FDL Book Salon Welcomes Bill McKibben, The Global Warming Reader

Welcome Bill McKibben (350.org) and Host, Josh Nelson (EnviroKnow.com).

[As a courtesy to our guests, please keep comments to the book and be respectful of dissenting opinions. Please take other conversations to a previous thread. – bev]

The Global Warming Reader

Host, Josh Nelson:

Bill McKibben is one of the most effective and widely-respected writers on environmental issues today. Starting with The End of Nature in 1989, he’s written and published a long line of powerful works that make complex environmental issues accessible to a general audience.

In recent years McKibben has taken a more active role by organizing and inspiring people across the planet to work toward addressing global warming. In 2007 he founded Step it Up, which organized hundreds of rallies throughout the United States demanding that Congress take action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. In 2008 Bill co-founded 350.org, a global grassroots campaign that has since ignited a spark in the international and domestic environmental movements.

Here are just a few of the events 350.org has organized:

· October 2009: More than 5,000 events in 180 countries in advance of the global climate change talks in Copenhagen.

· October 2010: A massive global work party.

· September 2011: More than 2,000 Moving Planet events in 175 countries dedicated to moving the planet beyond fossil fuels.

McKibben recently led a massive two week civil disobedience campaign at the White House; and on November 6th, exactly one year before the election, he and thousands of other people will be encircling the White House to ask President Obama to reject the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline.  [cont’d.] (more…)

FDL Book Salon Welcomes Bill McKibben, The Global Warming Reader

Welcome Bill McKibben (350.org) and Host, Josh Nelson (EnviroKnow.com).

[As a courtesy to our guests, please keep comments to the book and be respectful of dissenting opinions. Please take other conversations to a previous thread. – bev]

The Global Warming Reader

Host, Josh Nelson:

Bill McKibben is one of the most effective and widely-respected writers on environmental issues today. Starting with The End of Nature in 1989, he’s written and published a long line of powerful works that make complex environmental issues accessible to a general audience.

In recent years McKibben has taken a more active role by organizing and inspiring people across the planet to work toward addressing global warming. In 2007 he founded Step it Up, which organized hundreds of rallies throughout the United States demanding that Congress take action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. In 2008 Bill co-founded 350.org, a global grassroots campaign that has since ignited a spark in the international and domestic environmental movements. (more…)

Obama’s Ozone Capitulation: Celebrated by Conservatives and Denounced by Liberals

President Obama’s decision to undercut EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson by cancelling a long-overdue update to smog standards was a mistake on both the politics and the policy. For smart takes on the politics of this, you can read Steve Benen and Paul Krugman. For smart takes on the policy implications, read Brad Plumer, Kate Sheppard and David Dayen.

In assessing the implications of policy decisions, it is useful to consider how various individuals and organizations respond. To that end, I’ve compiled some key reactions to President Obama’s announcement.

So far I’ve found 7 Republican politicians and 7 industry groups that are supportive of the President’s decision, and 2 Democratic politicians and 12 public interest groups that are critical of the decision. If you know of other statements that should be included here, please let me know.

Notably, even as the Republicans and industry groups praised the decision, many of them managed to include an attack on the President in their statement as well.

Person or Organization Supportive Statement Critical Statement
Senator Mitch McConnell X
House Speaker John Boehner (spokesman) X
Reps. Fred Upton and Ed Whitfield X
House Majority Leader Eric Cantor X
Chamber of Commerce X
American Petroleum Institute X
American Enterprise Institute: X
Senator Jim Inhofe X
Senator Pat Toomey X
Senator John McCain X
Electric Reliability Coordinating Council: X
Heartland Institute X
National Petrochemical & Refiners Association X
Electric Power Generation Association X
Greenpeace X
American Lung Association X
Sierra Club X
Friends of the Earth X
Natural Resources Defense Council X
Senator Barbara Boxer X
Rep. Ed Markey X
League of Conservation Voters X
Move On X
Center for American Progress X
Center for Biological Diversity X
American Thoracic Society X
Health Care Without Harm X
The Trust for America’s Health X

Reducing Air Pollution is Well Worth the Cost

Under the Clean Air Act, the EPA is required to protect states from sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxide pollution emitted from coal plants in other states. After dragging its feet for a while, the Bush administration introduced the Clean Air Interstate Rule in 2005. Due to its over-reliance on emissions trading, the Clean Air Interstate Rule was shot down (PDF) in December 2008 by the U.S. Court of appeals for the District of Columbia. One year ago today, the Obama administration proposed a plan — the Clean Air Transport Rule — to replace the Bush administration’s flawed Clean Air Interstate Rule.

