“Microscopic life crucial to the marine food chain is dying out. The consequences could be catastrophic.”
Scientists may have found the most devastating impact yet of human-caused global warming — a 40% decline in phytoplankton since 1950 linked to the rise in ocean sea surface temperatures. If confirmed, it may represent the single most important finding of the year in climate science.
The headlines above are from an appropriately blunt article in The Independent about the new study in Nature, “Global phytoplankton decline over the past century” (subs. req’d). Even the Wall Street Journalwarned, “Vital Marine Plants in Steep Decline.” Seth Borenstein of the AP explains, “plant plankton found in the world’s oceans are crucial to much of life on Earth. They are the foundation of the bountiful marine food web, produce half the world’s oxygen and suck up harmful carbon dioxide.”
But until now, conventional wisdom has been that big ocean impacts might not be seen until the second half of the century. This new research in Nature suggests we may have much less time to act than we thought if we want to save marine life — and ourselves. The study concludes:
The bill, which had already passed the Senate, garnered bipartisan support in the House. In fact, precisely because the bill had “the support of conservative stalwarts such as Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.), the Prison Fellowship Ministries and activist Grover Norquist,” it sailed through on a voice vote. However, the lone public dissenter of the bill, Rep. Lamar Smith (TX), took to the House floor to rail against Congress for supporting the bill. Despite his party’s assertion to the contrary, Smith insisted that reducing the crack to powder disparity actually hurts minority communities:
SMITH: Despite the devastating impact crack cocaine has had on American communities, this bill reduces the penalties for crack cocaine. Why would we want to do that? We should not ignore the severity of crack addiction or ignore the differences between crack and powder cocaine trafficking. We should worry more about the victims than about the criminals.
Why would we want to reduce the penalties for crack cocaine trafficking and invite a return to a time when cocaine ravaged our communities, especially minority communities? This bill sends the wrong message to drug dealers and those who traffic in destroying Americans’ lives. It sends the message that Congress takes drug crimes less seriously than they did. The bill before us threatens to return America to the days when crack cocaine corroded the minds and bodies of our children, decimated a generation, and destroyed communities.
Despite his delusions to the contrary, the status quo has ravaged minority communities by leading to disproportionate arrests, charges, and sentences.
As Leadership Conference on Civil Rights President Wade Henderson explained, minorities are inordinately affected by current drug policies, “not because minorities commit more drug crimes or use drugs at a higher rate than white Americans.” Rather, “the effect of the war on drugs on minorities results from” a few key factors: the fact that “more minorities are arrested for drug crimes,” “the severity of drug sentences has increased overall in the past 20 years,” and because “minorities who are arrested are treated more harshly than white drug crime arrestees.”
In a contrarian take today, Time Magazine’s Michael Grunwald wrote a preemptive post-mortem impact of BP’s Deepwater Horizon disaster, saying that it “does not seem to be inflicting severe environmental damage. Grunwald believes that Rush Limbaugh “has a point” because the right-wing radio host spent weeks dismissing the disaster. New York Times reporters Justin Gillis and Campbell Robertson wrote that the “oil slick in the Gulf of Mexico appears to be dissolving far more rapidly than anyone expected.” The Associated Press’s John Carey believes “the oil slicks that once spread across thousands of miles of the Gulf of Mexico have largely disappeared.” The narrative of the disappearing disaster has been promoted by Politico’s Mike Allen and the Drudge Report.
Meanwhile, the oil blowout has been contained but not killed, oil continues to wash ashore, and the haphazard scientific effort to understand the 100-day disaster is hobbled by BP’s interference and governmental lassitude. It’s fair to point out, as Grunwald does, that the oil disaster’s impact on Louisiana’s shoreline is likely to be meaningless if the marshlands continue to disappear. Fringe rumors of global eco-collapse — never promoted by major environmental groups — continue to be as baseless as the nonsense spouted by conservative activists, media, and politicians on behalf of the oil industry.
