Monthly ratio of daily high temperature records vs low ones set in the U.S. for June 2010 through July 23, 2011, data from NOAA.
One way to tell if a nationwide heat wave is truly record-breaking is, well, to look at the total number of records that it breaks. Even better is to compare the high records with the low records, since we have very good historical data and analysis on that — and it covers the whole nation.
Steve Scolnik at Capital Climate analyzed the data from NOAA’s National Climatic Data Center (NCDC) and found, “U.S. Summer Heat Records Continue Overwhelming Cold Records By Over 8:1.” These large ratios for the summer and the first 23 days of July are a big deal compared to, for instance, the average over the last decade of about 2-to-1 (see “Mother Nature is Just Getting Warmed Up” and below).
But the conservative media can’t even bring themselves to admit that, as Media Matters documents:
By Climate Guest Blogger on Jul 27, 2011 at 4:06 pm
by Richard Caperton
It sure would be nice if members of Congress actually listened to the Congressional Budget Office. If they did, they would learn what we’ve known for quite some time: shifting to cleaner electricity generation is an affordable and effective way to reduce carbon emissions.
The CBO just released a summary of seven different types of standards from a variety of sources. The summary uniformly finds that either an RES (renewables alone) or a CES (some combination of renewables, natural gas, nuclear and CCS) will reduce carbon emissions, and that any price impacts to consumers will be minimal. Some consumers may even pay lower utility bills.
The report does acknowledge that some regions could see price increases. You can bet that some people will jump all over this and claim that clean energy mandates drive up rates. But let’s put the figures into perspective.
Only one out of seven scenarios sees a price increase of more than 5 percent by 2030. At the same time, in five of the seven scenarios, at least one region of the country is projected to see lower electricity prices.
Virtually all price impacts are between plus or minus 5 percent, which is extremely small compared to other expected price impacts. For example, a price increase of 1 percent would be overwhelmed by any change in the price of natural gas generation or in a regulated utility’s allowable rate of return. Electric rates for all consumers will change by 2030, and virtually none of that change would be because of a clean energy standard.
The CBO report also discusses the best ways to make clean energy standards more cost-effective for consumers. While CBO isn’t in the business of making recommendations, it’s clear that these will be a key part of designing a successful clean energy standard. In fact, that’s why the Center for American Progress included these cost-effective measures in our clean energy standard proposal. Specifically, CBO’s report validates these aspects of our proposal:
The Obama Administration is close to a deal with the auto industry on aggressive fuel efficiency targets, according to a report from the LA Times. Sources close to the negotiations say that auto manufacturers may agree to targets as high as 54 mpg by 2025.
The automobile industry has been fighting the Obama Administration’s efforts to substantially increase fuel efficiency from 21 mpg to 54 mpg by 2025. Last week, the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers unleashed a media campaign designed to turn public sentiment against increased fuel efficiency standards. But with 75% of Americans supporting standards that could save them as much as $150 billion in the coming decades, that argument may be a hard sell.
The compromise may give manufacturers more time to meet short-term standards, but would quickly increase efficiency after 2022. The White said today the deal will be announced Friday and that it “will result in significant cost savings for consumers at the pump, dramatically reduce oil consumption, cut pollution and create jobs.”
As ThinkProgress has extensively reported, the new Republican Congress, elected with tens of millions in polluter-funded attack ads, campaign contributions, and shadowy front groups, has made weakening environmental safeguards, particularly from the EPA, a top priority. Now, Rep. Mike Rogers (R-AL) is making it even more explicit: if Americans elect more Republicans to office in the 2012 elections, the GOP will get rid of the EPA.
Speaking on an Internet radio program yesterday, Rogers explained that a Republican-controlled House, Senate, and White House would make “dramatic changes,” not only in gutting Medicare and Social Security, but discontinuing the EPA:
ROGERS: You know the fact is, if in fact I think the American people do next November what they started last November, that is, cleaning house, and we do get a Republican-controlled Senate and a Republican president, I think you going to see some dramatic structural changes in this country because we can’t continue to suppor this infrastructure we have. And I’m not talking about just changes to the trust funds and the entitlement programs. You know, we gotta look at what we really need to be doing, and what we don’t need to be doing. For example, we didn’t have an EPA under Jimmy Carter. Who says the federal government has to have an EPA. Every state has their own environmental protection agency. Why does the federal government need to be doing that? Department of Education: I’m a big believer that education is a state and local matter, why do we need a federal department of education? I think we’ll have to look at a lot of things that we’re doing at the federal level and ask ourselves, ‘is this really what the federal role?’ And if not, discontinue it.