Finally, today, the EPA finalized an updated version of this rule, now appropriately named the Cross-State Air Pollution Rule (large PDF), which requires power plants in 27 eastern states and the District of Columbia to significantly reduce sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxide pollution. The public health benefits of this rule, which goes into effect at the beginning of 2012, promise to be enormous (PDF, p. 12):

The air quality improvements will also be tremendous, with the number of counties in violation of federal standards expected to drop from 207 to just two as soon as 2014.

Here are the counties that violated air quality standards between 2003 and 2007 (PDF, p. 30):

And here are the two counties that are projected to be in violation by 2014 (PDF, p. 31), as well as the six that are projected to have maintenance problems:

Justifiably, the rule was praised today by countless respected people and organizations.

Here’s a joint statement released this afternoon by Environment America, the Natural Resources Defense Council, the League of Conservation Voters, Environmental Defense Fund and the Sierra Club:

Stronger limits for power plant pollution will mean healthier, longer lives for millions of Americans. Smokestack emissions from power plants threaten public health by delivering harmful pollutants like sulfur dioxide, greenhouse gases and toxic mercury into the air we breathe and the water we drink, posing a particular threat to children and vulnerable populations like seniors. This much-needed update to clean air standards will significantly reduce the threat from this pollution and save lives.

Here’s Delaware Senator Tom Carper:

The EPA has developed a sensible approach that will reduce smog and particle pollution and in turn, give us cleaner air and prevent thousands of deaths and billions of dollars in healthcare costs. In the end, this rule will help us achieve better health care results for less money.

And here’s Dr. Georges C. Benjamin, Executive Director of the American Public Health Association:

Today’s ruling is an important and long overdue step to protect the health of Americans and clean up our environment. It’s a huge win-win. We praise EPA for its continued efforts to help create stronger, healthier and more productive communities for ourselves and our families.

Care to guess who criticized the rule? That’s right — Republican politicians and the coal industry.

Here’s Texas Governor, potential GOP presidential candidate and former Al Gore supporter Rick Perry, who told Glenn Beck last week that he didn’t think the federal government should enforce clean air laws at all:

Today’s EPA announcement is another example of heavy-handed and misguided action from Washington, D.C., that threatens Texas jobs and families and puts at risk the reliable and affordable electricity our state needs to succeed.

Here’s the American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity, which was caught sending fraudulent letters to members of Congress in August 20009:

America’s coal-fueled electric industry has been doing its part for the environment and the economy, but our industry needs adequate time to install clean coal technologies to comply with new regulations. Unfortunately, EPA doesn’t seem to care.

And here’s Pat Hemlepp, spokesman for American Electric Power:

Taking power plants out of service like this pulls tax dollars out of the communities, pulls jobs out of communities, in addition to increasing electricity costs

One side says this new rule will save tens of thousands of lives and improve air quality for 240 million Americans. They’re absolutely right. The other side says the rule is costly and unnecessary and will kill countless jobs. While this is mostly coal-industry spin, there is a kernel of truth to it. Implementing pollution controls on out-of-date coal-fired power plants is somewhat expensive, and if some plants choose to close down rather than modernizing, jobs will be lost. But as Harvard economist Robert Stavins explains, this is a more than worthwhile tradeoff. “It doesn’t mean that there are no costs, but the benefits of the transport rule in terms of human health protection tremendously outweigh the costs of this,” he told NPR.

Ultimately, that is what this rule comes down to. There are unintended consequences to nearly every action the government takes, but as a society, we’ve decided that saving thousands of lives and making it easier to breathe for hundreds of millions of Americans is a higher priority than protecting the profits of an unscrupulous industry. I think that’s a pretty wise decision, and I’m proud of the EPA for having the courage to go through with it while facing a seemingly endless onslaught of hysterical attacks.

Voters Strongly Oppose Michele Bachmann’s Proposal to Abolish the EPA

Building on an idea that seems to have originated with Newt Gingrich, Presidential candidate Michele Bachmann has spent the past few weeks calling for the Environmental Protection Agency to be abolished. In the June 13th GOP debate, Bachmann said she would pass the “mother of all repeal bills” to target “job-killing regulations.” She indicated that she’d start with the EPA, and added that it “should really be renamed the job-killing organization of America.”

