Thursday, January 5, 2012

Climate Stuff My Friends Talk About! Edition 1.0

 

Climate Stuff My Friends Talk About!


The 2011 Climate B.S.* of the Year Awards

Posted: 05 Jan 2012 09:17 AM PST

[*B.S. means "Bad Science." What did you think it meant?]

http://thepoliticalcarnival.net/wp-content/uploads/2011/12/badscience1.gif

by Peter Gleick

The Earth's climate continued to change during 2011 – a year in which unprecedented combinations of extreme weather events killed people and damaged property around the world. The scientific evidence for the accelerating human influence on climate further strengthened, as it has for decades now. Yet on the policy front, once again, national leaders did little to stem the growing emissions of greenhouse gases or to help societies prepare for increasingly severe consequences of climate changes, including rising temperatures, changing rainfall patterns, rising sea-levels, loss of snowpack and glaciers, disappearance of Arctic sea ice, and much more.

Why the failure to act? In part because climate change is a truly difficult challenge. But in part because of a concerted, well-funded, and aggressive anti-science campaign by climate change deniers and contrarians. These are mostly groups focused on protecting narrow financial interests, ideologues fearful of any government regulation, or scientific contrarians who cling to outdated, long-refuted interpretations of science. While much of the opposition to addressing the issue of climate change is political, it often hides behind pseudo-scientific claims, with persistent efforts to intentionally mislead the public and policymakers with bad science about climate change. Much of this effort is based on intentional falsehoods, misrepresentations, inflated uncertainties, or pure and utter B.S. – the same tactics that delayed efforts to tackle tobacco's health risks long after the science was understood (as documented in Naomi Oreskes and Erik Conway's book, Merchants of Doubt).

Last year, we issued the first ever "Climate B.S.* of the Year Awards." I am now pleased to present the 2nd Annual (2011) Climate B.S.* of the Year Awards. In preparing the 2011 list of nominees, suggestions were received from around the world and a panel of reviewers — all climate scientists or climate communicators — waded through them. We present here the top nominees and the winner of the 2011 Climate B.S.* of the Year Awards.

The 2011 Winner:

Climate B.S.* from all of the Republican candidates for President of the United States

http://i20.photobucket.com/albums/b231/mumbly_joe/cementshoes1.gifIs it really necessary to be anti-science in general, and anti-climate science in particular, in order to be nominated to lead the Republican Party in the United States? Apparently, yes, at least in the minds of the Republican presidential candidates or their advisors. These candidates can be split into three groups: those ignorant or uninterested in science and its role in informing policy; those who intentionally distort science because it conflicts with deeply held political or religious ideology; and those who blow with the wind, giving their allegiance to whatever ideology seems most expedient at any given moment. There is some overlap, of course: some candidates, such as Rick Perry, have been in all three groups at various times. The third group includes candidates who have at one time or another held positions more or less consistent with scientific understanding but who in 2011 adopted anti-scientific positions during their primary campaigns. For example, Gingrich, Romney, and Huntsman, at some point in the past, all expressed at least a partial understanding about the reality and seriousness of human-caused climate change. Yet all three have now retreated from the scientific evidence to faulty but ideological safe positions demanded by the conservative wing of the Republican Party. In October, Romney caved in to conservative pressure and changed his stance on the issue. Just days ago, after pressure from anti-climate-science activists, Gingrich cut a chapter on climate science from a book of environmental essays he had agreed to produce. Ironically, that chapter was to have been written by an atmospheric scientist (Katharine Hayhoe, director of the Climate Science Center at Texas Tech University) who happens to be an evangelical and speaks regularly to conservative groups. She was also targeted by these activists for personal abuse – a tactic often pursued by climate deniers and contrarians.  (For a few of the craziest things the top GOP candidates have said on climate change, see Joe Romm's recent essay at Think Progress.)

In short, the choice among the Republican candidates on the issue of climate change is scientific ignorance, disdain for science, blatant misrepresentation of facts, or naked political expediency, any one of which would make the Republican candidates strong contenders for the 2011 Climate B.S. Award. Combined? They win hands down.

[For comparison, while the Obama Administration has made little progress (and some would argue insufficient effort) on climate change, the President's stated position on climate change is clear and in line with scientific evidence. And here is his unequivocal comment on scientific integrity:

"Today, more than ever before, science holds the key to our survival as a planet and our security and prosperity as a nation. It's time we once again put science at the top of our agenda and worked to restore America's place as the world's leader in science and technology…the truth is that promoting science isn't just about providing resources. It's about protecting free and open inquiry. It's about ensuring that facts and evidence are never twisted or obscured by politics or ideology. It's about listening to what our scientists have to say, even when it's inconvenient. Especially when it's inconvenient. Because the highest purpose of science is the search for knowledge, truth, and a greater understanding of the world around us…" http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kFsB1Jk1OQ0]

Second Place: Disinformation from Fox News and Murdoch's News Corporation

In this year's competition, we award Fox News second place – up from their fifth place finish last year. This year, the award is extended to the entire News Corporation empire of Rupert Murdoch because of its apparent efforts to synchronize anti-climate science reporting among the different Murdoch outlets in the UK, the U.S., and Australia. Among the bad climate science promoted by Fox News is that snowy weather disproves global warming (while ignoring or inaccurately reporting record high temperatures recorded around the world); biased and misleading reporting about the content of emails stolen from climate scientists; incorrect claims that El Niños are responsible for global warming; and inaccurate reporting about fundamental scientific principles.

