On Thursday, Jan. 16, the U.S. Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works will hold a hearing entitled, “Review of the President’s Climate Action Plan,” begging the question, if a tree falls in a forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?
A well credentialed panel is scheduled to appear, including administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Gina McCarthy. The hearing is important mostly to generate interest in a conversation about climate change that is on life support on Capitol Hill. (For more information about the hearing, click here). Who will be listening?
There aren’t enough votes in the 113th U.S. Congress to put a price on carbon emissions, something that is essential to slowing them. Recently, U.S. Senators Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) announced formation of a task force to revive talk about climate change in the Congress, and to defend President Obama’s Climate Action Plan.
The goals of the task force are modest— introducing some small-scale bills intended to “use the bully pulpit of our senate offices to achieve (a) wakeup call,” Boxer said. She added, “we believe that climate change is a catastrophe that’s unfolding before our eyes and we want Congress to take off the blindfolds.” What will come of this year’s task force is unclear, but anyone paying attention can see the disruptive effects of changing climate on our society. However, as a writer on Daily Kos pointed out, it is another task force in another year, and legislation mitigating the causes of climate change, or dealing with its effects, is expected to be dead on arrival because the votes aren’t there.
Boxer has it right that people on the hill, and in the public, are asleep about climate change. The reason is the money spent by climate deniers. In December, Drexel University released a study of 140 different foundations funding an effort to delay action on climate change. The so-called Climate Change Counter Movement (CCCM) spent more than $900 million from 2003 through 2010. Author Robert J. Brulle wrote that the study was, “an analysis of the funding dynamics of the organized effort to prevent the initiation of policies designed to limit the carbon emissions that are driving anthropogenic climate change. The efforts of the CCCM span a wide range of activities, including political lobbying, contributions to political candidates, and a large number of communication and media efforts that aim at undermining climate science.” The efforts of CCCM have been successful, insofar as “only 45 percent of the U.S. public accurately reported the near unanimity of the scientific community about anthropogenic climate change,” according to the study.
What does “near unanimity” mean? James Powell recently evaluated 2,258 peer-reviewed scientific articles about climate change written by 9,136 authors between November 2012 and December 2013. Only one article rejected anthropogenic global warming. This may not represent a consensus, but consensus is not the purpose of science. Science is to explain the world to us, and we don’t need to strike the word “near” to understand climate change is real, it’s happening now, human activity is causing it, and scientists believe that is the case.
I am not sure whether a group of rich politicians posturing in the Congress will make a difference. However, it’s the only game in town. They are willing to take positive action to support the president’s climate action plan, which doesn’t rely on new legislation that isn’t in the cards anyway. While not hopeful of meaningful action, fingers are crossed, and the game is on.
Following is this afternoon’s press release from the League of Conservation Voters:
WASHINGTON, D.C.– League of Conservation Voters (LCV) president Gene Karpinski released this statement on the creation of the Senate Climate Action Task Force, a group chaired by Senators Boxer and Whitehouse that includes more than a dozen senators committed to pushing for action on climate change:
“Big Oil and corporate polluters have worked with their allies in Congress to prevent action on climate change for far too long. This task force is the latest sign that environmental allies in Congress are fighting back, standing up for basic science and pushing for action on climate change. This is the type of strong leadership we need if Congress is finally going to get serious about addressing the climate crisis and meeting our moral obligation to future generations. We thank Senators Boxer, Whitehouse, Cardin, Sanders, Klobuchar, Merkley, Franken, Blumenthal, Schatz, Murphy, Heinrich, King, Markey, and Booker for speaking out on climate change today and look forward to continuing to work with them to address this vitally important issue.”
We are just a week away from the beginning of another legislative session. Thus we are also just a week away from ALEC once more working its magic in the Iowa legislature and legislatures all around the country to get compliant, barely engaged representatives to push ALEC backed corporate legislation. Once again ALEC will hide behind a veneer of being a “non-partisan” body to push its corporate want list.
Here is the way one citizen put it in a letter to the editor of the Topeka Capital Journal:
“ALEC’s malign influence on the legislative process is by now reasonably well known. Its “model legislation” is routinely enacted without change by lawmakers too lazy or too corrupt to do their jobs responsibly.
And there’s nothing at all to laugh about when it comes to climate change. The accelerating greenhouse effect is on track to catastrophically disrupt agriculture, infrastructure and the other support systems of our civilization. Yet ALEC and other ultra-conservative forces have used their financial resources to seriously hobble national or regional efforts to prepare for disastrous outcomes.”
WARREN SENDERS, Medford, Mass.
ALEC is in truth a lobbying group and should be treated as such by the Iowa legislature. It is time to end this hypocrisy. The people of Iowa deserve fair representation. We do not deserve to be ruled by the corporations through proxies pretending to be legislators.