But a new poll from the conservative-leaning Rasmussen** finds that an overwhelming majority of likely voters, including more than two-thirds of independents, disagree with Rep. Bachmann. When asked whether they “favor or oppose abolishing the Environmental Protection Agency,” 61% of likely voters indicated that they are opposed:

Notably, even likely Republican primary voters aren’t so sure about Bachmann’s proposal, with 42% wanting to abolish the EPA, 40% opposed to doing so and 18% unsure.
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Three Prominent Republicans Care About Climate Change, Sort Of

In recent weeks, three prominent Republicans — Mitt Romney, Chris Christie and Jon Huntsman — have publicly affirmed their belief in climate change and the need to reduce pollution. This is good news!

But as far as I can tell, they don’t have a plan to address the issue between the three of them.

The most recent was Mitt Romney, the presidential candidate and former Massachusetts governor with a tendency to play both sides of every issue. At a town hall style campaign event in New Hampshire on Friday, Romney said:

I don’t speak for the scientific community, of course, but I believe the world’s getting warmer. I can’t prove that, but I believe based on what I read that the world is getting warmer. And number two, I believe that humans contribute to that. I don’t know how much our contribution is to that, because I know that there have been periods of greater heat and warmth in the past but I believe we contribute to that. And so I think it’s important for us to reduce our emissions of pollutants and greenhouse gases that may well be significant contributors to the climate change and the global warming that you’re seeing.

This isn’t the first time Mitt Romney has sounded like an environmentalist. In 2003, he told his constituents that he would not “not create jobs or hold jobs that kill people,” while pointing at a coal plant.

But six weeks ago he told Greta Van Susteren that he would lower gas prices by drilling for oil and burning lots of coal:

Well, you get the prices down by convincing people who are investing in gasoline futures, so to speak, the speculators — you let them understand that America is going to be producing enough energy for our needs. And that means we’re going to start drilling for oil. We’re going to use our natural gas resources, which are now extraordinarily plentiful, given new technology. We’re going to use our coal resources. Of course, we’re going to pursue all the renewables, but you have to have oil and gas to power America’s economy.

And at today’s town hall at the University of New Hampshire, Romney downplayed clean energy and electric cars. “I love solar and wind (power) but they don’t drive cars. And we’re not all going to drive Chevy Volts,” he said. He also warned against working to solve the problem unless China and Brazil were participating in the solution, reminding the crowd that “it’s not called American warming, it’s called global warming.”

Last week it was Chris Christie, the New Jersey Governor who is being recruited into the presidential race by a group of wealthy Iowans. In an impressive speech, Christie talked the talk:

When you have over 90% of the world’s scientists who have studied this stating that climate change is occurring and that humans play a contributing role it’s time to defer to the experts. Climate science is complex though and we’re just beginning to have a fuller understanding of humans’ role in all of this. But we know enough to know that we are at least a part of the problem. So looking forward, we need to work to put policies in place that act at reducing those contributing factors.

But at the same time, Christie announced that New Jersey would be leaving the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI), a 10-state, voluntary cap and trade system designed to reduce emissions. The New Jersey Sierra Club credited the governor with destroying “the first and most successful greenhouse gas reduction program in the country.” Brad Plumer convincingly argues that Christie had to distance himself from climate policy in order to play on the national stage.

In mid-May it was Jon Hunstman, the former Utah Governor and President Obama’s former Ambassador to China, forging the path that Chris Christie and Mitt Romney later followed. “This is an issue that ought to be answered by the scientific community; I’m not a meteorologist. All I know is 90 percent of the scientists say climate change is occurring,” he told Time Magazine. “If 90 percent of the oncological community said something was causing cancer we’d listen to them. I respect science and the professionals behind the science so I tend to think it’s better left to the science community.”

If he had stopped there, that would have been fine. He meant climatologist and the 90% figure is low (it is more like 97%), but no major harm was done. But then he added, “though we can debate what that means for the energy and transportation sectors.” Asked about cap and trade, Huntsman kept digging. “Cap-and-trade ideas aren’t working; it hasn’t worked, and our economy’s in a different place than five years ago,” he said, concluding, “much of this discussion happened before the bottom fell out of the economy, and until it comes back, this isn’t the moment.”

