Year 4, Month 7, Day 5: Mi-O-My-O

The Financial Times, on Louisiana’s travails:

But even here, on the front lines of climate change, the people who are witnessing the changes are not convinced that they are the result of global warming. Instead, they say it is the result of the levees and the canals that the oil industry dug in the area in the 1950s.

“I’m not sold on the whole global warming thing, but I know every storm is a problem,” says Mr Weber, 41, recalling how when he was a child they used to have “hurricane parties” in their back yards. Now, evacuations are frequent.

Despite the rapid changes to the bayous, there is little discussion of climate change in Louisiana. Mary Landrieu, the Democratic senator, and David Vitter, the Republican, avoid making reference to climate change, apparently for fear of antagonising the oil companies that are big donors to both.

“Climate change doesn’t play at all here,” says Pearson Cross, head of the political science department at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette. “People in Louisiana are so wedded to the petroleum industry and to the money and jobs and prosperity that oil and gas has brought.”

Good job! June 19:

That fishermen in the Louisiana bayou are “not sold” on climate change is a tribute to the remarkable success story of an under-appreciated force in American media. Armed with nothing more than billions of dollars and an energy economy almost completely dependent on their products, the fossil fuel industries have single-handedly deflected the irrefutable and steadily accumulating scientific evidence for human-caused global heating into a contentious, veriphobic circus of accusations, counter-accusations, false equivalencies, strawmen, and denial.

Of course, the laws of physics and chemistry are not affected by the posturings of media figureheads and their collaborators in politics and industry. Those laws, interpreted by people who are able to leave electoral exigencies out of the equation, suggest that what’s happening in Louisiana today is going to get worse, not better — and will no longer be restricted to one state, one coastline, one industry.

Alas, that story’s harder to sell.

Warren Senders

Year 4, Month 7, Day 1: Tyrannosaurus Rex

Breaking News: Rex Tillerson is still an asshole. The Cleveland Plain-Dealer:

It was the second time in 13 months that Tillerson articulated Exxon’s new acceptance that climate change appears to be a reality.

And it was the second time that Tillerson suggested the problem may not solvable. Previously Exxon did not acknowledge the possibility of climate changes, let alone how it might be dealt with.

“There are some things we know and understand about it,” Tillerson said of the forces behind the changes in average global temperatures. “There are a lot of things about it that we don’t know and don’t understand. “We’re not sure how this is going to turn out.”

If industrialized society is in fact changing the world’s climate, then steps can be taken to “mitigate” the risk, Tillerson said.

Exxon strongly supports energy efficiency, he said, referring to the tough automotive mileage standards the Obama administration issued a year ago as an example of mitigation. Those rules require automakers to achieve an average of 541/2 miles per gallon in 2025.

Better auto fuel economy and the decisions of electric companies to switch power plants from coal to natural gas are ways to cut back on greenhouse gas emissions, while not crippling the economy, Tillerson said.

“But what am I going to do if it turns out that none of my mitigation steps make any difference?” he asked the crowd packed into the City Club. “What if it turns out that this is happening for a lot of reasons that I don’t understand? What’s Plan B?

“Plan B means you had better start thinking about what kind of adaptation measures are going to be necessary if the consequences that people are concerned about present themselves.”

Despite that sobering assessment, Tillerson said he does not support a “carbon tax,” referring to proposals advocated for years by environmentalists to have Uncle Sam tax the use of fossil fuels, basing the charges on the amount of carbon dioxide produced.

“We still have a lot of gains to be made through technology and other less intrusive policies on the economy,” Tillerson said. “And it is a global problem. We are not going to set the carbon tax policy for China.”

One upside to our imminent extinction-level evolutionary bottleneck is that our successors won’t have any fossil fuels left to extract. June 15:

Rex Tillerson may be breaking new ground for fossil fuel executives in his repeated admissions that climate change not only exists, but has the potential to cause profound damage to our civilization. But his pronouncements have the slightly desperate feeling of a man and an industry finally overtaken by inconvenient facts; the man is plainly grasping at straws.

Let’s review: for decades Exxon and the rest of the world’s oil industries denied the reality of global warming, co-opted our political system to their own ends, poured millions of dollars into pseudo-scientific attempts to rebut the overwhelming climatological consensus, and helped make the national discussion of a clear and present danger into a hotbed of conspiracy theories and anti-science nonsense. Just because Exxon’s CEO has reversed course on climate change’s existence doesn’t mean that the rest of his statements automatically gain credibility.

It’s like listening to a tobacco executive saying that even though his product is harmful, quitting is hard, so we’ll be fine if we just learn to live with emphysema, heart disease and lung cancer. When Mr. Tillerson speaks of people “adapting” to climate change, we must recognize that it’s a disingenuous euphemism for another, less reassuring word. Dying.

