Thursday, March 29, 2012

Only 38 Years Until 3C Global Warming?

While we usually think of severe climate change being something that people under age 20 might have to deal with much later in their lives, the findings of a new study suggest that even people now in their 40s or 50s may have to deal with the extreme weather of a world warmed up by 3C. Those planning to retire in the south or southwest perhaps should perhaps reconsider. Maine might be a wiser choice.

The study was the biggest climate computer simulation study ever carried out. It included 10,000 simulations which were run on home computers. The large number of simulations increased the accuracy of the study. The 3C increase is 0.8C higher than the maximum temperature increase of 2.2C by 2050 projected by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). Scientists are extremely concerned about reaching 2C. At the recent Planet Under Pressure conference in London, Will Steffen, executive director of the Australian National University's climate change institute, called for radical action to combat climate change. He said "We can...cap temperature rise at two degrees, or cross the threshold beyond which the system shifts to a much hotter state.” He also noted "Under a worst-case scenario, it's very likely, I think, that the Earth's system will move to a new state of some sort, with a very severe challenge to contemporary civilization…Some people have even talked about a collapse."

All of this seems lost on our politicians representing us in Washington. The gap between science and politics could hardly be any wider. President Obama sounded like he was going to try to close it when he campaigned for office in 2008 but now four years later we are still waiting for him to act on his words.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Obama “Thumbs His Nose” at Climate Activists in Oklahoma Energy Policy Speech

Standing at a Keystone XL pipeline site in Cushing, Oklahoma on March 22nd, President Barack Obama sounded an awful lot like a “drill baby drill” Republican as he gave a speech:

“Now, under my administration, America is producing more oil today than at any time in the last eight years…Over the last three years, I’ve directed my administration to open up millions of acres for gas and oil exploration across 23 different states. We’re opening up more than 75 percent of our potential oil resources offshore. We’ve quadrupled the number of operating rigs to a record high. We’ve added enough new oil and gas pipeline to encircle the Earth and then some…So we are drilling all over the place -- right now…So, yes, we’re going to keep on drilling. Yes, we’re going to keep on emphasizing production. Yes, we’re going to make sure that we can get oil to where it’s needed.”

Obama appeared to be sticking it to the 1,200 climate activists who were arrested in front of the White House and the 5,000 climate activists who later encircled the White House and had claimed a rare victory as a result of their protests against the pipeline when he explained why he delayed the decision on the pipeline making it clear that the main factor was the route through Nebraska (not climate change):

“This whole issue of the Keystone pipeline had generated, obviously, a lot of controversy and a lot of politics. And that’s because the original route from Canada into the United States was planned through an area in Nebraska that supplies some drinking water for nearly 2 million Americans, and irrigation for a good portion of America's croplands. And Nebraskans of all political stripes -- including the Republican governor there -- raised some concerns about the safety and wisdom of that route.
So to be extra careful that the construction of the pipeline in an area like that wouldn’t put the health and the safety of the American people at risk, our experts said that we needed a certain amount of time to review the project.”

Of course Obama knows what environmentalists fear the most is a Republican winning the presidential election since that means many hard-won environmental regulations will be gutted or not enforced so he has little problem in combating Republican criticism by shifting toward the right. Also, it probably helps keep campaign money flowing in from Big Oil. With the present two-party system now making it virtually impossible for a third party candidate to win the presidency and therefore impossible for someone willing to take on the fossil fuel industry (e.g., Justice Party candidate Rocky Anderson) to win, it is difficult to see how this can end other than the planet heating up to temperatures that eventually threaten global civilization. We can see the train wreck coming but still cannot act.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Bill McKibben Finally Gets it: Obama Is in Favor of the Keystone XL Pipeline

For months environmental activist and writer Bill McKibben has been claiming that the pressure from grassroots climate activists whom he organized was responsible for President Obama first delaying a decision on the pipeline that would bring tar sands oil from Canada to the U.S. and then for turning down the pipeline. However, Obama never mentioned climate change as playing a role in his decisions and he never said that he was actually against the pipeline being built. He said he delayed his decision because the route through Nebraska needed to be changed and then he turned down the project because the State Department didn’t have enough time to review the revised route. A revised version of the pipeline proposal now has a southern section from Cushing, Oklahoma to Port Arthur, Texas which would be built first and Obama is going to Cushing to give a speech on his energy policy. The choice of this site for the speech has finally made it clear to McKibben that Obama really is in favor of the pipeline being built. At Huffingtonpost McKibben says:

“He [Obama] responded to the largest outpouring of environmental enthusiasm so far this millennium and denied a permit for the main Keystone XL pipe from Canada's tar sands to the Gulf of Mexico. Cynics said he did so just to avoid disappointing young people before the election, and pointed out that he invited pipeline proponent Transcanada to reapply for the permit. It's hard not to wonder if those cynics might be right, now that he's going to Oklahoma to laud the southern half of the project just as Transcanada executives have requested. True, the most critical part of the pipeline still can't be built…the connection to Canada remains blocked…But the sense grows that Obama may be setting us up for a bitter disappointment -- that his real allegiance is to the carbon barons.”