Rogers’ claim that President Carter “didn’t have” an EPA is peculiar. The EPA was started by President Nixon in 1970, and Carter had his own administrator, Douglas Costle, who used the agency to start spurring innovation in renewable energy. Despite Rogers’ insistence on state-based environmental, pollution affecting the water table, rivers, streams, and the atmosphere are not bound by state borders.
Later in the interview, the host asks Rogers about a story regarding a coal executive “going Galt” and exclaiming that he’s quitting at a public hearing. The hearing was convened to discuss the fact that coal mining has produced toxic pollutants near schools and in waterways in Alabama. The congressman responds by saying he’s familiar with that story, and that he’s disgusted by the EPA sticking its “oppressive…tentacles” into the lives of businesses and individuals, “making it next to impossible for companies to survive in this country.”
While Rogers’ statements may seem comically ignorant, he is deadly serious about the GOP’s intentions. Republicans presidential hopefuls from Rep. Michele Bachmann (MN) to Newt Gingrich have called for abolishing the agency, and Senate Republicans actually have a bill to make that hope a reality. Meanwhile, House Republicans have defunded the EPA, while tacking riders onto spending bills to bar it from enforcing regulations on clean air and clean water. A clean GOP sweep in 2012 would make an outright repeal of the EPA easy.
Endangered Species Act Restored In House Revolt By Democrats |
By a 224-204 vote, Rep. Norm Dicks (D-WA) successfully led a revolt against the Republican leadership of the House of Representatives, stripping a provision in the FY 2012 Interior and Environment appropriations bill that would have blocked the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service from listing new species under the Endangered Species Act.
“This rider would have been a death sentence for our nation’s most endangered species,” Natural Resources Defense Council Lands and Wildlife program director Andrew Wetzler responds. “It is refreshing to see Congress make clear that the Endangered Species Act remains essential today. But other riders are looming in this appropriations bill that would pollute our air, foul our water, and remove wildlife protections.”
Doubters continually claim that renewable energy needs “dramatic breakthroughs” in the lab to succeed. What they fail to recognize is steady technology advances are already underway with existing technologies — and cumulatively they add up to game changers.
Leading thin-film producer First Solar announced yesterday that it had achieved a world-record efficiency of 17.3 percent for its cadmium-telluride cells, dramatically surpassing the previous record set in a government lab by .5 percent.
This is a major step for First Solar’s technology, which will help the company continue to drive down manufacturing costs. It currently produces modules for 75 cents a watt (almost 25 cents lower than the lowest conventional panel producers) at an efficiency of 11.7 percent. These improvements in cost and efficiency come during a very competitive time for solar manufacturers, which are seeing intense downward pressure on prices. First Solar is currently constructing more than 1,300 MW of solar PV projects in the U.S. The company says that it could be producing modules more than 14 percent efficient in the next few years.
A few other companies have made similar announcements in recent months: California-based SunPower, a leading manufacturer and installer of silicon-based solar PV, said it had created a 20-percent efficient module from 22.4 percent efficient cells; leading Chinese producer Suntech said it developed a new 15.2 percent high-efficiency module using 18-percent efficient cells; and Georgia-based Suniva announced a 16-percent efficiency for its new panel.
By Jessica Goad, Manager of Research and Outreach, Center for American Progress Action Fund.
Yesterday the House Subcommittee on National Parks, Forests and Public Lands held a hearing on H.R. 1581, the “Wilderness and Roadless Area Release Act,” that would open up 60 million acres of wilderness-quality lands to potential development, making it the latest GOP giveaway to industry. At the heart of H.R. 1581 is the question of what to do with millions of acres lands that are pending wilderness designation, the highest form of land protection in our country and a uniquely American idea. The Bureau of Land Management and the Forest Service manage “wilderness study areas” and “inventoried roadless areas” while they await a Congressional decision on whether or not to call them wilderness.
