They Are Who We Thought They Were (Republicans And Their War On Our Kids)

Republican priorities are — not “becoming,” because they always were — clear. Facing the one unequivocal existential threat to the American way of life (for starters) over the next century, here’s the GOP response to the oncoming rush of human-caused global warming:

The new Republican Congress is headed for a clash with the White House over two ambitious Environmental Protection Agencyregulations that are the heart of President Obama’s climate change agenda.

Senator Mitch McConnell, the next majority leader, has already vowed to fight the rules, which could curb planet-warming carbon pollution but ultimately shut down coal-fired power plants in his native Kentucky. Mr. McConnell and other Republicans are, in the meantime, stepping up their demands that the president approve construction of the Keystone XL pipeline to carry petroleum from Canadian oil sands to refineries on the Gulf Coast.

At this point, Republicans do not have the votes to repeal the E.P.A. regulations, which will have far more impact on curbing carbon emissions than stopping the pipeline, but they say they will use their new powers to delay, defund and otherwise undermine them. Senator James M. Inhofe of Oklahoma, a prominent skeptic of climate change and the presumed new chairman of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, is expected to open investigations into the E.P.A., call for cuts in its funding and delay the regulations as long as possible.

Just to update your scorecard, here’s what the latest IPCC report confirms is at stake:

i) Risk of death, injury, ill-health, or disrupted livelihoods in low-lying coastal zones and small island developing states and other small islands, due to storm surges, coastal flooding, and sea level rise.37 [RFC 1-5]

ii) Risk of severe ill-health and disrupted livelihoods for large urban populations due to inland flooding in some regions.38 [RFC 2 and 3]

iii) Systemic risks due to extreme weather events leading to breakdown of infrastructure networks and critical services such as electricity, water supply, and health and emergency services.39 [RFC 2-4]

iv) Risk of mortality and morbidity during periods of extreme heat, particularly for vulnerable urban populations and those working outdoors in urban or rural areas.40 [RFC 2 and 3]

v) Risk of food insecurity and the breakdown of food systems linked to warming, drought, flooding, and precipitation variability and extremes, particularly for poorer populations in urban and rural settings.41 [RFC 2-4]

vi) Risk of loss of rural livelihoods and income due to insufficient access to drinking and irrigation water and reduced agricultural productivity, particularly for farmers and pastoralists with minimal capital in semi-arid regions.42 [RFC 2 and 3]

vii) Risk of loss of marine and coastal ecosystems, biodiversity, and the ecosystem goods, functions, and services they provide for coastal livelihoods, especially for fishing communities in the tropics and the Arctic.43 [RFC 1, 2, and 4]

viii) Risk of loss of terrestrial and inland water ecosystems, biodiversity, and the ecosystem goods, functions, and services they provide for livelihoods.44 [RFC 1, 3, and 4]

Many key risks constitute particular challenges for the least developed countries and vulnerable communities, given their limited ability to cope.


In case those near-term consequences aren’t motivation enough, consider the IPCC’s view of the longer term:


Increasing magnitudes of warming increase the likelihood of severe, pervasive, and irreversible impacts. Some risks of climate change are considerable at 1 or 2°C above preindustrial levels (as shown in Assessment Box SPM.1). Global climate change risks are high to very high with global mean temperature increase of 4°C or more above preindustrial levels in all reasons for concern (Assessment Box SPM.1), and include severe and widespread impacts on unique and threatened systems, substantial species extinction, large risks to global and regional food security, and the combination of high temperature and humidity compromising normal human activities, including growing food or working outdoors in some areas for parts of the year (high confidence). The precise levels of climate change sufficient to trigger tipping points (thresholds for abrupt and irreversible change) remain uncertain, but the risk associated with crossing multiple tipping points in the earth system or in interlinked human and natural systems increases with rising temperature (medium confidence).

