Thursday, January 5, 2012

‘Job-Killing’ EPA Regulations for Chesapeake Bay Will Create 35 Times as Many Jobs as Keystone XL Pipeline!

 

 

Posted: 04 Jan 2012 08:43 AM PST

by Michael Conathan

If rhetoric from the Republican Presidential candidates is to be believed, the Environmental Protection Agency is "a tool to crush the private enterprise system" (Mitt Romney), "a cemetery for jobs" (Rick Perry), and "should be re-named the job-killing organization of America" (Michele Bachmann). But it's a safe bet the tens of thousands of people who may soon find jobs implementing EPA regulations aimed at cleaning up the Chesapeake Bay would disagree with those assertions.

A new report released today by the Chesapeake Bay Foundation highlights the job creation numbers expected to come from achieving new pollution goals set by the EPA's "Total Maximum Daily Load" restrictions. Finalized in December 2010, these rules require a 25 percent reduction of pollution flowing into the Bay by 2025 and have already spurred state and federal investment in stormwater mitigation projects, upgrades at sewage treatment facilities, addition of power plant smokestack scrubbers, and improvements to management of agricultural runoff and livestock waste management.

The Bay's watershed covers more than 64,000 square miles including all of Maryland and the District of Colombia, large areas of Virginia and Pennsylvania, and portions of Delaware, New York, and West Virginia. Therefore infrastructure projects to reduce pollution will encompass a massive region and provide a major boost to the economy.

Of course, the clock is already ticking on a newly minted, 60 day, congressional mandate for the President to issue a decision on the controversial Keystone XL pipeline that would carry dirty Canadian tar sands oil from the great white north across America's heartland and endanger a critical aquifer. By setting up what one former pipeline inspector called a potential "disaster," the pipeline would ultimately deliver massive quantities of oil to the Gulf Coast only to see the vast majority of it exported.

Keystone proponents, including House Speaker John Boehner, have asserted that the project would immediately create "tens of thousands" of American jobs. These claims seem just a tad hyperbolic now that the oil company itself has conceded that the actual number of jobs that would be created is closer to 6,000 to 6,500, and would only last for two years.

Meanwhile, the jobs spawned by coastal restoration and pollution reduction projects in the Chesapeake are already here, and they are permanent. According to the Foundation's report, environmental clean-up and monitoring jobs have increased by 43 percent — 42,000 jobs — over the last two decades in Pennsylvania, Maryland, and Virginia alone. Montgomery County, MD has begun work on a stormwater pollution control project that will create 3,300 jobs in that county alone. And these numbers don't begin to account for the increase in employment opportunities and revenue for small businesses that depend on a healthy coastal ecosystem, from tourism to commercial and recreational fishing and aquaculture.

This is yet another example of how strong environmental standards can create new employment opportunities. This is the type of strategy we need – cleaning up pollution, increasing efficiency, developing renewable energy – that will make this country stronger.

When they talk about the EPA, Republicans use the term "job-killing" with great frequency. As Iñigo Montoya famously said to Vizzini in The Princess Bride, "You keep using that word. I don't think it means what you think it means."

Michael Conathan is Director of Ocean Policy at the Center for American Progress.

How the White House Does Messaging on Issues It Cares About, Unlike, Say, Climate Change

Posted: 04 Jan 2012 09:41 AM PST

The Obama White House had a major tactical victory last month in getting a two-month extension of the payroll tax cut and unemployment insurance. Yes, it came with the Keystone XL rider, but that mainly gives them an easy out on the pipeline decision — see "House GOP Cave on Tax Cut Extension Paves Way for Obama to Deny Keystone XL Permit."

The reason I'm bringing this old news up is that just before I went on vacation, Politico Playbook — a must read for political junkies — explained "HOW THE WHITE HOUSE POUNDED ITS MESSAGE."

I'm excerpting the Friday, December 23 piece below so you can see how the White House uses the bully pulpit when it actually cares a great deal about an issue, which it obviously — and nonsensically — doesn't about climate change:

"–Monday: WH Communications Director Dan Pfeiffer did an hour of satellite TV time into the following markets: Palm Beach, Indianapolis, Milwaukee, Portland and Seattle. … The regional communications team did a press call with their top regional reporters with Josh Earnest and Brian Deese … Administration Officials were on national and regional TV and radio throughout the day … Administration Officials held a call with Hispanic media … Administration Officials were on African American and Hispanic radio and TV …

"–Tuesday: Office of Digital Strategy launched What 40 Dollars Means to You, an online effort to get the American people to lend their voice to this debate. We launched #40dollars on twitter, the webpage www.whitehouse.gov/40dollars and sent an email from David Plouffe to the White House list … Deese and Earnest convened a conference call with regional political reporters. … Administration Officials were on national and regional TV and radio [and] African American and Hispanic radio and TV …

