Archive | Climate Change

Dittos

What Echidne said, especially the part about birth control. I live on a small street, and most houses have one car – many have three. Think of all the oil those cars will suck up in a lifetime.

Isn’t This Great

The fact that oil company whore Lisa Murkowski got six Democrats to vote with her on this says nothing will be done on the climate bill this year. And really, you don’t need clean air and water, anyway!

A Senate resolution to block the Environmental Protection Agency from regulating greenhouse gases failed narrowly Thursday, providing a temporary respite to environmental activists hoping to enact a mandatory cap on emissions before the end of the year.

But the 47 to 53 vote showed that even in the wake of the massive oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, Congress remains divided over how best to address climate change. The contentious debate, in which some lawmakers suggested federal regulation would strike a devastating blow to the economy, suggested the Senate is far from decided on whether to put a price on the industrial emissions that stem from everyday activities such as lighting a home or driving a car.

Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), who drafted the resolution that would have barred the EPA from regulating greenhouse gas emissions under the Clean Air Act, said the central question was whether Congress or the administration would set the rules for curbing carbon dioxide. EPA administrator Lisa P. Jackson has already proposed rules that would subject large greenhouse gas emitters — such as coal-fired utilities and oil refineries — to federal regulation starting next year.

Presidential Commission

From Truthout:

The problem, visible to nearly everyone except the president, is that when you drill, accidents happen, as Alex Cockburn mercilessly pointed out here a couple weeks ago and as a recent report on Solve Climate further confirmed, citing chances of a blowout as 1 in 400. There have been almost 40 blowouts already, but most of them were small, brief and in relatively shallow waters, with minimal ecological impact. That doesn’t mean this sort of drilling isn’t dangerous. It means that before Deepwater Horizons caught on fire we’d been lucky. We are now experiencing the end of our luck and the oil from the spill is threatening an 150-mile spread of marshland, full of mollusks and other shellfish, along with the native marsh-grasses that tamp down the swells and winds that were part of the reason Hurricane Katrina was as bad as it was: the natural storm-swell protection services offered by wetlands on the New Orleans coast had been replaced by an ingenious and utterly vulnerable-to-breakdown system of concrete levees.

There’s a pattern here, one identified by agrarian philosopher Wendell Berry: “If you put the fates of whole communities or cities or regions or ecosystems at risk in single ships or factories or power-plants, then I will furnish the drunk or fool or imbecile who will make the necessary small mistake.” That may be a “mistake” in construction, or an engineering mistake, or a steering mistake or any of the sorts of mistakes endemic to the complex technological systems that compose our life-support systems.

The Obama commission could have a mandate to come up with a way to transition to a green economy or any of a number of imaginative, forward-looking, rigorously pragmatic, Utopian schemes that would address the “root causes” of the BP disaster: the fossil-fuel arterial infrastructure upon which American society is based. Economist Robert Pollin calls for a “broader green investment project … to encompass public transportation, electrical grid upgrades and the creation of a competitive renewable-energy manufacturing sector,” as part of a broader effort to create 18 million new jobs in the next three years. A renewable-energy manufacturing sector would create the devices necessary to create a renewable-energy-generating infrastructure.

At a time when, according to the Pew Research Center, only 32 percent of the American public think it “very important” for Congress to prioritize climate change, 67 percent think it “very important” to prioritize addressing the country’s energy needs and 81 percent think it’s “very important” to “address the job situation,” such an infrastructure would simultaneously fulfill not only the goal of rebuilding and reinvigorating the rusted American industrial plant, but would also politically braid together employment, energy and climate.

That would be a good first step for dealing with the explosion’s root causes. Americans aren’t dumb. They don’t know that energy, climate and employment can be addressed, at least on a short-term horizon, simultaneously and no one knows this because it’s taken as a tacit assumption that there won’t be a centralized, planned, immediate transition to a renewable-energy-based economy. That would be what a dream commission would come up with. Less dreamily, the commission could use market-pressures to force BP to stop drilling oil – initially high-risk deepwater drilling, then all oil since all oil is risky.

