Year 4, Month 8, Day 14: Who Are YOU? The Answer Is In The Video.

US News and World Report features a twerp named Benjamin Zycher, a “visiting scholar” at the American Enterprise Institute (q.v.):

This issue is about wealth redistribution from red states to blue, and not about carbon dioxide, which, in the Orwellian language of the left, is “carbon pollution.” It is not toxic to humans at many times current ambient concentrations. It protects plants from various environmental stresses. It is like no other effluent; for those, less is better. That is true as well for the coercion and government planning authority inherent in the Obama proposals.

Sheesh. Don’t bother reading the whole thing; it’s all predictable denialist bullshit. July 22:

Benjamin Zycher significantly misstates multiple facts about global climate change.

First, let’s agree: even if we stopped burning fossil fuels today, CO2’s lengthy atmospheric “residence time” has “baked in” significant planetary warming for decades to come. But using this fact to justify inaction is as absurd as arguing that heart patient should continue smoking because they won’t get better immediately.

To say that global temperatures haven’t risen in the past decade is either mendacious or ignorant. An NOAA spokesperson recently noted that 2010 “…tied with 2005 as the warmest year of the global surface temperature record, beginning in 1880,” and was “…the 34th consecutive year with global temperatures above the 20th-century average.”

Please note: the American Enterprise Institute, the conservative think tank with which Mr. Zycher is affiliated, has received millions of dollars from fossil fuel corporations, who fear their unimaginable profit margins might shrink if our energy economy shifts to renewable sources.

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 31: It’ll Aggravate Your Soul

The Hanover Sun (PA) reprints the AP story on industry pushback against President Obama’s CC proposals. The same querulous whinging from Gary Long is featured:

BOW, N.H.—President Barack Obama’s push to fight global warming has triggered condemnation from the coal industry across the industrial Midwest, where state and local economies depend on the health of an energy sector facing strict new pollution limits.

But such concerns stretch even to New England, an environmentally focused region that long has felt the effects of drifting emissions from Rust Belt states.

Just ask Gary Long, the president of the Public Service Co. of New Hampshire, the state’s largest electric company.

Long says the president’s plan to impose limits on carbon dioxide emissions suddenly raises questions about the fate of the state’s two coal-fired power plants, electricity rates for millions of customers and the ability to find new energy sources. And he also notes that New England has already invested billions of dollars in cleaner energy, agreed to cap its own carbon pollution and crafted plans to import Canadian hydroelectric power.

“New Hampshire’s always been ahead of the curve,” he says. “Does no good deed go unpunished?”

I’m in New Hampshire now, as it happens. July 13:

Gary Long, president of New Hampshire’s Public Service Company, fires off a rhetorical question about President Obama’s climate proposals, asking, “does no good deed go unpunished?”

No, Gary. No good deed goes unpunished, even those of environmentally proactive energy companies. Just ask the citizens of Kiribati, an island nation which is going to vanish beneath rising ocean levels, even though they’ve contributed nothing to the greenhouse effect spelling their doom. They’re getting punished for the irresponsibility of industrialized nations that find it too inconvenient or too costly to do the right thing — and throughout the world, nations with miniscule CO2 output find their stability, their borders, and in some cases their very existence threatened by climate change. In this context, Mr. Long’s inquiry sounds more like whining and less like a reasonable question. The fact is that without concerted effort from all the world’s great industrialized powers, planetary climate change is going to punish us all, good deeds or no.

Warren Senders

Year 4, Month 7, Day 28: The Only Thing We Have To Fear

Here are the final grafs of an op-ed in the Roanoke Times (VA), titled “The Courage To Act on Climate Change.” Good stuff, if essentially rather anodyne:

As the president pointed out in his speech, there are also impacts of climate change that we must adapt to such as rebuilding homes and infrastructure in New Jersey and New York after Superstorm Sandy. We need to make plans to protect our own coast and infrastructure at Hampton Roads, which remains extremely vulnerable.

