The Fugue Playing Behind Obama’s Climate Speech — Or Swampland in Florida…

…is looking to be an even worse investment than legend would have it.

The Republican Party may not believe in global warming, but those realists with money on the line clearly do.  As reported by Alistair Gray and Pilita Clark in the Financial Times blog, Alphaville, it’s getting harder — and may soon become impossible — to insure areas vulnerable to sea level rise:

Parts of the UK and the US state of Florida were already facing “a risk environment that is uninsurable”, said the global insurance industry trade body, the Geneva Association.

That’s close to all I can quote from the piece under the FT’s copyright/use policies, but you get the idea.  This is at least part of the backdrop to President Obama’s (to me) very significant speech today.  Digging a little deeper into the report the FT cites [PDF], you can see why:

Recently, improved observational records and the increased length of reliable time series have provided new evidence of the degree of global ocean warming and the distribution of energy within the ocean (e.g. Levitus et al., 2012). A positive temperature trend in the ocean is now detectable and has already changed selected but relevant metrics for extreme events away from what we have observed in the past (e.g. Elsner, 2008)…

There is a significant upward trend in the insured losses caused by the extreme weather events discussed in Chapter 2. [Tropical cylones.; extra-tropical cyclones; convective storms]…This is true for primary insurance, which is impacted by an increasing attritional loss burden caused by severe local weather events, as well as for reinsurance losses caused by large scale catastrophic extreme events.*


And the money quote:

The interplay between the potential of rising risk levels and insurance demand, but decreasing self-protection, could create a risk environment that is uninsurable in some regions (Herweijer et al., 2009). Examples for markets with this potential are U.K. flood or Florida wind storm insurance.


So, to sum up:  those with actual money on the line agree that (a) global warming is real; (b) that significant human and environmental  consequences are already in train; and that the way we live now — especially on the coasts — is not sustainable.

The report goes on to advocate coupling the ongoing provision of insurance to climate-risk-prone property be conditional on real climate-change mitigation efforts, which is to say, building the new infrastructure needed to protect coasts from the new normal.  In that vein. here’s a look at what that might entail in a short film made by three of my students a little over a year ago:

So, GOP, et al.  Here’s the deal:  Don’t ask if you believe in climate change.  Wonder instead, does climate change believe in you?
*This passage in the report goes on to say that “There is broad agreement among experts that this global trend in economic as well as insured losses from natural disasters is primarily driven by socio-economic factors…”  Translated, that seems to be making the argument I’ve heard (and advanced) since working on my book on climate change way back in the late 1980s.  That is:  there are natural events (like a hurricane) and human disasters, the losses incurred by what natural events do to the physical infrastructure and populations we’ve built up in the path of extreme natural processes.  Simpler: the cost and risk of climate change comes not simply from stronger or more frequent storms (or whatever) but because we’ve got so much more to lose along, say, the Florida coast than we did 50 or even 10 years ago.
Image:  J. W. M. Turner, Snowstorm off the Harbor Entrance, 1842.

137 replies
  1. 1
    Emma says:

    I live in South Florida, but much higher than the usual run of houses as we sit on a piece of the Miami Ridge. My friends joke that my family and some of my neighbours will have island property for fifty or so years before we also go under.

  2. 2
    Mr Stagger Lee says:

    Call me cynical but I think the president will unveil all plans to combat Global Climate Change, then lower the boom by approving the Keystone XL pipeline. I hope I am wrong on this.

  3. 3
    Steeplejack says:

    Stand-alone link to the video “Nature’s Poker Face” above for those who want to forward it or watch it in a separate tab/window.

  4. 4
    Steeplejack says:


    FYWP! Available front-pager to the dungeon for unmoderation, please.

  5. 5
    Brother Machine Gun of Desirable Mindfulness (fka AWS) says:

    I realize Florida is America’s Wang and where all the money is, but there’s a whole lot of the gulf coast exposed to this problem.

  6. 6
    Just One More Canuck says:

    But, but, global warming is a lie, because shut up, that’s why

  7. 7
    Jerzy Russian says:

    The Republican Party may not believe in global warming, but those realists with money on the line clearly do.

    Funny how that works. If only extreme stupidity were expensive (in an obvious way that even stupid people could see).

  8. 8
    Mino says:

    @Mr Stagger Lee: Yeah. Low expectations there, for sure. Environmentalists have all become dogs expecting a kick anytime a politician of any stripe gets up..

  9. 9
    Woody says:

    It’s going to be interesting observing the rightwing pivot when global climate change becomes too obvious for Fox to ignore.

    Will they seize upon some minor error to absolve themselves? Will they trumpet their turnabout as Rebranding Republicans Part XXIV? They might even use it as an excuse to line up Party undesirables against the wall if they achieve power at that point.

    One thing is certain, though: the courtier media will never give the DFH scientists/activists a scintilla of credit.

  10. 10
    Jim, Foolish Literalist says:

    it’s just depressing to me how little weight climate change has in our politics. I personally am glad Obama’s doing this, and it’s almost enough to get me to re-up to OfA– I’ve been holding out till Keystone is decided– but I don’t expect this to get more Very Serious chin-stroking than the already twice or thrice debunked IRS “scandal”

    Carper and Coons were among the 17 Democrats who voted for that resolution a few months ago calling on Obama to approve Keystone. I know Carper’s frequently a dick, but Coons surprises me. Does Delaware have some stake in extraction industry I’m aware of.

  11. 11
    ThresherK says:

    Wait, the FT has a blog called “Alphaville”?

    The FT is the source of some good reporting.

    But I had no idea such coolness was in them, though. (No matter how much wordplay the title may incorporate.)

  12. 12
    elisabeth says:

    Apparently Inhofe gave his prebuttal to POTUS last night on the Senate floor.