The bill being advocated by Republicans strips away these temporary protections. Proponents tried to justify it in many ways during the hearing, but the bill’s author, Representative Kevin McCarthy (R-CA), went so far as to invoke President Theodore Roosevelt in validating it:
As President Theodore Roosevelt, one of the greatest champions for our natural wonders, said, “Conservation means development as much as it does protection. I recognize the right and duty of this generation to develop and use the natural resources of our land.”
The Bakersfield Californian, the newspaper in McCarthy’s own district, begged to differ, and editorialized that Teddy would be “rolling over in his grave”:
The rumbling sound you may have noticed coming from the general vicinity of the Sierra Nevada is Teddy Roosevelt rolling over in his grave. The great war hero, outdoorsman and early 20th-century president would not have been pleased to see his Republican Party heirs tearing away at his single greatest legacy: Recognition that this nation’s natural landscape—especially in the West—is a vulnerable treasure that demands more than our mere appreciation. It demands protection.
Bob Abbey, Director of the Bureau of Land Management, stated in yesterday’s hearing that out of 221 wilderness areas on BLM lands, only 98 were originally recommended by the agency to Congress for wilderness protection in a survey in the 1970s. But, members of Congress who work with committed citizens groups, like those who fought for the Sabinoso Wilderness Area in New Mexico even though it wasn’t recommended for wilderness designation, can come together and save areas for generations to come.
Sportsmen have been some of the most outspoken proponents of land conservation and opponents of this bill, because, as Trout Unlimited states, it would “harm hunting and angling.” And, an eloquent piece in the seminal sportsmen’s magazine Field & Stream noted the value of temporarily protecting these last, best places, and why this bill should be vigorously opposed:
Before the end of July, the US Senate will consider H.R. 1581 the so-called Wilderness and Roadless Area Release Act of 2011 which, if passed, will indeed solve the debate over which of our remaining roadless public lands should be protected for future generations. H.R. 1581 will “release” these lands, as if, by being wild and isolated, these public lands are somehow being kept locked away from us. The sponsors of the bill claim that it will open up more lands for the enjoyment of the public through increasing motorized access. The reality for the sponsors of this bill is that, in this modern world, nothing should be off-limits, nothing should require effort. What is free to everyone, effortless to obtain, has no value. That is exactly how these politicians view undeveloped public land now. How hunters who know and love these places view them does not seem to matter.
What recent history shows us is that the only politically pragmatic climate strategy for the U.S. should be built around a big new federal spending effort of $15 billion a year or more for low-carbon technology.
A “no regrets” voluntary emissions reduction effort is a “new framework” for addressing climate change (rather than one that has failed to produce results for decades).
The science doesn’t make crystal clear that reducing emissions aggressively now is an imperative.
“Alone again among present low-carbon technologies, nuclear power can approach cost competiveness with fossil-based energy and it remains the low-carbon energy technology of choice in many parts of the world.” No seriously, that is a direct quote!
We solved the ozone problem through a no-regrets policy which drove innovation that then allowed mandatory reductions.
The “distinction between ‘natural’ and ‘anthropogenic’ impacts has little meaning” (!) and the best way for the world to adapt to climate change and extreme weather is to stop talking about climate change and instead use phrases like “build greater resilience to the vagaries of nature.”
You didn’t know any of that because none of it is true. But those are the central arguments of a new absurdly-titled report, “Climate Pragmatism: Innovation, Resilience, and No Regrets” by the long-debunked Breakthrough Institute (BTI) and the American Enterprise Institute (AEI) and a bunch of other folks, including Third Way!
But the number of signatories doesn’t change the extremist nature of the argument or the proposed “solution” to climate. Why is this paper so extreme? Partly it’s the tired right-wing myths laid out above. Partly it’s the rewriting of recent history to claim that big government spending is the only obvious “pragmatic” approach, when in fact it is the one approach that conservatives have opposed steadfastly for three decades. But mainly it is extreme for two core reasons.
