Month 8, Day 2: Calling His Buff, er, Bluff

Cosmo boy wrote back.

Dear Senator Brown,

Thank you for your response, dated July 7, 2010.

You say that “Reducing America’s greenhouse gas emissions…is clearly of concern to me.” I’m pleased to hear that, for it places you in a distinct minority among your Republican colleagues in the Senate. Later in your letter, you actually state that you are “open to new ideas and proposals to addressing pollution and threats to our environment and climate,” which suggests that you are aware that climate change both exists and is a problem. Might I request that you inform your Senatorial colleagues of this fact? Senator Inhofe’s irresponsible grandstanding has done enormous damage to our environment, to our standing and reputation in the world, and to the planetary systems that support us all.

The recent collapse of climate legislation in the Senate has relieved you of the onerous necessity of balancing political exigencies against the requirements of human survival on the planet in the coming centuries. But let’s look at some of the other points in your letter. You say, “with our economy just beginning to recover…I cannot support any bill or policy that significantly raises taxes or increases consumer energy costs.” I’m glad to hear that you think President Obama’s economic initiatives have turned the economy around — that’s another area in which your opinion probably differs from that of your colleagues. The sad fact of the matter, however, is that the age of cheap fossil energy is over. We have passed the Peak Oil point already; from now on it’s going to be harder to get and harder to refine. The question is not whether energy prices are going to go up — it’s whether we can change the way we live in order to use less energy. And, of course, it’s absurd to imagine that further tax breaks for big oil companies and the billionaires who invest in them will somehow result in lowered energy costs for middle-class Americans.

Finally, we come to your opinion on carbon dioxide emissions, where you say we must “ensure participation by other high-emitting nations, such as China and India…” Indeed, China is ahead of the US in CO2 emissions, and India is just behind. But these countries have about four times as many people, making their per capita CO2 emissions drastically lower than the USA’s. Our country has about five percent of the world’s population, and emits about twenty percent of its carbon dioxide. We waste a lot more energy than China or India. A policy statement on greenhouse emissions that fails to take this fact into account is simply ignorant demagoguery.

Time and time again, our country has shown a willingness to do what is right, not just for our own interests, but for the world. To suggest that we refrain from just and responsible actions until some other nation “goes first” is to abandon any pretense of world leadership.

If that’s your position, fine. I just wanted to be sure.

Yours Sincerely,

Warren Senders

Month 7, Day 21: A Pound For A Brown on The Bus

Continuing to write to Senators this week.

Dear Senator Brown,

The CBO scores are in, and it’s been confirmed that the Kerry-Lieberman climate bill will reduce the deficit by nineteen billion dollars.

Which means that “deficit hawk” arguments against the bill are irrelevant.

Meanwhile, July 2010 is on track to be the hottest July ever recorded in the world. Scientists at Perdue University just concluded a study which predicts a significant increase in so-called “killer heat waves” in the American Southwest. The lobster population in Southern New England has diminished so much because of climate change that a five-year moratorium on lobster fishing may be necessary. Lake Superior is twenty degrees warmer than usual for this time of year. Arctic glaciers are breaking apart, and mountain glaciers that provide water for billions of people around the world are vanishing rapidly.

It was in the early 1960s that scientists began predicting problems brought about by global warming. We have had fifty years’ worth of warnings, and we’ve chosen not to act. Senator, if we don’t act now, the problems we’re going to see a few years from now will make many of our current crises seem trivially insignificant. Since the deficit argument has been rendered moot by the CBO scoring, you have only a few possible reasons to vote against a climate bill:

1. You’re afraid of what Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity and James Inhofe will say;
2. You think scientists are just making it up because they like scaring people;
3. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the big oil companies will pay you well to help scuttle climate/energy legislation;
4. You really don’t understand the problem — after all, didn’t it snow heavily last winter?

Whereas there is one overwhelmingly good reason to vote for climate legislation: our future and the future of our children and our world depend on it.