"–Wednesday: The White House featured responses that we received from Americans who've written to the White House to say what $40 means for them. These responses will be featured on whitehouse.gov , White House Twitter and Facebook accounts … [Council of Economic Advisers] Chair Alan Krueger delivered a speech on the economy and economic certainty in Charlotte, NC, in which he made … economic case for the payroll tax cut. … Senior Advisor Valerie Jarrett, [Labor] Secretary [Hilda] Solis and [Domestic Policy Council] Director Melody Barnes participated in interviews on African American radio to amplify our payroll tax cut message. Senior Admin officials also did Hispanic media outlets including radio … Barnes hosted a roundtable with African American reporters. … Gene Sperling and Secretary Solis hosted a conference call on the importance of extending UI benefits for regional and specialty outlets … The President tweeted on [@WhiteHouse] Twitter feed … Deese convened a conference call with Americans who Tweeted on #40dollars … Administration Officials were on national and regional TV and radio [and] African American and Hispanic radio and TV …

"Thursday: The President delivered a statement payroll tax cut … joined on-stage and in the audience by people who [would] be impacted by the tax increase … The White House released a map on WhiteHouse.gov … with over 10,000 points throughout the U.S. of citizens responding to the question: 'What does $40 dollars mean to you?' … Administration Officials were on national and regional TV and radio [and] African American and Hispanic radio and TV."

Impressive.

Contrast that with climate change, where the administration won't even use the word (see "Can you solve global warming without talking about global warming?).

Back in June 2010, Eric Pooley, former managing editor of Fortune, emailed me about his book on the story of the climate bill, The Climate War: True Believers, Power Brokers, and the Fight to Save the Earth:

When it comes to a cap on carbon, the White House's strategy for 18 months has been to speak softly and … nothing more. Now the oil spill has forced Obama to ramp up his rhetoric. Does he mean it this time? Either he starts fighting or he doesn't. The "stealth strategy" is inoperative. The White House can't fake it any more.

We all know what happened. They faked it, and they failed.

The notion that you win major political battles like these behind-the-scenes is laughable. Silence equals surrender.

What's particularly sad about all this is that the polling and public opinion analysis makes crystal clear that both global warming and clean energy are wedge issues — aggressive messaging on either divides the Tea Party from pretty much everyone else in the entire country:

"In dozens of focus groups we have conducted this month across the country on a wide variety of subjects, when voters are asked where they would like new jobs in their state to come from, the first words out of their mouths are almost always the same – clean energy and related technology. Voters believe that the clean energy economy is here and is growing, and they want their state to have a part of it."

Some day some smart politician will figure all this out.

Knot Now: Another Year Goes By and Our Pursuit of Fool's Gold Leaves Us No Closer to Solving Climate Change

Posted: 04 Jan 2012 07:36 AM PST

Events of 2011 show that no matter how solid the science, some people will never accept that humans are causing global warming.  So how can we cut the Gordian Knot that is manmade global warming?

by Auden Schendler, reposted from the Atlantic

One version of the myth of King Midas holds that he was not greedy. Instead, he loved his daughter so much that he longed to leave her a stable future. When given the chance, he asked for the golden touch as a way to create an endowment. But when they embraced, she turned to gold as well. In trying to protect his beloved daughter, Midas destroyed her.

Some climate change deniers have the same admirable motive as Midas. The actions required to solve climate, they fear, will preclude us from capturing the wealth that can benefit or save many children today. Even the left argues that a rising economic tide lifts all boats, despite the fact that continued growth probably dooms the planet to runaway warming.  Environmentalists fear that no action on climate condemns us to an even more costly fate that threatens every child, forever.

Finding a fix, then, seems close to impossible. What we learned in 2011 –a  banner year for human understanding of climate change and its impact on our lives — helps explain why.

In October, climate-change skeptic Dr. Richard Muller released the results of a two-year study at the Berkeley Earth Surface Temperature Project that was funded in part by the Koch brothers, leading climate deniers. Muller's report, in his own words, found that "global warming is real." In fact, Muller found warming to be "on the high end" of what others had found. The results were reported in the Wall Street Journal's editorial page.

2011 also gave a taste of what climatologists have long predicted: that a warmer world will experience more severe weather events, both droughts and storms. PBS reported on "mind-boggling extreme weather" resulting from warming, what Dr. Jeff Masters, Director of Meteorology at the Weather Underground, Inc. calls "steroids for the atmosphere." This summer, droughts in the Southwest matched those of the dust bowl and a tornado outbreak blew away the record 1974 season. USA Today reported how natural disasters were straining FEMA's budget. In the last week of 2011, Vermont fixed the last of the roads destroyed by flooding from Hurricane Irene.

At the same time, still more peer-reviewed science came out showing that the anthropogenic warming signal is unmistakable. Grant Foster and Stefan Rahmstorf's paper in Environmental Research Letters stripped out the known non-human influences on climate (El Niño, volcanic aerosols and solar variability, among others) and found human-induced warming to be clear and consistent.

