Sea ice extent is declining at a fairly brisk and steady pace. Surface melt has mostly ended, but the decline will continue for two to three more weeks because of melt from the bottom and sides of the ice. Amundsen’s Northwest Passage is now navigable; the wider, deeper Northwest Passage through Parry Channel may also open in a matter of days. The Northern Sea Route along the Eurasian coast is clear.
NSIDC has put together a nice animation (click on figure):
Why? I am only winning with 56% of the vote in the online debate sponsored by the Economist on whether we need technology breakthroughs to solve the “Global energy crisis.” I say ‘only ‘ because the other guy’s new post makes clear he agrees with my position entirely. More importantly, I want to crush the breakthrough technology illusion, which keeps attacking the hope for genuine climate action like a relentless, indestructible, killing machine from an apocalyptic future.
The following op-ed ran in the Denver Post yesterday by John Podesta, president of the Center for American Progress and former chief of staff to President Bill Clinton, and Timothy Wirth, president of the UN Foundation, who represented Colorado in the U.S. House and Senate from 1975 to 1992.
The key paragraphs recognize that energy is the essential issue facing this country:
The Democratic Party platform recognizes the energy opportunity in its section on “Investing in American Competitiveness” — but it does not go far enough. The size and urgency of this task require a president willing to make it the top domestic priority in the White House — not pigeonholed as an energy initiative or environmental initiative or even as a security initiative, but made the centerpiece of his economic agenda. Indeed, it will demand that the president refocus the mission and responsibility of all relevant government agencies and convene them in a new National Energy Council in the White House.
The success of this year’s candidates and next year’s elected leaders will rise and fall on how they address the energy issue. Those who convey the scale and scope — and opportunity — of transforming our energy economy will succeed.
As I write this, the Democratic National Convention is getting underway in Denver. It will be an intense week of speeches, workshops and symposia about the issues facing American today, among them our energy and climate security.
While climate change is arguably the most complex problem the community of nations has faced, it isn’t the first time an American president has grappled with issues of global and moral consequence. John Kennedy led at a time the world seemed only a few minutes away from nuclear annihilation, and when Russia threatened to dominate space. Bobby Kennedy opposed the Vietnam War and confronted the issue of civil rights around the world.
What might they say if they were addressing the Democratic National Convention today? The following is compiled from their speeches decades ago. (All are from JFK except where designated):
Based on some (mis)analysis too obscure for mortal men and women to follow, he concluded “The problem is that this graph does not appear to be correct”:
The Arctic did not experience the meltdowns forecast by NSIDC and the Norwegian Polar Year Secretariat. It didn’t even come close. Additionally, some current graphs and press releases from NSIDC seem less than conservative. There appears to be a consistent pattern of overstatement related to Arctic ice loss….
Unless you are a denier, you may not be surprised to learn the amateur denier was wrong and the country’s leading cryosphere scientists were right. But you might be surprised that Goddard issued an unequivocal retraction within days at the site of the original article:
In his first TV ad, conservative billionaire oilman T. Boone Pickens said “This Is One Emergency We Can’t Drill Our Way Out Of.” Although Pickens clearly still believes that, I’m sure he got beat up by his conservative Big Oil friends about how progressives were repeating “over and over again” to argue, correctly, as to how pointless offshore drilling is.
So in his new ad, here, Pickens says, “drill, drill, drill” even though it won’t solve the problem. Sad.
I interviewed Pickens for Salon and will be doing a big article on him later this week. The bottom line is that because he remains an uber-conservative at heart — he was a big funder of the Swift Boat ads — he simply cannot bring himself to support politically those who believe in his renewable energy vision.
Catastrophic climate change is the primary preventable threat to the health and well-being of all Americans — as readers of this blog already understand and as pretty much everyone else will figure out in the coming years. Keeping total planetary warming as low as possible — ideally below 2°C, which it turn requires keeping atmospheric concentrations of CO2 below 450 ppm — will become the central organizing principle for all US energy, environmental, economic, and international policy over the next two decades, and will almost certainly remain so for the next two centuries.