There is hope, or would be, given smart climate policy — really, almost any climate policy

The overall risks of climate change impacts can be reduced by limiting the rate and magnitude of climate change. Risks are reduced substantially under the assessed scenario with the lowest temperature projections (RCP2.6 – low emissions) compared to the highest temperature projections (RCP8.5 – high emissions), particularly in the second half of the 21st century (very high confidence). Reducing climate change can also reduce the scale of adaptation that might be required…

But, of course, such an approach — reducing the impact of climate change by controlling carbon emissions, while planning for a higher-carbon future —  is precisely what the Republican party has vowed to block.

My son was born in 2000.  in 2050, at the threshold of that second half of his century, he’ll face the world we make for him now.  The Republican party is conspiring with their paymasters in ways that will make his world significantly worse than the one our parents’ generation left for us.  Potentially — see Oreskes and Conway on this — it could be horrifically degraded, my son and his generation and their kids confronting catastrophic failures in the systems that make modern life go.

Obviously, this means that despite the wretched feelings that remain from last Tuesday’s debacle, we gotta keep fighting.  We need the Presidency in 2016, and as much of the Senate as we can claw back — and, perhaps more important, all those local and regional governments in which it is possible to attempt global-warming policy jurisdiction by jurisdiction.  A hard slog.  But necessary.

At the same time, I do have one question:  Why do Republicans hate their children so?

Image:  Hieronymous Bosch, Hell (the world before the flood) — panel from the Fall of thRebel Angels triptych,

Why I live at the P.O. and Other Random Crap

Some of y’all give me crap about living in a backward hellhole like Florida. Well, were you able to pluck a Cherokee Purple tomato off your vine last night and have it for dinner with a little salt, pepper and mayo on multigrain bread?


I thought not. Read more

Monday Morning Open Thread: The People’s Climate March

(via NYMag)

From commentor Skerry, participant:

The People’s Climate March was an astounding success! Estimated 400,000 in NYC marched. So many that they had to start diverting people off the route before the end because the permit was going to expire. We had planned for 200,000. Tremendous!

Also, marches around the globe in Melbourne (30,000), Nepal, Papau New Guinea, Barcelona (2000), Rome, London (40,000), Paris (1,000), Berlin (4000), Rio (5000), Stockholm, Amsterdam, Toronto. A total of 168 “sister” marches. I don’t know the numbers for all the cities. Information is still coming in.

Headlines on some of the major media. Top of the homepage for NYTimes. No mention on Sunday talk shows, Fox, CNN (shocking). Lots of foreign press coverage.

The plan [for Monday] is to “flood” Wall Street. I have no idea how many will participate. This action is a off-shoot from Occupy. I won’t be there, but will be watching closely.

The UN meets Tuesday to discuss and plan for the next big summit in Paris in 2015.

Pictures can be found at and on Flickr.

Oh, and my daughter got a selfie with Al Gore. She was delighted. She marched with the student/youth section. They estimated over 50,000 students covering 10 blocks. We had anticipated 4 blocks. Just a delightful day.

Gillis describes himself as “Reporter for The New York Times, covering the science of climate change and the policy implications of that science”

The AP figures this must be serious — the Rockefellers have announced they’re getting out of the oil business.
Apart from trying to save the planet, what’s on the agenda for the start of another week?

Grossly Negligent and Reckless

A judge put the hammer to BP:

A federal judge ruled on Thursday that BP was grossly negligent in the 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil well blowout that killed 11 workers, spilled millions of barrels of oil into the Gulf of Mexico and soiled hundreds of miles of beaches.

“BP’s conduct was reckless,” United States District Court Judge Carl J. Barbier wrote in his sternly worded decision. Judge Barbier also ruled that Transocean, the owner of the rig, and Halliburton, the service company that cemented the well, were negligent in the accident.

But the judge put most of the blame on BP, opening the way to fines of up to $18 billion under the Clean Water Act.

In a 153-page, densely technical decision, Judge Barbier described how BP repeatedly ignored mounting warning signs that the well was unstable, making decisions that he says were “primarily driven by a desire to save time and money, rather than ensuring that the well was secure.”

