Year 4, Month 8, Day 29: You’ve Just Got To Understand: What Is Its Motivation?

Former GOP Representative Bob Inglis keeps pounding his tocsin. This time it’s in New Jersey:

Gov. Chris Christie listened to the scientists at the National Hurricane Center when they said Hurricane Sandy was coming to New Jersey. It’s time to listen to the scientists warning of the longer-range risks of climate change.

New Jerseyans would have been alarmed had Christie said, “I don’t buy it. I think the National Hurricane Center is exaggerating the threat.” And perhaps he might have found an “expert” or two who might have said the odds of Sandy surging onto New Jersey were lower than the costs of preparing for her wrath.

But Christie did what good leaders do: He listened to the best advice available and then acted to protect New Jersey.

Likewise, folks alive today and folks yet to be born will be grateful for elected officials who listen and act on the science that indicates risk of climate change.

That doesn’t mean acting hysterically or exaggerating the threat. Leaders who would lead on climate change need to talk to us about reasonable risk avoidance, not apocalyptic visions.

Tire rims and anthrax. Tire rims and anthrax. Tire rims and anthrax. August 2:

Bob Inglis’ op-ed recommending that Republican politicians focus on addressing the climate crisis is well-conceived, articulate and factually correct. Indeed, the GOP’s legislators should indeed embrace strategies to mitigate our civilization’s emissions of greenhouse gases, to reinforce our infrastructure in preparation for the coming storms, and to educate the public about the causes and consequences of climate change.

They should. But they won’t. And the reason is simple: today’s Republican party is entirely driven by an ideologically-premised hatred of all things liberal, all things Democratic, and all things Obama. For example, a recent study showed that conservatives only bought compact fluorescent lights if they were marketed as money-saving products — but if the label used the word “environment”, there would be no sale.

When politicians reject responsibility to the greater good in favor of doctrinal rigidity, they no longer deserve the respect — or the votes — of their constituents.

Warren Senders

Year 4, Month 7, Day 21: Haters Gotta Hate

The New York Times notes that Republicans are, predictably, assholes:

When President Obama announced strong measures to combat climate change last week, environmentalists who felt he had long soft-pedaled the issue for political reasons rejoiced.

But many Republicans were just as gleeful — in the belief they had been handed a powerful issue to use against Democrats in the 2014 midterm elections in energy-rich states from Texas to Minnesota.

Elected officials and political analysts said the president’s crackdown on coal, the leading source of industrial greenhouse gases, could have consequences for Senate seats being vacated by retiring Democrats in West Virginia and South Dakota, for shaky Democratic incumbents like Mary L. Landrieu of energy-rich Louisiana, and for the Democratic challenger of Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the Republican leader.

In ordering limits for the first time on carbon dioxide emissions from up-and-running power plants, Mr. Obama jabbed that opponents belonged to “the Flat Earth Society.” But in coal country, it was Mr. Obama who was called out of touch, with predictions of job losses and spiking energy bills.

Republicans immediately went on the attack against Democratic House members in mining states, posting Web ads with a 2008 sound bite of Mr. Obama predicting regulating carbon emissions would cause electricity prices to “necessarily skyrocket.”

Asked about the impact of the president’s actions on his own re-election prospects next year, Representative Nick J. Rahall II, Democrat of West Virginia, said, “They don’t help.”

They never get any better; they only get worse. July 3.

Republican readiness to exploit President Obama’s climate initiatives in their quest for the electoral upper hand is politically savvy but morally reprehensible. It reflects a confluence of three significant and malign influences on American politics: the short-term profit motivation of fossil fuel barons and the legislators they control, the scorched-Earth politics of personal destruction pioneered by Newt Gingrich and brought to unprecedented heights by the current majority in the House of Representatives, and the theocratic Biblical literalists whose eagerness for a fiery Armageddon is only matched by the vehemence of their denials that our planet is warming.

Combine an inability to think in the long term, an ethically bankrupt propensity for fighting dirty, and a visceral desire for an apocalyptic conclusion to Earthly life, and you get the face of today’s GOP — a snarling visage more appropriate for a cartoon villain than the erstwhile party of Lincoln and Eisenhower.

Warren Senders

Year 4, Month 7, Day 8: Unfixable

They’re so cute when they dream. The San Jose Mercury-News features Bob Inglis and Eli Lehrer:

If conservatives don’t begin to engage on the important issue of climate change, we’ll cede the debate. The result will be a larger, more intrusive government that hurts business and job creation.

