Climate & Energy

A climate hero: The testimony

A look back at James Hansen’s seminal testimony on climate, part two

Worldwatch Institute is partnering with Grist to bring you this three-part series commemorating the 20-year anniversary of NASA scientist James Hansen's groundbreaking testimony on global climate change next week. Part one is here; part three is here. ----- An unprecedented heat wave gripped the United States in the summer of 1988. Droughts destroyed crops. Forests were in flames. The Mississippi River was so dry that barges could not pass. Nearly half the nation was declared a disaster area. The record-high temperatures led growing numbers of people to wonder whether the climate was being unnaturally altered. Meanwhile, NASA scientist James Hansen was wrapping up a study finding that climate change, caused by the burning of fossil fuels, appeared inevitable even with dramatic reductions in greenhouse-gases. After a decade of studying the so-called greenhouse effect on global climate, Hansen was prepared to make a bold statement. Hansen found his opportunity through former Sen. Tim Wirth (D-Colo.), who chose to showcase the scientist at a Congressional hearing. Twenty years later, the hearing is regarded as a turning point in climate science history.

Trust as first sight

Public trusts Obama more than McCain on gas prices, global warming, energy

Interesting results from a new ABC/WaPo poll. Who do Americans trust more on the economy? Obama 52%, McCain 36% How about gas prices? Obama 50%, McCain 30% Global warming? Obama 55%, McCain 28% Energy policy? …

House party

Yet another climate bill introduced in the House; greens applaud

Since climate change legislation failed to gather steam in the Senate this month, all eyes are now on the House. Energy and Commerce Committee Chair John Dingell (D-Mich.) has been promising a bill for months. …

McCain calls for offshore drilling, renewables, and conservation in energy speech

Republican presidential candidate John McCain tried to pack something for everyone into a big energy speech yesterday, saying the U.S. needs more conservation and renewables as well as more oil drilling, oil refineries, “clean-burning coal,” …

McCain’s free pass

Great post from Hilzoy over at Obsidian Wings, starting with McCain’s confused statements on climate change, moving out to McCain’s confused statements on other matters of policy, and asking: why is no one in the …

The Department of Defense (of itself)

DOD slows condemning research into its polluting behavior

Back in April, a Government Accountability Office report explained how the White House Office of Management and Budget was holding up the EPA's Integrated Risk Information System assessments. According to GAO, the OMB started requiring an "interagency review" process allowing agencies that might be affected by the IRIS assessments to provide comments on the documents. As a result, some of these outside agencies can effectively block completion of IRIS assessments, which inform federal environmental standards and many environmental protection programs at local, state, and even international levels. The GAO explained that this interagency review process came about because the Department of Defense, Department of Energy, and NASA were upset about how EPA was addressing "controversial" chemicals such as perchlorate, napthalene, and trichlorethylene (TCE). These departments and agencies view these hazardous substances as "integral to their missions." IRIS assessments could lead to regulatory actions that will require lots of protection and clean-up spending by the responsible agencies. Last week, the House Committee on Science and Technology's Subcommittee on Investigations and Oversight held its second hearing on the IRIS process. One witness was particularly vocal about DOD's foot-dragging on TCE.

Lessons from an angry planet

Rebuilding in the wake of ‘extreme weather’

From the standpoint of global climate change, nature's incredible assault on the American heartland this year can be interpreted in one of two ways. Both offer lessons about the challenges of adapting to the climate we have created. As of June 13, 1,577 tornadoes had been reported in the United States, with 118 fatalities. The season started in January, unusually early, with more than 130 reported tornadoes in the upper Midwest. As if to send voters a reminder to ask the presidential candidates about their positions on climate change, 84 tornadoes broke out the week of Super Tuesday in Missouri, Illinois, Arkansas, Alabama and Tennessee. As I write this post, record floods are inundating communities in the Mississippi River Valley at a level of intensity that may make the Great Flood of 1993 seem like an "ankle tickler," as riverside residents like to call minor flood events. On June 9 in Wisconsin, a breach in its dam emptied Lake Delton, a 245-acre man-made lake, into the Wisconsin River. My old stomping grounds in Wisconsin's Kickapoo River Valley suffered record flooding for the second time in a year. Among the inundated communities was Gays Mills, now threatened with extinction due to its repeated damages.

Texas hold 'em

McCain calling for offshore drilling, renewables, and conservation in energy speech

John McCain. John McCain will give a big speech on energy policy this afternoon to a group of oil executives in Houston, Texas. According to his prepared remarks, his address will highlight the need to …

Calamity Kaine

Virginia Gov, possible veep, afraid of Big Coal

Virginia Gov. Tim Kaine set a new standard for politician mealy-mouthedness with a letter to his Virginia Air Board (tip of the hat to Raising Kaine for digging this one up). Although he asserts that his letter isn't about any particular decision, everyone outside the governor's office knows that the letter is about one thing: The proposed massive coal-fired power plant being planned for Wise County, Virginia. His bureaucratic opacity (PDF) is sure to be taught in government schools around the world regarding how to say nothing through the written word: My intent in issuing this directive is not to influence the substance of any decision you may make but to assure consistency, certainty, and predictability in the process of issuing decisions. The directive is one of general application and not specific to any particular matter. Gov. Tim Kaine (D-Va.) offers sympathy to victims of extreme weather. The rest of the letter doesn't clear matters up any more -- but the situation is clear to most Virginia watchers: Kaine is terrified of Big Coal, personified (or rather, corporatified) here by Chicago-based Dominion Power (and financed by Citibank). So much so that even though the plant's incredibly high costs are actually projected to drive up electricity bills (PDF) (along with, of course, producing 5.3 million ton of carbon dioxide, more air pollution deaths (PDF), and the destruction of many of Southwest Virginia's remaining mountains), he's unwilling to take a clear stand against it (or, for that matter, for it) -- even though he is on record in favor of federal action on the climate crisis (for which he doesn't have any responsibility).

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