Judge Barbier painstakingly re-created the hurried effort to temporarily shut in a problematic well, deemed by some to be “the well from hell,” and shows how a series of problems, many of which were suspected by the rig’s crew, led to the blowout. Even after noting these anomalies, BP crew members ignored test results that should have reinforced caution, and, if heeded, could have prevented the disaster even in its final minutes, he wrote.

BP has long acknowledged responsibility for the accident, but has said that it should be fully shared with the companies that operated the Deepwater Horizon rig and improperly sealed the well with cement.

While acknowledging that there was blame to share, Judge Barbier in most cases says the fault finally lies with BP, either because it was responsible for the most fundamental problems or because contractual relationships made clear that BP was fundamentally responsible.

Ultimately, according to the judge, the company that owned the lease to the well and was responsible for overseeing all of the drilling work displayed gross negligence, which in legal terms means that it was responsible for willful misconduct. Judge Barbier apportioned 67 percent of the blame for the spill on BP, 30 percent on Transocean and 3 percent on Halliburton.

Is $18 billion enough of a punishment?

They’ve blurred the line so far it’s gone

Governor Kasich’s administration met with the Ohio regulatory agency that is paid to regulate oil and gas to outline how to promote an industry plan to drill in state parks and also target critics of their plan to drill in state parks.

Then they all lied about it:

On Friday, Gov. John Kasich’s spokesman said the governor’s office knew nothing about an August 2012 state marketing plan for fracking in state parks and forests.
But after an email about the plan involving most of Kasich’s top officials was disclosed yesterday, spokesman Rob Nichols said: “Of course, the administration is going to coordinate and plan ahead on an important issue like gas production on state land.”
The turnaround came after an email became public. It was from Kasich senior adviser Wayne Struble, who sought a meeting about the public-relations campaign with top Kasich officials. Those invited included Beth Hansen, the governor’s chief of staff; Scott Milburn, top communications manager; Matt Carle, his legislative liaison (who is now his re-election campaign manager); Jai Chabria, a senior adviser; Tracy Intihar, who was cabinet secretary at the time; Craig Butler, a policy adviser who is now head of the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency; and leaders of the Ohio Department of Natural Resources.
Nichols told The Dispatch on Friday night that the governor’s office had no knowledge of the marketing plan because it had never left the Natural Resources department.
“Clearly, that’s not the case,” Brian Rothenberg, head of the liberal nonprofit organization ProgressOhio, said in a news conference yesterday in which the email was divulged. “The fact that people at the highest level of the governor’s office were involved in this is pretty unsavory.”
Brian Kunkemoeller, conservation-program coordinator with the Sierra Club’s Ohio chapter — which obtained the material through a public-records request — said, “This is not only a sad day for our parks and forests, it’s also a sad day for our democracy.”
Rothenberg and Kunkemoeller expressed outrage that a state agency given the statutory duty to regulate the oil and gas industry actually was partnering with the industry to promote it.

We’re paying every single person who was sitting at that meeting. Industry interests don’t even bother hiring lobbyists anymore. It’s much cheaper to just buy the governor and the regulators outright, and have the public pick up the tab for their continued employment.

The memo itself recognized that the public-relations initiative “could blur public perception of ODNR’s regulatory role in oil and gas.”

“Blur”? The regulator is completely captured by the industry they’re supposed to be regulating. That’s what the memo shows, and that’s why they all lied about who was at the meeting.

Watching how West Virginia water was poisoned the last couple of weeks, it occurred to me that our elected leaders are so captured, so completely corrupt and compromised, that they cannot even protect basic public health. They can’t fulfill even that bedrock governmental duty. The best they can do is advise pregnant women not to drink the water. Let the buyer beware on drinking water. That’s their role, I guess. They’re advisors to us, the consumers.

I’m disappointed that just two state lawmakers were targeted by the oil and gas industry representatives currently working for the Ohio Department of Natural Resources. That’s two that aren’t captured, I guess.