Romney and Christie both went further than Huntsman did, saying we have to reduce emissions. And Huntsman and Christie both cited the same inaccurate 90% figure, with Huntsman even paraphrasing Al Gore with the doctor/scientist comparison. But what sticks out the most about their remarks is that all three are opposed to doing anything productive to solve the problem. If any of these three has a plan for dealing with climate change that doesn’t include cap and trade, a carbon tax or massive investments in clean energy, they should explain what their plan is and how it would work.

Rick Santorum, The Only Consistently Anti-Environmental Candidate

Rick Santorum announced yesterday that next week, in a Western Pennsylvania coal field, he’ll announce he is running for President. The leaked announcement seems to have heavily emphasized the coal field angle, since several major outlets mentioned it prominently.

On Twitter, Bill Scher asked a compelling question: “Can he win by tarring Mitt, Newt, Tim, Jon w/past cap-trade support?”

I don’t think it will win him the nomination, but there is a segment of the Republican electorate that could be convinced to oppose Mitt/Newt/Tim/Jon solely because of their past support of cap and trade. Anti-environmentalism has become a matter of faith in the modern Republican party, so predictably, every 2012 Republican presidential candidate has reversed their previous support of addressing climate change.

Mitt Romney went from denouncing coal jobs “that kill people” to opposing environmental laws because they are “bad for business and cost jobs.” Tim Pawlenty went from “come on Congress, cap greenhouses gases now” to “it is a really bad idea, it is going to be harmful to the economy. Newt Gingrich went from advocating for solutions alongside to Nancy Pelosi in an Al Gore funded TV ad to “It is inconceivable that any threat from global warming is big enough to justify destroying the American economy.” Even Sarah Palin thought climate change was a threat that needed to be addressed as recently as 2007.

With former energy industry lobbyist Haley Barbour now out of the picture, Santorum is now the the only consistently anti-environmental candidate Republican primary voters have to choose from.

Santorum’s anti-environmental record and pro-coal credentials have been solid throughout his career, and this might just be how the candidate tries to distinguish himself in a soon-to-be-crowded GOP field.

Consider Santorum’s June 2008 Philadelphia Inquirer piece entitled ‘Coal’ is not a dirty word if we are realistic about saving the Earth, in which he rattled off a laundry list of climate change denial canards. Or look at his appearance in Reno six weeks ago, in which he criticized President Obama and Senator Reid for their opposition to coal production. Or look to 2001, when Santorum touted coal as the future and “environmentally safe.”
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FDL Book Salon Welcomes Diane Wilson, Diary of an Eco-Outlaw; An Unreasonable Woman Breaks the Law for Mother Earth

Welcome Diane Wilson, and Host Josh Nelson.

[As a courtesy to our guests, please keep comments to the book. Please take other conversations to a previous thread. – bev]

Diary of an Eco-Outlaw: An Unreasonable Woman Breaks the Law for Mother Earth

Josh Nelson, Host:

Diane Wilson is truly an eco-outlaw. And yes, in case you are wondering, I consider that to be a huge compliment. The courage and perseverance she displays in the stories shared in this volume should be an inspiration for anyone concerned about the role of corporations in society or what those corporations are doing to the planet.

From Calhoun County, Texas to Bhopal, India, Diane is a fearless agitator for change and a voice for what’s right. Courage, fearlessness and perseverance aside, the attribute most essential to Diane’s activism is conviction. Like all environmental activism, Diane’s is fueled by a conviction that something has gone horribly wrong with the way people relate to the planet and that she has a unique responsibility to do something about it. Diane, like many others before and since, has a feeling growing inside her that unscrupulous corporations are literally killing the planet in pursuit of slightly higher profits. I’ve got the same feeling growing inside me, and I suspect many of you do too.

It’s the same kind of conviction that you can read in Rachel Carson’s words or hear in Bill McKibben’s speeches. It’s the same kind of conviction that motivated a young hero named Tim DeChristopher to risk his own freedom in order to disrupt oil and gas drilling on 150,000 acres in Utah. Activism that stems from such a strong conviction is powerful because it represents societal changes that can’t be defeated, only delayed. When you know you’re doing the right thing and making a difference, that knowledge will feed you during hunger strikes and keep you in the fight regardless of the odds.

From her upbringing on a Texas shrimp boat, through her progression as a mother and environmental activist, Diary of an Eco Outlaw puts Diane Wilson’s conviction on display time and time again. Her activism began when the nation’s first Toxics Release Inventory was made public in 1989. The inventory found her rural Texas County, which was littered with chemical plants, to be the most polluted in the county. Diane was changed by this knowledge, and immediately went to work learning everything she could about the nearby chemical plants and plotting strategies for forcing them to stop polluting her community.