President Obama is readying a major push of administrative action on climate change. There will be new regulations on power plants, new subsidies for clean energy and a number of other big government programs in the name of solving climate change.

To conservatives like us, complicated new regulation is our worst nightmare. There is a conservative approach to dealing with climate change — one that can actually achieve conservative goals: the government-shrinking carbon tax.

Currently, United States tax law embodies everything that’s wrong with the federal government. It’s too big (about 17,000 pages), too burdensome (Americans spend nearly $50 billion a year complying with it), and too prone to manipulation. Working toward a simpler, fairer system with lower overall rates has long been a worthy conservative goal that deserves continued support from all liberty-loving Americans.

But amidst all the talk among conservatives about tax rates and tax compliance costs, activists should focus on what may be the most important flaw in the current system: it taxes the wrong things.

If conservatives want to inject new ideas into the political debate and win elections, they should look at what the government taxes as well as how the taxes get collected.

Over 90 percent of federal revenue comes from charges imposed on income, labor (payroll tax) and investments (capital gains tax). These taxes punish socially beneficial behavior; everyone agrees that society should have more income, jobs and investment. If there is any hope of moving the budget towards balance while cutting existing taxes, political leaders will have to find a better way to generate revenue.

Taxing the things we want less of and eliminating taxes on things we want more of is a common-sense solution. It’s hardly a new idea. The American founders funded the early federal government with sin taxes and a few import duties.

Dream on, suckers. June 21:

Taxing greenhouse emissions is an eminently sensible idea that would help America address the climate crisis responsibly — but the idea that conservatives would accept such a policy is predicated on the essentially preposterous notions that these lawmakers can be influenced by facts and are motivated by sincere desires to help their constituents, their nation, and their species.

Even before the McCarthy-era purges of China experts from the State Department, the Republican Party has been chary of experts, perhaps because people who know a great deal about their subject are less likely to accept ideologically-driven revisionism. But the GOP’s anti-intellectual faux populism has never been as extreme as it is today. When the House of Representatives features sideshow acts like Paul “cosmology and evolution are lies from the pit of hell” Broun and Michael “masturbating fetuses” Burgess, it’s hard to imagine Lehrer and Inglis’ science-based arguments making any headway.

Warren Senders

Year 4, Month 3, Day 16: Pucker Up, Sweetheart

The Norman Transcript (OK) discusses Oklahoma’s drought situation and the measures the State government is taking:

NORMAN — A measure to provide financial assistance to Oklahoma’s agricultural community during droughts passed the Senate unanimously Tuesday.

Senate Bill 996 would create the Emergency Drought Protection Special Fund. Sen. Ron Justice, author of the legislation, says the state’s current drought is a tragic example of why the fund is needed.

“Oklahoma is in one of the worst droughts in state history. Many farmers and ranchers have lost crops and been forced to sell livestock because there simply isn’t enough water to maintain them,” said Justice, R-Chickasha. “Some have even stopped farming or ranching because they couldn’t make ends meet and were near bankruptcy.

“Agriculture is the backbone of our state’s economy. We must do all we can to protect this industry and this fund is one way we can do that.”

The Oklahoma Conservation Commission would maintain the fund, which would consist of certain funds appropriated to it. Monies from the fund could only be spent when the governor declared a drought emergency to exist.

More hatin’ on Inhofe. March 6:

It is a peculiar irony that as Oklahoma’s farmers struggle to cope with one of the worst droughts they’ve ever experienced, the state’s own Senator James Inhofe vociferously denies the existence, severity, and sources of climate change. Why listen to scientists who’ve studied the climate for decades? Why acknowledge that climatologists have long predicted that an accelerating greenhouse effect would put our agricultural sector at risk, prolonging droughts and increasing their intensity? Senator Inhofe won’t be bamboozled by people who actually know what they’re talking about — at least as long as his vehement rejection of scientific expertise continues to be funded by the fossil fuel corporations whose profitability will decline if America finally ends its addiction to their product.

Oklahoma’s parched and cracking soil can’t be persuaded by hefty contributions from big oil. When it comes to the climate crisis, arch-denialist Inhofe turns out to be dumber than dirt.

Warren Senders

Year 4, Month 3, Day 2: I Smoke Fettucini Alfredo, Myself

In breaking news, Chris Christie is an utter idiot:

Did global warming and rising sea levels trigger Hurricane Sandy?

And does it matter?