Warren Senders


Year 4, Month 5, Day 4: Life Is Just A Bowl Of Cherries

The San Angelo Standard-Times runs a column by one Bonnie Erbe, purporting to offer good news:

SAN ANGELO, Texas — Finally, there’s some good news on reducing climate change, which is great news as far as I’m concerned.

I’m a climate skeptic. It’s not that I’m skeptical about the existence of climate change, but I’m extremely skeptical about mankind’s collective willingness to do anything about it in a timely manner.

Late last year, the Global Carbon Project issued a report showing global emissions of carbon dioxide rose to record levels in 2011 and were on track to rise even higher in 2012. Carbon dioxide is produced most often by the burning of coal, the largest global source of energy used to generate electricity.

Carbon dioxide in the atmosphere causes glaciers and ice sheets to melt and warming oceans to expand. But a new study by the National Center for Atmospheric Research, the Scripps Institution for Oceanography, and Climate Central shows that by limiting four other pollutants that might be easier to control, scientists can make significant progress toward stemming rising sea levels.

For a host of reasons, international policy makers have been unable to agree on how to reduce emissions of carbon dioxide or CO2, the main greenhouse gas created by human activity. The new study shows that by limiting emissions of four substances — methane, soot, refrigerants and gases that lead to the formation of ground-level ozone — progress could still be made, possibly even more quickly.

Ignoring the elephant in the room, as always. April 22:

As the planetary greenhouse effect accelerates, making catastrophic climate change all but inevitable, any good news is welcome. Certainly, regulating and reducing our emissions of four other pollutants can help slow our headlong rush to disaster, although this cannot be a substitute for the real work of eliminating fossil fuels from our energy economy — ultimately the only approach to a meaningful and lasting solution to the climate crisis.

But it’s disingenuous to assert that there is a “host of reasons” for the world community’s failure to make this happen. Ultimately, there is only one reason: money. Big oil and coal corporations reap huge profits from processing and selling the fossilized solar energy of the Carboniferous Era, but they can’t make similar margins from sunlight when it’s fresh. The sums involved are staggeringly huge; buying a few politicians or a few governments is cost-effective for these corporate malefactors, if it can delay a global shift to renewables for even a few more years.

Warren Senders

Year 3, Month 9, Day 5: Water, Water Everywhere…

Boston Magazine asks, “Why Does The GOP Still Ignore Climate Change?”


With Hurricane Isaac hammering Louisiana with 80 mile-per-hour winds, you would think the Republican Party might pause to consider: “Hey, what’s with all this crazy weather?” New Orleans, after all, is just a short trip around the Gulf of Mexico from Tampa, where the GOP is holding their Republican National Convention. And it’s clear they’re aware that Isaac actually exists, since they shortened the convention from four days to three—not necessarily because Tampa was going to get hit, but just to avoid the “optics” of a big Republican party occurring while New Orleans floods. After all, George W. Bush didn’t avail himself too well during Katrina.

But instead of acknowledging the fact that climate change exists and is responsible for the increasing weather extremes—more hurricanes, more snowstorms, more tornadoes, more scorching-drought-filled summers—the Republicans continue to not just ignore climate change, but mock President Obama for being concerned about it. The only mention of climate change in the entire 2012 Republican Platform isn’t in the environmental/energy section, but in a critique of Obama’s national security strategy:

“The current Administration’s most recent National Security Strategy reflects the extreme elements in its liberal domestic coalition…the strategy subordinates our national security interests to environmental, energy, and international health issues, and elevates “climate change” to the level of a “severe threat” equivalent to foreign aggression.”

Boston Magazine didn’t tell me a word limit, and this one took me just below 250. Sent August 30:

Explaining why Republicans ignore the facts of climate change is impossible without understanding that there are several separate types of Republicans, each with their own reasons for rejecting the conclusions of the world’s scientists. Let’s look at them each in turn.

First: the Theocrats. Christian fundamentalists almost exclusively, politicians from this group reject all science for ideological reasons (although they’re happy enough to fly in airplanes, receive state-of-the-art medical treatment, and use contemporary technology). Climatology is conflated with evolution as a “secular religion” and denounced on these grounds. And since many of these folk eagerly anticipate the Book of Revelations’ promised Armageddon, the thought of a secular end-of-the-world triggered by CO2 emissions is an affront. Think Michelle Bachmann.

Second: the Corporatists. Owing allegiance entirely to the quarterly report, these politicians receive staggering sums of fossil fuel money, and do their masters’ bidding — delaying and blocking any action towards addressing climate change, which would necessarily reduce the profitability of Big Oil and Big Coal. Think Paul Ryan.

Third: the Bullies. These guys would walk ten miles in pouring rain to punch a hippie. They’re just in it because…well, I can recognize sociopaths even if I don’t understand them, and they congregate in today’s GOP. Think Mitt Romney.

Of course, some inhabit two or even three of these categories, making them even more dangerous. Think James Inhofe.

Of course, today’s Republican party doesn’t do all that much thinking — even as the world around them keeps getting hotter.

Warren Senders