That said, the next president is almost certainly going to pass some sort of climate legislation establishing a cap on greenhouse gas emissions that kicks in around 2015. Again, it won’t be easy to pass a serious bill, but if we had a president who was capable of truly inspiring people and who actually believes in government-led clean energy policies, then I think it will happen.
But — and this is where Biden comes in — even if that legislation is strong enough to put this country on the path towards rapid and deep reductions in greenhouse gas emissions, the entire U.S. effort will certainly fall apart if the next president is not able to negotiate a serious international treaty that encompasses all major emitters. Yet it has become increasingly clear in recent months that achieving a serious, binding international treaty is even more politically implausible a task than passing serious, binding domestic legislation. And that is because Russia has emerged as a country that is likely to be every bit as much an obstacle as China and the United States currently are.
Two heads are apparently not better than one — certainly not for fish and apparently not for the super-rich, either.
If you thought that the two richest Americans got that way by being green — or had suddenly become green because they are now giving their money to charitable causes — you were mistaken. The Calgary Herald reports that last week that the two gazillionaires “quietly flew into northeastern Alberta on Monday, where they took in the oilsands, apparently with awe.”
People were in disbelief. Here they saw a fish that we suspect is very much linked to tarsands development and contamination of the Athabasca River. Our elders tell us that what happens to the animals and the fish is just a sign of what is going to happen to human life.
As for the other two exotic heads found in Canada last week, the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers (CAPP), who made a presentation to the dynamic duo, said:
“They were exercising curiosity, basically saying, ‘Wow, this is neat.’ “
Here’s how McCain’s record stacks up against the top six recommendations:
#1. PROVIDE LONG-TERM TAX INCENTIVES for renewable energy production and energy efficiency, including clean renewable energy bonds. Modify other tax policies to reward clean energy investments.
McCain’s record: The renewable energy production tax credit has been key to the growth of the domestic renewable industry by supporting power companies, businesses, and individuals who employ wind, geothermal, solar, and other types of renewable energy. However, the tax credit has been allowed to expire three times in the past decade — in 2004, McCain introduced an amendment that would have eliminated the tax credit entirely. McCain’s continued opposition to the tax credit is putting the renewable electricity industry at risk again:
– March 2006 (Vote 42): Voted against extension of tax credits.
– March 2007 (Vote 98): Skipped vote to extend tax credits.
– June 2007 (Vote 223): Skipped vote to extend tax credits.
– December 2007 (Vote 416): Skipped vote to extend tax credits — extension failed by one vote.
– February 2008 (Vote 8): Skipped vote to extend tax credits — extension failed by one vote.
#2. INITIATE ELECTRIFICATION of our entire transportation sector so it uses only clean domestic energy soon. Establish, enforce and update building code standards for energy efficiency in new and retrofitted buildings to save consumers money and reduce fossil fuel use. Provide incentives for efficiency related renovations. Reduce building energy use by 50% by 2030.
McCain’s record: McCain voted against the 2005 Energy Policy Act, which increased funding for building code enforcement and voluntary building efficiency programs. As McCain spokesman George Allen told the U.S. Energy Efficiency Forum on June 11, 2008, “John McCain does not wish to mandate any particular building standards for energy efficient homes or buildings.”
#3. PUT A PRICE ON CARBON POLLUTION, through a cap-and-trade program or other means.
McCain’s record: Since 2003, McCain has supported a cap-and-trade program to put a price on carbon pollution, although he has waffled on whether it would actually be mandatory, and his campaign has derided cap-and-trade programs as an “energy tax.” Furthermore, McCain has proposed a cap-and-trade system with insufficient targets, possible loopholes, and permit giveaways, which would force taxpayers to subsidize corporate pollution. McCain’s past cap-and-trade legislation has included major nuclear subsidies. Read more
By Climate Guest Blogger on Aug 23, 2008 at 9:06 am
The California Energy Commission is considering a proposal by PG&E to require televisions sold in the state to meet a minimum efficiency standard. Why is a utility proposing its customers by more efficient appliances? Because California allows utilities to earn a return on investment from negawatts (see Energy efficiency, Part 4).
