May 20 News: U.S. Has ‘Deep Obligation’ To Act On Climate Change

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"May 20 News: U.S. Has ‘Deep Obligation’ To Act On Climate Change"

The New York Times Editorial Board detailed in yesterday’s paper exactly why and how executive action is needed to rein in carbon emissions. Worth a full read. [New York Times]

America cannot solve a global problem by itself. But as Mr. Obama rightly observed in his inaugural address, the United States, as both major polluter and world leader, has a deep obligation to help shield the international community from rising sea levels, floods, droughts and other devastating consequences of a warming planet.

The prospects for broad-based Congressional action putting a price on carbon emissions are nil. The House is run by people who care little for environmental issues generally, and Senate Republicans who once favored a pricing strategy, like John McCain and Lindsey Graham, have long since slunk away. Meanwhile, Republicans on the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee have spent the last two weeks trying to derail Mr. Obama’s nominee to run the Environmental Protection Agency — a moderate named Gina McCarthy. Ms. McCarthy has served two Republican governors (Mitt Romney was one) but is considered suspect by the right wing because she wants to control carbon pollution, which is driving global temperatures upward.

Hence the need for executive action. Yet we are now four months into Mr. Obama’s second term, and there is no visible sign of a coherent strategy. … As this page has noted, it is possible to adopt a robust climate strategy based largely on executive actions. The most important of these is to invoke the E.P.A.’s authority under the Clean Air Act to limit pollution from stationary industrial sources, chiefly the power plants that account for almost 40 percent of the country’s carbon emissions. …

He can hasten the development of less-polluting alternatives to older-generation refrigerants and other chemicals. He can order the Energy Department to embark on a major program to improve the efficiency of appliances and commercial and residential buildings, which consume a huge chunk of the country’s energy supply. And he can ramp up investment in basic research.

All of this will take time, which is why it is important to get started.

Heatwave deaths in New York City could spike 22 percent in the next decade. [Guardian]

Elizabeth Kolbert on Keystone: “The pipeline isn’t inevitable, and it shouldn’t be treated as such. It’s just another step on the march to disaster.” [New Yorker]

Extreme drought stretching from Texas to Kansas and beyond could be here for longer than expected as aquifers dry up and groundwater disappears. [New York Times]

Deforestation continues to sweep across Southeast Asia. [Yale Environment 360]

On Friday, Rep. Lois Capps introduced legislation to create a national plan to assist medical professionals with health issues linked with climate change, allowing additional research and tracking of diseased and environmental health indicators. [The Hill]

Gas prices rose 11 cents over the last two weeks. [Time]

The Coast Guard is taking a look at why Shell’s Arctic drilling barge ran aground off an island in Alaska. [Washington Post]

One solution to “range anxiety” for electric cars could be a battery swapping system, which is something Tesla Motors appears to be examining. [Gas 2]

Iceland recently became the 100th nation to deploy wind power. [Renewable Energy Focus]

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14 Responses to May 20 News: U.S. Has ‘Deep Obligation’ To Act On Climate Change

  1. glen says:

    Larmar Smith, chairman of the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology, claims in his editorial for the Washington Post:

    Climate change is an issue that needs to be discussed thoughtfully and objectively. Unfortunately, claims that distort the facts hinder the legitimate evaluation of policy options. The rhetoric has driven some policymakers toward costly regulations and policies that will harm hardworking American families and do little to decrease global carbon emissions. The Obama administration’s decision to delay, and possibly deny, the Keystone XL pipeline is a prime example.

    http://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/lamar-smith-overheated-rhetoric-on-climate-change-hurts-the-economy/2013/05/19/32cb6d94-bda4-11e2-97d4-a479289a31f9_story.html?hpid=z2

  2. Raul M. says:

    Tying a price on carbon to FEMA might actually help with the cost of extreme weather?

  3. Beth says:

    As Joe might say – here are some “head-exploding” quotes from the Post’s Op-ed from Lamar Smith. I was so angry at the Post for publishing this misleading misinformation that I was literally shaking after I read it this morning.

    • The State Department has found that the [Keystone] pipeline will have minimal impact on the surrounding environment and no significant effect on the climate.

    • Contrary to the claims of those who want to strictly regulate carbon dioxide emissions and increase the cost of energy for all Americans, there is a great amount of uncertainty associated with climate science. These uncertainties undermine our ability to accurately determine how carbon dioxide has affected the climate in the past. They also limit our understanding of how anthropogenic emissions will affect future warming trends.

    • Among the facts that are clear, however, are that U.S. emissions contribute very little to global concentrations of greenhouse gas, and that even substantial cuts in these emissions are likely to have no effect on temperature.

