November 30, 2010
November 7, 2010
There’s a spot on op-ed in the Washington Post today by Bracken Hendricks about how being opposed to action on global warming is not only nonconservative, but will lead to a greater role for government in managing the damage from a warming planet. The column is re-posted below.
Few causes unite the conservatives of the newly elected 112th Congress as unanimously as their opposition to government action on climate change.
In September, the Center for American Progress Action Fund surveyed Republican candidates in congressional and gubernatorial races and found that nearly all disputed the scientific consensus on global warming, and none supported measures to mitigate it. For example, Robert Hurt, who won Tom Perriello’s House seat in Virginia, says clean-energy legislation would fail to “do anything except harm people.” The tea party’s “Contract From America” calls proposed climate policies “costly new regulations that would increase unemployment, raise consumer prices, and weaken the nation’s global competitiveness with virtually no impact on global temperatures.” Even conservatives who once argued for action on climate change, such as as Sen. John McCain (Ariz.) and Rep. Mark Kirk (Ill.), have run for cover.
But it’s conservatives who should fear climate change the most. To put it simply, if you hate big government, try global warming on for size.
Many conservatives say they oppose clean-energy policies because they want to keep government off our backs. But they have it exactly backward. Doing nothing will set our country on a course toward narrower choices for businesses and individuals, along with an expanded role for government. When catastrophe strikes – and yes, the science is quite solid that it will – it will be the feds who are left conducting triage.
My economic views are progressive, and I think government has an important role in tackling big problems. But I admire many cherished conservative values, from personal responsibility to thrift to accountability, and I worry that conservatives’ lock-step posture on climate change is seriously out of step with their professed priorities. A strong defense of our national interests, rigorous cost-benefit analysis, fiscal discipline and the ability to avoid unnecessary intrusions into personal liberty will all be seriously compromised in a world marked by climate change.
In fact, far from being conservative, the Republican stance on global warming shows a stunning appetite for risk. When faced with uncertainty and the possibility of costly outcomes, smart businessmen buy insurance, reduce their downside exposure and protect their assets. When confronted with a disease outbreak of unknown proportions, front-line public health workers get busy producing vaccines, pre-positioning supplies and tracking pathogens. And when military planners assess an enemy, they get ready for a worst-case encounter.
When it comes to climate change, conservatives are doing none of this. Instead, they are recklessly betting the farm on a single, best-case scenario: That the scientific consensus about global warming will turn out to be wrong. This is bad risk management and an irresponsible way to run anything, whether a business, an economy or a planet.
The great irony is that, should their high-stakes bet prove wrong, adapting to a destabilized climate would mean a far bigger, more intrusive government than would most of the “big government” solutions to our energy problems that have been discussed so far.
Let’s start with costs. The investment needed to slow carbon pollution might total from 1 to 2 percent of global GDP each year for several decades, according to a 2006 study by the British government. This spending would pay for advanced technology, better land use and modern infrastructure. The same study put the cost of inaction – including economic harm from property damage and lost crops – at 5 to 20 percent of global GDP, lasting in perpetuity, with the risk of vastly higher catastrophic damage. You tell me which option is more fiscally responsible.
But it’s not this cost-benefit arithmetic that should most concern conservatives. Their real worry should be what it will take to manage the effects of climate change as they are felt across the economy over the course of our lifetimes.
The best science available suggests that without taking action to fundamentally change how we produce and use energy, we could see temperatures rise 9 to 11 degrees Fahrenheit over much of the United States by 2090. These estimates have sometimes been called high-end predictions, but the corresponding low-end forecasts assume we will rally as a country to shift course. That hasn’t happened, so the worst case must become our best guess.
With temperature increases in this range, studies predict a permanent drought throughout the Southwest, much like the Dust Bowl of the 1930s, but this time stretching from Kansas to California. If you hate bailouts or want to end farm subsidies, this is a problem. Rising ocean acidity, meanwhile, will bring collapsing fisheries, catch restrictions – and unemployment checks. And rising sea levels will mean big bills as cash-strapped cities set about rebuilding infrastructure and repairing storm damage. With Americans in pain, the government will have to respond. And who will shoulder these new burdens? Future taxpayers.
This is just the beginning. If conservatives’ rosy hopes prove wrong, who but the federal government will undertake the massive infrastructure projects necessary to protect high-priced real estate in Miami and Lower Manhattan from rising oceans? And what about smaller coastal cities, such as Galveston and Corpus Christi in Texas? Will it fall to FEMA or some other part of the federal government to decide who will move and when and under what circumstances? Elsewhere, with declining river flows, how will the Bureau of Reclamation go about repowering the dams of the Pacific Northwest?
