statement.

Another Republican, Attorney General Tim Fox, warned the plan will blow a hole in the state’s budget.

“In attempting to rule by decree and legislate by regulation, President Obama has failed to take a balanced approach to energy policy and has failed to recognize the diverse interests and economies of 50 states,” Fox said.

The guy’s an idiot and a jerk. And a Republican…but I repeat myself. July 4:

Perhaps President Obama’s climate-change initiatives do indeed fail, in the words of Montana Attorney General Tim Fox, “to recognize the diverse interests and economies of 50 states.” But there is an important corollary to this criticism: by making legislative action impossible, the climate-change denialists in Congress have failed to act in the common interest of the USA.

Before “In God We Trust” was added to our currency in 1954, we had “E Pluribus Unum” — “Out of Many, One.” This historical motto of the United States calls on us to recognize that while the work of government must maintain a balance between the needs of individuals and those of the nation, our patriotic loyalty must ultimately be to the greater good. Such sentiments are absent in today’s GOP; these cynical anti-science zealots owe allegiance exclusively to their corporate paymasters, and not to the long-term well-being of our nation. Not to mention Earth.

Warren Senders

Year 4, Month 7, Day 20: Why Not Rent Out The Empty Space?

The Grand Island Independent (FL) notes the preparations underway in the Keys, arguably the communities most at risk for rising ocean levels:

Seasonal tidal flooding that was once a rare inconvenience is now so predictable that some businesses at the end of Key West’s famed Duval Street stock sandbags just inside their front doors, ready anytime.

“It’s really easy to see during our spring high tides that the sea level is coming up _ for whatever reason _ and we have to accommodate for that,” said Johnnie Yongue, the on-site technician at the fire station for Monroe County’s project management department.

While New York City’s mayor was announcing a dramatic multibillion-dollar plan for flood walls and levees to hold back rising water levels there, sea walls like those that encase the Netherlands wouldn’t help much in the Keys, as a lack of coastal barriers isn’t the island chain’s only problem.

“Our base is old coral reef, so it’s full of holes,” says Alison Higgins, the sustainability coordinator for the city of Key West. “You’ve got both the erosion and the fact that (water) just comes up naturally through the holes.”

The Keys’ plans for adapting to rising sea levels sound a lot like the way they prepare for hurricanes: track the incoming disturbance, adjust infrastructure accordingly and communicate potential risks to residents _ all, hopefully, without scaring off the tourists who treasure the islands for their fishing, Technicolor sunsets, eccentric characters and a come-as-you-are social scene that has attracted the likes of Ernest Hemingway, U.S. presidents and flamboyant female impersonators.

And who doesn’t relish an opportunity to dump on Rick Scott? July 2:

The challenges facing municipal officials in the Florida Keys are unique to their particular circumstances; very few cities anywhere in the world are built on thousands of years’ worth of accumulated coral, and very few are so profoundly vulnerable to the rising sea levels which are now considered inevitable consequences of the melting Arctic. These singular island communities are on the front lines of climate change; eventually all of humanity is going to contend with the impacts of a runaway greenhouse effect over the coming decades, and it’s not going to be pretty.

Key West’s readiness to face these dangers should be an example to those who use their political power to delay action and obscure the truth of global heating. For instance, Rick Scott, whose profit-driven anti-science ideology may enrich him and his cronies in the short term, while ensuring disastrous consequences for the state he purports to lead.

Mr. Scott is one of many conservative politicians who have made meaningful responses to the climate crisis all but impossible. This toxic mix of greed and folly is bad news for Key West, for Florida, and for us all.

Warren Senders

Year 4, Month 7, Day 19: Nail Your Shoes To The Kitchen Floor

An Op-Ed in the Richmond Times-Dispatch demonstrates conservative myopia nicely:

President Obama’s climate plans, which he outlined Tuesday, address a real problem using the sub-optimal methods that have become the hallmark of his administration. As in health care, he would make gargantuan government even bigger, more complex, and more opaque. As in questions ranging from labor relations to Libya, he would act by executive fiat. And as always, he would shift ever more control from private to government hands.