Meanwhile, a new paper by Kevin Anderson and Alice Bows, from the Tyndall Center for Climate Change Research at the University of Manchester and published in Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society argued that society is at substantial risk of exceeding warming of 2°C, the threshold widely seen to be the difference between something to which we could possibly adapt and disaster.

Last, and least noted, has been the inability of climate deniers to produce peer-reviewed science showing that warming is not human caused. Their anecdotal claims are easily debunked: the sun is at a minimum, despite record global temperatures. Cosmic-ray activity hasn't coincided with modern warming. Volcanoes emit far less CO2 than humans. Water vapor is a greenhouse gas that is exacerbated by CO2 induced warming. The earth has warmed before, of course, but always with a well understood cause, just like we have today.

One might imagine the economic damage of 2011′s storms would get deniers thinking. Can we continue to rebuild roads and bridges, sump out towns and drench fires, or, might ought we do something about it? And since cutting CO2 emissions will cool the planet, is that not a good place to start?

Well, no. In 2011, the result of the head-smacking obviousness of the science, as Naomi Klein pointed out in The Nation, is that opposition has become even more strident, in large part because deniers are no fools. Fully dealing with climate change, Klein observed, would require "that we break every rule in the free-market playbook and that we do so with great urgency." The climate message didn't fail, Klein argued: It simply got through too clearly.

At the same time that the right became more rigid, Leslie Kaufman of the New York Times reported on the radicalization of the environmental movement in response to lack of policy action. She quoted Roger Ballentine, a climate adviser to the Clinton White House:

"The failure to address climate is catastrophic, and young people are justifiably outraged. What we have now is an antagonized grassroots calling for a radicalized approach." Such an approach did develop, most notably in the form of 12,000 protesters who surrounded the White House and blocked the Keystone XL pipeline that would bring the most carbon-intensive fuel–tar sands oil–into the US from Canada.

In 2011, scientific certainty didn't clear up anything at all, it just energized the left and the right, in opposite directions, confirming historian Naomi Oreskes's notion that climate-change denial has never been about the science, it was always about ideology.

So we start 2012 with an unprecedented understanding of climate science and the consequences of warming, and at the same time seemingly irreconcilable differences on what to do, a Gordian Knot of a problem; complex and intractable, ingeniously self-tightening.

Alexander Cuts Gordian Knot

Solutions will require the boldness, innovation, and rule breaking of Alexander the Great, who famously used a sword to cut that knot. But uniquely today, we'll need the political right and left to hold the blade without killing each other first. Some feel the only path to this future is enough of a climate signal — Manhattan under water — to make action obvious. Others see bipartisan solutions percolating even today: eliminating the payroll tax and replacing it with a carbon fee, for example, or eliminating subsidies for big oil and using that money for clean energy development, meet goals both left and right.

Sometimes the best way to solve a problem is to understand its cause. Who, for example, tied the legendary Gordian Knot, a good metaphor for the puzzle we face today? It turns out it was a man known by some to be kind and fair, but whose vision of affluence led to disaster. He was a king. And his name was Midas.

Auden Schendler is Vice President of Sustainability at Aspen Skiing Company and author of the book "Getting Green Done: Hard Truths from the Front Lines of the Sustainability Revolution." This piece was originally published at Atlantic.

Related Post:

Report Details How Fox News Fueled Newt Inc. and Pushed His "Drill Here, Drill Now" Agenda

Posted: 04 Jan 2012 06:52 AM PST


by Eric Hananoki, cross-posted from Media Matters

This is an excerpt from a larger report by Media Matters detailing Fox News' promotion of Newt Gingrich's political and business groups. This piece deals mostly with energy issues. You can find the rest of the report at Media Matters.

In November 1998, following midterm losses and a Republican revolt, Newt Gingrich announced he would step down as House speaker and resign from Congress. Thirteen years after his downfall, Gingrich is now a contender for the Republican nomination for president.

During his years away from office and campaigning, Gingrich stayed in the public spotlight as a frequent contributor and occasional host on Fox News. Between October 1999, when he was hired, and March 2, 2011, when his contract was suspended, Gingrich appeared on Fox News over 600 times.

As a Fox News commentator, Gingrich regularly made incendiary and false remarks that helped ingratiate himself to the conservative base. But Gingrich's time at Fox News went beyond conservative punditry and attacks against progressives.

Fox News was a powerful ally when it came to boosting Gingrich's political and business groups. As The Atlanta Journal Constitution noted, Gingrich "built a network of for-profit businesses and nonprofit organizations that seamlessly promote his vision of American government and politics. … Well before Gingrich announced his candidacy, those groups were providing him with money and public exposure."

