“We’re Seeing Much More Severe Fire Behavior Than Ever Experienced,” Says U.S. Forest Service Chief
Other stories below: Obama Lobbying Dems over Keystone XL pipeline; Winter checks in at Fourth Warmest Ever
The warming climate is breeding more beetle-ravaged forest and prolonged fire seasons, U.S. Forest Service Chief Tom Tidwell testified before a Senate committee on Tuesday, as he fielded questions about the White House’s proposed agency budget for fiscal year 2013.
“We’ve been doing research on the effects of a changing climate to the vegetation on our nation’s forests for over two decades,” he told the Senate Committee on Energy & Natural Resources in Washington, D.C. “When it comes to fire, we’re definitely seeing much longer fire seasons in many parts of the country, another 60 or 70 days longer than what we used to experience.”
The Forest Service is not only dealing with an uptick in the number of wildfires, wind storms, droughts and other extreme weather as a result of climate change. “We’re also seeing much more severe fire behavior than we’ve ever experienced in the past,” Tidwell noted….
U.S. Sen. Al Franken, D-Minnesota, expressed frustration that politics are polluting scientific discussions. He said it only makes sense for Congress to begin incorporating the effects of climate change into budgetary decisions.
“To me it is so obvious the costs of climate change that we are already paying, and these are never factored in when we talk about the costs of things like burning more coal or burning dirtier oil,” Franken said. “This debate that has been going on in this country – it saddens me sometimes when what your scientists are telling us is called a hoax. I don’t know if it’s for political gain or to curry favor with big donors who can fund super PACs or what it is, but there is a climate-change-denial culture among some of my colleagues that I find very disturbing.”
President Barack Obama is intervening in a Senate fight over the Keystone XL oil pipeline and personally lobbying Democrats to reject an amendment calling for its construction, according to several sources familiar with the talks.
The White House lobbying effort, including phone calls from the president to Democrats, signals that the vote could be close when it heads to the floor Thursday. The president is trying to defeat an amendment that would give election-year fodder to his Republican critics who have accused him of blocking a job-creating energy project at a time of high gas prices.
The stats are in on the winter that wasn’t, and the December through February period stacks up as the fourth-warmest winter on record for the Lower 48 states, according to newly released numbers from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).
The average temperature for the Lower 48 states during the December through February period, the time span defined as meteorological winter, was 3.9 degrees Fahrenheit above the 1901-2000 long-term average, making it the warmest winter since 2000. The other winters that were warmer than this one occurred in 1992 and 1999.
High gasoline prices are squeezing American drivers, but they’re not squeezing all Americans equally. Michael Levi points to fascinating new research by Trevor Houser showing that blue states are currently facing far higher pump prices — but that red states are suffering more.
As global oil prices have shot up, not every part of the United States has been affected equally. For one, there’s a glut of new oil from North Dakota and Canada that’s piling up in Cushing, Okla. because there aren’t enough pipelines to carry the crude down to refineries on the Gulf Coast. (The Keystone XL pipeline was, in part, meant to address this logjam.) That means refineries in the Midwest have access to artificially cheap oil that they can, in turn, convert to cheaper gasoline. The disparities are stark: Wyoming drivers pay $3.21 per gallon while drivers in California pay $4.34. And, oddly enough, the differences line up well with partisan patterns — Houser found that blue states pay significantly higher prices per gallon than red states.
Not all the drama on Tuesday night involved Super Tuesday.
Robert Kennedy Jr. issued a strong criticism of Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.) on Twitter.
“Speaking of prostitutes, big oil’s top call girl Sen Inhofe wants to kill fuel economy backed by automakers, small biz, enviros, & consumers,” he tweeted.
Inhofe is an outspoken critic of the Environmental Protection Agency and has referred to climate change as “the greatest hoax ever perpetrated on the American people.” Recently, he sent a letter to EPA head Lisa Jackson demanding a probe of the agency’s activities.
Kennedy works for the Natural Resources Defense Council and, according to ABC, was once considered for the EPA’s top position.
For Rep. Allen West, the skyrocketing price of gasoline is a personal pocketbook issue. The Florida tea party Republican (who blames President Obama for the price increase) recently wailed on Facebook that it’s now costing him $70 to fill his Hummer.
It’s hard to feel the pain of a whining, $174,000-a-year, Hummer-driving Congress critter, but millions of regular Americans really are feeling pain at the pump. It’s an especially cynical political stunt, then, for Republicans and their chorus of right-wing mouthpieces to use gas-price pain as a whip for lashing Obama’s January decision to reject the infamous Keystone XL pipeline.
This week the Senate is likely to vote on an amendment that would force approval for the Keystone XL pipeline. President Obama already rejected the dirty tar sands pipeline because it needed a more thorough safety and environmental review.
Yet instead of allowing engineers, public safety, and other experts to assess the pipeline’s sweeping impacts — on American communities, drinking water supplies, and the stability of our climate — this amendment would let the politicians in Congress decide what is safe.
It would bypass our nation’s long-standing environmental review process and give Congress the unprecedented authority to hand out permits on massive projects.
When at least 80 tornadoes rampaged across the United States, from the Midwest to the Gulf of Mexico, last Friday, it was more than is typically observed during the entire month of March, tracking firm AccuWeather.com reported on Monday.
According to some climate scientists, such earlier-than-normal outbreaks of tornadoes, which typically peak in the spring, will become the norm as the planet warms.
“As spring moves up a week or two, tornado season will start in February instead of waiting for April,” said climatologist Kevin Trenberth of the National Center for Atmospheric Research.
Whether climate change will also affect the frequency or severity of tornadoes, however, remains very much an open question, and one that has received surprisingly little study.
“There are only a handful of papers, even to this day,” said atmospheric scientist Robert Trapp of Purdue University, who led a pioneering 2007 study of tornadoes and climate change.
General Motors, a company that has made strides to lower the carbon footprint of driving, is taking heat from 10,000 of its customers for a donation its charitable foundation made to an institute that casts doubt on climate science.
GM vehicle buyers have posted online comments objecting to the GM Foundation’s gifts of $30,000 in the past two years to the Heartland Institute, a free-market advocacy organization that publicizes its disagreement with prevailing scientific views about evidence of climate change.
“I love Buicks and Cadillacs! My husband loves his pickup. We’ve been GM owners for 50 years. If GM continues to support the Heartland Institute, we will NOT purchase another GM vehicle,” wrote Elaine of Blue Ridge, Ga. Her comments were among dozens posted by Forecast the Facts, a group that advocates for accurate climate reporting by meteorologists.
The unseasonably warm weather is nice but it’s a warning that climate change is coming and Ontario is not prepared, Environmental Commissioner Gord Miller said Wednesday.
And deadly tornadoes that hit Indiana this week — an unusual occurrence so far north in winter — are a signal the province must do more to get ready for fiercer and more frequent storms, be they ice or rain, and heat waves, along with new pests in the form of insects and weeds from further south.
“On the back of our five-dollar bill is kids playing shinny on an outdoor rink,” he said after delivering a 22-page report calling on the government to “climate-proof” Ontario.
“We have an infrastructure built for a climate we no longer have.”