First the report doesn’t just ignore everything we have learned about climate science in recent years. It doesn’t even specify what level of emissions it is aiming at. One can’t even call it rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic. It is more like saying we must not talk about the iceberg looming in the distance – since that makes some of the more conservative folks on the ship uncomfortable — and we can’t slow down the ship or change course, so we should invest in developing a new ship, but really there’s no hurry because … well, we know how that movie turned out.
MEMO TO PEOPLE WRITING AND REVIEWING CLIMATE REPORTS: Let’s stipulate that if a report doesn’t spell out what your greenhouse gas concentrations target is for the planet, it is just handwaving — and we’ve really had enough of that for two decades now.
Second, the report fatally misunderstands the difference between being more resilient to extreme weather and adapting to climate change. The report suggests that the problems we face in a global warmed world are not different in kind from the ones we face today, when the scientific literature says the exact opposite. Of course, it’s impossible to know what the authors actually think because they don’t talk about the science at all or, again what level of atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide they think we should be aiming for.
It would be perfectly pragmatic to say that the world is very unlikely to stabilize at 450 ppm. I’ve been saying that for years. But it would be incredibly extremist to put on the table a paper with no target and no strategies that could avoid, say 800 to 1000 ppm or more, an outcome that can quite pragmatically be labeled the end of modern civilization as we know it.
From an Ivory Tower point of view, which is really where this report is coming from, it’s obviously easy to criticize those who are trying to limit total warming to 2°C because that is politically untenable, as I and others have noted for a long time. But if you don’t talk about the science at all and you don’t put on the table any new strategies that could avoid 4°C warming or more — heck, you don’t even say that we must avoid such warming and you simultaneoulsy reject any adaptation strategy that recognizes how fundamentally different a 4C (7F) world is from the one we live in today – well, that I think is the very definition of extreme.
The authors of this paper have inspired me to come up with a new term: climate science ignorers. The authors aren’t anti-scientific in their analysis, they are simply non-scientific.
If you want to know what a centrist truly pragmatic, science-based organization thinks, we need look no further than the International Energy Agency — a traditionally very staid and conservative body that stresses consensus-based pragmatism above all.
The East Africa drought has left 11 million people starving.
The Tea Party effort to block action on greenhouse pollution and its deadly impacts has gone global. Although humanity is facing ever greater climate crises, from the devastating Horn of Africa drought to raging floods in India, Republicans in the House of Representatives are committed to serving the selfish profit interests of carbon polluters. The fiscal year 2012 State and Foreign Operations Appropriations bill, being considered today in subcommittee, zeroes out the budget for major international climate efforts, including the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC):
Funding For Nobel-Winning IPCC: Zero. The budget prohibits funding for the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the international volunteer scientific body tasked with assessing the world’s knowledge of climate science. In 2007, the IPCC won the Nobel Peace Prize for its work.
Funding For International Climate Negotiations: Zero. The budget prohibits funding for the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, the international body responsible for negotiating climate policy — under a treaty ratified by the United States.
Funding For Strategic Climate Fund: Zero. The budget eliminates support for the World Bank’s Strategic Climate Fund, which fights deforestation, reduces risk to climate disasters, and supports renewable energy in low-income countries.
Funding For Clean Technology Fund: Zero. The budget eliminates funding for the World Bank’s Clean Technology Fund, which helps developing countries invest in low-carbon energy technology and infrastructure.
The Strategic Climate Fund and Clean Technology Fund together make up the Climate Investment Funds, established by the World Bank during the Bush administration. Hard as it is to believe, the Republicans now running the House of Representatives are even more radical deniers of the threat of climate pollution than George W. Bush — even though the damaged climate has grown more dangerous.
At Oxfam America, Heather Coleman notes that Rep. Connie Mack’s (R-FL) state is likewise imperiled by climate change:
Meanwhile, back at the House, many of the Members of Congress who are ignoring this reality represent districts recently hit by some of the worst disasters in our nation’s history. Indeed, the Foreign Affairs committee member who led the amendment charge in that committee, Representative Connie Mack, represents Florida – one of the states that will be hardest hit by rising global temperatures.