However, the only honest take on the BP disaster right now is that this is a calamity, the true scope of which will take years to discover, with many impacts impossible to ever know. No one knows how badly this disaster will affect the dying marshlands of Louisiana. No one knows how badly the toxic oil plumes will affect the spawning grounds of the bluefin tuna, the feeding grounds of the threatened Gulf sturgeon, or the future of the endangered Kemp’s ridley sea turtles, whose corpses have been found at 15 times the historical rate this summer. No one knows what the long-term physical and mental health impacts will be on the tens of thousands of cleanup workers.
Moreover, it is undoubtedly premature to announce that the vast oil slick has largely disappeared from the ocean’s surface. Thick oil, vast slicks, and tar balls continue to wash ashore along Louisiana’s coastline. Satellite imagery from July 27 and 28 — as the stories of disappearing oil were being filed — show a vast region still discolored by slicks and sheen, little diminished from previous weeks:
Composite of MODIS visible satellite imagery from July 27 and July 28. Analysis of spill extent by Brad Johnson, Center for American Progress Action Fund.
Scientists have found signs of an oil-and-dispersant mix under the shells of tiny blue crab larvae in the Gulf of Mexico, the first clear indication that the unprecedented use of dispersants in the BP oil spill has broken up the oil into toxic droplets so tiny that they can easily enter the foodchain.
,At the Gulf Restoration Network, Matthew Preusch reports that scientists like George Crozier, executive director of the University of South Alabama’s Dauphin Island Sea Lab, are deeply concerned about the undersea dispersed oil:
“A lot of our eggs and larvae are in the top 100 meters, so as this cloud of toxins spreads upward, we’re making an assumption that its killing all of them,” he said. “I absolutely hate the use of dispersants at depth. I think that was the most huge of mistake in the process of containment.”
Last week, a group of prominent marine researchers released a statement calling for the end of the use of dispersants in the Gulf, saying, “Corexit dispersants, in combination with crude oil, pose grave health risks to marine life and human health.”
America’s Wetland is an insidious plot by the oil industry to commit Louisiana’s future share of offshore oil revenues to funding the state’s coastal restoration plan “Morganza To The Gulf,” which basically only protects Port Fouchon and the oil infrastructure. They want the American taxpayer to pay for the mess they made that is now endangering their very facilities. They’re trying to stick it, once again, to the ‘small people.’
Sandra Bullock and the other celebrities in the BP-sponsored “Restore the Gulf” campaign are not the first environmental heroes to be scammed into supporting the America’s Wetland Foundation front group. With any luck, they’ll be the last.
— Fred Barnes claims he’s “never been part of a discussion with conservative writers about how we could most help the Republican or the conservative team” but he’s taken thousands of dollars in money from various Republican Party organizations.
Our guest blogger is Heather Boushey, Senior Economist at the Center for American Progress Action Fund.
Economist Paul Krugman highlights Raghuram Rajan arguing in today’s Financial Times that the Federal Reserve should begin raising interest rates because “the US had far too much productive capacity devoted to houses and cars, because consumers could obtain financing for them easily.” Essentially, Rajan is arguing that monetary tightening is necessary to shift resources out of the too-large housing and car sectors. Krugman points out that this makes no sense because most of the job losses during the Great Recession haven’t been in the construction sector:
OK, I actually haven’t taken cars into account; someone with more time can do that. But let’s look at the role of job losses in construction versus other sectors, since December 2007. It looks like this:
If high unemployment were largely about shifting workers out of an overblown construction sector, wouldn’t you expect job losses to be concentrated in that sector? Wouldn’t you expect employment elsewhere to be, if anything, rising? In fact, however, the vast majority of job losses have occurred in parts of the economy with little direct connection to the housing bubble. Yes, as a percentage job losses have been much larger in construction; but nothing in Rajan’s argument explains why we shouldn’t be using policy in an attempt to prevent vast job losses in parts of the economy that aren’t overblown.
Let me add a bit more meat to this story. In fact, the Great Recession has been more of an “equal opportunity” recession than other recent recessions (click here for a larger image):
Certainly, construction has lost a significant chunk of jobs, but other industries — manufacturing, professional and business services, transportation and warehousing, financial activities, leisure and hospitality, and information services — have all lost a larger share. Much of financial activities could be considered tied to the run-up and bust of the housing market, but all the others? This Great Recession has had fairly broad, widespread job losses across industry, which contradicts the idea that there’s one or two sectors that U.S. workers need to transition out of.
