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.”
Some Random Holiday Thoughts
Decided not to go off on a long winded rant today. The holiday atmosphere has me laid back and avoiding deep thoughts as if they were infectious bacteria. I know at some point I will have to pick up the armor once again. But until then, can I sleep just a few more minutes, please, Mom, please?
Over some light-hearted conversation with a friend we concluded that in a century the best we may hope for our legacy is that we are at least listed in someone’s genealogy. Except for a few really extraordinary folks, that has been the fate for 99.999% of us. So when we look at the importance we place on some things in this world, looking at the long view really puts it in perspective.
So does this:
So I think my time next year will be best spent not in accumulating wealth or notoriety but in doing my part in helping people to understand that through working together all humans can have a better life rather than just a few of us having a fabulous life at a cost to all others. It is a fight as old as mankind, but always one worth fighting.
One of our priorities this next year has to be keeping the planet habitable, not just for humans but for all creatures, plant or animal. As noted in the picture above we occupy a very small piece of the universe. At present we don’t have the capability to just move on to another world, so we best take care of what we have. Most of us care about our house and our cars and keep them in good repair. We need to extend that care to our real home, the earth.
The youngest of our family will be 4 next year. This means that he will be an adult in 2034 and a full contributing adult from @ 2040 to 2075. This means that decisions made today will directly affect his quality of life. It is well past times that governments make rules concerning pollution and equitable distribution of resources. We are a democracy and the majority should rule, not those with the most money.
We all need a few days to turn our minds from the day-to-day activities of just surviving (for many of us anymore) to think outside of ourselves and consider the long range. Believe me, the greedy and corporate types among us have made long range plans that don’t include most of humanity.
Grab some time this weekend to do some thinking. Next week will come at you with life again. If you haven’t given long range plans some thought you will be passing another year without setting sights on some goals to work toward. Years become decades and the next thing you know the chance has passed to make a difference.
Oddly enough, I would like to thank Fox News for making me react to one of their ploys to put fear into the masses for helping me to want to make some plans. Fox’s silly, inane war on Christmas has caused me to do a re-assessment on much of what had been background music in my life. One of those bits of background music has been the whole trappings of Christmas. Some of our customs have changed, many haven’t, but we now do them with purpose.
We have expanded this to many parts of our life. Things that were important yesterday are no longer important. Other things have taken on a much greater importance.
All this to wish all you folks a good year next year. And let’s all work to make the world better for all in America and the world.
And do try to keep a smile on your face.
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.
An open meeting to gather public input on projects, goals and priorities for Iowa’s rivers and waterways will be held at the Johnson County Fairgrounds ISU Extension Building on Saturday, November 23rd, from 9:30 am—1:00 pm. Sign-in will start at 9:15.
The fairgrounds are located near the “Airport” exit from Highway 218 (4265 Oak Crest Hill Rd. SE).
The event is sponsored by Iowa River Friends on behalf of the Iowa Legislature’s Study Committee on Rivers and Waterways. The public is invited to contribute information and opinions about the topic of river restoration.The Legislature’s Study Committee will include this testimony and information in their Des Moines meeting in December to analyze the input from around the state.
Residents and organizations from the counties of Johnson, Iowa, Linn, Cedar, Muscatine and Washington are especially encouraged to participate, though people from other eastern Iowa locales are welcome. State legislators from the area as well as from the Study Committee have been invited.
Specifically, the Study Committee wants to determine: What kind of river and waterway projects should the state consider supporting? How should projects be prioritized? What goals should define Iowa’s river investment program? What improvements related to Iowa’s rivers should be measured?
At the beginning of the meeting there will be a short overview on river health issues in Iowa, and a charge from State Legislator Chuck Isenhart, a ranking member of the Environmental Protection Committee and liaison to the Watershed Planning Advisory Council. Individuals and groups who wish to make input should address one or more of the preceding questions related to river and waterway improvement. There will be opportunity for people to make written contributions to the Study Committee as well as oral comments on November 23rd.