If that’s not enough of a concern for Congressman Mack, maybe this will be: Some 12 million people in the Horn of Africa are facing famine due to increasingly frequent droughts in recent years. As a result, Valerie Amos, the United Nations humanitarian relief coordinator, warned that the world “must take the impact of climate change more seriously”. To ask the obvious but still painfully relevant question: how many major humanitarian disasters we’ll have to endure before US policy makers stop playing petty politics with people’s lives?
Chelsea Satre, left, and Julianne Waters sit in the middle of Main Street and block a light-rail line after Tim DeChristopher was sentenced in Salt Lake City to two years in prison on federal charges for bidding up prices at an auction of land leases that he couldn’t pay for. AP photo.
Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) is making millions from a private coal company even as he fights public health efforts that would raise costs for the coal industry, Senate financial disclosure records reveal. Manchin’s first speech in Congress was an attack on the Environmental Protection Agency for trying to fight the crime of mountaintop removal mining. Manchin opposes EPA regulation of greenhouse pollution, produced disproportionately from burning coal. Last week, Manchin lashed out at Mayor Michael Bloomberg for the billionaire’s contribution to a campaign to shut down toxic coal-fired power plants. As Greenwire reports, his reckless boosterism for coal polluters is highly self-serving:
On his financial disclosures for 2009 and 2010, Manchin reported significant earnings from Enersystems Inc., a coal brokerage that he helped run before his political star rose. In the 19 months before winning his Senate seat in a hard-fought special election, Manchin reported operating income of $1,363,916 from Enersystems. His next disclosure showed $417,255 in Enersystems income.
Manchin defended the dirty coal income, saying there’s no conflict of interest because his fortune is in a “blind trust.”
Manchin’s critics back in West Virginia, who live with the devastation the corrupt coal industry has wreaked on the state’s land and people, aren’t convinced.
“I certainly think that his perspective is very much skewed because of his connections to industry,” Cindy Rank, a long-time opponent of mountaintop removal in West Virginia, told Greenwire.
“He’s been nothing but a mouthpiece for the coal industry his whole public life,” said Jim Sconyers, chairman of West Virginia’s Sierra Club chapter.
This morning, ConocoPhillips announced their 2011 second-quarter earnings, reporting profits of $3.4 billion, bringing their total profits in the first six months of 2011 to $6.4 billion. Below is a quick look at ConocoPhillips, by the numbers:
ConocoPhillips’ Chairman and CEO James Mulva received a 25-percent hike in compensation last year, earning him a total compensation of $17.9 million.
It’s kind of an amplifying carbon-cycle feedback. Rake in billions from consumers, use the money to buy influence to maintain tax breaks. And as a bonus, any deficit cuts have to come at the expense of … consumers. Talk about win-win for Big Oil!
Welcome to Clean Start, ThinkProgress Green’s morning round-up of the latest in climate and clean energy. Here is what we’re reading. What are you?
On Tuesday, the Timken Company broke ground on a new $11.8 million wind energy center for the research and development of wind-turbine bearings near the Akron-Canton airport in Ohio. [Times-Reporter]
Thin film solar leader First Solar announced it has achieved a new world record for cadmium-telluride photovoltaic solar cell efficiency, reaching 17.3 percent. [First Solar]
A 10-year-old Brooklyn girl who died Saturday became the second victim of a heat wave that blanketed New York City last week, authorities said Tuesday. [WSJ]
The Environmental Protection Agency said on Tuesday it would delay issuing, for the fourth time, a final limit on smog pollution opposed by manufacturers and many Republican lawmakers until the Obama administration has finished reviewing it. [Reuters]
The morning low of 86 at 7:53 a.m. Tuesday was the hottest minimum temperature ever recorded by the National Weather Service at its official Dallas-Fort Worth monitoring station. [Dallas Star-Telegram]
“As climate change produces earlier snowmelts, sending too much of the water into reservoirs in the spring and too little in summer,” wealthy farming interests are taking control of the West’s water supply by abusing water banking. [NYT]
The tropical storm Nock-ten has unleashed floods and landslides in the Philippines, killing at least nine people and forcing thousands to flee their homes. [BBC]
Up to 11 million people are starving in East Africa due to the massive drought, which has forced the United Nations to declare the first famine in the region in 25 years. [East African]
A landslide caused by torrential rain crashed into a South Korean mountain resort east of Seoul early on Wednesday, destroying four buildings, including two small hotels, and killing at least 10 people, officials said. [Reuters]
Heavy floods inundated hundreds of houses and crops, as Khabi river breached levee on Saturday in the valley districts Thoubal and Bishnupur in northeastern India. [NTDTV]
Monsoon rains have displaced about 10,000 people in Bangladesh this month, as the Brahmaputra River has swollen past its banks. [DiscoveryNews]
By Climate Guest Blogger on Jul 27, 2011 at 8:48 am
by Tripp Brockway
There’s a good chance you haven’t heard of the major transition taking place on the international climate negotiation scene – but it has major implications for the future of the world’s second-biggest country, India.