  13. 13
    Baud says:

    @Mr Stagger Lee:

    I’ve becoming disenchanted with the Keystone fight. I keep hearing conflicting stories about the effect of Keystone on climate change.

  14. 14
    Amir Khalid says:

    For anyone interested in the Southeast Asia haze situation, it wasn’t so bad today here in KL, where rain has washed some of the imported Indonesian smoke particles out of the air in some places. However, this is only temporary relief. Unless it rains again, we’ll be back to the choking, eye-stinging, low-visibility smog we’ve had for the past week.
    Meanwhile the haze footprint is spreading north, in the general direction of states on the Thai border.

    @Mr Stagger Lee:
    I too hope you are wrong.

  15. 15
    scott says:

    You can never have enough JMW Turner pics in your posts. Well done, and thanks!

  16. 16
    piratedan says:

    somehow this seems appropriate:

    The Tragically Hip

    I turned down a job in Miami a month or so ago because I’ve got no idea if the city will be there in a decade….

  17. 17
    balconesfault says:

    Republican thought has been evolving on climate change.

    1) Climate change doesn’t exist
    2) Climate change is happening, but it’s all a result of natural cycles
    3) Climate change is being caused by man, but there’s nothing we can do about it

    4) Climate change is being caused by man, and we need to implement some phenomenally expensive and risky technology (ie, shooting metallic particles into the upper atmosphere in order to reflect the suns rays back into space) in order to counteract it

    oh, and one more

    5) Al Gore is fat

    although the last one is a constant, no matter which of the previous steps in evolution they currently occupy

  18. 18
    scott says:

    @Amir Khalid: I heard Cardiff City (Bluebirds? Redbirds? Dragons? so confusing) cancelled their football friendlies in KL because of the smog, which kind of shocked me. Wow!

  19. 19
    balconesfault says:

    @Baud: Canadian tar sands will be horrible for climate change. But NEPA really isn’t a strong enough tool to prevent Keystone from being built, and even if it were stopped the Canadians will find some other way to get the oil/sand to the refineries and out into the market.

  20. 20
    Higgs Boson's Mate says:

    @Jim, Foolish Literalist:

    Does Delaware have some stake in extraction industry I’m aware of.

    Don’t know about extraction. Do know that Delaware is a corporate tax haven. Nearly half of US corporations are incorporated in Delaware.

  21. 21
    Baud says:


    I don’t doubt the harmful effects of tar sands. I’m hearing mixed messages on the effect of Keystone on tar sands.

  22. 22
    Jim, Foolish Literalist says:

    @balconesfault: I thought British Columbia had pretty much put a stop to talk of a pipeline through the Rockies? One of the things that made me raise an eyebrow (at first I typed “shocked me”, but I wasn’t really shocked) was that the Canadian gov’t, never mind the oil companies, Canadian TAX PAYER LOONIES!, had spent $25 million on lobbying in favor of Keystone. I think just in the past year.

    I’m hoping against hope that Obama will kill it, but the fact is it would be a huge gift to Republicans heading in to the mid-terms.

  23. 23
    Botsplainer, fka Todd says:

    Remember when modest homes in Florida went up all the way to the beach? And how it was far less expensive to remediate, demolish and rebuild those modest structures and the locally owned infrastructure?

    Building 5 million dollar beachfront homes is a mistake. So is building luxury retail space next to a rising sea.

  24. 24

    @balconesfault: I think that’s right- it’ll be some Star Wars style stupid program. Or a rag-tag group of high school students will take up arms against it. Wolverines!

  25. 25
    balconesfault says:

    @Jim, Foolish Literalist: The problem with Obama killing it, is that given the State Department alternative analysis (baseline of tar sands being transported via rail, rather than Keystone) it’s pretty hard to conclude that Keystone isn’t the preferred alternative. I suspect that if the Admin blocks the pipeline, Transcanada would sue under the Administrative Procedures Act, and stand a very good chance of winning.

  26. 26
    kc says:


    Really? A decade?

  27. 27
    Amir Khalid says:

    Well, given the poor air quality here right now, I agree with the Bluebirds’ decision. Besides, fuck Vincent Tan. He yelled at me once during a press conference, just because one of his executives couldn’t answer my question.

  28. 28
    kdaug says:

    anyone got the schematics for one of those Easter island heads? Just in case I’m the one chopping down the last tree, at least I’ll look cool for my neighbors.

    Oh, wait.

  29. 29
    Comrade Jake says:

    I saw something the other day that suggested that both the risks and benefits of the Keystone pipeline were being exaggerated. Shocking, I know.

  30. 30
    Higgs Boson's Mate says:


    The problem with Obama killing it, is that given the State Department alternative analysis (baseline of tar sands being transported via rail, rather than Keystone) it’s pretty hard to conclude that Keystone isn’t the preferred alternative.

    That’s what we get for not solving all of our energy needs by drilling in ANWR and off the coasts of California and Florida. I hope you treehuggers are all proud of yourselves.


  31. 31
    piratedan says:

    @kc: sea levels rising, how far above sea level is Miami… 5 feet? It won’t be just from the coast to the east and south, to the west is swamp, not exactly higher ground. South Florida is mostly limestone, porous rock. How you gonna turn back the ocean? This country can’t even get a local light rail passed, do you think and elaborate system of dykes and seawalls are gonna be constructed over the next decade, in Florida? to save Miami? If we’re talking Orlando, Disney would be lobbying their asses off, who has a vested interest in Miami? They can’t even get people down there to attend baseball games.

  32. 32
    balconesfault says:

    @Comrade Jake: To someone who deals with pipeline permitting all the time … one of the most annoying aspects of the Keystone objections has been the complaints about pipelines crossing the Ogalalla Aquifer.

    Folks – hazardous liquids pipelines are being built across the Ogalalla, and other sensitive aquifers, every freaking day in America. Most of them with less than 10% of the scrutiny that Keystone has been subjected to, and less than 10% of the mitigation measures Transcanada has had to implement. And a lot of those actually pose MORE risk to aquifers than Keystone would.