For those who are unable to attend the meeting, you can submit feedback to the Iowa River Friends through the survey available here – Iowa Rivers & Waterways Survey. Responses to the survey are anonymously recorded and will be shared with the legislature’s study committee.
Iowa River Friends, formed early this year, is dedicated to improving, protecting, and enjoying the Iowa River, its creeks and streams. I.R.F. seeks to include a wide variety of interests and stakeholders in its membership and governance, and to act as a bulletin board for information pertaining to the watershed.
For more information about I.R.F. or the public meeting, contact the Iowa River Friends’ Executive Committee Members:
Mel Schlachter, Chairperson, 319.351.4380
Mary Skopec, Vice-Chair, 319.560.7365
Carol Sweeting, Secretary, 319.356.5164
Del Holland, Treasurer, 319.594.2957
Mary Beth Stevenson, Recording / Corresponding Secretary, 319.325.8593
On Oct. 22 and 23, The Climate Reality Project will connect the dots between carbon pollution and climate change with the global live-streamed broadcast “24 Hours of Reality: The Cost of Carbon.” here’s the link: http://www.24hoursofreality.org.
In Iowa, men and women in the agricultural community are talking about the likelihood of four or five more years of continued drought. Harry Hillaker, Iowa state climatologist, indicated 2013 was the wettest spring on record. He confirmed this summer’s drought conditions in Iowa. Like this year, the prospect for coming years is wet springs combined with long summer periods of little or no precipitation. There is no doubt human activity is contributing to this extreme weather, and that carbon pollution is the driving force behind it.
Not only are extreme weather events happening in Iowa, they are happening throughout the world. Extreme weather has a tangible cost in dollars, and in its impact on human society. 24 Hours of Reality will bring a global perspective to the climate crisis.
There are a lot of reasons to participate in 24 Hours of Reality, and here are three topics of interest in the program:
Chances are, you’re exposed to the cost of carbon pollution in ways you may not even realize— and the bill just keeps getting more expensive. 24 Hours of Reality will provide a tool to calculate the cost of carbon to individual communities.
Climate change can lead to rising food prices in wealthy nations, but in some regions, the consequences can be much more severe, threatening basic food security and leading to political instability in Somalia.
One of the greatest costs of climate change is what it means for our health. The broadcast goes to towns across Australia to witness the consequences of carbon pollution in terms of fire and flooding, and address what such changes mean for the health of ordinary people there and the world over.
24 Hours of Reality will address two key issues: protecting what we hold dear from the effects of climate change, and doing something to address the causes of our carbon pollution. Click here for a link to the 30 second trailer about 24 Hours of Reality.
I hope you will consider viewing part of 24 Hours of Reality on Oct. 22 and 23.
Nebraskans and Iowans
Please call in Tuesday, Aug. 27, from 1:30 until 4 p.m. CDT to listen and speak at the Nuclear Regulatory Commission meeting with Omaha Public Power District (OPPD) to oppose the restart and call for a License Amendment before restarting the Fort Calhoun nuclear reactor
The Omaha Public Power District (OPPD) plans to restart the dangerous Fort Calhoun nuclear reactor after more than two years of being shut down for refueling, flooding, lost blueprints, insufficient structural beam and column support of equipment, future flood dangers from routine floods and an upstream dam failure. Flooding during operation of the plant could short electrical systems and affect cooling and other operations. It has also been discovered that the plant was built on top of fractured limestone, so a radioactive leak would go into the groundwater and the Missouri River.
This meeting will be on Tuesday, Aug. 27, from 1:30 p.m. until 4:00 p.m. Central time.
The public can present comments and questions at the end of the meeting.
We need as many folks as possible to let the NRC know that Fort Calhoun is not ready to restart and that OPPD needs to apply for a license amendment before the plant is allowed to restart.
The call-in number for the meeting is 1-877-917-3405, passcode 3179621.
NRC meeting announcement and info page:
For more info, contact Wally Taylor, Iowa Sierra Club at email@example.com or 319-366-2428
Thanks for all that you do.