Fox News heavily promoted American Solutions for Winning the Future, which served as Gingrich's non-profit political organization before he ran for president. Fox News boosted the work and profile of the Center for Health Transformation, Gingrich's for-profit health care consulting company, and The Americano, Gingrich's Hispanic outreach organization. Fox News also served as a constant and reliable promotional vehicle for Gingrich Productions, a for-profit conservative multimedia company run by Newt and wife Callista.

Gingrich As A Contributor And Host

Fox News hired Gingrich in late October 1999. His contract was suspended on March 2, 2011, because he signaled his intention to run for president. His contract was finally terminated in May.

During his employment, Gingrich made over 600 appearances on Fox News, according to a search of the Nexis database. Gingrich also briefly served as a guest host for The O'Reilly Factor and Hannity & Colmes; and hosted several Fox News specials. While a complete list of his specials do not appear to be available online or in Nexis, they include:

  • "Dangerous Places" (2001)
  • "Bioterror: Ready or Not" (2003)
  • "Oil: America Over a Barrel" (2004)
  • "Pope John Paul II: Pope of the People" (2005)
  • "American Gangs — Ties to Terror?" (2005)
  • "The Bird Flu: Fact and Fiction" (2006)
  • "Why Does College Cost So Much?" (2006)
  • "One Nation Under God: Religion and History in Washington, D.C." (2007)

American Solutions for Winning the Future

American Solutions for Winning the Future was officially launched by Gingrich on September 27, 2007. As The New York Times noted, the non-profit organization was formed "to finance and promote his speaking and traveling schedule" and "Gingrich used the group as a way to promote his ideas of government reform." After he became a presidential candidate, Gingrich left the group and it eventually went bankrupt and shut down.

Fox News played a significant role in promoting the group and its initiatives. In one case, Gingrich, with Fox News' help, promoted a pro-drilling petition in fifteen separate appearances. Fox News also regularly allowed Gingrich to advocate for the interests of energy companies even though American Solutions collected significant amounts of contributions from energy companies.

Pro-Drilling Petition. A further example of how Fox News helped Gingrich with an American Solutions campaign can be found with Gingrich's "Drill Here, Drill Now, Pay Less" petition campaign, which urged "Congress to immediately start drilling for oil domestically to lower gas prices." The factually-challenged petition campaign was promoted during fifteen separate Gingrich appearances on Fox News. Gingrich himself told Sean Hannity, "you have been helping us" and "you, of course, have been a very key part of this on both radio and television." Here's a timeline of Fox News and Gingrich's promotions:

May 28, 2008. When told by Sean Hannity that he got an American Solutions bumper sticker saying, "Drill Here, Drill Now, Pay Less," Gingrich told viewers there's "a petition drive at American Solutions." During the segment, Hannity held up Gingrich's bumper sticker.

  • June 9, 2008. Gingrich told Greta Van Susteren: "We have a project at American Solutions called Drill Here, Drill Now, Pay Less. It's a petition. And in two-and- a-half weeks, we've gotten over 450,000 signers from all over the country, including thousands of Democrats, some self-identified Democrats who signed this thing."
  • June 12, 2008. Gingrich told Bill O'Reilly: "We have a Drill Here, Drill Now, Pay Less petition drive at American Solutions that's already gotten 650,000 signatures, including a lot of Democrats."
  • June 15, 2008. Gingrich told Hannity, "As you know, you have been helping us so much on our 'Drill Here, Drill Now, Pay Less' campaign that has got over 800 thousand signatures now." [via Nexis]
  • June 18, 2008. Hannity asked Gingrich, "We've been doing this on the radio. We've been doing it here on 'Hannity & Colmes.' American Solutions. Your bumper sticker, drill here, drill now, save money. Did you hit a million yet?" Gingrich replied: "We're at 930,000 this evening. Americans who signed up at AmericanSolutions.com, for Drill Here, Drill Now, Pay Less. And I think we will hit 1 million either tomorrow or the day after. And you, of course, have been a very key part of this on both radio and television." Hannity responded, "I — the Republican Party needs to embrace this." [via Nexis]
  • June 19, 2008. Gingrich told Fox & Friends that American Solutions will have its 1,000,000th signer to his petition.
  • June 26, 2008. Hannity told Gingrich, "I've got to give you credit, you started with American Solutions, 'Drill Here, Drill Now, Pay Less.' We were on this now way before it became as big an issue as it is now." Gingrich later told Hannity, "I would just say, to anybody who doesn't want $7 a gallon gasoline, go to American Solutions and sign our petition for Drill Here, Drill Now, and Pay Less … because we're over a million signatures, and we need to get the Congress to understand this is real." [via Nexis]
  • July 3, 2008. Your World, with guest host Nicole Petallides, built a segment off of the petition. Petallides began by stating, "We're going over to Newt Gingrich, urging all Americans today to make this Fourth of July day the drill-nothing Congress will not forget. He is declaring tomorrow energy independence day and is urging anyone who wants to see lower prices at the pump to sign his online petition, forcing lawmakers to drill now." [via Nexis]
  • July 14, 2008. On America's Election Headquarters, Gingrich told host Heather Nauert: "When American families are paying $4 and $5 a gallon, the time has come to, as our petition says, 'Drill Here, Drill Now, and Pay Less.' We have over a 1,300,000 signers at AmericanSolutions.com of that petition." [via Nexis]
  • July 16, 2008. Gingrich promoted his petition on Hannity, stating that "over 1,350,000 people have now signed our petition to drill here, drill now, and pay less at American Solutions." [via Nexis]
  • July 25, 2008. Gingrich told Your World guest host Connell McShane, "At AmericanSolutions.com, we have a petition called drill here, drill now, save money — or pay less, rather — drill here, drill now, pay less. And that petition has over 1,300,000 signers." [via Nexis]
  • July 31, 2008. Gingrich said on Hannity & Colmes, "you know, we have petition drive called Drill Here, Drill Now, Pay Less at America Solutions." Later, Hannity told Gingrich, "a lot of my radio listeners and viewers of Hannity & Colmes have signed up to Drill Here, Drill Now, Pay less." [via Nexis]
  • August 6, 2008. Gingrich promoted his petition on Fox & Friends, stating he has more than 1,400,000 signers.
  • August 13, 2008. Gingrich said on Hannity & Colmes: "I've seen Democrats around the country coming out saying now they're for drilling. So maybe what we're doing at American Solutions with Drill Here, Drill Now, Pay Less, with that petition that has almost 1.5 million signatures. Maybe it's having an effect, Alan. And I think that's good for the country." [via Nexis]
  • August 17, 2008. After Hannity brought up Gingrich's petition, Gingrich replied: "What I am intrigued with is with the people who signed our petition at the American Solutions. You begin to see real pressure on Democrats." [via Nexis]

