12 Responses to February 17 News: House Passes “Worst Transportation Bill Ever” to Force Keystone XL, Open Oil Shale
Other stories below: Recent extreme weather impacted 80% of Americans; Global warming threatens tropical birds
The Republican-controlled House endorsed a plan Thursday to vastly expand oil and gas drilling off the nation’s coasts to help pay for a $260 billion transportation bill.
The legislation has no chance of passing the Senate and faces a White House veto. But for Republicans, the 237-187 vote showed they’re willing to go further to boost U.S. energy production than President Barack Obama. Obama lately has embraced increased oil and gas production on the campaign trail, and has touted how the U.S. in recent years has produced record amounts of oil and natural gas.
“The bill we are considering … is an action plan that clearly contrasts President Obama’s anti-energy policies with the pro-energy, pro-American jobs policies of Republicans,” said Rep. Doc Hastings, R-Wash., chairman of the House Natural Resources Committee.
Charles Koch, his brother and employees have in recent months been getting death threats, hundreds of obscenity-laced hate messages, and harassment from some far left-wing groups, Koch said on Thursday.
“We are under attack from various directions, both with threats of violence against us personally, and with threats of attacks on our businesses,” Charles Koch said Thursday, in a phone interview from his office in Wichita.
Koch, the billionaire head of Koch Industries, rarely gives interviews, especially about the various political causes that he and his brother David support. The privately held company rarely releases information about its activities.
Violent and deadly weather events have affected more than 240 million Americans — about 80% of the nation’s population — over the past six years, says a report out today from an environmental advocacy group.
Last year was particularly awful for weather in the USA, with at least 14 weather and climate disasters across the nation that each inflicted more than $1 billion in damage. They included a series of devastating tornado outbreaks in the central and southern USA, the ongoing drought in the southern Plains, massive river flooding along the Mississippi and Missouri Rivers, and batterings from Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee.
Environment America’s report looks broadly at county-level weather-related disaster declarations from FEMA for 2006 through 2011 to find out how many Americans live in counties hit by recent weather disasters. The report focused on weather and climate events, and did not include geological events such as earthquakes or volcanic eruptions.
New York City has a plan to keep the subways from flooding. Queensland, Australia, has a plan to keep agricultural lands from drying up. Chicago has a plan to cope with higher temperatures.
In the Bay Area, where climate change is expected to cause flooding, shoreline erosion, heat waves, water shortages and a spread of exotic infectious diseases, it seems as if people are drowning in plans — but with little regional coordination.
One of the biggest fears for Laura Tam, a policy director at the San Francisco Planning and Urban Research Association who spends her workdays thinking disastrous thoughts about climate change, is that the lack of planning coordination could leave residents increasingly vulnerable.
Real talk: when it comes to dealing with climate change—and reducing carbon emissions, the top man-made cause of warming—the international community is doing a crap job. The U.N. process is bogged down, with ambitions that seem to shrink each year even as the summits themselves grow longer and longer. Europe’s emissions trading scheme (ETS)—the biggest carbon market in the world—is apparently a total mess. And the U.S. is…well, the U.S. really has no comprehensive climate program to speak of, and given the Republican party’s denialist take on climate change, the country is one potentially one Presidential election away from going in reverse on global warming. It’s not that zero progress is being made—renewable energy keeps growing, new air pollution rules are cutting into coal and energy efficiency is impacting oil demand. But this isn’t where we thought we’d be almost five years ago at the Bali summit.
Global warming is likely to drive hundreds of bird species to extinction in coming decades, as more intense and frequent extreme weather events destroy habitat and make foraging impossible.
“Birds are perfect canaries in the coal mine – it’s hard to avoid that metaphor – for showing the effects of global change on the world’s ecosystems and the people who depend on those ecosystems,” said Çağan Şekercioğlu , an assistant professor of biology at the University of Utah.
Şekercioğlu recently reviewed 200 scientific studies on climate change impacts to birds, concluding that 600 to 900 species are likely to go extinct by 2100. For context, there area about 10,000 bird species worldwide. The research suggests that each degree of warming could lead to the extinction of an additional 100 to 500 species.
China, the United States and two dozen other countries are looking at coordinated retaliation — including measures to squeeze European airlines and other industries — if Europe tries to enforce a new law requiring airlines to pay for their greenhouse gas emissions.
The system, the European Union’s boldest initiative on climate protection to date, has provoked a worldwide outcry and raised the unwelcome prospect of a full-scale trade war. European officials have stood firm while challenging opponents to suggest an equally effective alternative.The European system requires an airline landing or taking off in Europe to acquire permits corresponding to the amount of greenhouse gases emitted during the entire flight — regardless of where it originated or ended or the nationality of the airline. The system went into effect this year, although the first payments will not be due until 2013.
Contrary to the heavy snowfall in Himachal Pradesh, the snow desert of the state — Lahaul-Spiti — has received negligible snow this year, triggering global warming fears in the Himalayan regions. Minimum 15 feet of snowfall is normal in the district every year but it did not snow beyond 5 feet this time.
According to residents, they had been noticing a drop in density of snowfall since late 70s. “Our ancestors had started celebrating Fagli festival in February wherein all family and relatives met and made sure they could cope with the harsh winters. But now things have changed,” said a resident of Pattan valley, Balbir Kirpu. It is surprising that other areas of Himachal, south of the Rohtang Pass, have received thick snowfall, some after 50-60 years.
Tashi Angrup of the valley said, “The transportation was never affected and all internal routes in Lahaul are clear of snow. This is very strange.”