    If people want to worry about risks to aquifers, they should start by worrying that the DOT doesn’t make all pipelines have a higher level of regulatory scrutiny.

  33. 33
    martha says:

    Follow the money, always. Now that the multi-national insurance companies have decided climate change is “real” because of their actuarial tables, it is real.

    I could get all cynical and snippy about this situation, but ya know what? Sometimes the math is on our side. It’s too late for some places, I fear, but it will be the sledgehammer required for the cretins in Congress.

  34. 34
    Forum Transmitted Disease says:

    Say climate change is bullshit, say it until you’re blue in the face. Pass all the stupid laws you want. It does not matter.

    The DoD took climate change as gospel truth almost 20 years ago, and now the shit is truly about to hit the fan as the insurers walk away from anything near a shore.

  35. 35
    raven says:

    Section 4 of the Voting Rights Act is unconstitutional. Its formula can no longer be used as a basis for subjecting jurisdictions to preclearance.

  36. 36
    raven says:

    “Our decision in no way affects the permanent, nationwide ban on racial discrimination in voting found in [Section] 2. We issue no holding on [Section] 5 itself, only on the coverage formula. Congress may draft another formula based on current conditions”

  37. 37
    Amir Khalid says:

    @Higgs Boson’s Mate:
    As I understand, had Obama approved drilling for oil in those areas on 20th January 2009, you would on 20th January 2017 still have a few more years to wait before you could buy the petrol.

  38. 38
    balconesfault says:

    @piratedan: I don’t know how even seawalls and dikes save Miami … because when some tropical storm parks over Florida for awhile the water won’t be coming from the Atlantic, but from the inland channels that are trying to feed into the Atlantic, and finding that the level of the Atlantic has gotten too high to create a gradient that allows drainage. Now you have literally thousands of those drainages overtopping at once, because the water gotta go somewhere.

  39. 39
    Brother Machine Gun of Desirable Mindfulness (fka AWS) says:

    Does anyone have a handle on what the SCOTUS ruling means?

  40. 40
    SP says:

    Insurability requires finding some group of financial backers whose “model” (and I use the term loosely for denialists) states that the expected risk is overblown. Surely some enterprising Teabagger can get together money to offer insurance to all those people who won’t really be washed away and the insurance fund will clean up when they pay fewer claims than expected. I mean, they do believe in their faux-science, right?

  41. 41
  42. 42
    Baud says:

    @Brother Machine Gun of Desirable Mindfulness (fka AWS):

    As I read it, the Court didn’t gut the idea of heightened scrutiny for certain jurisdictions, but said Congress needs to update the list of jurisdiction to reflect modern times.

  43. 43
    PeakVT says:

    Can we get another SCOTUS thread? Kthx.

  44. 44
    piratedan says:

    @balconesfault: agreed, with the expected rise in sea levels, Miami may eventually become the new Atlantis. Looks more like a matter of when rather than if. Anyone else seeing the polar regions/icecaps refreezing anytime soon?

  45. 45

    @Brother Machine Gun of Desirable Mindfulness (fka AWS): The jurisdictions covered in Section 4 (mostly in the South, but a few other places) will no longer have to clear changes in voting laws with the DOJ before they go into effect. It would still be possible to file lawsuits against discriminatory practices, but they would have a chance to influence elections first. In theory, Congress could come up with a new formula for which jurisdictions need to have their laws precleared, but in reality: well, Congress. So, expect more changes to voting laws that have the effect of diminishing minority turnout and political power.

  46. 46
    balconesfault says:

    @Baud: Which would functionally gut heightened scrutiny in this era of a disfunctional Congress.

  47. 47
    Chris says:


    I’ll just bet Congress is going to get right on that…

  48. 48
    Forum Transmitted Disease says:

    @balconesfault: The percentage of a population, any population, with genuine critical thinking skills is very small. Keystone’s a big deal because somebody said it was a while ago. That’s the only reason. As you note, there’s thousands of Keystones or worse running all through this country, and most of them are at best under minimal supervision.

  49. 49
  50. 50
    Brother Machine Gun of Desirable Mindfulness (fka AWS) says:

    @raven: I’m following Scotusblog, but they’re just announcing stuff atm. I am hoping for a big picture take.

    @Baud: thanks, and call me cynical on Congress doing anything worthwhile at present.

  51. 51


    Can we get another SCOTUS thread? Kthx.


  52. 52
    Higgs Boson's Mate says:

    @Brother Machine Gun of Desirable Mindfulness (fka AWS):

    The court held that Section 4 of the VRA is unconstitutional. Section 4 defines which areas Section 5 applies to. Court said that Congress can redefine where Section 5 applies. That should work out real well.

    Here’s a LINK to the decision.

    EDit: See that others have beaten me to it. I blame my arthritis. Not that I’m slow witted. Nope. Not at all.

  53. 53
    raven says:

    SCOTUSBLOG saying it is the death of the act.

  54. 54
    Gian says:

    it’s scalia trying to sell his screenplay sequel to white men can’t jump
    the working title is “black men can’t vote”

  55. 55
    Chris says:


    Yeah. I just heard about it on TV, and my impression is that the Supreme Court basically used a bullshit excuse (“oh, the map’s not up to date!”) to punt the issue to a body they know full well hates the Voting Rights Act and has no intention of doing anything about this issue.

    Ah, well. I suppose the Supremes upholding the ACA did use up a lot of the luck we had regarding that particular institution.

  56. 56
    JPL says:

    @raven: An individual now has to prove discrimination. That costs a lot of time and money. Expect the cost of voting to increase, by demanding more id’s and wait lines. IMO

  57. 57
    PeakVT says:

    Big article on the future of Miami. Probably somewhat sensationalist, but it gives an overview of the issues and the current state of thinking in the area.