On August 19, Keith Olbermann reported that Americans for Prosperity was forced to cancel events in Florida due to Tropical Storm Fay, and noted the irony of “global warming deniers’ meetings postponed by tropical storms.” Obermann described AFP as “one of the many corporate-funded lobbying groups working hand-in-hand with Big Oil, and the administration, and other people who make more money the more there is doubt that there is global warming.”
In an article on the Business and Media Institute’s website written by Jeff Poor, AFP president Tim Phillips took umbrage at the segment, claiming the description of AFP as a “corporate-funded lobbying group” was “outrageous.” Phillips told Poor that “guys like him” who descibe the connection between global warming and extreme weather are “global warming extremists”:
It’s ironic that guys like him and global warming extremists will use any weather event – whether it’s a hot spell, whether it’s a hurricane or a tropical storm or a hailstorm or a snowstorm – anything, any weather event – they’ll try to tie it to their pet cause which is ideological extremism at its worst. . . It shows just how silly and ideologically driven they are. They don’t look at the science. They don’t look at any factors. It’s just an ideological extremism. It would be funny if it were not so serious for our nation.
As the Wonk Room has well documented, the link between global warming and extreme weather is recognized by the Bush administration itself, which warned in June that global warming has likely or very likely worsened intense rainfall, heat waves, winter storms, hurricanes, wildfires, insect outbreaks, and coral bleaching. The world’s largest environmental organization, Friends of the Earth, and America’s largest environmental organization, the National Wildlife Federation, have joined national scientific organizations representing hundreds of universities and thousands of climate scientists in calling for immediate action.
In fact, it is Tim Phillips and Jeff Poor who are “ideologically driven” extremists who “don’t look at the science” but instead work for polluter-funded right-wing front groups:
Tim Phillips Is A Top Right-Wing Operative. Before replacing Koch Industries lobbyist Nancy Pfotenhauer as president of Americans for Prosperity, Timothy R. Phillips had a long career as a conservative operative. In 1992, Phillips managed Rep. Bob Goodlatte’s (R-VA) first Congressional campaign and served as his chief of staff for four years. In 1997, Phillips co-founded public relations firm Century Strategies with Ralph Reed. There, Phillips oversaw “direct mail, telemarketing, coalition building and strategic services” for the 2000 and 2004 Bush for President campaigns, and specialized in “grasstops” operations to establish fake grassroots organizations. [Century Strategies (Internet Archive)]
Jeff Poor Is A Self-Described ‘Very Conservative’ ‘Professional Jerk.’ Jeff Poor describes himself on his Facebook page as a “professional jerk” with “very conservative” political views. Poor has previously written hit pieces for the Business and Media Institute attacking Al Gore and climate scientist Stephen Schneider for discussing the links between climate change and extreme weather.
Business & Media Institute Is Part Of Right-Wing Message Machine. BMI is a right-wing “free-enterprise” front group that is part of Brent Bozell’s conservative media machine, the Media Research Center. In 2005, the MRC honored Ann Coulter, T. Boone Pickens, Zell Miller, and Swift Boat Veterans for Truth at their conservative media gala.
Americans For Prosperity Is A Front Group For Corporate Polluter Koch Industries. Americans for Prosperity is the successor to the free-market front group Citizens for a Sound Economy, founded by conglomerate Koch Industries. David Koch, Executive Vice-President of Koch Industries, is a founder of AFP and “a financial supporter through the family-controlled and company-financed Claude R. Lambe Foundation.” Koch Industries is the largest privately owned company in the United States, whose multiple holdings make it a veritable global warming pollution factory. [NRDC, 7/25/08] [Forbes, 2007]
Greenwire (subs. req’d) has also published a detailed list of who is advising McCain on energy and environment policies, which I am reprinting below the fold.