We have an obligation to aid our brothers and sisters in adapting to and developing resilience from the full spectrum of climate impacts, be it heat waves, looming wildfire risks or increased public health concerns such as mosquito- or tick-borne diseases.

This is not something one person can do alone — not even the president of the United States. This is something that takes each and every one of us. It starts with supporting the president’s climate plan and includes reducing our own carbon footprint. It includes encouraging our legislators to support these important regulations from the EPA and confirming McCarthy as EPA head.

We can — and we must — create a future in which our children and grandchildren will look back at this time in history and say, “They made the right choice for my future.”

While this piece is written with allusions to “faith” I chose instead to focus on the glib rhetorical trope that provides the header. July 10:

If a hurricane is coming, battening down the hatches is pure common sense. If there’s a tornado watch, it’s just plain reasonable to get into the basement with our families. In times of drought, we’ll let our lawns yellow and take shorter showers in order to conserve water. None of these acts are anything more than sensible preparations for extraordinary circumstances. Why, then, are we so often exhorted to find “the courage to act” on climate change?

Preparing for a climatically-transformed future should be a no-brainer. Reinforcing and rebuilding our infrastructure, planning ahead for the safety of communities likely to be in harm’s way, and introducing reasonable conservation measures for increasingly scarce resources don’t require us to find hidden reserves of strength and fortitude, only to pay attention to the facts and plan accordingly.

Courage is only necessary to face the corporate-funded denialists in media and politics who use their vast resources to obscure the scientific evidence of climate change and irresponsibly attack those who recognize the severity of the crisis.

Warren Senders

Year 4, Month 7, Day 27: Don’t Let Your Deal Go Down

The NYT discusses divestiture in the context of the POTUS’ speech:

It was a single word tucked into a presidential speech. It went by so fast that most Americans probably never heard it, much less took the time to wonder what it meant.

But to certain young ears, the word had the shock value of a rifle shot. The reference occurred late in President Obama’s climate speech at Georgetown University two weeks ago, in the middle of this peroration:

“Convince those in power to reduce our carbon pollution. Push your own communities to adopt smarter practices. Invest. Divest. Remind folks there’s no contradiction between a sound environment and strong economic growth.”

That injunction to “divest” was, pretty clearly, a signal to the thousands of college students who have been manning the barricades for nearly a year now, urging their colleges to rid their endowments of stock in fossil-fuel companies as a way of forcing climate change higher on the national political agenda.

“The president of the United States knows we exist, and he likes what we’re doing,” Marissa Solomon of the University of Michigan wrote soon after. Other students recounted leaping to their feet or nearly falling off their chairs when the president uttered the word.

Good stuff. I recycled an older letter, which takes exactly as much time as writing a new one. July 9:

Recent studies have demonstrated that college endowments won’t be adversely affected by divesting from fossil fuel companies, but this shouldn’t be the ultimate arbiter in any case. Economic rationales are ultimately secondary to the moral argument which recognizes that big oil and coal corporations rely on a profoundly destructive business model, atmospherizing huge quantities of fossilized carbon every year without regard for the consequences to our climate, our environment, or our posterity.

Higher education’s mission is expected to go beyond mere careerism to inculcate a responsibility to ensure a better future for all. While fossil fuels may be astonishingly profitable, colleges and universities investing in them are voting with their dollars for a future of devastating climate change instead.

Student campaigns for divestiture are environmentally, morally, and economically sensible. As in the long campaign against apartheid, it is the voices of youth which express the better angels of human nature.

Warren Senders

Published (and heavily truncated).

Year 4, Month 7, Day 25: Because A Fire Was In My Head

The Lexington Herald-Leader (KY) notes the work of local activists, who are planting lots of trees:

Advocates of reforesting surface-mined land in Appalachia hope the Obama Administration’s new push to cut carbon dioxide in the atmosphere could boost their efforts.