Fox Allowed Gingrich To Push Interests Of Donors. American Solutions raised significant amounts of money from energy interests. Still, Gingrich was allowed to repeatedly appear on Fox News to push his pro-drilling petition and discuss issues related to energy companies.

Eric Hananoki is a researcher with Media Matters for America. This piece was originally published at Media Matters.

January 4 News: Romney Squeaks Out Win in Iowa Over Fellow Climate Denier Rick Santorum

Posted: 04 Jan 2012 05:43 AM PST

Other stories below: Climate models may underestimate extinction, say researchers; Storehouses for Solar Energy Can Step In When the Sun Goes Down

Chis Carlson (left, AP Photo) and Charlie Riedel (File)

Rick Santorum and Mitt Romney are both bad news for climate change fight

Rick Santorum, who surged at the last minute to give Mitt Romney a real run for his money in Tuesday's Iowa caucuses, is less green than his rival, and decidedly nuttier when it comes to climate change. But let's not split hairs here. Both men will staunchly defend fossil fuels, and neither is likely to do much of anything to fight global warming.

Mitt Romney has expressed qualified concern about climate change over the years, and then vacillated about how much of it is human-caused and whether we should try to do anything about it.

No wobbling of that sort from Santorum — he's an out-and-out denier. "There is no such thing as global warming," he told a smiling Glenn Beck on Fox News in June 2011. That same month, he told Rush Limbaugh that climate change is a liberal conspiracy: "It's just an excuse for more government control of your life and I've never been for any scheme or even accepted the junk science behind the whole narrative."

Climate Change Models May Underestimate Extinction, Study Shows

Climate change projections may "grossly" underestimate the extinction of animal and plant varieties because the models don't account for species movement and competition, U.S. researchers said.

Animals and plants that can adjust to climate change have a competitive advantage, while animals with small geographic ranges and specific habitat requirements are likely to go extinct under climate change, according to a study led by Mark Urban, an assistant professor at the University of Connecticut.

China, France Join Hunt for U.S. Shale Oil and Gas

Taking advantage of low barriers to entry and even lower natural gas prices, two large foreign-owned oil and gas companies announced plans to invest billions of dollars to develop shale resources in the United States.

Sinopec, China's second-largest oil company inked a $2.5 billion deal with Oklahoma-based Devon Energy to invest in five new shale development areas ranging from Ohio south to Alabama. In another deal, France's Total Group is investing $2.3 billion in a joint venture with Chesapeake Energy and EnerVest on an Ohio oil and gas project.

The two deals have a similar structure and purpose. The foreign companies are paying a majority of the development costs plus cash up front for a minority stake. The reason? Total and Sinopec want to learn a thing or two about advanced drilling techniques.

California Train Plan Hits Bump Over Funds

California's ambitious plan for a high-speed rail system hit a big roadblock Tuesday, as an independent panel urged lawmakers to deny authorizing the issuance of $2.7 billion in bonds to kick off the $98.5 billion project.