This past Tuesday, Rep. Zach Wamp (R-TN), who is also a leading candidate for the GOP nomination for governor, joined a conference call with the right-wing National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB). When the subject of extending unemployment benefits arose, Wamp complained that giving people unemployment insurance was “creating a culture of dependence which we do not need.” He then said that he wants “people out there scraping and clawing and looking for work and not just sitting back waiting”:
Wamp [...] said small business, the NFIB and he as governor “must resist… any more mandates to small business to help the unemployed — that we have continued to extend on a federal level, I think, unemployment compensation so long that there’s disincentives for people to actually re-enter the workforce or go out and look for a job.
“And this is creating a culture of dependence which we do not need. We want people out there scraping and clawing and looking for work and not just sitting back waiting. And so we’ve got to not allow any more mandates.”
Of course, the promise of a meager unemployment check that provides barely enough support to get by does not have Tennesseans “just sitting back waiting,” and it is offensive for Wamp to paint all the unemployed with such a broad brush. Throughout the recession, people from across the Republican congressman’s state have desperately sought work, going to any lengths to get employed again:
– Lori Hillard, an Ashland City native, was laid off a year ago from her job as an Internet program administrator. She began “stressing out and losing sleep” at the thought of losing her unemployment benefits, which were her only source of income. Yet she sends out “sends out at least 15 to 20 resumes per week,” desperately trying to find work. “I know how hard and diligent I have been in searching for a job,” she told a local paper. “The economic situation is just as bad for us. When 400 people are applying for an administrative assistant’s job, that shows how dire the situation is.”
– Kim Stokes of Hendersonville-based Stokes Production Services Inc. tells the Tennessean that she has so many applicants that she can’t even come close to hiring them all. “I have freelancers calling me constantly because they don’t have anything going on,” Stokes said. “Everywhere I look, people don’t have work — people like some of my friends who are older and have been let go. They’ve never been without work before in their lives.”
– Ellen Zinkiewicz, who is the director youth and community services at the Nashville Career Advancement Center, notes that “nearly three-quarters of teenagers who want a jobhaven’t been able to find one.”
– When Fontanel Mansion at White Creek Pines needed staff and held a job fair this spring, 1,200 people showed up to apply — six times what the business had capacity for.
This past April, hundreds of Tennesseans lined up outside the Lewisburg Recreational Center in Marshall County, Tennessee for a job fair to try to find work. “I’ve been everywhere looking. I’ve been to every temporary agent, trying to find a job. There’s no jobs,” Connie Rogers told a reporter at the fair. Thankfully, the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (the “stimulus”), which Wamp opposed while hypocritically touting its benefits, helped create many of the jobs at the fair. Watch a report about the Marshall County job fair from Tennessee’s Department of Human Services:
Tennesseans who are on unemployment benefits are not “just sitting around waiting” for the next unemployment check. They are desperately seeking work so that they can make a decent living for themselves and their families. Tennessee currently has a 10.1 percent unemployment rate, and people who have no other means to get by need unemployment insurance to survive. By attacking the job-seeking unemployed of his state, Wamp is insulting those who are doing everything they can to put food on the table, while simultaneously working against them by trying to deny them unemployment benefits.
Greg Sargent identifies other Republicans who agree with Wamp’s perspective, calling them the “Let Them Eat Want Ads” Caucus.
Someone (Churchill) once said that the United States of America can always be counted on to do the right thing after it’s exhausted all the alternatives. And sometimes that’s how I feel about China’s ambitious-but-not-working efforts to control pollution while industrializing, admirably recounted by Andrew Jacobs. As just one example, consider my hobbyhorse of traffic planning:
In Beijing, driving restrictions that removed a fifth of private cars from roads each weekday have been offset by 250,000 new cars that hit the city streets in the first four months of 2010.