See, BP is aware of the world’s willingness to supply the “drunk or fool” who will make the mistake that will destroy an ecosystem. Aware of this risk, it long ago opted to socialize it. As economist Frank Ackermancommented, the Oil Pollution Act of 1990, adopted after the Exxon Valdez catastrophe, finances the Oil Spill Liability Trust Fund, currentlycontaining billion dollars, through an eight-cents-a-barrel tax on oil. As Ackerman added, in return for this tax liability is limited to clean-up costs plus 75 million dollars, “a pittance for a giant oil company and is far below the economic losses to the communities affected by BP’s recent spill in the Gulf of Mexico.” Imagine oil companies couldn’t socialize their risks from oil spills, or from emitting ecocidal CO2. They’d have to stop emitting it and then we’d be foursquare in front of what looks like a conundrum: hyper-expensive fossil fuel and no jobs.

Except there’s a way out – a planned conversion to green energy via an Apollo project. These are root causes, and you can forecast that the commission will not discern them with as much certainty as you can predict the sun’s daily rise in the East. And then there will be another Deepwater Horizons poisoning our waters and our atmosphere and another Exxon Valdez spilling black crude all over pristine estuaries and penguin colonies. And maybe, just maybe, that’s why Obama looked so much like a mannequin while delivering his speech – because he knows these facts, but is a creature of the fossil fuel companies and can barely contain the jostling contradictions between facts and policy. Rather than resolving the ensuing mental disturbance, it’s easier to affect catatonia. Easier for Obama, for the Gulf of Mexico, for the poor of the world whose lives will be shattered by climate change. For our future? Not so nice.

No Global Warming, Huh?

Graph via Paul Krugman, who points us to this important story:

It was the hottest April on record in the NASA dataset. More significantly, following fast on the heels of the hottest March and hottest Jan-Feb-March on record, it’s also the hottest Jan-Feb-March-April on record [click on figure to enlarge].

The record temperatures we’re seeing now are especially impressive because we’ve been in “the deepest solar minimum in nearly a century.” It now appears to be over. It’s just hard to stop the march of manmade global warming, well, other than by reducing greenhouse gas emissions, that is.

Most significantly, NASA’s March prediction has come true: “It is nearly certain that a new record 12-month global temperature will be set in 2010.″

Software engineer (and former machinist mate in the US Navy) Timothy Chase put together a spreadsheet using the data from NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies (click here). In NASA’s dataset, the 12-month running average temperature record was actually just barely set in March — and then easily set in April.

Actually, NASA first made its prediction back in January 2009:

Given our expectation of the next El Niño beginning in 2009 or 2010, it still seems likely that a new global temperature record will be set within the next 1-2 years, despite the moderate negative effect of the reduced solar irradiance.”

Of course, there never was any global cooling — see Must-read AP story: Statisticians reject global cooling; Caldeira — “To talk about global cooling at the end of the hottest decade the planet has experienced in many thousands of years is ridiculous.”

In fact, the 12-month record we just beat was set in … 2007!

‘Ten Times Worse’

The more we find out, the worse it gets:

According to a scientific analysis of footage from the bottom of the Gulf of Mexico, National Public Radio is claiming the growing ecological disaster is actually ten times worse than previously estimated, saying the rushing torrent of oil pouring into the ocean is equivalent to one Exxon-Valdez spill every four days.

That’s more than 70,000 barrels a day — when the U.S. Coast Guard had placed the figure at a seemingly modest 5,000 barrels a day.

Until this point in human history, the Exxon-Valdez disaster was just one of the worst oil spills ever, with nearly 11 million gallons of crude lost to the murky depths.

The Deepwater Horizon well has been jetting oil unabated for just short of one month at time of this writing. Already, the pollution exceeds a scale which most individual humans can fully grasp.

While government agencies continue to examine what led to the oil rig explosion that killed 11 people, environmental legal experts are already predicting that there will be criminal charges ahead for at least one of the companies involved in the oil spill.

A House energy panel looking into what might have caused the oil rig explosion in the Gulf of Mexico found yesterday that a vital piece of equipment intended to prevent such disasters had significant problems.

Rep. Bart Stupak (D-MI), chairman of the Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations on Wednesday outlined issues with the blowout preventer, a tool that BP claimed was ‘fail safe,’ that may have prevented it from engaging. The blowout preventer, reports the Washington Post, “Had a dead battery in its control pod, leaks in its hydraulic system, a “useless” test version of a key component and a cutting tool that wasn’t strong enough to shear through steel joints in the well pipe and stop the flow of oil.”

It was also revealed during the hearing that BP knew “hours” ahead of the deadly explosion that there were problems with the oil well.

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