The California High-Speed Rail Peer Review Group—which the state legislature appointed to analyze funding for the rail system—questioned the California High-Speed Rail Authority's plan to start construction without any assurance of future funding from the federal government, among other factors.

Moving ahead "represents an immense financial risk" for California, the group said in its report, echoing concerns from critics who say the project could leave state taxpayers on the hook for billions of dollars in future costs. The panel appeared to leave the door open to supporting state funding in the future, if the rail authority addresses its concerns. While the report isn't binding, it puts pressure on California lawmakers as they decide whether to release billions of dollars in state bonds for the project.

Mark DeSaulnier, chairman of the California State Senate Transportation and Housing Committee, said the report is "not good news" for the high-speed rail plan.

Storehouses for Solar Energy Can Step In When the Sun Goes Down

If solar energy is eventually going to matter — that is, generate a significant portion of the nation's electricity — the industry must overcome a major stumbling block, experts say: finding a way to store it for use when the sun isn't shining.

That challenge seems to be creating an opening for a different form of power, solar thermal, which makes electricity by using the sun's heat to boil water. The water can be used to heat salt that stores the energy until later, when the sun dips and households power up their appliances and air-conditioning at peak demand hours in the summer.

Two California companies are planning to deploy the storage technology: SolarReserve, which is building a plant in the Nevada desert scheduled to start up next year, and BrightSource, which plans three plants in California that would begin operating in 2016 and 2017. Together, the four projects will be capable of powering tens of thousand of households throughout a summer evening.

Breaking: Climate Science Denier Wins Iowa Caucuses

Posted: 03 Jan 2012 03:16 PM PST

It was a battle down to the wire in Iowa with many unexpected twists and turns.  But in the end, Climate Science Denier (CSD) edged out Denier of Climate Science (DCS) and Science of Climate Denier (SCD) in the first GOP contest for the right to compete against Climate Science Ignorer (CSI) in the general election.

CSD told a small crowd at the airport, "The citizens of Iowa have spoken and decided that I am uniquely qualified to deny climate science.  They've sent a message to the president that simply ignoring climate change isn't going to cut it with the  American people, especially the job creators.  We need somebody who can deny the problem entirely so the job creators can feel better about pocketing most of the wealth generated in this country while ruining a livable climate for everyone else."

The real story of the caucuses may be SCD, who came from nowhere just a week ago to come within a few points of victory.  SCD told a smaller crowd at the airport, "I am the only true denier in the race.  CSD has flip-flopped on this issue, like so many others.  Just last spring he said he actually believed in the findings of the overwhelming majority of climate scientists, that the climate is changing, humans are the main cause, and failing to act threatens modern human civilization.  What poppy-cock!  There isn't an inch of difference between CSD and CSI."

Meanwhile, SCD told a massive crowd at the airport, "We really need to get rid of the Federal Reserve.  As for climate change, that's best left to individuals to address, even it exists, which I doubt."  SCD said he did not think he would win the nomination but refused to say whether he would mount a third-party run, which many fear would split the denial vote and allow CSI to capture a third term, thereby threatening 4 more years of left-wing, socialist inaction on the gravest threat to humanity.

One-time front runner, GWSOCWNPBRDCS (Guy who sat on couch with Nancy Pelosi but really denies climate science), finished far behind the 3 leaders, but vowed to press on saying, "CSD has been lying to you and getting his millionaire buddies to fund ads attacking me.  He's really someone who used to believe in climate science, whereas I was just pretending to so I could be more credible as a critic of cap-and-tax.  I'm a genius, don't you forget, and so even my mistakes are unintentional works of brilliance.  I'm going to win this thing just as soon as I come up with a shorter, catchier acronym."

Jon Huntsman, speaking to his wife and family in New Hampshire, said something about how we must teach our children to respect science and scientists, since they are the engine of economic growth and the only hope for humanity, but no reporter was there to record it.

In unrelated news, greenhouse gas emissions and concentrations reached record levels in 2011, as did extreme weather disasters.

NOTE:  Watch this space for any late breaking updates.

Mother Nature is Just Getting Warmed Up: December Heat Records Exceed Cold By 80%, Annual Ratio Hits 2.8-to-1

Posted: 03 Jan 2012 01:15 PM PST

http://1.bp.blogspot.com/-pbuJUn72Mts/TwJhU40xUgI/AAAAAAAACh8/9zXO5GJOUFQ/s1600/temp.records.123111.jpg

New U.S. daily high temperature records exceeded daily cold records in December by a ratio of 1.8 to 1, a margin of 80%. The overwhelming excess of heat records continued into New Year's Day, when the 116 high maximum records set or tied absolutely crushed the one lonely low minimum record…. The annual value [of the high/low record ratio] was 2.8 to 1, well above the 2.3 to 1 in 2010. Data from NOAA.

Steve Scolnik at Capital Climate analyzed the data from NOAA's National Climatic Data Center (NCDC) and created the chart above.

