A new Gallup poll shows worry about global warming and acceptance of the climate science consensus is up sharply in the last two years. Those spikes are not being fueled by Democrats or independents - they're being fueled by Republicans.
But the political conventional wisdom in Washington presents a very real obstacle to this reality breaking through. The same pundits who bemoan partisan polarization in one breath perpetuate it the next - all Democrats hate coal, and all Republicans hate clean air! The nuance of rank-and-file Republicans disagreeing with Republican party leadership stands little chance of breaking through these stereotypes.
Let's dig into the poll numbers. You could make the case that Republicans are just cooling off from the heated fight over clean energy & climate legislation that had party leaders, polluters, and conservative media telling them that they had to oppose climate action to support the team.
But we're just coming off an election year in which Republican candidates went after climate science and clean energy with renewed fury, yet rank-and-file Republican acceptance of the climate science consensus went up anyway. What's really going on here?
Self-styled "centrist" Democratic senators like Tim Kaine and Mark Warner say they recognize climate reality and support action to cut carbon pollution. But ... then they see polls that show the public is split on the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline ... and feel pressure from Very Serious People in Washington who won't say no to anything the oil, gas and coal industries want ... and think, maybe we can have both? Get credit for support this current & specific polluting pipeline AND burnish climate bona fides by hand-waving towards some future & not yet existent climate effort?
No. Climate action isn't just about the easy & popular things, like clean energy and energy efficiency. It's also about the hard things, like saying no to oil and coal barons who may spend lots of money to try to defeat you in your next re-election campaign. You can't claim to support climate action, but wilt like corn caught in a global warming-fueled drought every time big polluters come asking for a favor.
Either folks like Tim Kaine and Mark Warner support climate action. Or they support Keystone XL and don't really care about things like confronting superstorms like Sandy or protecting our natural resources for future generations. They can't have it both ways.
Predictions that a major El Niño warming event - and the coming solar maximum - would help make next year the warmest on record now seem wide of the mark. All eyes will probably be on the Arctic instead. Some say the record loss of sea ice in summer 2012 was a one-off, others that it was the start of a runaway collapse. If the latter, summer sea ice could virtually disappear as early as 2016. What is certain is that the ice reforming now will be the thinnest on record, priming it for destruction next summer. [...]
When our children are wondering why we didn't solve the climate crisis when we had the chance, I'm sure they'll be thankful we took the time to try to gut their retirement benefits.
This morning I watched Meet The Press host David Gregory and his panel not only agree Social Security and Medicare must be cut, but to brainstorm aloud strategy for making it happen. This very same panel had just gotten done unanimously agreeing that objective journalists are not allowed to say that Republicans are the problem in Washington. But they were now designing their very own political campaign.
Because people in the insular, wealthy world of Beltway politics will never need to put off a trip to the grocery store until their Social Security check arrives. The threat of going hungry could never compare to the alleged threat of the budget deficit.
Tonight's presidential debate will be held in Colorado, where wildfires recently burned 202,425 acres of land (316.3 square miles). Those wildfires killed five people, forced the evacuation of 34,500 people, and destroyed over 600 homes.
Seems like something that's worth having Barack Obama and Mitt Romney discuss at tonight's debate, don't you think?
Nah, probably best to stick to discussing how many additional federal workers we should lay off, how much we can cut aid to states to feed/provide health care for kids, whether to force seniors to get jobs (or at least pay income tax on their social security) so those loafers can get out of the 47%, etc.
The war on climate scientists funded by billionaires like the Koch brothers, Richard Mellon Scaife and Philip Anschutz makes much more sense when you look at it through this prism. If you already look out the window and see literally half of your fellow Americans as thieves trying to steal from you, well OF COURSE climate scientists are greedy cheaters manipulating the data to back their phony lying hoax so they can get their grubby little stealing hands on more research grants.
It's a cynical, destructive way to view the world (and life), but I understand it. What I don't understand is why anyone would take them and the organizations they fund seriously as a source for climate science, as the PBS NewsHour apparently did last night.