Perhaps McKibben’s realization that his climate change activism may have had no effect on Obama will convince him that the only way forward is via a third party. If he can somehow channel the energy of grassroots activists toward electing a president from a third party maybe we will finally start to get somewhere.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Global Warming Denier Ron Paul is the Leading Vote Getter in Americans Elect Nomination Process

He may be getting regularly whomped in the Republican primaries but Ron Paul has surged ahead of the field in race for the presidential nomination at Americans Elect. This hardly instills confidence that the Americans Elect process is going to result in selecting a nominee who is qualified to be president. Dr. Paul has called global warming “the greatest hoax I think that has been around for many, many years.” With an assessment like that one has to wonder how Paul got through his biology, chemistry, and physics courses in college and the basic science curriculum in medical school. Did he also conclude that the germ theory was a hoax? For a person whose chosen profession, medicine, is based on science, to call global warming a hoax is somewhat mind-boggling. Is his source of information on global warming Oklahoma senator James Inhofe who famously stood in front of the Senate and called global warming a hoax and has even written a book entitled The Greatest Hoax: How the Global Warming Conspiracy Threatens Your Future? Paul surely cannot be getting his information from climate scientists.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Third Party “Green” Candidates Rocky Anderson and Jill Stein Vie to Replace Obama

Probably only a small minority of Americans have ever heard of Rocky Anderson or Jill Stein, but both are running for President of the United States. Anderson is running on the newly formed Justice Party ticket and Stein is leading by a large margin in the primaries of the Green Party. Anderson is a former trial lawyer who served as mayor of Salt Lake City from 2000-2008. Stein is a physician who has been particularly interested in the effects of the environment on human health. One stark difference between these two “green” candidates is their experience in political office or lack thereof. Having served as mayor of a large city for 8 years Anderson has considerable executive experience in running a government whereas Stein only served as co-chair of the local recycling committee in Lexington, Massachusetts. Although Stein seems to have many admirable qualities based on her bio posted on her website she doesn’t seem to have enough experience in government or other comparable experience to seriously consider her for the presidency. Rocky Anderson on the other hand should be given serious consideration with a long record as a big-city mayor to run on. During his time in office he was considered to be perhaps America’s greenest mayor.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Will Americans Elect Give Us a Presidential Candidate Who Is Willing to Act on Climate Change?

For Americans who want to vote for somebody other than the Democratic and Republican nominees for president the nonpartisan organization Americans Elect is conducting a nomination process on the Internet. Americans Elect has secured a place on the ballot for all 50 states so whomever wins will be on the ballot in all states. One unusual requirement is that the ticket must be balanced meaning that two Democrats or two Republicans cannot be on the ticket. There can be one of each or a Democrat or Republican and an independent or two independents. The final ticket will be selected during a virtual convention. The leading declared candidate at the moment is Buddy Roemer. While Roemer doesn’t offer any hope on climate change, Rocky Anderson, a strong advocate for action on climate change, declared himself to be a candidate a few days ago.

The idea of a balanced ticket seems to make little sense. Shouldn’t Americans be choosing which way to go rather than choosing two people on opposite sides? Here is the explanation from the Americans Elect website:

“American voters are tired of politics as usual and tired of government failing to solve our problems. They want leadership that will work together to develop fresh ideas and real solutions that will tackle the serious challenges facing our country. Americans Elect is open to candidates from any party—and when they choose their running mates, they'll be required to choose one from a party other than their own. This will help produce candidates that don't just say they'll work with the other side, but ones who already are. This election, you have the power to help break the gridlock in Washington and make government more responsive to the people.”

It sounds like the only way this could possibly work is to wind up with two centrist candidates. However, that would seem to guarantee a victory for the status quo. In other words, continued corporate domination of the political process.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

The Race for the White House: Rocky Anderson versus Barack Obama on Climate Change

It only takes a brief look at the websites of these two candidates for President of the United States to see stark differences between them on the issue of climate change. On the home page of Anderson’s website there is a statement that says he will provide “international leadership by the U.S. to prevent the most catastrophic consequences of climate disruption.” On Obama’s website under the issue of “Energy and the Environment” there is not even a mention of climate change or global warming. According to the website, he is “moving us toward energy independence, investing in clean energy jobs, and taking steps to improve the quality of our air and water.” No mention of anything resembling “catastrophic consequences of climate disruption.” Helping us escape reality should be the job of Hollywood, not the President of the United States.