So if you live on the East Coast and thought it was unusually warm the last few weeks, you were right.  Although "unusual"  isn't what it used to be.  As the figure makes clear, this was a very hot summer (see "Third Hottest Summer Globally, Second Warmest for U.S. With Stunning Weather Extremes, Texas Drought Worst in Centuries").

I like the statistical aggregation across the country, since it gets us beyond the oft-repeated point that you can't pin any one record temperature on global warming.

If you want to know how to judge whether the 2.8-to-1 ratio for the entire year is a big deal, here's what a 2009 National Center for Atmospheric Research study found over the past six decades (see "Record high temperatures far outpace record lows across U.S."):

temps

This graphic shows the ratio of record daily highs to record daily lows observed at about 1,800 weather stations in the 48 contiguous United States from January 1950 through September 2009. Each bar shows the proportion of record highs (red) to record lows (blue) for each decade. The 1960s and 1970s saw slightly more record daily lows than highs, but in the last 30 years record highs have increasingly predominated, with the ratio now about two-to-one for the 48 states as a whole.

So, yes, 2.8-to-1 (along with 2.3-to-1 for 2010) continues the warming trend of the past few decades.

NCAR explained their 2009 findings in a news release:

Spurred by a warming climate, daily record high temperatures occurred twice as often as record lows over the last decade across the continental United States, new research shows. The ratio of record highs to lows is likely to increase dramatically in coming decades if emissions of greenhouse gases continue to climb.

"Climate change is making itself felt in terms of day-to-day weather in the United States," says Gerald Meehl, the lead author and a senior scientist at the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR). "The ways these records are being broken show how our climate is already shifting."

The scientific paper itself is here (subs. req'd).  And NCAR posted a video of lead author Meehl discussing his findings here.  The study looked into the future and found that "if nations continue to increase their emissions of greenhouse gases in a 'business as usual' scenario, the U.S. ratio of daily record high to record low temperatures would increase to about 20-to-1 by mid-century and 50-to-1 by 2100."

Here's a Stanford release for Climatic Change study (PDF here) I wrote about in June:

Stanford climate scientists forecast permanently hotter summers

The tropics and much of the Northern Hemisphere are likely to experience an irreversible rise in summer temperatures within the next 20 to 60 years if atmospheric greenhouse gas concentrations continue to increase, according to a new climate study by Stanford University scientists….

"According to our projections, large areas of the globe are likely to warm up so quickly that, by the middle of this century, even the coolest summers will be hotter than the hottest summers of the past 50 years," said the study's lead author, Noah Diffenbaugh, The study, based on observations and models, finds that most major countries, including the United States, are "likely to face unprecedented climate stresses even with the relatively moderate warming expected over the next half-century."

I interviewed Diffenbaugh for my book, Hell and High Water, and in 2008 wrote about his earlier work in a post titled, "When can we expect very high surface temperatures?"

Bottom line: By century's end, extreme temperatures of up to 122°F would threaten most of the central, southern, and western U.S. Even worse, Houston and Washington, DC could experience temperatures exceeding 98°F for some 60 days a year.

The peak temperature analysis comes from a Geophysical Research Letters paper that focused on the annual-maximum "once-in-a-century" temperature. The key scientific point is that "the extremes rise faster than the means in a warming climate."

The results, depicted above (in °C), are quite remarkable, especially when you consider that this is just the A1B scenario. In 2100, A1B hits about 700 ppm with average global temperatures "only" about 3°C (5 F) warmer than today.

In fact, on our current emissions path, a 3C temperature rise will happen much sooner (see Hadley Center: "Catastrophic" 5-7°C  warming by 2100 on current emissions path and M.I.T. doubles its 2095 warming projection to 10°F — with 866 ppm and Arctic warming of 20°F).   And remember, the worst-case scenario is that this happens by mid-century [see Royal Society special issue details 'hellish vision' of 7°F (4°C) world — which we may face in the 2060s!]

On our current emissions path, these record temperatures could be seen closer to 2060 than 2100:

… values in excess of 50°C [122°F] in Australia, India, the Middle East, North Africa, the Sahel and equatorial and subtropical South America.

As you can see from the map, extreme temperature peaks are only slightly lower over large parts of this country. The study notes:

Such temperatures, if lasting for some days, are life threatening and receive relatively little attention in the climate change debate.

So now the question is, has anybody done an analysis of what global warming could do to intense heat waves that last very long times, weeks or months? The answer is yes, and the results of that study are more worrisome — and it also received relatively little attention.

The November 2005 study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, "Fine-scale processes regulate the response of extreme events to global climate change," found that "peak increases in extreme hot events are amplified by surface moisture feedbacks." The study looked at the A2 scenario (about 850 ppm in 2100) in the second half of this century (from 2071 to 2095). It examined temperature rise projections, plus "fine-scale processes," such as how local warming is affected by loss of snow cover and loss of soil moisture. I interviewed the lead author, Noah Diffenbaugh, of Purdue University, for my book.