NIRS on the web (stay up-to-date with the Nuclear Newsreel section on the front page, featuring the day’s most interesting news on nuclear power and other energy issues): http://www.nirs.org
NIRS on Facebook:
NIRS on Twitter: http://twitter.com/#!/nirsnet
Wednesday, the Washington Post published an Ezra Klein interview with former vice president Al Gore, titled, “Al Gore explains why he’s optimistic about stopping global warming.”
Gore finds there is reason to be optimistic that public sentiment is changing regarding the rapidly increasing amount of CO2 in the earth’s atmosphere and the fingerprints of man-made pollution found in severe weather occurring around the world. While climate deniers get upset, even outraged when people mention this fact, Gore believes it is possible to win the conversation on climate change. What does he mean by that? He explained,
I think the most important part of it is winning the conversation. I remember as a boy when the conversation on civil rights was won in the South. I remember a time when one of my friends made a racist joke and another said, hey man, we don’t go for that anymore. The same thing happened on apartheid. The same thing happened on the nuclear arms race with the freeze movement. The same thing happened in an earlier era with abolition. A few months ago, I saw an article about two gay men standing in line for pizza and some homophobe made an ugly comment about them holding hands and everyone else in line told them to shut up. We’re winning that conversation.
Winning the conversation on climate change means making it socially unacceptable to deny the science of man-made global warming pollution. According to Gore, “the conversation on global warming has been stalled because a shrinking group of denialists fly into a rage when it’s mentioned.” Focus on the word shrinking.
“… in spite of the continued released of 90 million tons of global warming pollution every day into the atmosphere, as if it’s an open sewer, we are now seeing the approach of a global political tipping point.”
According to Gore, it has already begun among politicians, including conservatives, who have grown weary of politicization of the science of global warming by climate deniers.
Another reason for optimism is the sharp and unexpectedly steep decrease in prices for electricity produced from wind and solar, providing a financially viable alternative to fossil fuels.
Some people really dislike Gore and what he represents. The film “An Inconvenient Truth” prompted some of this reaction,
The single most common criticism from skeptics when the film came out focused on the animation showing ocean water flowing into the World Trade Center memorial site. Skeptics called that demagogic and absurd and irresponsible. It happened last October 29th, years ahead of schedule, and the impact of that and many, many other similar events here and around the world has really begun to create a profound shift.
The truth about the man-made contribution to climate change is out. As it is understood, Al Gore’s optimism is expected to be vindicated.
Read the entire Ezra Klein interview with Al Gore on the Washington Post site here.
This spring, Iowa again saw rising rivers and streams across the State due to record levels of rainfall. As Iowans, the threat of flooding never seems far away, and it’s only getting worse. Each time waters begin to rise, thoughts of 2008 and the devastation that families and communities suffered quickly returns. This year the rising waters once again sent communities scrambling to prepare for the worst and thousands of acres of farmland sat underwater, unable to be planted. The rising waters also sent another check from the federal government to help cover the necessary disaster costs of preparing and recovery. We can do better.
In Iowa, folks like those at the Iowa Flood Center and the University of Iowa are doing work that is helping Iowa communities prepare better and smarter for flooding. This success is already at work saving our communities money, time, and resources. The entire country should follow Iowa’s lead in planning better and smarter for flooding in order to help families and communities, and achieve significant, long-term savings to the federal government. This is why last week I introduced the National Flood Research and Education Center Act (NFERC). This bill would create a National Flood Center to study ways to better predict and prevent flooding, and provide valuable information to the public.
Flooding is costing taxpayers billions of dollars a year for preparation and recovery. The prediction and prevention tools from a National Flood Center would help prevent damage and allow our communities to better allocate resources such as sand bags, machinery, volunteers, and temporary flood walls. Every year flooding costs taxpayers, and the new technologies and methods already being put to use in Iowa could save our country untold millions.
As Iowans, we have experienced the devastation that flooding can bring. I believe through a National Flood Center we can help prevent similar devastation across the country and in Iowa. We don’t need to wait for the next devastation to act. No time is better than now to get a National Flood Center into action to save lives and resources, and achieve significant long-term savings. I look forward to chatting more about my bill with you in Iowa soon.
Iowa’s Second District