And while we’re busy at home, who will help Pakistan or Bangladesh in its next flood? What will the government do to secure food supplies when Russia freezes wheat exports? Without glaciers, what will become of Lima, Peru, a city dependent on melting ice for drinking water? Will we let waves of “climate refugees” cross our borders?
As the physicist and White House science director John Holdren has said: “We basically have three choices: mitigation [cutting emissions], adaptation and suffering. We’re going to do some of each. The question is what the mix is going to be.”
Today’s conservatives would do well to start thinking more like military planners, reexamining the risks inherent in their strategy. If, instead, newly elected Republicans do nothing, they will doom us all to bigger government interventions and a large dose of suffering – a reckless choice that’s anything but conservative.
September 2, 2010
I want to wish a farewell to 1Sky Campaign Director Gillian Caldwell, who is stepping down from the grassroots climate organization. I’ve always been impressed with the effectiveness and creativity of 1Sky and their efforts to address the climate crisis, and as its leader Gillian deserves a large share of the credit. I had a popular post once of Gillian’s confrontation with President Obama over clean coal. Below is the e-mail I received from 1Sky yesterday.
It’s hard to believe three years have passed since I joined 1Sky as its first Campaign Director, and how far we’ve come in such a short time because of your hard work and dedication. Which leads me to the decision I’m announcing today.
It’s with a bittersweet mixture of excitement and sadness that I am stepping down from my role at 1Sky to consult on social justice issues near and dear to my heart — including, of course, climate change.
1Sky has grown from being a start-up in 2007 with a devoted founding board of directors, just one staffer (i.e. me) and no office, into a powerful grassroots campaign that has worked tirelessly nationwide to push our leaders in Washington for bold solutions to the climate crisis.
Together, we’ve grown the climate movement, helped to pass President Obama’s economic recovery plan that contained a whopping $87 billion in green investments, and protected the Clean Air Act from dirty polluters and their allies in Congress itching to gut it.
Even though our leaders have deeply disappointed us so far this year by failing to pass a climate bill or even an oil spill recovery bill, I’m proud of our achievements and I’m confident that we’ve laid a solid foundation for climate action in the future.
I am also pleased to announce that our current Deputy Campaign Director, Liz Butler, will be taking over for me as Campaign Director. With more than 17 years of organizing experience and senior leadership in the environmental movement, Liz is a great choice to lead 1Sky into its next chapter, and you’ll be hearing from her in the next few weeks as she lays out the campaign’s priorities for the coming year.
Liz and the rest of the 1Sky team will need our support now more than ever as we head into another challenging year in the climate fight. Please consider making a tax-deductible donation to 1Sky today.
Big Oil and Dirty Coal have lavished nearly $15 million in campaign contributions on members of Congress since 2009, and that money has bought them a pass so far on climate, clean energy and taking responsibility for the BP oil spill, just to name a few. We need to keep building and strengthening this grassroots movement to take them on, and your generous contribution will do just that.
Three years ago, I threw myself into the climate movement because I knew that the poorest and most marginalized people on the planet are being hit first and worst by the ravages of global warming. But I also did it because I wanted to leave my children Tess and Finn a cleaner, safer world. Despite recent setbacks, I’m confident that the arc of history for the climate movement is bending towards the change we so desperately need. That’s why I’ll continue to support 1Sky after my departure and I know you will, too. It’s the fight of our lifetimes — we can’t just throw up our hands in despair and walk away.
Thank you so much for your continued commitment to the climate movement.
June 16, 2010
Every month this year I believe I have posted an updated temperature report from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration indicating that we’ve set another short term record. The months are starting to add up. The May global temperature was the warmest on record, and the combined global land+ocean surface temperatures for January-May were the warmest on record. Here is their report, which I’ve posted below. (more…)
June 14, 2010
Hip-Hop artist Drake has partnered with Green The Block to make his tour more sustainable, and spread consciousness to his fans about the importance of going green. Check out the video.
Senator Jeff Merkley has a monopoly over good progressive clean energy proposals in the Senate. Today he unveiled his plan for America to eliminate its dependence on foreign oil by 2030. Below is the press release from Merkley’s office. Here is the draft of Merkley’s plan, and here is an insightful article in Grist by Dave Roberts on why this matters.
Washington, D.C. – Earlier today, Oregon’s Senator Jeff Merkley released an ambitious plan to eliminate America’s dependence on overseas oil by 2030 (online here). In a speech before the Center for American Progress, Merkley laid out the national security, economic and health reasons that such a plan is needed to make our nation stronger and more self-sufficient.