Other Murdoch empire assaults on climate science?

The editorial page editors of the Wall Street Journal routinely dismiss or ignore all climate change science. Glenn Beck incorrectly tells viewers that there has been no warming in the past decade – the hottest decade in over a century. Ben Webster of the Times of London has produced a long series of inaccurate pieces on the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), regularly amplified by Fox News. Sean Hannity says "global warming doesn't exist." Fox Washington managing editor Bill Sammon officially directed his journalists to cast doubt on climate science. Brian Kilmeade, of Fox & Friends, joked, "Sorry global warming people, we have too many polar bears." And of course, Bill O'Reilly has stated incorrectly, "For every scientist who says there is [climate change], there's one that says there isn't." [Thanks to MediaMatters for tracking these statements.] As a 2011 story in Rolling Stone noted, "[n]o one does more to spread dangerous disinformation about global warming than Murdoch."

In an analysis of network news reporting on climate change, Feldman, Maibach, Roser-Renouf, and Leiserowitz concluded that Fox News is consistently the most dismissive about climate change and is highly biased toward choosing climate change doubters to interview. Nearly half of their guests dismiss climate change compared to 9 and 15% at CNN and MSNBC. In the scientific community, 97 to 98% of climate scientists accept human-caused climate change. This misinformation has an effect: a study from Stanford University shows that Fox viewers are far more likely to be fundamentally misinformed about climate change than others. In short, frequent exposure to Murdoch news reporting can be hazardous to your understanding and knowledge of the real world.

Third Place: Spencer, Braswell, and Christy for their lack of climate "sensitivity"

Third place goes to Roy Spencer and William (Danny) Braswell for a research paper on climate sensitivity, and John Christy, for an astounding piece of misleading testimony at a Congressional climate change hearing. Both the paper and the testimony received lavish attention from climate contrarians (including an especially absurd piece from the Heartland Institute, published as a Forbes blog post) and both were extensively and surgically debunked by the scientific community. The key scientific issue here is "climate sensitivity" – how much the climate will change in response to natural and human influences. Spencer and Christy have argued for many years that the sensitivity of the climate is low, and their science has been constantly, regularly, and convincingly disputed. In 2011, Spencer and Braswell published a paper in the journal Remote Sensing that turned out to contain serious scientific errors according to experts working in this field. What makes a scientific paper 'bad'?  A bad paper makes substantive errors in the analysis, misrepresents or ignores conflicting data or conflicting research, fails to address alternative explanations, or draws conclusions logically inconsistent with the results. Critics argued that this paper suffered from all of these problems (see the Dessler analysis, a video describing the flaws, the Trenberth and Fasullo assessment, and a formal response published in Remote Sensing).

In an astounding event, Wolfgang Wagner, the editor of the journal that published the Spencer and Braswell paper, resigned for having failed to spot the paper's scientific flaws during peer review. As he stated in his resignation letter:

"After having become aware of the situation, and studying the various pro and contra arguments, I agree with the critics of the paper. Therefore, I would like to take the responsibility for this editorial decision and, as a result, step down as Editor-in-Chief of the journal Remote Sensing… With this step I would also like to personally protest against how the authors and like-minded climate sceptics have much exaggerated the paper's conclusions in public statements."

Similar flawed scientific arguments about climate sensitivity made in the paper were repeated, along with other incorrect or misleading arguments about climate science, in testimony of John Christy at the March 8, 2011 hearing of the U.S. House Subcommittee on Energy and Power, called by the Republicans to try to prevent the EPA from regulating greenhouse gas pollution. In Christy's testimony, he repeats arguments that many in the climate science community consider to be myths and errors, including continued reliance on a scientific article that other climate scientists have argued is flawed. Here is a comprehensive summary of Christy's errors. Finally, two new studies (here and upcoming by Po-Chedley and Fu in the Journal of Atmospheric and Oceanic Technology) also identify analytical errors in papers and pronouncements by Spencer and Christy – adding to a long line of errors that have required corrections to their work for more than a decade.

Fourth Place: The Koch Brothers for funding the promotion of bad climate science

Fourth place goes to fossil-fuel billionaires Charles and David Koch of Koch Industries, Inc., who provide substantial funding to groups and politicians who deny the science of climate change. As noted in a New Yorker story, from 2005 to 2008, the Kochs vastly outspent even ExxonMobil in funding a network of anti-climate science groups. A partial list of groups funded by the Koch brothers includes a veritable who's who of groups that put out misleading science or tout bad science on climate change. Tim Phillips, president of the super-PAC funded by the Kochs, Americans for Prosperity, brags outright about their political influence on Republican candidates: "If you look at where the situation was three years ago and where it is today, there's been a dramatic turnaround. Most of these candidates have figured out that the science has become political. We've made great headway." This may be good for their business, but it is bad for America, bad for science, and bad for our climate.