    • But experts at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration have told the New York Times that climate change had nothing to do with Superstorm Sandy. This is underscored by last year’s IPCC report stating that there is “high agreement” among leading experts that trends in weather disasters, floods, tornados and storms cannot be attributed to climate change.

  4. mulp says:

    “…the United States, as both major polluter and world leader, has a deep obligation to help shield the international community from rising sea levels, floods, droughts and other devastating consequences of a warming planet.”

    That is true only if you hold a belief or faith that is commonly considered religious, or diminished as philosophy.

    In economics, the icon of the field, Milton Friedman, argued that corporations have only one obligation: profit. Friedman did argue for public policy set by government to make certain activities more or less profitable, thus he advocated a pollution tax and a negative income tax to accomplish what he argued economic profit would never do.

    In science, there are no “values”, merely what “is”. Science does not mourn the demise of the age of the dinosaur or Neanderthal or wooly mammoth – sure, millions of scientists would give almost anything to see a living one of them, but that has nothing to do with science, and if time travel or a TV into the past existed, the attractive challenge of science would fade. Science would become just fast forward to the big action sequences and big plot reveal. Science is about solving the puzzle, not the conclusion.

    Scientifically, the more interesting case is out of control global warming – scientists will get to study in a lifetime some many things we have been limited to studying in sediments and old bones and ratios of radioactive isotopes.

    Citizen Obama and now President Obama is expressing a faith based belief in “obligation” and it is actually the conservative opposition which is denying an obligation based on a devotion to secular profit with no moral code, or a faith in human desire and greed as the guiding light for virtue.

    Liberals, environmentalists, progressives are wrong is not making a deeply religious or philosophic case for action on many issues, but especially climate.

    And only by converting the people to a deep faith of the people can we hope for the future. To demand President Obama be theocrat-in-chief imposing his religious faith and belief in religious obligation on an unwilling people who do not understand or share his faith is quixotic.

    I believe President Obama has been called the “most divisive president ever” by Republicans because he has placed his trust in the people, and called on the people to act as one – “we are one nation”. He has refused to force his will on the nation because that would be forcing his faith on the nation. His faith in a collective responsibility to each other today, but also to future generations.

    Republicans have spent decades being the party of opposition to the faith in government which in our history is the faith in the collective We the People. Our history is built on opposition to religious authority, and based on a common bond of We the People to a higher power found within each of us. Obama has drawn on that faith in the common purpose of individuals joining together. Thus Obama has taken the individual as the supreme power in society by their joining together in common purpose, a message in contrast to the Republican vision of individualism as a means to justify centralizing power and authority in a few select elite individuals who dictate based on money and theocracy. The politics are no longer framed as arrogant godless liberalism against religious virtue defended by conservatives.

    When the NYT claims the US has an obligation to save the world from itself, and then calls on one man among millions to save the world, that is grand hubris.

    Granted many conservatives call on President Obama to invade, occupy, kill, control, dictate because they believe only the US can save the world from itself, but fundamentally, the US has rejected the moneyed and powerful elites as the source of enlightenment, and been the guiding light when We the People find the common purpose and act collectively.

    For an very concrete example of the utter failure of executive action, I point to Bill Clinton, who began campaigned promising tax cut, but on seeing the power of those backing Ross Perot, the collective backing a flawed candidate in common purpose, Clinton committed to deficit reduction, and that required tax hikes and spending cuts. As President, he almost unilaterally balanced the budget, and then in an attempt to gain the upper hand, created a balanced operating budget so revenues covered all spending in 2000 – there was no surplus in the operating budget.

    Thus, in 2001 when President Clinton left office, he had solved the fiscal problems of the nation once and for all. Yet within three years, the Federal deficit was as bad as it had ever been. President Clinton the fiscal dictator had forced We the People kicking and screaming to fiscal virtue. We the People reveled in discarding the elitists godless liberalism of fiscal balanced budget, replacing it with borrow and spend for god and country.

    The only hope for the peoples of the world and the future is We the People joining in common agreement to accept an obligation we create, and then act as one America for ourselves, our future, and the future of the world. And that future is defined not by scientists, not by a liberal elite, not by political or religious authority, but by the common values We the People share within each of us.

  5. prokaryotes says:

    Goldman Sachs Group Inc. (GS) plans to invest as much as 50 billion yen ($487 million) in renewable energy projects in Japan in the next five years, tapping demand for electricity produced from solar and wind-power generators. http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2013-05-20/goldman-sachs-eyes-japan-renewable-energy-investments.html