  58. 58
    piratedan says:

    the idea that SCOTUS believes that there’s no overt racism in play in the current electoral process smacks of the idea that there’s any gambling ongoing at Rick’s Place in Casablanca.

  59. 59
    Mino says:

    Anyone see the wall of whatever Detroit has sitting beside her tar sands refinery? Imagine wall to wall on the Gulf Coast just waiting for the next hurricane to suck it out to sea. Or maybe Texas permits its being dumped at sea? Nothing would surprise me. We are a third world country fronting the social costs of extraction.

  60. 60
    balconesfault says:

    @Forum Transmitted Disease: Keystone’s also a big deal because there was a mechanism – the need for a Presidential Permit to cross the international border – that triggered NEPA.

    FWIW, FERC triggers NEPA for any interstate natural gas pipeline.

    Somehow DOT has managed to avoid any regulatory review that would trigger NEPA for most hazardous liquids pipelines (unless they cross large swaths of Federal Lands, for example).

  61. 61
    balconesfault says:


    I suppose the Supremes upholding the ACA did use up a lot of the luck we had regarding that particular institution.

    At the time, I remember someone making the argument that Roberts voted to uphold the ACA so he could proceed with more wingnuttery down the road and have his “get out of jail free” card when people complain about extreme conservative bias.

  62. 62


    It’s going to be interesting observing the rightwing pivot when global climate change becomes too obvious for Fox to ignore.

    The spin will be that it’s too late to do anything by emissions controls, so we have to spend unlimited money on geoengineering, preferably through no-bid contracts with Republican affiliated contractors.

  63. 63
    Belafon (formerly anonevent) says:

    @JPL: What Democrats need to do is go to places like Texas and get everyone prepared for what it’s going to take to vote next year. We won’t be able to fix anything until we are in charge of stuff, and until then we need to get everyone voting.

  64. 64
    burnspbesq says:


    IMV, as I said in the open thread below, this is the least bad “loss” one could have hoped for.

  65. 65
    ruemara says:

    Since rich people get to live on the beach, I say this is not big deal. Lock them into their beachfront properties and let them wash away, like they’ve let us starve and die these past couple of decades. Sorry Florida, but it’s for the great good. And FUCK the Roberts SCOTUS.

  66. 66
    scott says:

    @Amir Khalid: He does seem a bit of a jerk. When the Cardiff fans objected to him monkeying around with the team name, he basically told them to suck on it because it was his money. Charm!

  67. 67

    @Roger Moore: It’s depressing how true this is.

  68. 68
    Higgs Boson's Mate says:

    @Roger Moore:

    Near-future headline:

    “Government Grants Yoyodyne $100bn Contract to Fight Climate Change”

  69. 69
    Botsplainer, fka Todd says:

    I see that Uncle Clarence struck again. Jesus, that man has been a Judas beyond reckoning.

  70. 70
    MomSense says:

    O/T but I want to kick those 5 justices in the junk.

  71. 71
    balconesfault says:

    @Roger Moore: See evolutionary step (5) in posting #16.

  72. 72
    burnspbesq says:


    but they would have a chance to influence elections first

    Not necessarily. DOJ can get TROs and preliminary injunctions to prevent new rules from going into effect while the litigation proceeds.

  73. 73

    @burnspbesq: Ah, OK. Good to know. Thanks.

  74. 74
    Belafon (formerly anonevent) says:

    @Roger Moore: Too complicated. It will be because we’ve sinned against God for allowing gays to marry.

  75. 75
    Higgs Boson's Mate says:


    I add my thanks to those of TooManyJens’.

  76. 76
    burnspbesq says:

    @Belafon (formerly anonevent):

    Exactly! It’s become a cliche, but elections have consequences, and if we want a new coverage formula, we need control of the House.

  77. 77
    balconesfault says:

    @Belafon (formerly anonevent): That’s exactly what I’ve been thinking. This should be the trigger for the mother of all ground games by the Democrats. There are a LOT of youngsters sitting around without jobs these days – why not take a few million from the various Democratic warchests and get them enlisted in a massive voter outreach/education/registration drive across the south, instead of feeding more of that money to beltway pollsters and campaign consultants?

  78. 78
    Baud says:

    @Botsplainer, fka Todd:

    Thomas is reason alone to never elect a republican president.

  79. 79
    Chris says:

    @Roger Moore:

    preferably through no-bid contracts with Republican affiliated contractors.

    I still haven’t seen or read World War Z, but I read up on it on Wikipedia a week or two ago when the movie came out. I think one of the most best parts about it is the American corporation making billions by selling a placebo they claim will inoculate you against zombieism.

    Of course, that couldn’t happen here in real life…

  80. 80
    Barry says:

    @Woody: “It’s going to be interesting observing the rightwing pivot when global climate change becomes too obvious for Fox to ignore.”

    They’ll lie. They’ll construct a new history where global warming was caused by liberal government intervention, and claim that Real Republicans were against it all along.

  81. 81
    PeakVT says:

    Latest SCOTUS opinions are posted here.

    The vote in each case (which is different from the merits of the opinion) was:

    Adoptive Couple v. Baby Girl – 5-4 mixed (Alito, Roberts, Kennedy, Thomas, Breyer) vs (Scalia, Kagan, Sotomayor, Ginsburg) with several separate opinions on each side.
    Koontz v. St. Johns River Water Management Dist. – 5-4 bad guys
    Shelby County v. Holder – 5-4 bad guys, Thomas concurring with additional explanations of how he is an evil shit

  82. 82
    burnspbesq says:


    Nope. It just means there’s only one tool in the enforcement toolkit: litigation. As long as we have a Preznit and an AG who give a shit, the Voting Rights Act can and will still be enforced.

