March 7 News: As GOP ‘Race Drags On, The Politics Of Global Warming Seem Ever More Divorced From Scientific Reality’

Other stories below: East Asian Air Pollution Can Contribute To 20% Of California’s Smog

The threat of carbon emissions on the world’s oceans (Washington Post editorial)

As the Republican presidential primary race drags on, the politics of global warming seem ever more divorced from scientific reality. The process of scientific inquiry, meanwhile, offers yet more warnings about what might happen if fractured climate politics stymie long-term action.

Emitting massive amounts of carbon dioxide doesn’t just change the chemistry of the atmosphere; it makes the oceans more acidic. Predicting the impact on ocean ecosystems involves educated speculation, which often involves applying evidence of what has happened before. In the latest edition of the journal Science, a team of researchers reckons that today’s human-emitted CO2 is increasing ocean acidity far faster than previous, naturally occurring episodes scientists have studied, which themselves appear to have had very alarming results.

The harrowing history is recorded in mud samples millions of years old, taken from the sea floor near Antarctica: It reveals a mass extinction of single-celled organisms that no doubt caromed far up the food chain. A similar effect today could kill off coral, plankton and mollusks, constricting the diets of a range of fauna that rely on them, including salmon — and humans….

Would that more Republicans would begin to operate in the world of scientific reality.

A New East Asian Import: Ozone Pollution

Ozone produced in East Asia can travel all the way to the western United States, where it directly contributes to ground-level concentrations of the pollutant, according to a new study in the Journal of Geophysical Research.

Blown by strong springtime winds across the Pacific Ocean, this pollution can contribute as much as 20 percent of the ozone measured in California and throughout the region, said Meiyun Lin, the study’s lead author and an atmospheric chemist at Princeton.

These emissions contribute an additional 8 to 15 parts per billion of ozone in the springtime, often nudging concentrations of the pollutant above the federally accepted maximum of 75 parts per billion measured as an average concentration over eight hours, Dr. Lin said in a telephone interview. About half of the incidents in which this health-based standard was exceeded in the Southwest in the study period, May and June 2010, would not have occurred without the Asian pollution, she said.

Romney’s one big idea on climate — and why he’s unlikely to pursue it

Politico’s Darren Samuelsohn reports that some greens are donating to Mitt Romney in the hopes he’ll go back to caring about climate change if elected. And Romney does have one big idea for cutting carbon emissions. But political science research suggests he’s not likely to take it up.

So what’s the idea? As James Pethekoukis points out, Romney’s book “No Apology” expresses some interest in a tax on carbon emissions, as long as it’s revenue neutral — that is, offset by tax cuts elsewhere. Romney is too cautious to fully back a carbon fee, but it’s an idea supported by one of his economic advisers, Greg Mankiw, as well as by a few prominent conservatives, like Arthur Laffer, who argues that we should be taxing things we want less of (pollution, say) rather than things we want more of (income and work).

Water Fight Hits the Slopes

Fresh-fallen snow may get all the credit, but many ski resorts can’t keep their runs open without water that is piped in, often from miles away. Control of that water is the source of a battle between resort operators and the U.S. Forest Service.

Federal officials have until Monday to respond to a lawsuit by a trade group for the owners and operators of ski destinations, challenging a new directive that requires resorts operating on Forest Service lands to transfer water rights to the federal government.

The group’s suit, filed in U.S. district court in Colorado in January, alleges the change is an “uncompensated taking of private property” by the federal government. Ski-area owners contend it will diminish the value of the water rights they obtained “at great expense,” according to the suit, and prevents them from selling those rights to anyone but another ski operation. The Forest Service says the new directive will guarantee the water will always remain with the mountain.

Vietnam Announces National Strategy on Climate Change

The Vietnamese Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment (MNRE) held here on Wednesday a ceremony to announce the National Strategy on Climate Change and possible scenarios on climate change and sea level rising in Vietnam.

The event attracted representatives from ministries and relevant agencies, international organizations and non-government organizations, and press media.

Addressing the ceremony, MNRE Minister Nguyen Minh Quang stressed that to be well aware of the impacts by climate change to the national development, the Vietnamese government has signed in the United Nations’ framework convention on climate change and the Kyoto protocol, and perfected legal documents for the work to reduce impacts of natural disasters and climate change.

Chevy Volt: Why production was halted and what it means

General Motors Co. is suspending production of its Chevrolet Volt electric car for five weeks amid disappointing sales.

A GM spokesman said Friday that the company will shut down production of the Volt from March 19 until April 23, idling 1,300 workers at the Detroit-Hamtramck assembly plant.

The Volt was rolled out with great fanfare in late 2010 but has since hit bumps in the road. Sales have fallen short of expectations, and its reputation was bruised by an investigation into a possible fire risk.

It carries a high price tag — around $41,000 before a U.S. tax credit of up to $7,500. Rising gasoline prices should boost the Volt’s appeal, but there are plenty of other less-expensive cars that also get good mileage.

Highway vote keeps Keystone fight alive in US Senate

U.S. Senate Republicans’ push for a vote to authorize the $7 billion Keystone XL oil pipeline project gained momentum on Tuesday after Democrats failed to end debate on a major transportation bill.

Fifty-two senators, most of them Democrats, voted to move forward on the $160 billion highway bill without a proposed Republican amendment to authorize construction of the Canada-to-Texas pipeline, eight votes short of the 60 needed to end debate.

The defeat gave Republicans a new opening to attack President Barack Obama for rejecting TransCanada Corp’s project, as soaring gasoline prices become a top issue for voters ahead of the November presidential election.

‘Climate change impacting marine domains’

The changes in the marine domains of India and Australia are affecting the circulation patterns, distribution and abundance of marine species in the two countries, said Stewart Frusher, Associate Professor, Institute of Marine and Antarctic Studies, University of Tasmania, Australia.

Speaking at the inaugural session of the international workshop on preparing for climate change on marine systems in India and Australia here on Tuesday, Mr. Frusher said that such changes were also impacting the marine industries and associated communities.

Enhancing the marine production systems to meet the needs of a growing global population, mitigating the carbon footprint and sequestering carbon are the challenges before the countries. To tackle issues as broad and important as climate change, one needs to understand both the biological and physical systems.

China criticizes US anti-subsidy measures as possible trade violation

China’s commerce minister criticized new trade enforcement measures approved by the U.S. Congress as a violation of free trade but acknowledged Wednesday that some local Chinese authorities might be improperly subsidizing exporters.

Chen Deming said Beijing is committed to following World Trade Organization free-trade principles but insisted it is not bound by the laws of individual countries.

“The recent move by the U.S. Congress is not consistent with U.S. laws and WTO rules,” Chen said at a news conference during the annual meeting of China’s legislature.

The U.S. House of Representatives approved a measure Tuesday affirming the powers of the Commerce Department to impose higher duties on goods from China and other state-dominated economies that subsidize exports. The Senate approved the measure Monday.