Please, Senator Brown. Do the right thing. Vote for a strong climate bill.

Yours Sincerely,

Warren Senders

Month 7, Day 13: Hey, Cosmo-boy! Listen Up!

I wanted to humiliate Scott Brown a little.

Dear Senator Brown,

It probably wasn’t on FOX, so you may have missed the news that Lake Superior is twenty degrees warmer than usual this year.

You may have missed the news that methane is thawing on the floor of the Arctic ocean and entering the atmosphere.

With all your other work as a Senator from Massachusetts, it might have escaped your notice that warmer waters off the Southern New England coast have devastated the lobster population to such an extent that a five-year fishing moratorium may be necessary.

Perhaps you haven’t had a chance to learn about the acidification of the world’s oceans, which threatens the food chain for over a billion people.

Maybe you didn’t get a chance to read that the distinguished Australian biologist Frank Fenner (the man whose work led to the eradication of smallpox) thinks climate change is likely to bring about the extinction of the human race by the end of this century.

Senator Brown, we can’t fight global climate change with the machinery of war. It’s not a force we can subdue with artfully crafted publicity. Nor is it something that will magically subside in the face of tax cuts for corporations and the upper income brackets.

Human-caused global warming is not something that might happen in the future; it’s something that’s happening right now, and its effects are emerging all over the country and all over the world. We need our Senate and our Senators to rise to this occasion. This is not a time to protect the world’s worst carbon polluters; this is a time to protect the world.

Vote for a robust climate bill.

Thank you,

Warren Senders

Month 6, Day 30: Oh, How I Wish Martha Coakley Had Been A Better Candidate!

Scott Brown doesn’t want to help out a climate bill.

Scott Brown is my junior Senator.

Scott Brown is an idiot.


Dear Senator Brown –

As the home of many important research centers and universities, Massachusetts is one of the nation’s scientific focal points. Consequently, our elected officials owe it to themselves and to the people they represent to understand enough about science and scientific method — not a lot, mind you, but enough that they’re not an embarrassment to informed citizens of the Commonwealth.

As one of your constituents, I am outraged that a Senator from Massachusetts is embracing an anti-science position. There is no significant scientific dispute over global climate change; ninety-seven percent of the world’s climatologists concur unanimously that the world is warming, that humans are the cause, and that the results will be catastrophic. The other three percent, for the most part, think more studies are needed. A few of that group are on the payroll of oil and coal companies.

If you went into a restaurant, and ninety-seven out of a hundred food inspectors told you that the kitchen was filthy and unsanitary, would you still eat there? If you were looking at a house, and ninety-seven out of a hundred home inspectors told you that it was a dump, would you still make an offer? If you found a lump, and ninety-seven out of a hundred oncologists told you to start therapy immediately, would you wait?

It appears that only in the area of climate science is the testimony of experts so irrelevant. Whose testimony is meaningful to you, Senator Brown? That of oil company representatives, coal lobbyists, FOX News commentators and your Republican leadership?

I thought you were supposed to be representing the citizens of Massachusetts, who overwhelmingly want you to support robust climate legislation that includes a price on carbon emissions.

I guess I was wrong. Funny how that happens.

Yours Sincerely,

Warren Senders

Month 6, Day 12: Upper-Class Twit of the Year!

My junior Senator is an idiot. The Boston Herald had a piece about the efforts of us Liberals to convince him to vote No on the Murkowski abomination. I used that as a hook for this letter, which is largely based on the Think Progress piece.

Well, despite the efforts of thousands of Massachusetts citizens (including this writer) to persuade him to move away from Republican lockstep, Scott Brown voted for Lisa Murkowski’s resolution to strip power from the Environmental Protection Agency. His reasons for voting against the wishes of his constituents became clear when he appeared on Howie Carr’s radio program and called the EPA a “non-governmental agency.” Now, the EPA can be called many things, but “non-governmental” is not one of them. Brown further claimed the Agency has the ability to “regulate churches and restaurants…the very smallest emitters…,” ignoring the fact that the EPA has so-called “tailoring rules” that limit regulations to amounts over 75,000 tons of greenhouse gases a year. Churches generally emit quite a bit less — about 100 tons. Fortunately, the Murkowski resolution failed.  Unfortunately, Scott Brown is an embarrassment to the Senate and to the Commonwealth.