  83. 83
    Chris says:



    Always said the way you know you’ve won (really won) an argument with a conservative is when they start claiming that they were really on the other side all along and try to claim credit for the things that had to be imposed over their objections. In fifty years, it’ll be gay rights.

    The climate change thing is just a more morbid version of same.

  84. 84
    Another Halocene Human says:

    The original moral hazard started with disaster relief for coastal homes that rebuilt just as good or better in place with no caps. The coasts went from working class bungalows to the very, very rich, with their fragile mansions rebuilt at taxpayer expense. They defy laws which are supposed to keep the coastline open to the public as well.

    If FEMA relocated rich white people post disaster with a modest monetary cap for all services (say, $200,000), those coastal properties would be “repriced” by the “free market” in a heartbeat.

    Of course, we are talking about powerful people, so this will never happen.

  85. 85
    Elizabelle says:


    I honestly think Clarence Thomas is a big reason George HW Bush got un-elected.

    I remember the affluent white Republican women I knew, their ashen faces when they realized GHWBush was throwing them under the bus to court the party’s rightwing.

    Take that Thurgood Marshall.

    But actually, take that GHW Bush.

    It was convenient for the rightwing to blame the loss on “read my lips; no new taxes”, but that wasn’t the half of it.

  86. 86
    mike with a mic says:

    What’s lost in most climate change discussions and the real issue with it are two things, baseline power in today’s modern world and the petro dollar.

    Point blank if we aren’t going to be using carbon based fuels the only way to get enough base line power for some major urban areas and the data centers our tech companies depend on is nuclear. Green technologies may be fine for other areas and good for helping the base line in other areas, but we can’t have a NYC, google, or facebook without nuclear or carbon based energy. And since many of the most die hard advocates for green energy run shrieking from nuclear the conversation is a non starter. Until climate change advocates get behind nuclear they don’t have a solution to this issue.

    The petro dollar is a bit more complicated, but it’s one the key things anchoring down America’s economic power and the value of the dollar. This is nastier because we don’t have the nuclear “get of jail free” card here, it’s just going to hurt no matter what. Nobody would be willing to bottom out the value of the dollar and cause prices to skyrocket, if you think the crash of 2008 was bad that would be minor compared to the chaos.

    So without a firm embrace of nuclear by climate change advocates, and a solution to the pertro dollar situation, you’re not going to see any serious movement on this issue because the damage done would be catastrophic. As much as it may suck to say it, we’re stuck where we are.

  87. 87
    a hip hop artist from Idaho (fka Bella Q) says:

    @raven: I agree that the decision is, for all intents, purposes, and practical effect, the death of the VRA. Eliminating the current framework for preclearance will result in the passage of lots of state/county legislation that will reduce access to the vote – for, oddly enough, those who tend to vote D. Those places where preclearance has been required have a long, consistent history of voter suppression. Now those jurisdictions can gleefully suppress the vote, get their desired result, and then say “SORRY,” when a later legal action shows the new regulations to be illegally discriminatory.

    The decision is the functional death of the VRA.

  88. 88
    Higgs Boson's Mate says:


    Obama tied our hands!

  89. 89
    ericblair says:

    @Higgs Boson’s Mate:

    “Government Grants Yoyodyne $100bn Contract to Fight Climate Change”

    If I may be a doomer, I think it’s worse than that. Some of the stuff I read said that the geoengineering would only be about a billion dollars, so even some private billionaire somewhere could go off and mess with the atmosphere on his nickel, leading to God knows what real effect. Our only hope would be to make it a completely over-budget and decades-late boondoggle that gets axed after years of ineffective fuckups.

  90. 90
    Another Halocene Human says:

    @Botsplainer, fka Todd: There were always hyperrich enclaves on artificial islands in Floriduh (Gulf and Atlantic coasts) but in the bad old days when the hurrikan hit the owners just had to suck up their losses.

    In the bad old days a lot of the proles built their own homes so the main risk they faced post storm was loss of income (of course they risked life and limb during storm before they had weather forecasts and evacuation plans).

  91. 91
    balconesfault says:

    @mike with a mic: Meh. Building enough new nukes to replace our current reliance on carbon would take 20+ years, and has an initial capital cost commitment so high that only the Federal Government could take that step … because private investors are scared s***less that over the coming decades expansion of wind and improvements in solar and in grid management technologies would essentially strand their investments down the road, forcing them to sell their electrons at prices below what it takes to repay their debt.

    Do you want the Feds to commit the cost of Iraq and Afghanistan to make that gamble?

  92. 92
    Another Halocene Human says:

    @balconesfault: Yeah, blame the activists for toiling ineffectually for years and finally finding the one project that builds a coalition.

    Yeah. The stuff you’re talking about is ugly. Hopefully some of the big movers and shakers on Keystone resistance have their eyes on that too and the masses following it will listen for once.

    As you said this has been going on for years without a stop.

  93. 93
    a hip hop artist from Idaho (fka Bella Q) says:

    @burnspbesq: How will DOJ get past the “likely to prevail” requirement in these injunctive actions? If there’s not a new set of preclearance requirements, that seems to be a bit of a Catch 22.

  94. 94
    Patricia Kayden says:

    @Belafon (formerly anonevent): AMEN AMEN AMEN. Exactly what Dems should be doing NOW. Don’t wait until id laws are passed to start panicking. We know what’s coming down the line. Repubs are predictable.

  95. 95
    mike with a mic says:


    What I want doesn’t matter. Without nukes we aren’t going to have the baseline grid power to get off carbon, end of story. And even then it doesn’t solve the petro dollar issue.

    So while I believe in climate change, at this point doing something about it could be far dumber than ignoring it for a while longer.

  96. 96
    Another Halocene Human says:

    @balconesfault: That sounds too much like right.

  97. 97
    balconesfault says:

    @Another Halocene Human:

    Yeah, blame the activists for toiling ineffectually for years and finally finding the one project that builds a coalition.