Fifth Place: Anthony Watts for his BEST, and worst, climate hypocrisy

Anthony Watts runs a blog popular with the anti-climate science crowd. He ran into a brick wall this year when he voiced support for an ongoing climate study (the "Berkeley Earth Surface Temperature" or "BEST" study) that he thought would prove his anti-warming beliefs to be right because it was being done by someone he thought was in his camp ("… I'm prepared to accept whatever result they produce, even if it proves my premise wrong."). Unfortunately for him, that study proved his premise wrong and instead reconfirmed what climate scientists have been saying for decades: the Earth's surface is warming and at just the rate that numerous previous studies had shown. Watts then proceeded to tear down the paper, ostensibly because it hadn't been through peer-review, despite the fact that Watts, his guest posters, and commenters routinely and consistently produce or cite non-peer-reviewed science (often later shown to be wrong) to support their claims.

Runners Up: Other Noteworthy Climate B.S. of 2011

Some voters felt that the following entries submitted for the 2011 Climate B.S. competition deserve recognition though they win no awards from us.

Harrison Schmitt and the Heartland Institute for "Arcticgate"

As the Arctic ice disappears before our eyes, we must call attention to former Senator Harrison Schmitt's refusal to correct persistent errors and "cherry picking" of data in denying the disappearance of Arctic sea ice, and for the Heartland Institute's promulgation of – and refusal to correct – those errors when they were uncovered.

Rush Limbaugh for his consistent falsehoods about climate science

We would acknowledge Rush Limbaugh for his blatant and stunningly high level of climate B.S., but he has already been awarded the "Climate Change Misinformer of the Year" award at MediaMatters.org.

Steve McIntyre

And finally, the "dishonorable" mention of the year goes to Steve McIntyre for his despicable smear of climate scientist Dr. Michael Mann of Penn State University (and to Anthony Watts for amplifying that smear) by drawing a parallel between the Penn State pedophilia investigation and their separate scientific investigation of questions about climate research (in which Professor Mann has been completely and repeatedly exonerated). Joe Romm discusses this disgusting case here.

The 2011 Climate B.S. of the Year Award was prepared by Peter Gleick with an independent group of climate scientists and communicators serving as nominators, reviewer, and voters. Thanks to all who participated this year. See you next year.

– Dr. Peter H. Gleick is co-founder and President of the Pacific Institute in Oakland, California. He is an internationally recognized climate and water expert and works at the intersection of science and policy, including issues related to the integrity of science. Dr. Gleick received a B.S. from Yale University in Engineering and Applied Science, and an M.S. and Ph.D. from the Energy and Resources Group of the University of California, Berkeley. He is the recipient of numerous awards for his work, among them the prestigious MacArthur "genius" Fellowship in 2003. He was elected to the U.S. National Academy of Sciences in 2006.

20 Ideas for Job Creation: Keep Focused on Clean Energy

Posted: 05 Jan 2012 08:30 AM PST

With the word "jobs" on the lips of every policymaker in the country, here are some of the best ideas for creating well-paying employment opportunities for a wide range of people throughout the U.S.

Forget a top-10 list, we're jumping straight to a top-20 list for job creation in 2012 – and clean energy, environmental standards and efficiency dominate the list. This list was not compiled by Climate Progress. It was compiled by the editorial team at the Center for American Progress. Many of the ideas are extensions of CAP's "Meeting the Jobs Challenge" initiative launched in 2009. — Stephen Lacey

20 Ways to Create Jobs

1. Upgrade our nation's roads, bridges, and other basic infrastructure: 18,000 new jobs for every $1 billion invested.

2. Launch a rehab-to-rent program to turn tens of thousands of government-owned foreclosed homes into affordable rental housing, stabilize neighborhoods, and put construction workers back on the job: 20,000 new jobs a year.

3. Implement new EPA rules governing toxic emissions from power plants: 40,000 new direct jobs.

4. Protect health care reform, which will reduce health insurance premiums, expand coverage, and create jobs: 250,000 to 400,000 new jobs a year for the next decade.

5. Retrofit for energy efficiency just 40 percent of the nation's residential and commercial building stock and unleash massive demand for domestic labor: more than 625,000 new jobs over a decade.

6. Extend emergency unemployment benefits to long-term unemployed workers hurt by the economic downturn: more than 700,000 jobs.

7. Expand the payroll tax cut for employees and extend it to employers through 2012: more than 1 million jobs.

8. Extend national service programs to provide young people with full-time positions in AmeriCorps, VISTA, YouthBuild, and the youth service and conservation corps: 60,000 new jobs.

9. Pass Home Star, Building Star, and Rural Star legislation to make homes and buildings energy efficient while supporting the hard-hit construction industry: 250,000 new jobs a year.

10. Reduce the nation's dropout rate by half to add $9.6 billion in economic growth and $713 million in increased tax revenue: 54,000 new jobs.