Warren Senders

Month 6, Day 10: Our Descendants Will Be Too Busy Ducking Catastrophic Storms To Spit On Our Graves…But They Would If They Could, You Betcha!

Lisa Murkowski’s appalling amendment is coming up for a vote on the Senate floor tomorrow. John Kerry is leading the charge against this breathtakingly stupid piece of legislation. Scott Brown?

Dear Senator Brown,

I write to urge you to vote against the “petition of disapproval” introduced by Senator Lisa Murkowski. Despite what the voices of Fox News say, the climate crisis is very real and very dangerous. At this point in our nation’s history, do we really need head-in-the-sand denial of something that’s been overwhelmingly affirmed by scientific research, over and over again?

The proposal to reverse the EPA’s Endangerment Finding with
respect to greenhouse gases would essentially bar further EPA
regulation on climate change. What we need is stronger climate legislation; what we need is to transform our economy so that we’re no longer burning fossil fuels and pumping carbon into the atmosphere. Senator Murkowski’s amendment is a cynical piece of short-term political self-gratification that serves the needs of no one save the energy industry.

Senator Brown, I am not a corporation. I am a human being. Despite the Supreme Court’s ruling in Citizens United, there is a difference. I am a human being and one of your constituents; although I know that many Republican politicians feel responsible only to those who agree with their positions, the fact remains that you are my Senator.

Let’s say you’re buying a house, and ninety-seven home inspectors tell you it’s a dangerous property, while three tell you that they’re not quite sure. Would you buy? Let’s say you’re choosing a restaurant, and ninety-seven food inspectors tell you it’s unsafe, while three tell you they’re not quite sure. Would you eat there? Let’s say you find a lump, and ninety-seven oncologists advise you to start chemotherapy immediately, while three think you should wait and do some more tests. Would you wait?

Ninety-seven percent of climate scientists agree that global warming is real, it’s dangerous, and it’s caused by human emissions of greenhouse gases. Three percent of climate scientists aren’t quite sure yet. Somehow it doesn’t strike me as a coincidence that the smaller group includes scientists who are on the payroll of the American Petroleum Institute.

The last thing we need is to eliminate one of our last remaining regulatory authorities in the face of a planetary crisis. Vote against the Murkowski amendment — for all our sakes.

Yours Sincerely,

Warren Senders

Month 5, Day 29: In The Warmer Climate, ALL Our Senators Will Be Nude

I was having dinner with friends tonight and one of them mentioned a campaign called something like “Make Brown Green” — aiming to persuade Massachusetts’ junior senator to jump Republican ship on climate and energy issues. I don’t have much hope of that happening (if he were capable of careful thought on climate issues, he wouldn’t be a Republican), but it made the hook for a fun letter. I brought back the Kwashiorkor analogy for a little cameo.

Dear Senator Brown – I write to urge you to make a firm commitment to supporting meaningful, strong climate/energy legislation.

On energy: the disaster in the Gulf is a clear indicator that our current energy policy is fatally flawed; we cannot sustain our present level of oil consumption without risking more and more Deepwater Horizons. How much of the ocean are we going to kill in order to continue powering our SUVs, manufacturing disposable plastic commodities and blowing leaves into our neighbors’ yards?

On climate: despite what Republican leaders wish to believe, global climate change is a reality, and a terrifyingly dangerous one. An anomalous blizzard in Washington, DC no more disproves global warming than a starving child’s swollen belly disproves world hunger. Your party leaders’ readiness to ignore factual scientific evidence when it conflicts with their ideological agenda would be humorous if it were not hindering our national effectiveness in contending with the gravest threat humanity has ever faced.