    But I don’t see it as a coalition that will hold together … but more a one-off. They haven’t been talking about the larger issues, but hyperfocusing on roadblocks … upset property owners, imo an overplayed threat to the Ogalalla, the American Burrowing Beetle, etc. Once Keystone gets built, or not built … the coalition is going to dissolve, because they’re not using it to build any legislative consensus. Nebraska and Kansas and Oklahoma will all elect the same anti-EPA wingnuts when it’s all said and done.

  98. 98
    Robert Sneddon says:

    @balconesfault: What He Said.

    I suspect that some of the opposition to the Keystone XL connection [0] is from American oil companies drilling in places like North Dakota who want the Athabasca tarsands oil to be more expensive than their own product delivered to the Gulf refineries.

    [0] most of the Keystone pipeline is already in place and operational, moving oil from the Dakotas and elsewhere to the Gulf refineries. The last controversial bit is the section that would bring Canadian tarsands oil into the “grid” of pipelines that criss-cross the US. Without that link the oil will be shipped by rail or tanker, weather and sea-ice permitting. It will take a lot more energy to move it this way than by pipeline, burning more oil and releasing more CO2 into the atmosphere. It WILL be dug up, processed and shipped one way or the other because its oil and extractable resources like oil are free money, basically.

  99. 99
    Another Halocene Human says:

    @PeakVT: Koontz v. St. Johns River Water Management Dist. – 5-4 bad guys


  100. 100
    Bendal says:

    @Brother Machine Gun of Desirable Mindfulness (fka AWS):

    It’s not just the Gulf Coast. The SE Atlantic Coast and Chesapeake Bay area are also threatened by rising sea levels. NC’s coast is within a few feet of sea level well inland all the way to US 17 and beyond. When Hurricane Floyd his the state several years ago, everything east of I-95 was flooded for weeks. A 3′ rise in sea level would wipe out a lot of small towns along the Atlantic coast south of NJ, ruin hundreds of thousands of acres of farmland, flood infrastructure from sewage treatment plants to roads and buildings, and require billions of dollars in mitigation and relocation efforts. Charleston, Savannah, Brunswick, Wilmington, etc, are all threatened by this, and meanwhile our politicians act as if sticking their fingers in their ears and saying “nyah nyah nyah can’t hear you” will stop the sea from rising.

    At least here in NC we’re safe; our legislature passed a bill denying sea level increases are taking place and prohibiting our coastal agencies from using any increases to make policy with.

  101. 101
    Patricia Kayden says:

    @a hip hop artist from Idaho (fka Bella Q): Just a question — are the states that will be impacted most by the S Court VRA ruling mostly red states anyways? I assume that minority voters had little (if any) impact in such states anyways when it came to getting Dems elected. Not that it makes the S Ct ruling any better.

  102. 102
    Amir Khalid says:

    I have seen World War Z, just today in fact, and I found the movie disappointing, basically a dumb action click. Will be picking up the book, which can hardly fail to be better.

  103. 103
    balconesfault says:


    When Hurricane Floyd his the state several years ago, everything east of I-95 was flooded for weeks.

    Mind you – that’s the natural state of being.

    It’s kind of a hubris on the part of humans that we can build seawalls and detention ponds and channels and be able to manage the worst that nature can throw at us. Parts of the US eastern seaboard all the way around the gulf to south Texas have always been subject to prolonged inland flooding … because that’s the nature of the processes that formed those lands in the first place.

    But it IS pretty damn stupid of us to not only build lots of infrastructure based on that hubris, and then undermine our own efforts by going full speed ahead with pumping previously sequestered carbon into our atmosphere.

  104. 104
    Ted & Hellen says:

    But what is completely awesome is the way Mr. Obama has, from the day of his inauguration, relentlessly hammered on the need for Manhattan-style projects to mitigate the effects of climate change and to get us off fossil fuels.

    In concert with the fearless Democrats in congress, he has over the last five years, been nothing short of heroic in making the clear the immediate need for urgent, firm, resolute ACTION…

    …oh, wait….

    …never mind.

    Vote Dem!

  105. 105
    PeakVT says:

    @Patricia Kayden: It won’t make much difference in federal races in deep red states like MS and AL. But state and local races matter, too. And then there are states like VA where the federal races are closer, especially for POTUS.

  106. 106
    Ted & Hellen says:

    @Just One More Canuck:

    But, but, global warming is a lie, because shut up, that’s why

    Point taken. Which is why Obama’s unrelenting push for ACTION from the first day of his presidency, FEARLESS! I tell you, has been so impressive.

  107. 107
    danimal says:

    If I were a Dem congressman, I’d propose a bill defunding climate change contingencies in the DoD budget. After all, if climate change is fraudulent, we don’t want the Pentagon spending their meager budgetary pittance on frivolous projects, do we?
    Because we know Republicans are (choose one):
    A) very careful with our national treasury at all times
    B) Always looking to save, even from costly defence boondoggles
    C) Actually convinced that climate change is a fraud, rather than just parroting nonsense on behalf of Big Oil
    D) Motivated by principle, rather than trying to piss off liberals and calling it principled, or

  108. 108
    balconesfault says:

    @Ted & Hellen:

    Point taken. Which is why Obama’s unrelenting push for ACTION from the first day of his presidency, FEARLESS! I tell you, has been so impressive.

    You wanted a 1-term President? Had that been Obama’s mode, in the midst of the worst economic conditions since the Great Depression, he’d have been a 1-term President.

    OTOH his stimulus bill did do a lot of positive things to build the infrastructure we need to back off our carbon reliance. Some more stimulus would have facilitated a lot more.

  109. 109
    Jockey Full of Malbec says:

    @Comrade Jake:
    Just imagine millions of gallons of oil, pumped directly over the Ogallala Aquifer through a pipeline built by the lowest bidder. (They’ve already asked the Govt to permit the use of a thinner steel than usual).