11. Convert offshore wind power to electricity: 20 direct jobs for each megawatt produced in the United States.

12. Protect funding for community health centers over the next five years to provide health and related services at clinics and in the local business communities: 300,000 new jobs.

13. Protect the National Park Service from budget cuts, corporate interests, and antigovernment rhetoric to support jobs in outdoor recreation across the country: 247,000 jobs.

14. Increase freight rail capital investment: 7,800 direct and indirect jobs for every $1 billion invested.

15. Create a $10 billion trial-employment program with potential to help an estimated 1 million small businesses and startups hire long-term unemployed workers: 2 million new job opportunities.

16. Construct new power transmission lines to reshape our electric transmission grid and create new employment: Generating 20 percent of power with wind can create more than 500,000 jobs.

17. Expand the federal "jobs accelerator" program: Just $200 million in funding could result in 1,800 new businesses employing thousands of workers.

18. Reject a federal proposal to mandate employer use of the E-Verify eligibility verification system and protect 770,000 American jobs.

19. Revamp small-business financial assistance programs to better serve the needs of innovative, high-growth potential startup firms.

20. Create a "common application" for federal programs that foster the growth of small businesses.

Related Post:

Rush Limbaugh Serving as De Facto Editor of Gingrich Eco-Book

Posted: 05 Jan 2012 07:30 AM PST

by Jocelyn Fong, cross-posted from Media Matters

Republican presidential candidate Newt Gingrich has canceled the climate change chapter in his upcoming book of environmental essays after Rush Limbaugh and other commentators targeted its author, atmospheric scientist Katharine Hayhoe.

At a recent campaign event, Gingrich told a woman he had cut the climate change section after she expressed concerns about it, citing what she heard from "Rush." "That's not going to be in the book. We didn't know that they were doing that and we told them to kill it," Gingrich says in the video provided by National Journal. The woman replies, "That sounds like a good idea because I thought, why would you want to have somebody like that in there."

By "somebody like that," she was referring to a scientist who, like the vast majority of climatologists, will tell you that human activities are driving climate change. Gingrich's comments came as a surprise to Hayhoe, who said on Twitter that she spent "100+ unpaid hrs" on the project. According to emails reported by the Los Angeles Times, Hayhoe was asked in 2007 to write "a good opening chapter that lays out the facts on global climate change," including "a sense of what needs to happen." She said via email that her chapter did not include specific policy prescriptions. Gingrich's collaborator Terry Maple told the Times that the book will probably be released in 2013.

Hayhoe, an Evangelical Christian who often speaks about climate change to faith-based communities, has noted in the past that "there is a very intelligent, well-planned effort to deliberately try to muddy the waters on this issue." This month, she became the target of that very cohort of activists and commentators.

Following the December 8 L.A. Times article identifying Hayhoe as a contributor to Gingrich's book, Marc Morano, former spokesman for Senator Inhofe, spent the past month attacking her on his blog, Climate Depot. Morano also encouraged his readers to contact Hayhoe directly by repeatedly posting her email address.

Chris Horner's American Tradition Institute also filed a request with Hayhoe's employer, Texas Tech University, requesting any emails she sent or received about the book. ATI's tactics of targeting individual scientists previously prompted a formal condemnation from the American Association for the Advancement of Science, one of the country's leading scientific associations. The AAAS resolution criticizing the intimidation of scientists was introduced by Raymond Orbach, who served as a top Energy Department official under George W. Bush.

Morano got a boost from his former boss Rush Limbaugh on December 19, when Limbaugh told his radio audience that "Newt's new book has a chapter written by a babe named Hayhoe," who "believes in man-made global warming." (Limbaugh also uses the word "babe" to undermine women who work in government and media.)

Morano later celebrated the news that Gingrich had scrapped Hayhoe's chapter on climate change with the following headline:

Climate Depot:

The fiasco attests to the influence wielded over the Republican Party by right-wing media and others who reject the scientific consensus that manmade climate change demands our attention. Morano previously said Republican candidates "can believe in the science of global warming … if you keep your mouth shut about it and you advocate no quote-unquote solution to the problem."

Limbaugh, who we selected as the 2011 Climate Change Misinformer of the Year, has also established a climate denial litmus test, saying "bye, bye, nomination" after Mitt Romney acknowledged the human contribution to climate change. Romney subsequently tweaked his position.

Limbaugh also criticized Gingrich in November for saying, "I actually don't know whether global warming is occurring. The vast majority of the National Academy of Science says it is." Even though Gingrich quickly added, "Science is not actually voted on," Limbaugh responded "Newt, Newt, Newt, Newt. No! … There isn't any global warming." The news that Gingrich will avoid the topic of climate change in his book is particularly clarifying in light of where he stood a few years ago. Consider these comments from a November 2007 interview with the New York Times:

GINGRICH: I'm trying to say to the Right the environment's too important to neglect. The issues are too serious to walk away from and therefore you've got to drop just screaming "No" and you got to show us what the right solutions are from your standpoint.