With reality denial dominating the Republican Party platform, how will Republican National Convention delegates reconcile that the start of their 2012 gathering in Tampa was delayed by climate-fueled extreme weather?
First, let's be clear: It's Big Oil-funded GOP leadership that's the problem, not rank-and-file Republicans. While virtually every Republican member of Congress and national party leader rejects climate science, 43% of rank-and-file Republicans see "solid evidence of global warming" according to the Pew Research Center.
Dig a little deeper and those numbers should be even more eye-catching for GOP leadership.
Whether you're anti-science crusader Ken Cuccinelli, solution-rejecting Bob McDonnell, or any of Virginia's "centrist" Democrats who know global warming means we're screwed but remain too cowardly to advocate aggressive action, aside from a couple of dozen lonely progressive voices, Richmond is united in telling climate change to go away. Lo and behold, climate change has stubbornly refused to stop accelerating, and now communities like Norfolk are struggling to deal with climate impacts with no help from the state:
City and county leaders, already burdened with typical tasks of local governance - zoning, construction permits, liquor licenses, school board appointments - are also weighing multi-million-dollar flood control projects to keep the ocean at a livable distance.
While they struggle to pull together know-how and funding, those with the broader view and resources - state agencies - are absent from the discussions: In a study released earlier this year, the Natural Resources Defense Council ranked Virginia as one of 29 states that were "largely unprepared and lagging behind" on planning for climate change at the state level.
In many ways the problem is already upon Norfolk. The Atlantic Ocean off Virginia's coast is rising a quarter of an inch annually, equivalent to two feet in 100 years - faster than anywhere else in the United States except for coastal Louisiana. The ocean at Sewells Point, site of the Norfolk Naval Station, rose 14.5 inches between 1930 and 2010. And that's likely to accelerate. Last month the U.S. Geological Survey reported that sea levels are rising more quickly along the Atlantic coast from North Carolina to Massachusetts than globally, possibly as a result of slowing Atlantic Ocean circulation patterns.
The inaction of Virginia's elected officials is actually hurting the state twice - not just paying the price of climate inaction through extreme weather and sea level rise, but hurting Virginia's economy by losing out on clean energy jobs. But hey, who has time to confront looming disaster when there's women's bodies that need regulating, amirite?
As if the world needed any more evidence that man-made global warming is occurring right in front of our eyes, James Hansen recently added another HUGE piece of evidence with his statistical analysis that gives 1 in 10 odds regarding the likelihood of rare temperatures occurring throughout the world without the influence of global warming.
The analysis is so important because its conclusions are based on statistical analysis, not complex climate models whose conclusions are oftentimes as broad as they are difficult to interpret by the "lay" individual. Hansen's statistical analysis simply analyzed global temperatures over the past 60 years and asked, "How likely is this to have occurred in the absence of global warming?" 1 in 10.
This new and important piece of evidence for man-made global warming probably won't win over the skeptics. What Hansen's new analysis should do though is push reluctant politicians from around the world into taking comprehensive and aggressive actions to finally reduce the amount of greenhouse gases that each of our collective societies spews into the atmosphere on a yearly basis.
If you hadn't noticed, Virginia was scorching on Friday with Richmond temperatures rising as high as 101 degrees Fahrenheit. The intense heat that many states up and down the Atlantic coast suffered through in turn led to disastrous storms that have killed at least 6 people in Virginia according to Gov. Bob McDonnell.
For those of us who have argued for preventive measures to stem the severe consequences of global warming and climate change, this latest storm surge comes as a sad reminder of how far Virginia in particular has left to go to address these paramount problems.
As ecosystems in Virginia continue to crumble and other signs of global warming appear, there has been a notable and disturbing lack of political will or attention given to the issues of global warming and climate change, their effects, and how we can mitigate the effects.
The most disturbing aspect of this entire debacle of resistance to mitigation is that the "political leaders" who are supposed to look out for the welfare of their constituents (i.e. Virginians) seem just as ill informed, unconcerned, or even as hostile as your :Average Joe," and in some cases the political figure portrays him or herself as an extreme version of climate change denier.