    Oh… in an area that had a 4.3 earthquake back in 2002.

    “Opinions differ”.

  110. 110
    Ted & Hellen says:


    Obama could have combined his fearless and brave call for necessary action with a massive stimulus for the needed and urgent Manhattan style project for climate change mitigation and alternate fuel sources.

    But he chose not to.

    Because republicans are totally mean, and he needed that money to go to the banks and Wall Street.

  111. 111
    balconesfault says:

    @Ted & Hellen: Sure, he could have.

    He could have also not had the stimulus pass. Because yes, he essentially had to have unanimity in the Democratic caucus, thanks to those “mean Republicans” … and he wasn’t going to get unanimity from the Democratic caucus on that no matter how loud he banged his drum.

    I’m guessing, though, that you actually have the cognitive capacity to understand this, and just enjoy taking cheap potshots.

  112. 112
    balconesfault says:

    @Jockey Full of Malbec:

    Just imagine millions of gallons of oil, pumped directly over the Ogallala Aquifer

    Out of curiousity … are you aware that in Kansas and Oklahoma and Texas there are millions of gallons of oil pumped directly THROUGH the Ogalalla on an annual basis?

    Yep … that’s right … the Ogalalla has thousands of oil wells pulling crude in low-bid steel pipes straight through the aquifer, without even hundreds of feet of soil buffering it.

    Are you alarmed yet?

  113. 113
    Rob in CT says:

    Obama could have combined his fearless and brave call for necessary action with a massive stimulus for the needed and urgent Manhattan style project for climate change mitigation and alternate fuel sources.

    But he chose not to.

    If you think that would have made it through Congress, you are delusional.

  114. 114
    Jockey Full of Malbec says:

    Now that, I did not know…

    Are you alarmed yet?

    Time to bet short on the wheat, corn and soybean crops, in case they get poisoned.

    I’ll make a mint!

    More seriously, though, if Canada thinks they have decades worth of oil in the tar sands, why arent they building their own refineries in Vancouver? Closer to the Chinese, for one thing.

    I’ve just never read a compelling case for why that pipeline has to be on THAT particular route.

  115. 115
    Ted & Hellen says:

    @Rob in CT:

    You are, of course, correct.

    It is always better to stand for nothing and surrender before making the attempt, no matter how noble and true the goal.

    Be sure to teach this to your offspring.

  116. 116
    Robert Sneddon says:

    @balconesfault: That’s American oil though, not foreign oil which has coooties.

  117. 117
    scav says:

    @Ted & Hellen: You accomplish nothing far more comprehensively and definitively at all times and by all measurements. Congratulations on your large shiny empty cup that is perfectly polished so that you may admire your reflection in it.

  118. 118
    Ted & Hellen says:


    Yes, but then I didn’t aggressively seek and get myself elected to the allegedly most powerful position in the world, now did I?

    Only to putz about and whine about how mean Republicans are so I can’t do anything while also adopting their rhetoric on debt and overseeing the meteoric rise of the Oligarchy to even greater heights above the rest of us…

    …now did I?

  119. 119
    Ted & Hellen says:


    You make a great case for your president by putting the bar for his expected level of performance on the same level as for that of a nobody like me.


  120. 120
    Yatsuno says:

    @balconesfault: Never roll in the mud with a pig. You both get dirty and the pig enjoys it.

  121. 121
    balconesfault says:

    @Ted & Hellen:

    Yes, but then I didn’t aggressively seek and get myself elected to the allegedly most powerful position in the world, now did I?

    And fortunately for all of us … that most powerful position in the world still has some pretty significant limits on its power.

  122. 122
    balconesfault says:

    @Jockey Full of Malbec:

    I’ve just never read a compelling case for why that pipeline has to be on THAT particular route.


    Getting it to Vancouver means going up and down over 5000 foot mountain passes, greatly increasing the engineering costs, the pumping/energy costs, and the risks (the pressures in the pipeline at the bottom of a 15 mile long 5% grade can be VERY high, given the weight of all that crude in the line).

    Getting it to Houston means following a long, relatively flat, gradual descent from 1000 feet to sea level.

  123. 123
    EthylEster says:

    @Amir Khalid: If my local cable station had not recently added al-jazerra to their lineup, I would not know about the smoke problems you reference. So now I have access to real news about what is going on outside the US.

    Of course, they show fairly cheesey international crime dramas some of the time. My favorite so far: Don Matteo, an Italian priest who helps the police solve murders. He’s like a priest from the 50s (not creepy at all and looks very masculine in his “dress” and frequently consoles the perp, saying “you will have time in prison to pray and figure out where you went wrong”.

  124. 124
    Another Halocene Human says:

    @EthylEster: thanks for the rec. except for it being in Italian it looks to be right up my wife’s alley

  125. 125
    Redshirt says:

    @Amir Khalid: Haven’t seen the movie yet, but the book is outstanding – if you like zombie stuff. It’s basically a zombie version of Studs Terkel’s “The Good War”.

    As for climate change and ocean level rise, as mentioned above, the greatest immediate threat is actually to the coast line from Southern Connecticut down to the barrier islands in NC. It’s due to both the coastline sinking, both naturally and because of depleted aquifers, and the height of the seafloor. Florida, surprisingly, has a bit more time before the deluge. Not much more though.

  126. 126
    Jim, Foolish LIteralist says:

    @Yatsuno: IF only Timmeh weren’t speaking for a significant portion of many factions of the “left”. I just heard similar opinions express about Obama and the environment from Philippe Cousteau, Margaret Carlson and what almost made me drive off the road: Jacob Wiesberg. “If Bloomberg can unilaterally act on climate change in NYC, why can’t Obama?”