But if the Toxics Release Inventory is what began Diane’s transition from shrimper to environmentalist, witnessing the devastation of Union Carbide’s carelessness in Bhopal, India is what caused her to transform further, from environmentalist to environmental activist – a title she now wears with pride. While in Bhopal, Diane listened to the stories of those who had survived the 1984 disaster and the family members of those who hadn’t. She learned about the panic and helplessness hundreds of thousands of people experienced on that December night when a huge quantity of gases and chemicals leaked from Union Carbide’s pesticide plant in Bhopal. And she saw a set of powerful photographs of unborn babies who were killed by the chemicals. They reminded Diane of her own children, and they’ll forever serve as a stark reminder of why it is important to continue the fight.

Whether it is Bhopal or BP, in the Arctic or at Upper Big Branch, there are no shortages of environmental and human disasters that can serve as similar reminders for each of us. Diane’s decades of smart and effective activism have shown over the years that it doesn’t take a Master’s Degree in public policy, an inside knowledge of the EPA’s bureaucracy or a thick rolodex to be an environmental activist. All it takes is a conviction that things aren’t right, a vision for how they should be and a willingness to jump into the fight with everything you’ve got.

FDL Book Salon Welcomes Diane Wilson, Diary of an Eco-Outlaw; An Unreasonable Woman Breaks the Law for Mother Earth

Welcome Diane Wilson, and Host Josh Nelson.

[As a courtesy to our guests, please keep comments to the book.  Please take other conversations to a previous thread. – bev]

Diary of an Eco-Outlaw: An Unreasonable Woman Breaks the Law for Mother Earth

Josh Nelson, Host:

Diane Wilson is truly an eco-outlaw. And yes, in case you are wondering, I consider that to be a huge compliment. The courage and perseverance she displays in the stories shared in this volume should be an inspiration for anyone concerned about the role of corporations in society or what those corporations are doing to the planet.

From Calhoun County, Texas to Bhopal, India, Diane is a fearless agitator for change and a voice for what’s right. Courage, fearlessness and perseverance aside, the attribute most essential to Diane’s activism is conviction. Like all environmental activism, Diane’s is fueled by a conviction that something has gone horribly wrong with the way people relate to the planet and that she has a unique responsibility to do something about it. Diane, like many others before and since, has a feeling growing inside her that unscrupulous corporations are literally killing the planet in pursuit of slightly higher profits. I’ve got the same feeling growing inside me, and I suspect many of you do too. (more…)

Rasmussen: Support For Offshore Drilling Reaches New Low

The public doesn't want another oil disaster. (Deepwater Horizon Oil Rig on April 21, 2010; source: US Coast Guard District 8 via Flickr)

New data shows that support for offshore drilling has reached its lowest level ever in Rasmussen’s latest polling. Here’s how the GOP-friendly pollster** frames the latest data (emphasis mine):

With the deepwater oil leak apparently capped after three months of gushing into the Gulf of Mexico, support for both offshore oil drilling and drilling further out in deepwater remains largely unchanged. Most voters also remain concerned about the potential environmental impact of new drilling.

A new Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey finds that 56% of U.S. Voters now believe offshore oil drilling should be allowed, while 26% oppose it. One-in-five voters (19%) are undecided.

That’s down from 60% last month. Since the oil rig explosion that caused the massive oil leak, support for offshore drilling has ranged from 56% to 64%.

Predictably, Rasmussen leaves most of the useful information out of their analysis. In their polling immediately prior to the rig explosion in the Gulf, 72% of likely voters supported offshore drilling. Even with Rasmussen’s skewed likely voter model, this represents a 16% shift in just 11 weeks. The current level of support among likely voters, 56%, is the lowest ever recorded by Rasmussen for this question. Moreover, support among Democrats for offshore drilling has dropped from 54% in early April to just 29% in the latest poll. Support among Republicans remains relatively flat, down just 4%. GOP support for offshore drilling, at 82%, is actually up 8% from its low point in late May.

This chart shows the extent to which Democratic support for offshore drilling has plummeted and Republican support for the controversial practice has remained steady, in the wake of the disaster in the Gulf of Mexico.  (cont’d.)

4601729471_f763438a8f_o.jpg

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