“It has never been more clear how our dependence on oil has made America vulnerable. There are huge risks associated with continuing to hang the success of our entire economy on one volatile commodity,” said Merkley. “My plan sets a realistic goal for aggressively reducing our use of oil based on proven technologies, American innovation and sustained focus on reaching those goals. These are not controversial or far-fetched ideas, but they do require long-term thinking and a new roadmap for our energy future.”
This year, more than two-thirds of America’s oil imports will come from nations that too often do not share our goals or values. This dependence on nations such as Saudi Arabia, Russia, Iraq, Venezuela, and Nigeria costs our nation billions that could be used here at home and helps governments that often act against our national security interests. It also prevents us from fully investing in home-grown American clean energy and undermines efforts to improve the quality of our air and water.
Further, a simple increase in domestic drilling will not solve the problem. Since America only has 3% of oil reserves, yet uses 25% of all oil, we simply do not have the supply to match demand. And domestic drilling is not without risks, as the ongoing BP oil catastrophe has shown.
In his speech today, Merkley laid out a plan to eliminate all foreign imports from non-North American nations by 2030. It includes steps to ramp up production and use of electric vehicles, increase travel options and improve infrastructure, develop alternative transportation fuels and reduce the use of oil to heat buildings.
Critically, the plan also calls for setting the targets into law and creating a National Council on Energy Security to ensure a sustained focus on reducing the use of oil. The Council would be charged with making recommendations to the President and Congress to ensure America stays on track.
Merkley emphasized that the challenge is primarily not technological, but one of political will, and called on Americans to rise to the challenge: “American entrepreneurs and ingenuity are undoubtedly capable of breaking our addiction to oil. The question for all of us, policymakers and citizens, is whether we’re going to choose strength or vulnerability.”
May 8, 2010
Lets hope the millionth time is the charm! press release
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Senators John Kerry (D-Mass.) and Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) today released a joint statement announcing their plan to roll out comprehensive energy and climate change legislation next Wednesday:
“We appreciate Senator Graham’s statement of his continued commitment to passing comprehensive energy independence legislation. Over the past several months we have worked with Senator Graham and he has made a significant contribution to construct balanced legislation that will make our country energy independent, create jobs and curb pollution. Senator Graham has been our partner in building a broad-based coalition of support for legislation that can pass the Senate this year.
“Over the last three weeks, we all understand Lindsey has been busy with the immigration issue and we understand his feelings on that issue, but during this period we’ve continued working, moving forward, and talking in great detail with our Senate colleagues on both sides of the aisle, and with the environmental and business communities. We’ve continued to work with the Senate leadership and the White House, and we believe we’ve made new progress on the path to 60 votes.
“We are more encouraged today that we can secure the necessary votes to pass this legislation this year in part because the last weeks have given everyone with a stake in this issue a heightened understanding that as a nation, we can no longer wait to solve this problem which threatens our economy, our security and our environment. Our optimism is bolstered because there is a growing and unprecedented bi-partisan coalition from the business, national security, faith and environmental communities that supports our legislation and is energized to work hard and get it passed. We look forward to rolling-out the legislation next Wednesday and passing the legislation with the support of Senator Graham and other Republicans, Democrats and Independents this year.”
Further details of Wednesday’s roll out will be available next week.
May 3, 2010
April 18, 2010
I’m on leave until Tuesday, I’ll be in Boston running the marathon. No posts until then, but tune in when I get back, should be a great Earth week.
September 6, 2009
EXECUTIVE OFFICE OF THE PRESIDENT
COUNCIL ON ENVIRONMENTAL QUALITY
WASHINGTON, D.C. 20503
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
Contact: Christine Glunz
September 5, 2009
Van Jones Resigns as Special Advisor for Green Jobs at the Council on
WASHINGTON, DC – Van Jones, Special Advisor for Green Jobs at the
Council on Environmental Quality resigned today. Below is the text of
his resignation letter, sent to Chair Nancy Sutley:
“I am resigning my post at the Council on Environmental Quality,
effective today. On the eve of historic fights for health care and clean energy, opponents of reform have mounted a vicious smear campaign against me. They are using lies and distortions to distract and divide. I have been inundated with calls – from across the political spectrum – urging me to “stay and fight.” But I came here to fight for others, not for myself. I cannot in good conscience ask my colleagues to expend precious time and energy defending or explaining my past. We need all hands on deck, fighting for the future. It has been a great honor to serve my country and my President in this capacity. I thank everyone who has offered support and encouragement. I am proud to have been able to make a contribution to the clean energy future. I will continue to do so, in the months and years ahead.”