It's not true that if you slowly turn up the heat, a frog won't notice that his surroundings are getting hotter - the frog will jump out of the pot if he can. That's an allegory - but whether humans will recognize & respond to their warming climate is a very real & open question.
The Washington Post has no mention of climate impacts in its main story on the storm. Even its sidebar story detailing the record-shattering temperatures that fueled the derecho waits until its final sentence to say the rare storm "raises the question about the possible role of man-made climate warming" - but says any judgement must be left to after the frog has already boiled future case studies. Next to the storm coverage is an in-depth look at tar sands, one of the most carbon pollution-intensive fuels on the planet, but true to modern American journalism's View From Nowhere, the Post makes no connection between the two stories, not even on the editorial page.
The New York Times and CNN.com make no mention of climate change in their stories on the storms. Last night, CBS Radio News blamed the storms on "Mother Nature," skipping past ignorance to outright denial.
Reading these stories, I can't help but think of Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed by Jared Diamond. Past dominant societies have proved quite capable of blissfully ignoring all evidence of impending doom. So far, America's media is proving no different. Will 2012's record temperatures and extreme weather change that? Or be just another milepost on the road to disaster?
Colorado Springs lies 60 miles south of Denver and about 30 miles from Castle Rock. Home to the Air Force Academy, which has had major evacuations this past week, Colorado Springs has suffered the largest wildfire in Colorado history. While its cause is still not definitive, it is almost certain that the conditions which fuel and worsen it are the result of global warming.
The Waldo fire is 26 miles in area. Three hundred and fifty homes have burned to the ground. And it is just one of the major fires burning in Colorado. I can only imagine how frightening it must be to live in a state where one fourth of the citizens have had to worry about wildfires just this month and nearly all are likely rattled by the devastation.
Even now ten thousand people remain displaced due to the raging wildfires. Thirty thousand were evacuated earlier in the week. One resident filmed her own evacuation. Looking at the almost apocalyptic photo in the story and the video make one realize the emotional toll on people living there. And the Waldo fire, the largest in California history, is only 45% contained. That is definitely progress. Here's more from the Denver Post.
A lighter moment at the end when Thom asked me about "clean coal." Remember when people believed in that mythical creature? So ironic that the same people who screech the loudest about a similarly made-up "war on coal" now (Sen. Jim Inhofe, Sen. Jim Webb, etc.) were the same people who sealed coal's death warrant by blocking national clean energy & climate action legislation, which would've been loaded with carbon capture & storage subsidies.
Some progressives say they're afraid to talk about climate science and the urgent need for climate action because it's too complicated.
In this TED Talk, Grist's David Roberts says it's easy to understand climate science, simple to communicate the danger of climate inaction, and he'll convince you if you give him just 17 minutes of your day:
This just in from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration:
According to NOAA scientists, the average temperature for the contiguous U.S. during May was 64.3°F, 3.3°F above the long-term average, making it the second warmest May on record. The month's high temperatures also contributed to the warmest spring, warmest year-to-date, and warmest 12-month period the nation has experienced since recordkeeping began in 1895.
The spring season's (March-May) nationally averaged temperature was 57.1°F, 5.2°F above the 1901-2000 long-term average, surpassing the previous warmest spring (1910) by 2.0°F.
Data like this is why I don't use the term climate "skeptic." Who could rationally process America being five degrees above normal and shattering the record for hottest spring by two full degrees and think, "Meh, I'm not yet convinced"? This is what a climate crisis looks like, and if you can't accept that, you're denying reality.
Congressman Jim Moran, Northern Virginia Democrat and Ranking Member on the Interior and Environment Appropriations Subcommittee, today introduced a resolution calling on Congress to take action on climate change. The Moran resolution is supported by a range of religious and faith groups.
"Climate change is already having a profoundly adverse impact on our environment and will affect our national security and the longevity and health of our children. Thus, there is a moral and ethical obligation to responsibly address this growing threat," said Rep. Moran. "I am proud to join religious leaders and organizations calling for Congress to take timely and responsible action on climate change."