Houston and Washington, DC would experience temperatures exceeding 98°F for some 60 days a year. Oklahoma would see temperatures above 110°F some 60 to 80 days a year. Much of Arizona would be subjected to temperatures of 105°F or more for 98 days out of the year–14 full weeks. We won't call these heat waves anymore. As Diffenbaugh told me, "We will call them normal summers."

And again, that's not even the worst case, since it's "only" based on 850 ppm.

The definitive NOAA-led U.S. climate impact report from 2010 warns of scorching 9 to 11°F warming over most of inland U.S. by 2090 with Kansas above 90°F some 120 days a year with 850 ppm.  By 2090, it'll be above 90°F some 120 days a year in Kansas — more than the entire summer. Much of Florida and Texas will exceed 90°F half the days of the year.  These won't be called heat waves anymore.  Again, it'll just be the "normal" climate.

And remember, high heat means dry areas become drier and humid areas become intolerable.

On our current emissions path, we may well exceed the A2 scenario and hit A1FI, 1000 ppm (see here).  In a terrific March 2010 presentation, Climate scientist Katherine Hayhoe has a figure of what the A1FI would mean:

Mother Nature is just warming up.

The time to act is yesterday.

Related Post:

Pipeline Inspector-Turned Whistleblower Calls Keystone XL a Potential "Disaster"

Posted: 03 Jan 2012 11:43 AM PST

Mike Klink: Let's be clear — I am an engineer; I am not telling you we shouldn't build pipelines. We just should not build this one.

By forcing the White House to make a decision on the politically and environmentally-toxic Keystone XL pipeline as part of an agreement reached in December to extend the payroll tax cut, Republicans are being lambasted by environmental groups for undercutting the federal environmental review process.

Now a whistleblower is claiming that the company overseeing the development of the proposed project, TransCanada, also has a track record of undercutting quality at the expense of the environment — further calling into question the decision by Congress to prevent a new federal environmental impact study for Keystone XL.

Mike Klink is a former inspector for Bechtel, one of the major contractors working on TransCanada's original Keystone pipeline, completed in 2010. Klink says he raised numerous concerns about shoddy materials and poor craftsmanship during construction of the pipeline, which brings tar sands crude from Canada to Midwestern refineries in the U.S. Instead of actually addressing the problems, Klink claims he was fired by Bechtel in retaliation. He filed a complaint with the Department of Labor in March of 2010, and made his story public last fall.

Klink, who says he's speaking as an engineer and not an environmentalist, has just published a scathing op-ed in the Lincoln Journal Star criticizing Keystone XL, a proposed extension of the current tar sands pipeline network that would bring crude down to refineries in the Gulf Coast, crossing a major aquifer along the way:

As an inspector, my job was to monitor the construction of the first Keystone pipeline. I oversaw construction at the pump stations that have been such a problem on that line, which has already spilled more than a dozen times. I am coming forward because my kids encouraged me to tell the truth about what was done and covered up.

When I last raised concerns about corners being cut, I lost my job — but people along the Keystone XL pathway have a lot more to lose if this project moves forward with the same shoddy work.

A recent environmental impact statement — outsourced by the State Department to another major TransCanada contractor — found that there would be "limited adverse environmental impacts" associated with the 1,700-mile Keystone XL pipeline. Opponents of the pipeline cried foul, saying it was yet another major conflict of interest between the State Department and TransCanada.

Klink's assertions about poor management of the first Keystone pipeline provide yet more ammunition for critics of the pipeline:

What did I see? Cheap foreign steel that cracked when workers tried to weld it, foundations for pump stations that you would never consider using in your own home, fudged safety tests, Bechtel staffers explaining away leaks during pressure tests as "not too bad," shortcuts on the steel and rebar that are essential for safe pipeline operation and siting of facilities on completely inappropriate spots like wetlands.

I shared these concerns with my bosses, who communicated them to the bigwigs at TransCanada, but nothing changed. TransCanada didn't appear to care. That is why I was not surprised to hear about the big spill in Ludden, N.D., where a 60-foot plume of crude spewed tens of thousands of gallons of toxic tar sands oil and fouled neighboring fields.

TransCanada says that the performance has been OK. Fourteen spills is not so bad. And that the pump stations don't really count. That is all bunk. This thing shouldn't be leaking like a sieve in its first year — what do you think happens decades from now after moving billions of barrels of the most corrosive oil on the planet?

Let's be clear — I am an engineer; I am not telling you we shouldn't build pipelines. We just should not build this one.

White House officials say the 60-day timeline forced by Congress on the Keystone XL pipeline will force the Administration to deny the project. This is exactly what Republicans want — but only to make the pipeline an election issue, not to consider the myriad environmental issues being raised.

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