For her part, Hayhoe says via email that despite "a marked upswing in the quantity and virulence of the hate mail and other forms of attack" since the summer, she continues to speak publicly about climate science because "there is important information people need to know, in order to make informed decisions." Otherwise, she said, she'd be a bit like a doctor who withheld bad news from a patient for fear of their reaction.

Jocelyn Fong is a researcher with Media Matters for America. This piece was originally published at Media Matters.

Big Oil's "Vote 4 Energy" PR Blitz Funded by American Families

Posted: 05 Jan 2012 06:36 AM PST

A caption from a Greenpeace ad released yesterday mocking Big Oil's new campaign

by Daniel J. Weiss and Jackie Weidman

The American Petroleum Institute – the lobbying arm of big oil and gas companies – yesterday announced its "Vote 4 Energy" campaign that will promote its policy agenda in key electoral states including Ohio, Pennsylvania and Virginia.  This campaign will more loudly promote the Big Oil agenda of more drilling, fewer safe guards, and retention of Big Oil tax breaks.

API's members, including the five largest public oil companies which could earn record profits in 2011, will likely provide major funds this program. These funds come from profits that are due to record high oil prices, which led American families to pay the highest average annual gasoline price ever.

These high prices pose real economic harm to Americans. According to the Associated Press:

"The typical American household will have spent $4,155 filling up this year, a record. That is 8.4 percent of what the median family takes in, the highest share since 1981."

Adding insult to injury, American taxpayers provide $4 billion in annual tax breaks to Big Oil companies, half of which go the big five.

The bottom line: Americans are subsidizing big oil's campaign that is designed to convince them to support policies that will ultimately increase oil company profits — at the public's expense.

High oil and gasoline prices and oil profits go hand-in-hand.  In 2011, "real" oil prices averaged $103 per barrel – the highest since 1864 back when Abraham Lincoln was president. The annual average real gasoline prices were the highest since 1949, the first year of Department of Energy data.  These record prices explain why the world's five largest public oil companies – BP, Chevron, ConocoPhillips, ExxonMobil, and Royal Dutch Shell – made over $100 billion in the first three quarters of 2011.  To make matters worse, instead of investing in clean energy, companies like Exxon spent up to half of their profits each quarter repurchasing their own stock to enrich board members and investors.  They could exceed $130 billion in profits for the entire 2011 when the fourth quarter profit numbers are released later this month.

Although API won't reveal its ad campaign cost, API President and CEO Jack Gerard said on Wednesday that the group is spending "a significant amount" to ensure that oil and gas drilling is the main issue of the 2012 campaign.  API intends to litter swing states with advertisements designed to promote its "drill, baby, drill" message, along with the approval of the Keystone XL pipeline for tar sands oil.  Gerard explicitly threatened the president on the latter issue, noting that if he does not approve the Keystone XL pipeline, he will face "huge political consequences."

Another major component of Big Oil's multi-million dollar pressure campaign will likely include attempts to convince Americans that health protection and environmental safeguards stymie U.S. oil production.  Gerard falsely accuses an unidentified "some" for supporting such rules.

"Some seem to be opposed to any oil and natural gas development."

"We see it in the onslaught of regulations from a host of federal agencies that threatens to impose unnecessary costs on businesses struggling to survive."

These nameless false attacks are really aimed at the Obama administration, but Gerard lacks the courage to say so.  This baseless assault ignores the evidence that shows crude oil production has been on the rise since Obama took office at the same time new pollution reductions were adopted.

For the first time in over a decade, the U.S. produces more than half of its oil – imports are below 50 percent.  Last year, API reported that the number of new drilling rigs increased by 28 percent.  The Wall Street Journal reported in late August a staggering jump in total U.S. drill rigs since Obama took office.  They noted a "huge surge in U.S. oil drilling, up nearly 60% in the past year and the highest total since at least 1987, when oil services company  Baker Hughes Inc. began keeping track."

API also released a study today falsely claiming that the temporary post-BP disaster deep water drilling moratorium in the Gulf of Mexico cost 90,000 jobs.  In fact, a Republican witness at an October 2011 House Natural Resources Committee hearing testified that the moratorium lead to only 11,500 fewer temporary jobs over two years.  While job losses are unfortunate, the actual reduction is nearly 90 percent less than API claims.

Actually, over the past five years, the big five oil companies have shed U.S. employees even while they made gigantic profits.  House Natural Resources Committee Democrats determined that:

"Despite generating $546 billion in profits between 2005 and 2010, ExxonMobil, Chevron, Shell, and BP combined to reduce their U.S. workforce by 11,200 employees over that time."

API also ignores the economic hardship for people make their living on or near the water if there were another catastrophic oil blow out.   After the BP disaster, overall tourism and consumer spending in the Gulf states' coastal economies fell by 40 percent in June 2010.  The temporary moratorium – since lifted – was designed to prevent another such economic calamity.

When asked about whether API is satisfied where the administration is heading, Gerard expressed disappointment in the number of current projects:

"The lease sales as part of the current administration's five-year plan put forward by the administration limits the activity to the Western and Central Gulf.  The areas where we have been producing for 65 years… the places we need to look are places we haven't been in the past."