Gov. Christie says it doesn’t. Whether environmental changes caused the storm is an “esoteric question,” he said at a news conference at the Shore earlier this month. Victims of the storm don’t “give a damn” either – as confirmed by a group of Sandy survivors who applauded Christie’s remark.

But scientists say they all need to start caring. Because regardless of what caused Sandy, even those skeptical about climate change say a Sandy-like storm will happen again. And so, steps must be taken now to prevent loss of life and property later.

The guy gives douchenozzles a bad name. Sent February 21:

We’ve seen this behavior hundreds of times, perhaps in our own families or neighborhoods. A friend has a heart attack, or a relative develops a malignancy — while rejecting any connection to unhealthy habits. Since there’s no way to link a particular cardiac episode to a daily diet of jelly donuts and cheeseburgers, or a particular tumor to a 3-pack-a-day smoking habit, this makes it easier to deny even an obvious causal relationship.

Chris Christie’s doing the same thing in refusing to consider climate change’s impact on New Jersey’s future. The simple fact is that America has developed some very unhealthy habits over the past century; while no single storm can be definitively linked to our fossil-fuel addiction, we’ve tilted the probabilities in favor of more disastrous weather in the years to come. Governor Christie needs to spend more time in New Jersey, and less in a state of denial.

Warren Senders

Year 4, Month 2, Day 25: A Donkey And A Ditch

The Times-Record-News of Wichita Falls, TX is reporting on drought conditions in Oklahoma – and the fact that the state’s recent minor snowfall isn’t going to help a whole heck of a lot:

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — Recent snowfall of 5 to 6 inches in parts of western Oklahoma and lighter amounts in the remainder of the state did little to alleviate ongoing drought conditions, according to a state climatologist.

Still, any moisture is giving hope to wheat farmers as the crop emerges in advance of a harvest that typically begins in June.

“We do have some improvement, both from the rain and the snow,” said David Gammill, who has about 1,300 acres of wheat planted near Grandfield in southwestern Oklahoma, one of the areas hardest hit by drought. “There was from a half inch to .9 rain in the area. It has perked the wheat up considerably in the area.”

Cattlemen, however, “are still in dire need of water” for dry ponds, Gammill said.

The latest U.S. Drought Monitor report shows 87 percent of Oklahoma in extreme or exceptional drought, the two most severe categories, with exceptional drought continuing in the western third of the state and across the northern tier of counties, an area making up nearly 40 percent of Oklahoma. Counties along the far eastern border were in severe drought, the drought monitor reported.

James Inhofe! Feb. 17:

If the parched Oklahoma earth could only watch television, it would have a chance to hear Senator Inhofe’s reassurances that climate change is a hoax perpetrated by world-government environmentalists out to confiscate all our SUVs. If herds of cattle seeking water could only read the news, they’d feel reassured that the ongoing drought that has dessicated huge swaths of American farmland is all a fabrication of the liberal media. If wheatfields slowly baking in the heat only knew “the truth” about global warming…

Of course, wheat, corn, and cows already know that Earth is getting hotter. And as the temperature rises, we’ll experience droughts, heat waves, and extreme weather of all sorts — all of which are going to impact the agricultural sector in ways we’ve barely begun to imagine. The question is, can James Inhofe and other conservative climate-change denialists figure out what the Oklahoma ground is telling them — or are they, quite literally, dumber than dirt?

Warren Senders

Year 3, Month 11, Day 18: Figures Don’t Lie, And Liars Can’t Figure

USA Today says that “Climate change worries have had a high profile in New York, post-Hurricane Sandy.” Gee, ya think?

Climate change is suddenly a hot topic again. The issue is resurfacing in talks about a once radical idea: a possible carbon tax.

On Tuesday, a conservative think tank held discussions about it while a more liberal think tank released a paper on it. And the Congressional Budget Office issued a 19-page report on the different ways to make a carbon tax less burdensome on lower income people.

A carbon tax works by making people pay more for using fossil fuels like coal, oil, and gas that produce heat-trapping carbon dioxide.

A letter with actual numbers in it! Sent November 14:

Hurricane Sandy definitely brought climate change back into the national spotlight by making the consequences of a runaway greenhouse effect exponentially harder to ignore. But another recent storm should also help bring global warming back to the policy table. On November 6, Hurricane Arithmetic made landfall on the coast of Republican self-delusion, as nerds and statisticians predicted election results far more accurately than any conservative pundits had ever imagined. Not only was the President re-elected, but math was vindicated.