If ever there was a time to break ranks with Republican orthodoxy, now is it. There is no time to waste and none to lose.

Yours Sincerely,

Warren Senders

Month 4, Day 30: Cape Fear

Ken Salazar approved the long-awaited Cape Wind project today. While there are a number of issues that have to be resolved over siting and environmental impact, this is good news; I expect that the 130 wind turbines in the middle of Nantucket Sound will turn into a tourist attraction. Massachusetts’ junior senator, of course, was upset.

“With unemployment hovering near 10 percent in Massachusetts, the Cape Wind project will jeopardize industries that are vital to the Cape’s economy, such as tourism and fishing, and will also impact aviation safety and the rights of the Native American tribes in the area. I am also skeptical about the cost-savings and job number predictions we have heard from proponents of the project.

Not, of course, because he really cares about any of that stuff, but because he’s a Republican, and that’s what Republicans do. Meanwhile, A Siegel gave us a good report on a recent study that puts the lie to Republican objections to meaningful climate action.

So I jammed all that stuff into a long letter to Senator Brown. Perhaps one of his staffers will read it to him.

Dear Senator Brown —

I was interested to read of your opposition to the Cape Wind project. While you cite some reasonable concerns about the offshore wind turbine installation, one quote stood out for me. You said, “Instead of forging a coalition and building consensus, this administration has created a deep division that will lead to fewer Massachusetts jobs and more expensive court battles.”

Actually, this administration has been striving since Day one to build consensus and forge coalitions. Any suggestion to the contrary is disingenuous at best and more simply an outright lie. You and your Republican colleagues in the Senate have been remarkably unified in blocking Democratic initiatives — even those (like financial reform) that are obviously to the benefit of your constituents.

You say you support “the concept of wind power as an alternative source of energy.” Does your readiness to “support the concept” mean you’ll vote for the Kerry/Lieberman/Graham climate/energy bill? Or will you vote in Republican lockstep as usual?

Here are some facts that could change your mind.

A newly released study from the Center for Climate Strategies shows that that household wealth and jobs will grow faster in a green economy, and that many previous economic analyses by federal agencies and industry groups are wrong. The CCS study shows conclusively that strong climate mitigation efforts should be considered “investments” leading to significant benefits, rather than as “costs.”

The study further shows that the more aggressive the action, the greater the economic benefits. Now it’s important to recognize, Senator Brown, that when it’s time to analyze the costs and benefits of acting to mitigate climate change, the interests fighting against meaningful climate action have over and over shown themselves ready to lie, to spread misinformation, to use fear tactics, to foster falsehoods about how much it’ll cost. And those who are working for meaningful climate action almost without exception remain overly cautious, understating the benefits of their recommendations.

The record shows vividly that those fighting against environmental protections have exaggerated their cost estimates, and that supporters have understated the benefits. Two examples of this pattern are The Clean Air Act (CAA) and action to protect the Ozone Layer (reducing CFCs). Your colleague Senator Merkley put it nicely when he said:

“…every single time in this nation, when we have confronted great damage to our air or to our water, it is always the same mantra: ‘it will kill jobs’. And every single time when we look back 10 years later, 20 years later, we’re so thankful that we actually created jobs by cleaning up our waterways, we created jobs by cleaning up our air, and we’re going to create jobs by cleaning up carbon dioxide pollution as well.”

This CCS report makes it clear that acting to mitigate climate change will benefit the U.S. economy significantly, and that the more aggressive the action, the better the economy will do. Incidentally, the study doesn’t even include the most important value of action: reducing the impact of catastrophic climate chaos will save us a lot of money, jobs and lives.

And who are the people standing against climate action? Who are the people who are happy to spout falsehoods or scatter irrelevancies when it’s time to talk about meaningful responses to the greatest threat humanity has ever faced? Your Republican colleagues, Senator. As the CCS study shows, the Republican objections to climate legislation (even legislation as drastically weakened as the KLG bill) are unfounded and insincere.

Kind of like your objections to Cape Wind.