Despite Big Oil's repeated complaints about the reduction in offshore oil drilling due to the Obama administration, the Associated Press determined that "by early 2012, the Gulf will have more rigs designed to drill in its 'deep water'… than before the spill."

At yesterday's press event, Gerard dodged a question on how the U.S. became a net exporter of oil and gas in what the API claims is an "overly regulated political environment."  In fact, the U.S. exported 848 million barrels of oil worth $73.4 billion, and only imported 750 million barrels through October 2011, according to the Wall Street Journal.

While hitting families hard in their pocket books, the oil industry does little to develop the cleaner fuels of the future.  Gerard purported to support oil industry innovation and creativity, noting:

"We believe what the American voters are saying is give us leadership.  Give us leaders who share our vision of a strong and prosperous nation, which can be built on creativity and innovation specifically in the energy sector."

Yet the Natural Resources Defense Council found that in the past five years the oil industry has spent a meager $4 billion on renewable fuel investments, compared to the $2.1 trillion in capital expenditures to find and produce more oil.  For every dollar the oil industry spent on oil exploration and production, less than half a penny was spent on the clean renewable fuels of the future.

The Vote 4 Energy ads that will run alongside CNN election coverage claim to be testimonials from American citizens that support the oil industry's agenda.  In fact, participants were fed lines and "any deviation from [API's] script was refused."

Gerard's most laughable claim is that the " 'Vote 4 Energy' is not about a political party — it's not even about the candidates."  In fact, Big Oil heavily favors Republicans over Democrats.  Opensecrets.org determined that during the last election cycle, Big Oil spending favored Republicans by nearly 4 to 1.  The 2011-12 big oil contributions are even more tilted to the Republicans, by nearly 10 to 1.  It's easy to imagine that the "Vote 4 Energy" campaign will reflect Big Oil's partisan leanings.

API's "Vote 4 Energy" pressure campaign simply promotes the expansion of our oil-dependent status quo policies despite their national security, economic and environmental costs. This agenda would fuel even greater profits for Big Oil companies, while removing even more cash from our wallet — the same wallets feeding the enormous profits that will pay for this campaign.  API's "new" 2012 campaign won't be new at all; rather, it will be more of the same – gouging American families at the pump while lining the coffers of some of the wealthiest corporations in the world.

– Daniel J. Weiss is a senior fellow with the Center for American Progress Action Fund; Jackie Weidman is a special assistant for energy policy at the Center for American Progress.

January 5 News: Lack of Sea Ice Could Be Causing More Seal Deaths, Say Researchers

Posted: 05 Jan 2012 05:21 AM PST

Other stories below: Debate flares on U.S. natural gas exports; Insurance payouts point to climate change

AP photo: Clarke Canfield

Lack of ice could be causing more seal deaths: study

A new scientific study suggests harp seals in the North Atlantic are dying at high rates because of warming waters and a steady decline of sea ice in their traditional breeding grounds.

The research by scientists at Duke University in North Carolina tracked the decrease of sea ice due to global warming and the mortality of harp seals from 1992 to 2010.

David Johnston, a marine scientist who co-wrote the report, said it's the first study to show that seasonal ice cover in the four seal breeding areas of North America has receded by as much as six per cent per decade.

"There has been a string of light ice years recently and we're starting to be concerned that if ice continues to decline, this might have longer-term effects on the harp seal population," Johnston said from his office in Beaufort, N.C.

"I'm concerned that these animals are in for a tough road with what we're seeing with climate change."

Should the U.S. export its natural gas? A debate flares

Last year, fuel was America's #1 export. But not everyone's so keen on watching the United States ship out all that energy to the rest of the world. Case in point: On Wednesday, Rep. Edward Markey (D-Mass.) fired off a letter to Energy Secretary Steven Chu asking him whether it was really such a swell idea for the United States to be exporting its newly abundant natural gas resources all over the globe. Some experts, after all, have raised concerns that such exports could have unexpected downsides.

On the surface, there's an alluring logic in exporting natural gas. The United States has been flooded with cheap gas thanks to its newly exploitable (and potentially large) shale resources. And gas prices are higher in many other countries. So why not ramp up exports, turn a profit, and reap the gains from trade? That explains why various producers are asking the Energy Department to green-light new export facilities, such as Cheniere Energy's just-okayed Sabine Pass Liquefaction terminal in Cameron Parish, La., which will ship out two billion cubic feet of gas per day by 2015. Seven more projects are awaiting approval.

Insurance payouts point to climate change

Natural disasters in 2011 exerted the costliest toll in history — a whopping $380 billion worth of losses from earthquakes, floods, tornadoes, hurricanes, wildfires, tsunamis and more. Only a third of those costs were covered by insurance. And the tally ignores completely any expenses associated with sickness or injuries triggered by the disasters.

The single priciest events last year were the magnitude 9 earthquake and tsunami in Japan, which wrought some $210 billion worth of devastation, followed in second place by the series of earthquakes in New Zealand that triggered $16 billion worth of destruction, notes Ernst Rauch of Munich Reinsurance corporate headquarters in Munich.