Thus I call on all fair minded Iowa legislators to put ALEC in its place as a lobbying group rather than inside the tent as a fake non-partisan actor. Let Iowa once more lead the country in making the legislative process open, clean and fair.
The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), one of the most well-known and successful non-profits in the world, has endorsed the Great March for Climate Action. The NRDC has spent the last 40-plus years fighting for environmental causes through political action, grassroots activism and hands-on work. They have more than 1 million activists and members in their network, all working to preserve the environment and fight actions that would harm the Earth.
NRDC President Frances Beinecke writes: “We have an obligation to protect future generations from the dangers of the climate crisis. I’m excited to endorse the mission of the Great March for Climate Action, to raise awareness around climate change and to galvanize citizens and our elected leaders to act. To stop climate change we need to end our dependence on all fossil fuels and replace them with 100 percent clean energy as soon as possible. We are encouraged by the dedication of people willing to march three thousand miles to advance this goal.”
In addition to all the outstanding endorsements we have received, having an organization as well-respected as the NRDC in our corner is a big deal. Their support, means we are on the right track and our endeavor will yield great results!
The Great March for Climate Action
– stepping forward for our Planet, our Future –
Barbara Schlachter is a founding member of 100 Grannies for a Livable Future, Iowa City Climate Advocates and Citizens Climate Lobby. The following guest opinion appeared in the Nov. 14, 2013 edition of the Iowa City Press Citizen. It is re-printed here with the author’s permission.
November is Remembrance month: All Saints and All Souls and the Day of the Dead, then Veterans Day, known as Remembrance Day in Britain.
Now we are looking forward to Thanksgiving, which is a time of great feasting with many families traveling many miles to do this together and to remember the importance of being family. It seems as though it also ought to be a day of remembering farm families who labor to provide the food for this feasting as well as remembering the earth itself and her blessed bounty.
Harvest time used to be a great occasion for rejoicing because it wasn’t always a sure thing. Many things can go wrong with a year’s crops. Most of us are too far removed, even in Iowa, to appreciate how utterly miraculous and vulnerable our food supply is. But this year we have had some hard reminders: flood and then drought and a report from Iowa scientists that climate change is a rising threat to Iowa agriculture.
Estimates are that we will lose the ability to produce food by 2 percent a decade even as we know that world population still is on the increase.
The Iowa Farm and Rural Life Poll released earlier in November reported that fully 75 percent of farmers think climate change is occurring, up from 69 percent in 2011. Yet only 16 percent think human activity is the reason for this. Perhaps the poll was taken before the release of the International Panel on Climate Change’s conclusions that scientists around the world are 95 percent sure that human activity is responsible.
If you believe that climate change is real, but human activity doesn’t cause it, then you will most likely concentrate your efforts on adaptation. There has been a lot of talk lately about our need to prepare for the dire conditions that are coming, which to my mind takes us away from the most important prior question: what are we going to do to reverse them.
The American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) funded by fossil fuel giants like Exxon Mobil and the Koch brothers now say that “Global climate change is inevitable.”
This is different from denying that it is happening, and perhaps we should at least be thankful for that. But they go on to suggest that reducing carbon emissions won’t matter because it isn’t caused by human activity. So they have introduced legislation in a dozen states to repeal renewable electricity standards passed by those states. Fortunately, no state that has passed an RES has ever repealed one.
Iowa leads the nation in wind energy, with nearly 30 percent of our energy coming from those beautiful wind turbines you see when you drive west on Interstate 80. This non-emitting form of energy will make a difference in climate change.
This is mitigation, not adaptation. Both will be necessary, but the most important thing in the long run is to do everything we can to slow and eventually cease our fossil fuel activity.
For this reason I support a fee and dividend program that would tax carbon at its point of origin and return the tax money to the American people. This would create a market-based solution to energy. As the true cost of fossil fuels becomes operative, wind and solar and geothermal would benefit from a more level playing field.
It is a bipartisan strategy that keeps us from putting all our resources into adaptation to what we can never finally ever adapt to, not only because of the trillions of dollars required but also because the earth’s systems that support our food could not finally endure.
Fossil fuel intensive farming might seem to be one of our biggest obstacles in the effort to reduce greenhouse gases. But a report from the UN Environment Program released on Nov. 12 says that there are many ways agriculture can cut its emissions drastically and contribute to environmental sustainability and higher yields.
This is a hopeful direction for all of us.
Senator Rob Hogg is on a climate change tour throughout Iowa. He has been touring the state talking about the impacts and issues that climate change brings to Iowa and what climate change means for America in the 21st century. Senator Hogg will be in Pella and Cedar Rapids this week. See details below.
Join me this Thursday, November 21, at 7 p.m. for my presentation to the Linn County UN Association in Beems meeting room A at the new downtown Cedar Rapids Public Library, 450 5th Ave SE.