Yours Sincerely,

Warren Senders

Month 3, Day 14: It’s PI Day!

Heavy rain brought down our landline and FIOS internet last night. I’m piggybacking on my neighbor’s wireless at the moment. No time to write anything original; I’m sending my Senators and my Rep a version of yesterday’s letter, opposing the Tongass logging bills.

Dear Senators Kerry & Brown / Representative Markey,

This letter is to request you to oppose S. 881 and H.R. 2099, legislation addressing usage considerations with regard to land that is currently part of Alaska’s Tongass National Forest. These bills will permit Sealaska, an Alaskan Native corporation, to log 80,000 acres of the Tongass. While it is important to secure economic benefits for Native Americans, it’s crucial to recognize that the Tongass is one of the country’s top “carbon banks” (carbon-storing forests).

Pacific Northwest forests, including the Tongass, store one and a half times as much carbon as this country burns in a year. It is an act of profound environmental irresponsibility to allow such a carbon bank to be logged off. Sealaska may need to cut 80,000 acres of trees to maintain their balance sheet, but our country’s environmental balance is far more endangered than theirs.

Maintaining and expanding our national forests is a crucial element of our national environmental policy. Not only are these forests crucial carbon banks (and therefore one of our first lines of defense against CO2 emissions), they possess inherent value as places of beauty, peace and respect for the natural world. When our country learns to stop thinking of them as commodities worth so much per board foot, we will have, perhaps, grown up a little.

Please oppose this legislation.

Thank you,

Warren Senders

Month 3, Day 4: Faxin’ my Senators

It’s the last day of the great national call-in days on climate, as promoted heavily by 1Sky, Move-On and lots of other organizations. I called John Kerry’s office twice yesterday. I figured I’d write a fax to Kerry and Brown today — I did one for both my Senators last week…and now it’s time to hit ’em again.

Dear Senator Kerry and Senator Brown —

It is absolutely essential that our government address the severity of the climate crisis with speed and clarity. Despite the bleating of so-called “skeptics,” there is absolutely no doubt that global climate change is real. There is no doubt that it’s already affecting us. And there’s no doubt that human activity is implicated as its most important cause.

To be sure, there may be other causal factors as well. Scientists acknowledge this — but the possibility of other causes for climate change is not an excuse for doing nothing. The only thing that we can change is our own behavior.

The cost of strong and aggressive action in the face of global climate change is ultimately very small. Why? Because all the things we have to do to deal with climate change are things we have to do anyway. We need to rebuild our energy infrastructure; we need to stop burning oil and coal (and to find ways to transform local economies that rely on these industries); we need to mitigate greenhouse gas emissions; we need to be less wasteful in our energy use; we need to stop taking carbon out of the ground and putting it into the atmosphere.

We have to do these things because they are the right and responsible thing to do. Accomplishing them will cost less than the Iraq war.

On the other hand, the costs of inaction are very high. If global warming is real (note: it is), then failure to act will certainly mean huge economic and environmental devastation. A trillion dollars of prevention is worth a quadrillion dollars of cure. If global warming isn’t real (note: it is), we will have transformed our energy infrastructure, incentivized energy conservation, regained competitiveness with China, stopped giving money to the Saudis, and kept CO2 and other greenhouse emissions low. All good stuff. As a recent cartoon put it, “What if it’s all a hoax and we build a better world for nothing?”

The cost of inaction is catastrophe; the cost of action is less than our country’s most recent military misadventure.

Those who rise to the occasion and support robust climate legislation that does what it’s supposed to do (including setting a goal for atmospheric CO2 that is environmentally reasonable, not politically expedient — which is to say, 350 ppm), will be justly celebrated by our children and their children and their children’s children. Those who place transient political considerations above the long-term health of our planet and its population will be justly reviled.

We need strong climate/energy legislation, and we need it without temporizing. This is an “all hands on deck” situation; there is no time for timidity, cupidity or stupidity.

Yours sincerely,

Warren Senders