Known as Munich RE, his firm is among a handful of major international corporations that insure insurance companies against failing. So it's crucial that reinsurers know natural disasters intimately — where they've happened, how often, what's caused them, how much damage they wreak and what recovery from them will cost. Munich RE has compiled one of the largest databases of natural catastrophes going back to 1980 globally, and to 1970 for U.S. and select European events.

Bus drivers and subway workers are the real environmentalists

As negotiations between the MTA and the Transport Workers Union go into their final week before the old contract expires, there's no guarantee what will happen come Jan. 15.

But one thing is for certain: If you wanted to find some of the greenest workers on the continent, look no farther than the city's subway tunnels and bus lanes.

When we think about "green jobs," we usually imagine the (former) employees of Solyndra, or people putting up solar panels in the Mojave Desert or building giant windmills in the Dakotas. And those will help, some, to lessen America's drain on energy resources. When visitors think about New York and the environment, maybe it's the Greenmarket at Union Square that comes to mind — an awfully nice place to spend your money.

Scientists create living LED screens out of glowing bacteria

Here's some cool news for people who love anything that glows in the dark: Scientists at UC San Diego have figured out how to make millions of flourescent E. coli bacteria flash all at once, creating a sort of living LED screen.

Jeff Hasty, a professor of biology and bioengineering who headed the research team in the university's Division of Biological Sciences and BioCircuits Institute, said it took him and his team about five years and a series of papers to develop what he calls the "biopixels" that make up the living LED screen.

Back in 2008 Hasty and his team published a paper that showed how they built a biological clock inside a single bacterial cell that would tell the bacteria when to produce a flashing, glowing light.

In a second paper published in 2010 they showed they could synchronize thousands of bacteria in the same colony to blink on and off in unison.

The next step was to find out if they could get bacteria in different colonies to blink on and off at the same time.

IEA: World on Pace for 11°F Warming, "Even School Children Know This Will Have Catastrophic Implications for All of Us"

Posted: 04 Jan 2012 03:38 PM PST

The International Energy Agency was once a staid and conservative organization that people ignored because it was staid and conservative.

Now people ignore the IEA because it has become a blunt truth teller on oil and climate (see World's top energy economist warns peak oil threatens recovery, urges immediate action: "We have to leave oil before oil leaves us").

Last November, Climate Progress blogged on the IEA's 2011 World Energy Outlook [WEO] bombshell warning: We're Headed Toward 11°F Global Warming and "Delaying Action Is a False Economy."

Fatih Birol is the IEA's chief economist, and later gave a great talk at the Carnegie endowment on the WEO's implications.  You can watch it here (and view the transcript and download his PPT slides — I clipped the top image from the last slide).

Birol can't really be considered a rabble-rouser — he worked for OPEC for 6 years before joining the IEA in 1995, so he was there during  extended period of time when nobody was much paying attention to the IEA.

He had some blunt remarks on climate and energy (starting around minute 56):

Another point on climate change is about the two degrees. With the current policies in place, the world is perfectly on track to six degrees Celsius increasing the temperature, which is very bad news. And everybody, even school children, know this will have catastrophic implications for all of us.

Of course he means school children in other countries where they are taught the basic science (see "An Illustrated Guide to the Science of Global Warming Impacts: How We Know Inaction Is the Gravest Threat Humanity Faces").

Birol continued:

In the World Energy Outlook, we look at every year where we are, and we are perfectly on track with the six degrees – several years, we put a check next to that. And yet, world leaders have agreed in Copenhagen and we agreed in Cancun that we have to limit the temperature increase two degrees Celsius, which barely brings us to a sustainable trajectory.

So we wanted to look at in the World Energy Outlook, with the current energy infrastructure we have today, how much room, if any, is left to cope the two-degrees trajectory. Because when you build a power plant, it has a lifetime of 60 years, 50, 60 years. When you build a factory, 80 years. And throughout their lifetime, they are going to emit carbon dioxide emissions.

So we wanted to see, with the existing infrastructure, how much emissions they are going to emit, and how does it compare with the two-degrees trajectory.

Now, what we understand is, with the current power plants, current factories, current cars, current trucks, we have already 80 percent of the allowed emissions to us in a two-degrees trajectory will be eaten up with the existing power plants, existing cars and existing trucks without building anything, without building anything new. And with the current one, 80 percent.

It is like a – to make it simpler, we are coming to the lunchtime – the doctor gives you a diet, certain amount of calories you can have in one day. And this blue one is the – since we have two Turks here, you eat a very good Turkish baklava – (laughter) – and you have already 80 percent of your allotted calories are eaten up. Only 20 percent for the rest of the day or for the next 25 years.

In the context of, if you don't do anything until 2015, 95 percent of the allowed emissions will be locked in. And if you do not do anything until the year 2017, we are going to use all the emissions which are permitted to us, we are going to consume them by the existing power plants, transmission lines, by the cars and everything. So therefore, we will lock in our future, which will be impossible to change, and the door to two degrees will be closed.