By contrast, McCain’s campaign relies on a small group of longtime friends and advisers. Campaign staff would not comment on why their advisory team isn’t as large as Obama’s, but sources say the staff’s size reflects how frequently the Arizona senator departs from the Republican Party line on environment and energy issues.
I know Woolsey, and he is certainly very solid on energy security issues. But he is the exception. Doug Holtz-Eakin is much more typical of the conservatives McCain is likely to find available to fill his administration. Like his boss, he doesn’t believe in clean technologies and he doesn’t believe in government efforts to promote them (see Campaign stunner: McCain “might take [new CAFE standards] off the books”).
“I’m not sure a McCain EPA would look any different than an Obama EPA,” quipped Brian Kennedy, a former House Republican leadership aide. “He might even bring Carol Browner back.”
Greenwire (subs. req’d) has published a detailed list of who is advising Obama on energy and environment policies, which I am reprinting below the fold.
Obama, an Illinois Democrat, has a notably deep bench of experts to help him answer key questions on energy prices, oil drilling and global warming
I know most of them well, and they are A-listers with deep experience in and out of government. During the Clinton administration, I had the pleasure to work with both Elgie Holstein and David Sandalow. If they are indicative of the kind of people Obama would appoint, then his administration would get off to a running start.
I would also point out that they left out Obama’s national cochair and energy surrogate, my former boss at the Department of Energy, Federico Pena, who is one of the finest public servants I know.
I’d estimate it’s about 150 tons of carbon dioxide, some 10 times that of the average American. But someone should ask Senator McCain. After all, he says he wants to require all Americans to cut greenhouse gas emissions 60% to 70% by 2050.
Given how conservatives beat up Vice President Gore for the supposed energy excesses of his one Nashville home, I can’t wait until they start running TV ads attacking McCain’s climate hypocrisy. [Note to self: Don't hold your breath.] After all, McCain fashions himself as a leader on global warming, just like Gore, but his combined homes have a considerably larger square footage than Gore’s — and thus presumably a much larger energy use. That said, the energy use of McCain’s homes is infinitely less relevant than their greenhouse gas emissions (see “GOP Attack on Gore Makes No Sense At All“).
So what is the carbon footprint of McCain’s countless homes? Here is a rough estimate. Read more
Florida Gov. Charlie Crist (R) has described Tropical Storm Fay as a “serious, catastrophic flooding event,” as it dumps “historic levels of rain with totals in excess of 20 inches already” in Brevard County. Fay is tracking over the entire state of Florida, devastating crops and causing hundreds of millions of dollars of damage. Jeff Masters tells Bloomberg that Fay is “reminiscent of Hurricane Irene,” which caused $800 million in damage less than ten years ago.
While Florida and Gulf Coast residents bear the brunt of Tropical Storm Fay, the latest science connecting hurricanes and global warming suggests more is yet to come: tropical storms are likely to bring higher wind speeds, more precipitation, and bigger storm surge in the coming decades.
As Dr. Staudt writes in the report, “Stronger hurricanes, heavier rainfall, and rising sea level: this is what global warming has in store for the U.S. Gulf and Atlantic coasts.”
A: “Who knows?” and “It doesn’t really matter.” Much higher gasoline prices that are sustained for a long, long time are now inevitable.
The fundamentals in the oil market are that we are in the beginning stages of peak oil. Supply can no longer keep up with demand, which has kept soaring even in the face of record prices. The U.S. Energy Information Administration has the surprising statistics:
Preliminary data indicates that global consumption rose by roughly 500,000 barrels per day (bbl/d) during the first half of 2008 compared with year-earlier levels, as a 1.3-million bbl/d rise in consumption outside of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) was partially countered by an 800,000 bbl/d drop in U.S. consumption compared with year-earlier levels…. Total world oil consumption is expected to grow by a little over 1 million bbl/d during the second half of 2008 and by almost 1 million bbl/d in 2009 compared with year-earlier levels.
That’s right, even after “the largest half-year consumption decline in volume terms in the last 26 years” in this country, global demand continues to grow 1 million bbl/d each year. Why?
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.