Trees suck up and store carbon dioxide, after all, and Appalachia has vast areas where trees could be planted.

“These mined lands are a great potential for sequestering carbon,” said Christopher D. Barton, a forest hydrologist at the University of Kentucky who is active in the reforestation effort.

Barton heads a program called Green Forests Work, which focuses on reforesting surface-mined land in Appalachia. People involved in the program will explore whether President Barack Obama’s emphasis on limiting carbon pollution could mean increased money to plant trees, Barton said.

“We’ve been working every angle that we can to get funding,” he said. “I’m hoping this will open some doors — some additional doors.”

In a June 25 news release about Obama’s plan, the White House said the nation’s forests play a critical role in addressing carbon pollution, removing almost 12 percent of the total U.S. greenhouse gas emissions annually.

It’s a part of what must be done — but only a part. July 7:

As the climate crisis intensifies, it’s increasingly clear that we — all of us — need to develop and implement ways to get the carbon we’ve already burned back in the ground rather than in the atmosphere, where it contributes to the greenhouse effect. And it’s pretty obvious that concerted tree-planting efforts are one of the simplest and most effective ways to go about this. But this vital work must be part of a unified approach that also includes drastic reductions in our greenhouse emissions, or the consequences will be too severe for any number of trees to ameliorate.

Those who call emissions cuts “economically damaging” miss the deeper point: there is only one “economy” that matters in the end, and it’s not the Dow Jones Index. Industrialized civilization’s century-long fossil-fuel binge brought us drastically over the limit on our Bank of Earth credit card, and the bill is due.

Warren Senders

Year 7, Month 7, Day 24: Pore Lil’ Thangs….

The Tennessean tells us that Industry isn’t happy about POTUS’ climate-change ideas. Poor things:

BOW, N.H. — President Barack Obama’s push to fight global warming has triggered condemnation from the U.S. coal industry across the industrial Midwest, where state and local economies depend on the health of an energy sector facing strict new pollution limits.

But such concerns stretch even to New England, an environmentally focused region that long has felt the effects of drifting emissions from Rust Belt states.

Just ask Gary Long, the president of the Public Service Co. of New Hampshire, the state’s largest electric company.

Long says the president’s plan to impose limits on carbon dioxide emissions raises questions about the fate of the state’s two coal-fired power plants, electricity rates for millions of customers and the ability to find new energy sources. He also notes that New England has already invested billions of dollars in cleaner energy, agreed to cap its own carbon pollution and crafted plans to import Canadian hydroelectric power.

“New Hampshire’s always been ahead of the curve,” he says. “Does no good deed go unpunished?”

Long raised those concerns in the days after Obama launched a major second-term drive to combat climate change, bypassing Congress by putting limits for the first time on carbon pollution from new and existing power plants. At the core of his plan are controls on power plants that emit carbon dioxide.

See, Gary, in the next century, everybody is going to get punished. July 6:

Gary Long, an energy executive from New England, notes that his company has been proactively engaged in CO2 emissions reduction, but asks rhetorically about the President’s climate change proposals, “does no good deed go unpunished?” What a great question. Let’s find some other places and people to ask it.

How about Bangladesh, where climatic disruptions have made millions of subsistence farmers homeless? Or island nations like Kiribati, soon to be completely submerged under rising ocean waves? Or flood-battered Pakistan? Or, for that matter, Arizona, where a massive wildfire has caused uncountable damage and taken the lives of nineteen brave firefighters?

That many of the nations suffering most from the transforming climate have contributed nothing to the runaway greenhouse effect which now imperils their citizens (and in some cases their very existence) makes Mr. Long’s words sound less like a reasonable inquiry and more like self-entitled whining. It also makes Mr. Obama’s goal of closing coal plants sounds less like “punishment” for a New Hampshire utility, and more like a piece of responsible statesmanship.

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 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