It should be clear that we cannot count on Barack Obama to aggressively deal with climate change if he is re-elected. If he even mentions it during a State of the Union address that would be a plus. How many Americans are going to help solve the climate crisis if their president doesn’t tell them that we have a crisis? How is the crisis ever going to be dealt with? It is hard to negotiate with other countries about reducing greenhouse gas emissions when you don’t tell the people of your own country how urgent it is to reduce these emissions. Rocky Anderson appears to be someone who will not mince words when it comes to global warming. If we are going to avoid extreme droughts, rising seas, mass extinctions, and the other predicted drastic consequences of climate change he seems to be the type of person we need to lead the way.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Obama Equals More than 2C of Global Warming

The night Barack Obama was declared the winner over John McCain in the presidential election of 2008 there were probably many sighs of relief by environmentalists who were sure there would finally be a science-based policy to deal with climate change. And when Obama later appointed his chief science adviser and Secretary of Energy that must have seemed like confirmation. But now that Obama has served as president for more than three years most of the sighs of relief have probably turned into cries of frustration. Not only is there no science-based policy (e.g., reducing emissions by 25-40% below 1990 levels by 2020 in developed countries) but Obama rarely even mentions the climate crisis. Moreover, he boasts of increased oil drilling as if he ran on the crazy drill-baby-drill platform of the Republicans. Where is the man we elected who promised to deal with global warming and was advocating a cap and trade program to help accomplish the goal?

According to the International Energy Agency (IEA), the nations of the world must begin stringent action before 2017 to have any reasonable chance of keeping the warming to less than 2C, considered by many climate scientists the threshold for dangerous climate change (although many others say the threshold may be even lower). The IEA says that so many fossil fuel power plants and industrial facilities will be built by 2017 that it will be virtually impossible to stay below 2C if the type of action needed has not been started by then. But Obama has agreed with other countries not to start legally binding action until 2020 and the nature of the action has not been specified, it might not include reducing emissions. It therefore appears that regardless of whether Obama is re-elected in the upcoming presidential election or his Republican opponent the world will probably experience dangerous climate change in the not too distant future. What a choice!

Thursday, March 08, 2012

Will Bill McKibben Support Rocky Anderson for President?

Bill McKibben wrote the first popular book on global warming over a quarter of a century ago and since then he has written other books on the subject as well as numerous articles and essays. More recently he has become a climate activist as he founded the grassroots organization and helped organize many protest rallies and most recently nonviolent civil disobedience protests which got him and others arrested. He has held to the belief that if you can get enough people together to fight for the cause of preventing dangerous climate change and returning atmospheric carbon dioxide to a safe level (below 350 parts per million) the government will be pressured to act. This belief seems to have been given some validity when after McKibben-led protests President Obama delayed a decision on the Keystone XL pipeline that would bring tar sands oil into the United States from Canada and then turned down the pipeline when the Republicans forced him to make an early decision. However, Obama claimed that he delayed the decision because the route of pipeline through Nebraska might result in pollution of a large aquifer. He never mentioned McKibben’s main concern about the project which was the tar sands were a huge source of carbon that should not be mined for oil because of all carbon dioxide that would be released from the burning of the oil. And when Obama turned down the pipeline he said it was because the State Department did not have enough time to review the changes that were made to the route. Again, no mention of concerns about climate change. So did McKibben’s protests play a role? Perhaps, but it seems unclear. One thing that does seem clear is that Obama has been playing down the global warming issue for political reasons, almost never mentioning it even though he talks a lot about energy. The effect so far of grassroots organizing by McKibben and others to fight global warming at the federal level seems to be minimal at best.

Will McKibben conclude that he can’t beat Big Oil and Big Coal with his strategy of mobilizing the grassroots as long as a Democrat or a Republican is in the White House and switch his strategy to backing a third party candidate for president such as former Salt Lake City mayor Rocky Anderson who doesn’t take any contributions from corporations and limits donations from individuals to $100? Since McKibben has been blaming Big Oil and Big Coal for the lack of progress on global warming such a switch in strategy would seem to make sense logically. But does Anderson have any realistic chance of winning? Can a candidate relying mainly on Facebook and Twitter to spread his message have any chance against candidates spending millions on TV ads? Stay tuned.