The current plateau in global warming is not unique, and does not invalidate the scientific consensus that human activity is making the planet hotter in ways that will cause significant harm to millions of people. Government has a legitimate role to play in ameliorating that situation.

Unfortunately, Obama has chosen poor means to do so. Setting carbon quotas, appliance standards and mileage rules, for instance, requires armies of bureaucrats to oversee entire industries. A far more efficient and market-friendly answer to the negative externalities inflicted by greenhouse-gas emissions would involve taxing them so producers would have to internalize the costs. This would do much to level the energy playing field and make green energy price-competitive.

But letting market forces do their work is not this president’s way. He prefers the heavy and visible hand of government, preferably his. So he also has proposed further privileging renewable energy, even though some renewables inflict negative externalities that are far harder to quantify. (Wind turbines, for example, kill more than 573,000 birds a year.)

Some of the president’s proposals – such as a quadrennial energy review, similar to the quadrennial defense review conducted by the Pentagon – make good sense. Taken together, however, the package represents an unwieldy attempt to micromanage multiple sectors of the economy without the bother of involving the democratic process. It may become part of his administration’s legacy – but that is no cause for celebration by anyone.

Nothin’ to see here, folks. Move along. July 1:

If President Obama’s climate-change proposals really are big-government overreach, then perhaps it’s time for vocal advocates of market-based small-government solutions to step up to the plate. Where are the Republicans advocating ways to incentivize CO2 reductions? Where are conservative politicians who recognize the dangers of climate change, who seek to enlist the mechanisms of capitalism in the defense of our species, our civilization, and our planet?

Well, I won’t keep you in suspense. They’ve been expelled from their party. Thanks to the Tea Party coalition’s effective control of primary nominations, any member of the GOP who acknowledges the existence of human-caused climate change can expect the fate of former South Carolina Representative Bob Inglis, whose 2010 primary defeat was largely due to his willingness to elevate scientific facts above anti-science ideology.

To criticize the President’s plans without acknowledging that Republican intransigence makes legislative action on the crisis impossible is journalistic irresponsibility.

Warren Senders

Year 4, Month 7, Day 15: Until The Crowd Got Wise

The Des Moines Register notices that AgSec Tom Vilsack supports President Obama’s climate initiatives:

WASHINGTON — The White House stepped up its campaign for a sweeping new climate change plan Wednesday as Obama administration officials highlighted the effects of recent extreme weather on Iowa and other states.

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack told reporters the 2012 drought, the worst to hit the United States since the Dust Bowl in the 1930s, and the wet weather and flooding this year demonstrated the need to act. He also pointed to the recent uptick in forest fires, including one near Colorado Springs, Colo., that has burned hundreds of homes and forced residents to flee.

“This is a real issue and something that requires immediate attention,” Vilsack said. “It’s absolutely essential that we respond in a very aggressive way to the challenges of a changing climate.”


Republican lawmakers and other critics criticized the president for unilaterally advancing a plan that they said would hurt the economy, cost jobs and hit consumers with higher energy costs.

They never change. June 28:

When Republicans criticize President Obama’s climate change initiatives, they tell us that plans to reduce CO2 emissions will “hurt the economy” and “raise energy costs” — utterly predictable tropes which collapse under the slightest scrutiny.

The notion that sane environmental policy is economically damaging ignores the fact that our prosperity ultimately hinges on environmental health; no amount of money will magically restore contaminated aquifers or repair a collapsed ecosystem. If our economy is “hurt” by reducing dangerous greenhouse emissions, the problem lies with how we define our economy, not with the notion that we — as individuals and as a nation — should be responsible for cleaning up the messes we’ve made.

And when it comes to increased energy costs, the facts are simple: our tax dollars have been subsidizing the fossil fuel industry for decades, enriching their corporate coffers while keeping prices at the pump artificially low. Furthermore our taxes pay to clean up oil spills, address the public health impacts of oil and coal, and fund the costly wars we wage to protect our sources.

Global climate change is the costliest threat our species has ever faced. Addressing it proactively is both environmentally and economically responsible.

Warren Senders