The program is entitled “Climate Change –The Defining Historical Challenge of the 21st Century.” It will focus on the international dimensions of the climate issue. The program is free and open to the public.
This event is especially timely in light of the recent devastation by Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines and the voluntary fasting by Yeb Sano, the Filipino delegate to Conference of Parties trying to negotiate a global climate agreement in Warsaw, Poland.
As Sano told the other delegates there, Typhoon Haiyan was an “extreme climate event,” which has left many of his countrymen without food. He is fasting until a “meaningful outcome is in sight.” He said that “the climate crisis is madness” that needs to be stopped at the meetings in Warsaw.
During my presentation, I will ask people to support the American Red Cross and other charitable relief organizations to help with disaster relief and recovery in the Philippines. In Cedar Rapids, we know how important charitable help was, along with governmental assistance, after the Flood of 2008. If you are unable to attend but would like to contribute, you can send contributions to the American Red Cross, 6300 Rockwell Drive NE, Cedar Rapids, IA 52402.
Pella event: Senator Hogg will speak at 7 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 20 in the Cox-Snow Recital Hall on the Central College campus. The event is free and open to the public.
Des Moines, IA 50319
2750 Otis Rd. SE
Cedar Rapids, IA 52403
Rep. Dan Kelley, a state representative from Newton, Iowa, started a petition on CREDO Mobilize, where activists can launch their own campaigns for progressive change. Will you help Rep. Kelley pressure the Des Moines Register to take a stand against climate change denial by signing his petition and sharing it with your friends and family?
The Los Angeles Times recently announced a common-sense policy of refusing to publish letters to the editor that deny climate change. But unfortunately, among major newspapers, the L.A. Times stands out as an exception.
Many newspapers around the country either frequently run letters to the editor that promote climate change denial, or don’t have an explicit policy against doing so. Unfortunately, that includes the paper I read most often — the Des Moines Register.
That’s why I started my own campaign on CREDOMobilize.com, which allows activists to start their own petitions. My petition, which is to Carol Hunter, Interim Editor of the Des Moines Register, says the following:
It is the job of newspapers to inform viewers of factual information, not promote lies about climate change. Implement a formal policy of refusing to publish any letters to the editor or other content that denies climate change.
Here in Iowa, we understand the role renewable energy plays in our future. Of all 50 states, we’re third only to California and Texas in the amount of wind energy we generate, and nearly a fourth of the energy we produce comes from wind. As a state legislator, I’m proud to represent constituents who work at two major manufacturers of wind turbine blades and towers that help other states follow our lead.
But as a faithful reader of the Des Moines Register, living in a state that invests so much in the future of energy, it’s especially disappointing when I see the Register print letters from climate change deniers who want to tie our state to the dirty fuels of the past.
I read the Register because I believe it plays a critical role in our political process by acting as a check against unscrupulous politicians who lie to the public. But by “reporting both sides” and giving climate change deniers equal space to promote their lies, large swaths of the news media have failed to do their job of informing the public.
With the science on climate change becoming increasingly grim and time running out to prevent catastrophic extreme weather events from becoming near-constant occurrences, we can’t afford to let the Register mislead the public by printing errors of fact about climate change.
Last month, the L.A. Times letters editor wrote:
“Simply put, I do my best to keep errors of fact off the letters page; when one does run, a correction is published. Saying “there’s no sign humans have caused climate change” is not stating an opinion, it’s asserting a factual inaccuracy.”
While the L.A. Times’ announcement is a welcome step in the right direction, we need to put pressure on the Des Moines Register to follow suit, given the influence it has on decision makers in our state, including my colleagues at the statehouse.
Will you join me and add your name to my petition telling the Des Moines Register to explicitly reject letters to the editor that deny climate change?
Thank you for your support.
Rep. Dan Kelley
Sign the petition
Our current tax system is unsustainable. Legalized tax evasion allows corporations to be “persons” in the political influence arena, yet excuses them from paying “income” taxes along with the rest of us. Estimates of tax monies lost this way range up to 140 billion dollars annually.
The “Bush” tax cuts have not resulted in jobs or economic growth for anyone except the wealthiest 1% in this country. Real wages and buying power are significantly lower than ten years ago. Trickle down doesn’t.Is there a “correct” percentage to tax formulas? Top tax rates one hundred years ago were near 90%. Currently they are under 40%.
We need to address the damage to our fiscal security done by the financial crisis of 2008. Risky business practices by financial institutions caused the crisis. Those entities were bailed out, costing taxpayers both the damage to the economy plus the money paid to bail said companies out. It is unjust to allow them not to pay the taxpayers back.
We need resolution on paying for our most recent wars. A war tax needs to be implemented before we ask the the poor and voiceless to bear this cost. Many companies and government contractors made tremendous profits off of these wars. They need to pay their share.