  127. 127
    Interrobang says:

    The implications of the insurability issue are further than most people here think — a lot of people are going to wind up feeling mighty screwed when they suddenly can’t get homeowner or commercial insurance for property they may have had for years, and I’m not just talking about the hyper-rich, either. It’s already difficult to get hurricane insurance in NJ and a couple other states since Katrina, and I can’t help but think that a whole cohort of people (like, say, small business owners) sitting around thinking “Hey, I did everything right and I want to play by the rules, but my insurance company is all just like, ‘Phfyeah, fuck you,'” is not the most beneficial thing for the social fabric/contract.

    There are two things you have to realise about the Keystone situation — one, Harper and his government are wholly-owned subsidiaries of Big Oil, and two, even if they’re saying there’s decades worth of oil there, it’s irrelevant. Given their track records, they’re lying about that just like they lie about everything else. Their motivations, from this side of the US-CAN border are crystal clear: Just like Brian Mulroney and Mike Harris and the rest of the right-wing, principle-free, sellout crowd, they’re looking to grab as much as they can as soon as they can, and then exeunt, probably to some sprawling estate in the US (like how Brian Mulroney has been holed up in Maryland since he got turned into an electoral skidmark).

    A bonus side benefit is that they’ve managed to fuck up the watershed for the entirety of Alberta. You know those floods they’ve been having in Calgary and Medicine Hat? Probably wouldn’t have been nearly as bad if Harper and his Harperoids hadn’t drained and rerouted sloughs all over the province, ostensibly to make the land better for farming, destroying the natural drainage patterns. Ooooopsie. Pretty soon, between that and the aquifer pollution from the Tar Sands, there’s not going to be any viable watershed in the entire province. Being as I’m sitting in the Great Lakes watershed myself, and having had to listen to a couple decades’ worth of the equivalent of “let the Eastern bastards freeze in the dark,” we’ll see who’s laughing then. My suggestion to the few sensible folks left is get out while you can, because we ain’t stopping the Tar Sands…

  128. 128
    Mike G says:


    Follow the money, always. Now that the multi-national insurance companies have decided climate change is “real” because of their actuarial tables, it is real.

    Reinsurance companies, that take on the catastrophic risks of lesser insurance companies, have been incorporating climate change in their risk models for years. The denialist bullshit is just a clown show to placate the Fox-watching rubes.

  129. 129
    Michael G says:

    PeakVT already linked to it, but the Rolling Stone article on how Miami ends is really an extraordinary thing.

    When the water receded after Hurricane Milo of 2030, there was a foot of sand covering the famous bow-tie floor in the lobby of the Fontaine­bleau hotel in Miami Beach. A dead manatee floated in the pool where Elvis had once swum. Most of the damage occurred not from the hurricane’s 175-mph winds, but from the 24-foot storm surge that overwhelmed the low-lying city. In South Beach, the old art-deco­ buildings were swept off their foundations. Mansions on Star Island were flooded up to their cut-glass doorknobs. A 17-mile stretch of Highway A1A that ran along the famous beaches up to Fort Lauderdale disappeared into the Atlantic. The storm knocked out the wastewater-treatment plant on Virginia Key, forcing the city to dump hundreds of millions of gallons of raw sewage into Biscayne Bay. Tampons and condoms littered the beaches, and the stench of human excrement stoked fears of cholera. More than 800 people died, many of them swept away by the surging waters that submerged much of Miami Beach and Fort Lauderdale; 13 people were killed in traffic accidents as they scrambled to escape the city after the news spread – falsely, it turned out – that one of the nuclear reactors at Turkey Point, an aging power plant 24 miles south of Miami, had been destroyed by the surge and sent a radioactive cloud over the city.

    I think it’s probably the most important thing I’ve read all year, and it would be a shame if it got buried because of the other things happening in the news right now.

  130. 130
    commonsense2014 says:

    Thats right the climate is changing. Happened to the dinosaurs and every other life form on this planet and other planets as well. Only crazies think they can control the climate. If the water rises you move to higher ground, it the water dries up you move to where there is water, if the planet can not support a population then there has to be a correction. Its not rocket science folks, use you commonsense and survive or stand still and die.

  131. 131
    jc says:

    “The Republican Party may not believe in global warming, but those realists with money on the line clearly do.”

    The Koch bros. and Big Oil CEOs etc. hate those who advocate for environmental protections and action on climate change, and they invest in groups like the Tea party who would undermine science-based policy.

    But the Big Money boys depend on the environment, which they exploit for much of their wealth, and they want to control policy so their profits flow more smoothly. And they depend on science to make efficient business decisions.

  132. 132
    PeakVT says:

    @commonsense2014: Cripes, that’s lame even for a denier. Get back to us when you’ve had some better training.

  133. 133
    commonsense2014 says:

    PeakVT, “Cripes” where did that come from. I guess you can control the climate. Well get to it and do your magic. I’ll be waiting for you on top of the hill, luddite.

  134. 134
    JGabriel says:

    Via Tom Levinson @ Top:

    Recently, improved observational records and the increased length of reliable time series have provided new evidence of the degree of global ocean warming and the distribution of energy within the ocean (e.g. Levitus et al., 2012).

    Did a double tale on that name, Tom. First scanned it as Leviticus and thought, “Damn, shit is gettin’ Biblical.”

  135. 135
    The Other Chuck says:

    The right doesn’t care whether or not global warming is real. All they care about is that denying it makes liberals unhappy, and therefore that’s what they do.

  136. 136

    “The truth is that the tar sands gook contains more than twice the carbon from all the oil burned in human history. If infrastructure, such as the Keystone XL pipeline, is built to transport tar sands gook, ways will be developed to extract more and more. When full accounting is done of emissions from tar sands oil, its use is equivalent to burning coal to power your automobile.”—James Hansen (PDF)

    So that’s what the Keystone pipeline dispute is about.

  137. 137
    fuckwit says:

    @The Raven on the Hill: But but, clean coal!

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