Rep. Robert Hagan
Rep. Nickie Antonio

Pick Your Poison

One of our readers, R, keeps me up to date on happenings in the nuclear industry, and it sounds like shale gas is putting another nail in the coffin:

“Markets have to address these issues or you will see a fallout of perfectly well-run units such as Vermont Yankee, and potentially others,” says Bill Mohl, who heads Entergy’s merchant nuclear operations in Massachusetts, Michigan, New York and Vermont. “You can’t stack the market with state regulations and environmental policies and expect competitive fuel sources to effectively compete.”

Mohl’s contentions: The abundance of shale gas has resulted in sustained low natural gas and wholesale energy prices while market designs especially in the Northeast have resulted in artificially low energy prices. That’s a vague reference, in part, to wind energy that is subsidized and that does not provide electricity around the clock.

R on occasion sends me links to NRC write ups of events that occur in nuclear plants, and though we can certainly disagree on the amount of oversight necessary for nuclear operations, Federal law grants the NRC incredible power over a nuclear plant. One example is that operators who have an off-duty DUI have to be reported to the NRC. Contrast that with the free-for-all in the fracking world, where the chemicals used in fracking water are treated as trade secrets even though they may be full of cancer-causing chemicals:

At the federal level, natural gas developers have long been allowed to keep the mixture of chemicals they use in fracking fluid a secret from the general public, protecting it as “proprietary information.” The industry is exempt from the Environmental Protection Agency’s Toxics Release Inventory—the program that ensures that communities are given information about what companies are releasing. In 2005 the industry successfully lobbied for an exemption from EPA regulation under the Safe Drinking Water Act as well, in what is often referred to as the “Halliburton Loophole.” The Obama EPA has pressed drillers to voluntarily provide more information about fracking fluids, but the industry has largely rebuffed those appeals.

In a few years when the cancer clusters from the polluted fracking groundwater start to show up, these drilling operators will be long gone, and Uncle Sugar will be footing the bill. To paraphrase a famous sage, given the choice between nuclear energy and gas from fracking, I’d rather have a known known than an unknown unknown.

This is Kind of a Big Fucking Deal

It really is:

China’s Communist state is hardly known for its transparency. So when environmental groups appealed to the government last year to disclose official data on air pollution, they were not expecting much.

“Way beyond our expectations, the government actually said yes,” said Ma Jun, head of the Institute of Public and Environmental Affairs in Beijing. “I am quite amazed.”

Since Jan. 1, the central government has required 15,000 factories — including influential state-run enterprises — to publicly report details on their air emissions and water discharges in real time, an unprecedented degree of disclosure that is shedding light on the who, what, when and where of China’s devastating environmental problems.

The reporting requirement is part of a striking turnaround by China’s government, which is also publishing data on the sootiest cities and trying to limit the use of coal. The country’s appalling air is blamed for more than a million premature deaths a year, for producing acid rain that damages the nation’s agriculture, for driving away tourists and even for encouraging the brightest students to study abroad. Perhaps just as important, Beijing’s bad air has been making its Communist leaders lose face.

I have a number of thoughts about this, first and foremost of which is that is if China decides to start limiting imported American and other coal, you can fully expect the current hysterical equation of mild EPA efforts to regulate the air to turn into even more heated plaintive wails about communism and Obama and the war on coal and socialism and WHY THE FUCK DO STUPID PEOPLE HAVE SO MUCH INFLUENCE? On the upside, I am tired of the imagined fever dream Muslim Obama, so maybe Mao Obama will at least be new for a while. Or Che Obama. It’s all good.

The second thought is that if China does decide to kill the market for coal, and while no economist, if they transition off it or make mention of transitioning off of it, I would bet they could totally disrupt the market, create a glut and a total fucking mess in the commodities markets, and kill off coal mines all over America with a vengeance that would give every Greenpeace member in the world a sizable erection. Additional, they are perfectly positioned to be the new green energy leaders of the globe, since they are already kicking our ass in solar and if you mention clean energy in Ameriduh you get my Senator Joe Manchin shooting a rifle at something while fellating a brick of coal and a thousand wingnut websites all scream SOLYNDRA in unison so that it is the first fucking thing talked about on Morning Joe or, well, every other cable news broadcast.

Hi, my name is John Cole and I am cranky for some reason.