Climate change is a universal menace, threatening hardships for everyone. But it's not an egalitarian menace: everyone will not suffer equally. Perversely, those people and nations least to blame for causing it are most vulnerable to its impacts. Climate disruption heaps misfortune on the less fortunate, whether in low-lying Bangladesh, the Ninth Ward of New Orleans, or the flood plains around Chehalis, Wash. In the aftermath of climate change, the less you have, the more you're likely to lose.
We have known for weeks that the EPA administrator overruled his staff when announced late last year that the EPA was denying California's application to regulate vehicle greenhouse-gas emissions. Now we have the details of the PowerPoint presentation that the EPA's legal and technical staff made to Johnson, thanks to Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.). At the end, I'll reprint a letter from the Terminator (and 13 other governors) sent to the EPA. As reported today by the S.F. Chronicle: In the presentation last year, EPA staffers wrote that California could clearly demonstrate "compelling and extraordinary conditions" -- the legal definition under the Clean Air Act that requires EPA to approve regulations set by the state. "California continues to have compelling and extraordinary conditions in general (geography, climatic, human and motor vehicle populations -- many such conditions are vulnerable to climate change conditions) as confirmed by several recent EPA decisions," the staff wrote. The staffers also told Johnson that climate scientists at the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change had concluded California was at greater risk from the impacts of global warming than other states, which could justify the tougher rules. "California exhibits a greater number of key impact concerns than other regions," they wrote. The staffers listed all the risks that could prove the state's case -- from potential water shortages to rising sea levels affecting coastal communities to health threats from air pollution. "Wildfires are increasing," which could "generate particulates that can exacerbate health risk," they wrote. "California has the greatest variety of ecosystems in the U.S.; and the most threatened and endangered species in the continental U.S." Nice to see the EPA staff gets this issue, even if their boss and the White House don't. The story notes:
In my line of work, one sometimes hears strange things. These include allegations that leaf blowers or pet manure should be high-priority targets for reducing climate emissions. I'm in a myth-busting mood today, so I am happy to report that leaf blowers don't really rate. In the U.S., the emissions from all leaf blowers, both residential and commercial, for all of 2008 will be roughly equivalent to the emissions from driving that occurred between the arrival of the new year and 11:00 a.m. on January 1. Add to that the entire year's worth of snowblowers, and you can equal the driving emissions up until 1:30 p.m. on the first. Add in all lawn mowers, both residential and commercial, including the big riding and tractor-type units. Add in rototillers and other turf maintenance equipment. Add chainsaws, chippers, stump grinders, and shredders. Now add trimmers, edgers, brush cutters, and any other garden tool you can think of. The combined emissions from all of that racket-making equipment, for the entire year, is roughly equal to the driving that occurred before afternoon rush hour on January 6. Of course, that's not really the whole story.
In a report for "The Campaign Spot" on the National Review, Jim Geraghty gently broke the bad news to conservatives that yes, global warming will be an issue in the 2008 campaign, and the Republican party will concede the time has now come to act to reduce the risks. To make his case, first Geraghty gave the mic to a fire-breathing Giuliani supporter named Robert Tracinski, who declared for Real Clear Politics: But the biggest problem for Republicans with McCain's candidacy is his stance on global warming. McCain has been an active supporter of the global warming hysteria -- for which he has been lauded by the radical environmentalists -- and he is a co-sponsor of a leftist scheme for energy rationing. The McCain-Lieberman Climate Stewardship Actwould impose an arbitrary cap on America's main sources of energy production, to be enforced by a huge network of federal taxes and regulations. The irony is that McCain won in South Carolina among voters whose top concern is the economy. Don't these voters realize what a whole new regime of energy taxes and regulations would do to the economy? No matter what happens, there is likely to be a huge debate in the coming years over global warming -- whether it's really happening, whether it's actually caused by human beings, and what to do about it. But if the Republicans nominate McCain, that political debate will be over, and Al Gore and the left will have won it -- thanks to John McCain. Geraghty let that stand, thinking others would agree with him that it was an extreme statement. He went on to try and reason with the NR crowd:
The New York Times has endorsed Hillary Clinton and John McCain for their respective parties, noting that McCain “was an early advocate for battling global warming.”
At some point in the 1980s or 1990s, environmental issues became hopelessly and depressingly politicized. By "politicized," I mean it stopped being acceptable to talk about environmental issues in, for instance, a high-school setting, in the same way that evolution was made into a controversial subject to talk about in many school settings. I'm not sure when I would pinpoint that this politicization really sunk in, but I'd be interested in what those who were around at that point might have to say. By the Republican revolution of 1994 -- around the time I first became aware of something called "politics" -- this seems to have already definitively taken place. But in the past of couple years, while it has remained fairly partisan, climate change has been rapidly depoliticizing as an issue. Even with a former Democratic vice president as its standard-bearer, it's now acceptable for companies, organizations, and institutions that would never consider taking what they see to be a political stance on an environmental issue -- or any other issue not directly concerning their core business -- to take a stance on climate change. In my role as a grassroots organizer with a student environmental organization, it has only recently become possible to approach a wide variety of potential coalition partners for the very first time. My organization could never have approached a typical university president to register the school's public opposition to drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge -- but we can and do approach hundreds to work on climate change. This is phenomenally important in repositioning the environmental movement beyond its role in the '90s as a "special interest." It's an immense boon to anyone trying to figure out how to spark the political moment that could result in good clean-energy legislation getting to the president's desk, and the society-wide coalition that will succeed in getting her or him to sign it. I'd measure the completion of this depoliticization process to be when primary and secondary schools start including climate change -- and then carbon reductions and clean energy -- in their curricula, assemblies, and more. I'm not talking about when high schools stop teaching kids that there's a scientific climate debate -- I mean when they take the only step a responsible educator could take and ask students to consider this: Now that we have a problem, what are the solutions to this problem? Obviously, we're not there yet.
There's a great deal of buzz in D.C. right now over the prospects of the Lieberman-Warner climate bill. A major environmental group (Environmental Defense) is running radio spots urging congressional passage this year, while a key Lieberman aide has been quoted as saying that the already compromised bill is open for further compromise (if that will get more votes). One issue up for discussion is preemption -- that is, taking away the right of states to limit greenhouse gases. With that in mind, it might make sense to consider the views of a genuine eco-battler, my friend Dan Becker, long a Sierra Club activist who waged an often lonely war for years to improve federal fuel economy (CAFE) standards.
A cautionary tale for all those who think nuclear is the answer to climate change. The Washington Post reported yesterday that drought conditions are affecting nuclear production capacity. [Plants] could be forced to throttle back or temporarily shut down later this year because drought is drying up the rivers and lakes that supply power plants with the awesome amounts of cooling water they need to operate. But wait, there's more ...
The American Geophysical Union, a scientific organization with over 50,000 members, mostly earth scientists, just released a position statement on climate change. It is a strong endorsement of the mainstream view of climate science, as articulated by the IPCC reports: the Earth is warming, humans are to blame for most of the recent warming, and future warming may be disastrous. While this is a strong statement by itself, its true strength comes when you consider that this statement is just one of a spate of similar statements by other expert organizations: the American Meteorological Association, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the U.S. National Academy of Sciences (PDF), as well as several others. Even the American Association of Petroleum Geologists, while not exactly embracing the connection between carbon dioxide and climate, cannot bring themselves to contradict it. Then, of course, we have the "Inhofe 400." Whom should we believe? Jim Inhofe or virtually all of the world's experts? That's a tough one ...
We've devised the world's shortest survey to find out what kind of actions our readers are taking. You know you want to.