The policy here is that on any given weekday, there are two digits such that cars whose license plates end in those numbers aren’t allowed on the road. So you can see that the Beijing authorities, unlike those in most American cities, aren’t afraid to tackle the “too much driving” issue. But rather than tackle it in a way that would (a) work and (b) be economically optimal—congestion pricing to fund better bus service—they’ve opted for a goofy rationing system that’s encouraging households to stockpile multiple automobiles in order to evade road restrictions.
The upshot, pollution aside, is that Beijing is already an incredibly congested city even though it’s likely to grow in the future (it’s big, but much smaller than Tokyo, New York, Mumbai, Jakarta, Sao Paulo, or Moscow) and a greater share of the population will be able to afford cars. The Chinese are doing a lot of inspiring things, but an awful lot of their approach to urban planning—tons of new developments seem to be built around a very misguided superblock model—has terrifying implications for the future.
By Climate Guest Blogger on Jul 29, 2010 at 5:05 pm
EPA determined in December 2009 that climate change caused by emissions of greenhouse gases threatens the public’s health and the environment. Since then, EPA received ten petitions challenging this determination. On July 29, 2010, EPA denied these petitions.
The scientific evidence supporting EPA’s finding is robust, voluminous, and compelling. Climate change is happening now, and humans are contributing to it. Multiple lines of evidence show a global warming trend over the past 100 years. Beyond this, melting ice in the Arctic, melting glaciers around the world, increasing ocean temperatures, rising sea levels, altered precipitation patterns, and shifting patterns of ecosystems and wildlife habitats all confirm that our climate is changing.
With just 12 days before Congress leaves for a month-long recess, two LGBT advocacy are pressuring the Senate to hold a vote on repealing Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell in September. Human Rights Campaign (HRC) and the The Servicemembers Legal Defense Network (SLDN) are urging supporters in 10 states to contact their representatives and “tell them to repeal ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ and follow the lead of Chairman Carl Levin who will be managing the defense bill on the floor.” Levin had previously told supporters that he had hoped to vote on the defense authorization bill before the August break and later predicted that it would go to the floor last week.
The groups’ campaign, called Countdown 2010, hopes to “mobilize grassroots supporters of equality across the country through in-district meetings as well as a call-in and email campaign” and will also focus on passing the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) in the House:
HRC and SLDN’s efforts will be specifically focused on 10 states with key lawmakers whose votes on DADT repeal are critical: Arkansas, Indiana, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, North Dakota, Ohio, South Dakota, and Virginia. HRC will also engage the LGBT community and our allies in those states on ENDA in addition to on-the-ground work for ENDA in North Carolina, Pennsylvania and Texas. Supporters of equality are encouraged to meet with Representatives and Senators while they are in their districts and states for the August Congressional recess.
To participate, individuals can sign up at countdown2010.hrc.org . There, they’ll find downloadable meeting toolkits, videos on in-district meetings and information on how to schedule a meeting and report back on how it went.
Advocates fear that pushing the vote past September, closer to “when the Pentagon’s working group study on implementation is due to be released,” would “provide an opening for detractors of repeal to scuttle support for the measure, whether through an overt effort to strip it from the bill or through a secondary amendment to broaden the certification requirement beyond the president, Defense secretary, and chairman of the Joint chiefs.”
Indeed, it’s still unclear if Democrats have enough votes to defeat a measure that would expand the certification process to chiefs who have publicly expressed support for the ban on open service. Yesterday, the Washington Blade’s Chris Johnson reported that Sen. Blanche Lincoln (D-AR), widely considered a swing vote on the issue, said that she would support the existing DADT repeal amendment, but “wouldn’t commit to a position on a possible floor amendment that would strip the language from the bill.” Lincoln actually has a surprisingly positive record on LGBT issues. She did not register a vote on the Defense of Marriage Act in 1996, supported DADT in 1993, but voted for the hate crimes bill 2009, and against cloture on a measure that would have prohibited individual states from recognizing marital status and/or legal benefits from any other unions other than that of a man and woman.
Last week at Netroots Nation, the group GetEqual stopped traffic to protest Majority Leader Harry Reid’s (D-NV) failure to pass ENDA and Lt. Dan Choi presented Reid with his West Point ring, urging the Senator to repeal DADT.