In a reshuffling of his cabinet earlier this month, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh named Jayanthi Natarajan (pictured right) as his new Environment Minister. Experts are scrutinizing Singh’s choice, wondering how it may chance the country’s approach to climate negotiations.
Natarajan will replace Jairam Ramesh, who is one of the most influential climate change negotiators the world has ever seen. Ramesh was a major player in both the Copenhagen and Cancun UNFCCC negotiations. In Cancun, he brokered a deal by bringing developed and developing nations together on green technology and emissions monitoring.
Ramesh was highly lauded for his work in international climate change negotiations. He showed a willingness to break with the obstructionist policies of the past, upending the division between developing and developed countries that has hindered progress on a binding global treaty to reduce emissions. Ramesh moved India forward on domestic climate change policy as well, committing his country to reaching 20% renewable energy by 2020, the same goal held by the European Union.
Ramesh was not afraid of controversy during his tenure as Environment Minister. He is known for challenging the growth-over-all paradigm in India by putting multi-billion dollar industrial projects on hold to ensure environmental protection. As a result, some speculate that Prime Minister Singh strategically promoted Ramesh out of his position, to the cabinet-level position of Minister of Rural Development, in a nod to industry amidst concerns of a sluggish economy and decreased foreign direct investment.
There is little hard evidence to make such speculations. There is equally little evidence to predict whether or not Jayanthi Natarajan will continue the policies of her predecessor. Natarajan’s resume, which includes Member of Parliament, leadership positions in several committees, and Spokeswoman for her party, does not indicate a particular expertise in environmental policy. Reports in the Indian media demonstrate the uncertainty as to what Natarajan will do with her new position.
In the waning days of the Bush presidency, an auction of 130,000 acres of pristine Utah lands near national parks was organized by the Bureau of Land Management as a last-minute gift to the oil and gas industry. The auction was disrupted by climate activist Tim DeChristopher, then a 27-year-old economics student, who successfully bid for $1.7 million in parcels. Although the Bush leasing plan was found in court to be flawed and has been withdrawn, today DeChristopher was sentenced to two years in federal prison, fined $10,000 for his act of civil disobedience, and taken immediately into custody.
I actually have great respect for the rule of law, because I see what happens when it doesn’t exist, as is the case with the fossil fuel industry.
The federal prosecutor, Assistant U.S. Attorney John Huber, sought a stiff sentence against DeChristopher “‘to afford adequate deterrence to criminal conduct’ by others,” because “the rule of law is the bedrock of our civilized society, not acts of ‘civil disobedience’ committed in the name of the cause of the day.”
“The people who are committed to fighting for a livable future will not be discouraged or intimidated by anything that happens here today,” DeChristopher responded in his 35-minute address. “And neither will I.”
Twenty-six activists were were arrested for blockading the Salt Lake City courthouse where DeChristopher was sentenced.
Edited by Joe Romm, we cover climate science, solutions and politics. Columnist Tom Friedman calls us "the indispensable blog" and Time magazine named us one of the 25 "Best Blogs of 2010." Newcomers, start here.