We need to remove corporate welfare and subsidies and tax protections for industries that don’t practice good community and conservation values. They cost us real money in the present, and more in the future with their destructive practices.
We need to address our deficit in a comprehensive manner. Ending all social assistance programs alone will not close the gap between income and payments. We need to address the cultural reasons why so many of us are needing assistance. This will mean hard conversations involving childbearing, child rearing and population growth. Ignoring these issues leaves other problems festering.
We need to put aside utopian ideals of low/no taxes and limited government. We live in both local and global communities. We depend on infrastructure. We all need to pay in, to keep costs as low and fair as possible.
The fiscal year 2010 deficit was 1,294 billion dollars. The deficit for fiscal year 2014 is projected to be 744 billion. This is down by nearly half!
We still have a long way to go, and we need to fix more than welfare to get there. There is no fiscal or moral justification for cutting off social assistance before revamping tax rates and corporate welfare.
Laura Twing lives in Cedar county, with her husband and various animal companions.
DES MOINES – Lyon Rural Electric Cooperative, Iowa Lakes Electric Cooperative, Osceola Rural Electric Cooperative and Sanborn Municipal Utilities have filed a formal appeal with the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) asking that the agency reverse their decision to deny federal disaster aid to Iowa following devastating storms, a decision that could also force the repayment of millions in previously awarded aid.
“Our top priority is providing member-consumers in rural Iowa with reliable and affordable power. In order to do that, it’s important that FEMA honor its commitment and their well-established practices,” said Marion Denger, president of the Iowa Association of Electric Cooperatives. “During the appeal process we will continue to make a strong case showing this decision is an unprecedented reversal of FEMA’s disaster aid policy. With winter storm season approaching, it’s vital that we resolve this issue and give our members the assurance that the federal government will follow their established policy.”
Following a late winter snow, ice and wind storm in April, a federally declared Major Disaster included Lyon, Osceola, Dickinson, Sioux and O’Brien counties. Three of Iowa’s electric cooperatives, a generation and transmission cooperative and one municipal utility suffered damage.
In response to past disaster-related damage, FEMA has followed a policy where visually observable criteria were used to determine if power lines had been damaged beyond the point of repair. FEMA reversed this long-standing policy and denied disaster aid applications following the April storm.
For the first time in the nation, FEMA has stated that disaster aid could not be issued because the affected electric utilities did not conduct comprehensive laboratory testing on every mile of wire on an annual basis. This test is not performed as a matter of industry practice or required to meet any industry or engineering standard. It is also not required by the Iowa Utilities Board, which regulates Iowa’s electric utilities and required them to submit reliability plans and inspection and maintenance plans.
Members of Iowa’s congressional delegation and a coalition of Iowa agriculture, business, and utility organizations had previously requested that FEMA meet with the utilities to discuss the disaster aid denial. Additionally, the governor’s office and the Iowa Department of Homeland Security have raised questions about the agency’s decision.
“The commitment of such a broad group of elected officials and organizations underscores the importance of reversing this decision. It’s the right thing to do for rural Iowa and our member-consumers across the state,” added Denger.
In the wake of 2013’s extreme weather rollercoaster, marked by the wettest spring on record, followed by the second-driest July through September ever, a statewide group of leading Iowa science faculty and researchers will release the Iowa Climate Statement 2013: A Rising Challenge to Iowa Agriculture.
The event will be held at 9 AM on Friday, October 18th, in the south end of the Cowles Library, Reading Room, 2nd Floor at Drake University. Map of Drake Campus http://www.drake.edu/visit/map/
This event is part of the Iowa Climate Science Educators Forum, a meeting of science faculty, researchers and students from Iowa colleges and universities. For more information visit http://artsci.drake.edu/ensp/node/42
The lead authors of the Iowa Climate Statement 2013: A Rising Challenge to Iowa Agriculture include:
Gene Takle, Director, ISU Climate Science Program, Professor of Agronomy, Professor of Geological and Atmospheric Sciences, Iowa State University.
Jerald Schnoor, Co-Director, Center for Global and Regional Environmental Research, University of Iowa
Christopher J. Anderson, Research Assistant Professor, Assistant Director, ISU Climate Science Program, Iowa State University
Greg Carmichael, Co-Director, Center for Global and Regional Environmental Research, University of Iowa
Laura Jackson, Director, Tallgrass Prairie Center, Professor of Biology, University of Northern Iowa
Neil Bernstein, Chair, Department of Natural and Applied Sciences, Mount Mercy University
David Courard-Hauri, Chair, Environmental Science and Policy Program, Drake University
Outreach and Community Education Director
Center for Global and Regional Environmental Research and the Iowa Flood Center
The University of Iowa
Iowa City, IA 52242