But in order in 2017 there are major, huge, new, clean-energy investment framework, you need much earlier to give strong signals to the investors to go forward that way before 2017. And for that, you need regulation such as the good news from Durban or something else or some government policies.

Here's a related chart and some background on this from the WEO:

"On planned policies, rising fossil energy use will lead to irreversible and potentially catastrophic climate change"….

"Delaying action is a false economy: for every $1 of investment in cleaner technology that is avoided in the power sector before 2020, an additional $4.30 would need to be spent after 2020 to compensate for the increased emissions."

The time to act is now (see "Study Confirms Optimal Climate Strategy: Deploy, Deploy, Deploy, Research and Develop, Deploy, Deploy, Deploy" — and yes we need to do those  simultaneously, the repetition is meant to represent the relative spending levels).

Finally, it's worth noting what Birol, who was born in Ankara, Turkey, says about the relative responsibilities of the rich and poor countries (he gave this talk in the lead up to Durban):

In terms of negotiations, there is one argument that emerging countries are always underlining, say that when you look at responsibilities, you don't look at today only, you look at the historical responsibilities.

You, rich countries, yes, Europe, you have been using a lot of coal, oil, gas, and putting a lot of carbon in the atmosphere since 100 years, as you see in this picture. And now, we have very little
responsibility there, and now you are telling us that we should have the same responsibility. This is not fair, by emerging countries, led by China.

And to be honest with you, when you look at this picture, they have a point, definitely they have a point. But it is changing. When we look at the next few years, we see that the Chinese historical emissions are overtaking Europe very soon, around 2015, and coming very close to the United States. And I can tell you that our China numbers may well be on the conservative side here.

So therefore, from a cumulative-emissions-perspective point of view, the argument coming from China and others may not be as strong as today and the next years to come.

India, according to our analysis in the World Energy Outlook, became this year the third-largest emitter, following China and the United States, overtaking Japan and Russia.

On a per-capita basis, another argument, China is overtaking Europe in the next four years, even on a per-capita basis. This is the other argument coming from the developing countries. Don't look at volumes, but look at the per-capita basis, because we are 1 billion people, which is, again, a valid point.

But in our per-capita basis, China is overtaking European Union very soon and OECD.

So what I want to say here is that this is true that the U.S. and Europe has historical responsibilities, but the picture is changing very rapidly that even the historical responsibilities will be redefined again and discussed.

The U.S. has the greatest moral obligation to reduce emissions sharply ASAP.  Europe also has a strong obligation — but then Europe is acting and we aren't.  China now, too, has a responsibility to slow the growth of emissions and then reverse the trend entirely by no later than the early 2020s.

If we don't change direction soon, we may end up where we are headed.  And that would be catastrophic, as school children around the world know.

State Energy-Efficiency Investments Hit Record Levels in 2011

Posted: 04 Jan 2012 12:58 PM PST

Driven by the growing number of energy-efficiency standards in states around the U.S., ratepayer budgets for efficiency programs climbed to record levels in 2011, to $6.8 billion. That's a 25% increase over 2010 investments, putting the country on track to invest roughly $12 billion by 2020, according to a new report from the Institute for Electric Efficiency.

The figures for energy savings aren't out for 2011. But the IEE report explains that efficiency efforts saved 112 terawatt-hours of electricity in 2010, which is about the same amount of energy used to power more than 9.7 million homes in the U.S. By comparison, the entire German solar-PV fleet generated 18.6 terawatt-hours in 2011 — roughly six fold less than American energy savings programs.

Those savings were achieved at an average cost of 3.5 cents per kilowatt-hour, making it one of the most competitive resources on the market.

Investments in the U.S. are overwhelmingly being driven by utilities that have requirements for increasing efficiency in their territories through state targets. There are now 26 states with targets in place, and most of them are hitting their goals. A recent report from the American Council on Energy Efficiency Economy found that of the 19 states with targets in place for more than 2 years, 13 have hit 100% of those targets.

And those efficiency investments are helping save ratepayers money. According to a recent analysis of the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, funds raised through carbon auctions in the utility sector and deployed for efficiency and clean energy in the Northeastern U.S. will save ratepayers in the region $1.1 billion over the life of the program, and have already created 16,000 jobs.

Related Posts:

Mitt Romney Debates Mitt Romney on Climate Change

Posted: 04 Jan 2012 11:27 AM PST

Mitt Romney certainly isn't sitting on his lead.  After a virtual tie in Iowa last night — winning the state's Republican caucus by eight votes — he's moving to New Hampshire to sharpen his talking points and debating skills. And he's got a lot of different material to choose from over his career, particularly on climate change.

As Romney's bus rolls up Interstate 93 toward Manchester, New Hampshire, he'll have plenty of time to watch some old re-runs of Mitt versus Mitt debates on climate. The question is, which Mitt will show up? Given the current GOP Climate-Denial Complex, we can probably guess who.

Mitt Debates Mitt on Climate from Sierra Club National on Vimeo.

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