The resolution acknowledges the impact of climate change on food stability, national security and welfare of future generations and the moral responsibility to be stewards of the environment.
With the DC area having its warmest spring on record breaking the old mark by a jaw-dropping 7/10th of a degree, WJLA Meteorologist Bob Ryan says anyone still waiting for "certainty" before supporting climate action is similar to someone ignoring a tornado siren:
Rather than minutes or hours, Americans in the possible path of a hurricane have to make a decision. Days ahead. Do I evacuate? Do I believe the forecast? There is that cone of uncertainty . . . do I take a chance? Is the science of hurricane forecasting, "settled"? Again of course not, but decisions, human and economic decisions affecting sometimes millions are made, knowing the exact outcome is uncertain.
Supposedly the great Yogi Berra said, "It's tough making predictions, especially about the future". However, we make decisions every day about some prediction whether it is the traffic during rush hour, canceling a weekend picnic or headed with my family to a shelter when I hear a tornado siren.
The ad focuses attention on a recent Department of Labor study showing that transitioning away from dirty sources of energy to clean technology development and innovation in turn creates jobs. In fact, the Labor Department study concludes that the transition to cleaner energy and technology has already created 3.1 million jobs (Bureau of Labor Statistics, March 2012).
"Clean air protects health and enhances our economy," said Martin Hayden, vice president of policy & legislation at Earthjustice. "According to a Brookings Institute study, between 2003 and 2010, the clean tech sector outperformed the national economy as a whole, expanding 3.4 percent annually. Letting the EPA enforce the Clean Air Act and limit dangerous air pollution spewing from smokestacks will not only make it easier for Americans to breathe, it will also boost the clean technology sector and help create more jobs."
"Whether aimed at toxic air pollutants like mercury or dangerous carbon pollution, there are multiple benefits from job-creating clean air standards," said Joe Mendelson, global warming policy director at the National Wildlife Federation, the sister organization of NWF Action Fund. "EPA air standards that clean up power plants are good for our economy, the health of our families and communities, addressing climate change and for protecting wildlife and their habitat."
Over 800,000 Americans have already told the Environmental Protection Agency that they support the new rules. It only takes a minute, so please speak up for clean air right now.
Norfolk, VA was 6 degrees above normal & broke its March record by 1 degree
Green Bay, WI was 10.4 degrees above normal & broke its March record by 4.4 degrees
Des Moines, IA was 9.8 degrees above normal & broke its March record by 3.7 degrees
Boston, MA was 6.4 degrees above normal & broke its March record by 1.6 degrees
Bismarck, ND was 9.1 degrees above normal & broke its March record by 0.5 degrees
While Europe and much of Asia have been colder than usual this year, it's not enough to offset the global trend. January-February were 0.67 degrees above the 20th century average and the 20th-warmest on record globally. NOAA has been unequivocal that global warming is fueling the trend. Have your local meteorologists been willing to point out that fact? And do your elected officials know it's time to act?
The global warming-fueled heat wave that's gripped much of America this month may be good news for March picnics, but it's terrible for Virginia wine lovers. Wine grape vines are already waking up, posing a twofold threat - hotter temperatures can mean less flavorful wine, and a sudden frost could devastate the crop:
Workers at Tomahawk Mill Winery in Chatham are certainly concerned. They say they are usually working in the cold right now wearing two pairs of socks and gloves. But while it's nice to work in this weather, the grapes don't like it one bit.
Corky Medaglia, owner of Tomahawk Mill Winery, always says: "When God gives you lemons you make lemonade. And when God gives you grapes, you make wine."
But within his 17 years working the vineyards, he has never seen a winter like this one. "Sap is coming up because the temperatures are going up. And this guy thinks it's spring time," said Medaglia.
Meteorologists say there's a 50/50 chance of a surprise frost. And looking ahead, hotter summers are no kinder to wine grapes - when temperatures top 95 degrees, the vine's respiration system can shut down. (To be clear, the photo with this story is from 2007, not a photo of what the grapes look like right now.)
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