As Mr. Obama heads into his second term, he and his administration must call America’s attention to two numbers: 350 and 400. The first describes the level (in parts per million) of atmospheric CO2 consistent with the survival of our civilization. The second is the level of CO2 in our atmosphere today. While political posturing over the “fiscal cliff” may make for good headlines, the imminent “climate cliff” is far, far more permanent.

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 10, Day 15: All Right — From Now On, No More Doctor Nice Guy

The Lincoln Journal-Star tells us about some Nebraska climatologists who are speaking out with one well-projected voice:

A warning sign on the first floor directs people to the basement of Bessey Hall in the event of a tornado.

An open door offers a view of an instructor pointing to a video display of the world’s prime monsoon regions.

Upstairs, on the third floor of his City Campus office, Clinton Rowe is dealing with a less familiar task.

He’s explaining why he and four colleagues decided it was time to go proactive, why they needed to issue a joint public statement on the evidence of increasing climate extremes and the potential for more tornadoes, droughts and floods.

The attention they’re getting for raising the alarm about global warming may have less to do with the side they’re on than with their methods.

In his 26 years at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, Rowe can’t remember a time when his department has chosen a similar course toward group activism.

“Have we ever done anything like this? Not that I can think of.”

It’s been two weeks since he and four other NU faculty members from climate and climate-related ranks offered their shared view.

“The time for debate is over,” they said. “The time for action is here.”

In the next few decades, they warned, average temperatures in Nebraska will rise by 4 to 10 degrees. Because of diminished snowpack in the Rocky Mountains, flows in the Platte River will drop and Lake McConaughy could become “a ditch in midsummer.”

Enviro-nazis! Sent October 8:

The traditional language of science is restrained and cautious, which is a hindrance for climatologists when it comes to spreading the word about global warming and the dangers it poses to America and the world. When climate experts shout, it’s with careful statements using phrases like “statistically significant relationship” and “robust correlation,” which, while accurate, lack the emotional force necessary to galvanize ordinary citizens into action.

Meanwhile, those who oppose responsible climate and energy policies feel free to misrepresent the science and engage in character assassination, as witness the blizzard of obloquy hurled at Dr. Michael Mann and others who have stood up for the future of our species and our civilization. In the aftermath of their forceful statement on the climate crisis, let’s hope Dr. Clinton Rowe and his colleagues at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln receive respect and gratitude from their fellow citizens, rather than the ignorance and mockery we’ve come to expect from the anti-science politicians of the GOP and their enablers in the print and broadcast media.

Warren Senders

Year 3, Month 10, Day 14: I Thought Love Was Only True In Fairy Tales

The Helena Independent-Record (MT) notes incumbent Senator Jon Tester’s support for a tepid cap-and-trade approach, and contrasts it with that of his challenger, a typical Republican denialist twit named Denny Rehberg:

Last week we received a giant colorful postcard from Montana’s Republican Party — no mention of what Congressman Denny Rehberg has done — (What has he done?), but of Sen. Jon Tester supporting cap and trade. Rehberg’s not supporting sensible climate solutions terrifies me.

What is cap and trade? Sightline Institute says: “cap” is a legal limit on the quantity of greenhouse gases that a region can emit each year and “trade” means that companies may swap among themselves the … permits to emit greenhouse gases … Cap and trade commits us to responsible limits on global warming emissions and gradually steps down those limits … Setting commonsense rules, cap and trade sparks the competitiveness and ingenuity of the marketplace to reduce emissions as smoothly, efficiently and cost-effectively as possible.

Peter Pan governance — just clap your hands! Sent October 7:

While a “cap and trade” system for reducing carbon dioxide emissions is a relatively weak approach to the threat of global climate change, Senator Tester’s support for this policy has the advantage of being based on scientific reality rather than the ideologically-driven wishful thinking so prevalent among modern-day Republican politicians and pundits. Their approach to the problems of contemporary society is to assert that when a fact clashes with one’s wishes or preconceptions, the problem lies with the fact, not the preconceptions — an inexcusably irresponsible attitude. While a Southern GOP congressman who believes that modern physics is of Satanic origin is pretty hilarious, science-denial isn’t very funny when it comes to climate change.

The metastasizing greenhouse effect threatens American agriculture, infrastructure, and public health systems, as well as the health of our planet. Rejecting scientific evidence because it’s ideologically inconvenient (or because it threatens the profits of your biggest campaign donors) should immediately disqualify any candidate for public office.

Warren Senders