A minister, a congressman, and a student activist walk into a climate rally

Don’t forget to Step It Up tomorrow

This was posted by my colleague Madeline Ostrander at our mothership blog, but I thought it belonged on Gristmill as well. What do Washington Congressional Rep. Jay Inslee, the AFL-CIO, a car-sharing company, and a radio DJ have in common? What about swimmers doing a polar bear dip in the Willamette River, a Unitarian Church, and Portland Commissioner Eric Sten? They and thousands of others are, for the first time in history, united on climate change. Founded by writer Bill McKibben, Step It Up is the largest and most diverse citizen day of action on climate change the U.S. has ever seen. With 1,300 gatherings in cities and small towns across the U.S., could Step It Up be the climate movement's turning point, its "Selma" or "bus boycott" as one activist suggested in yesterday's Oregonian? Step It Up organizers hope so, as the events catch a wide net of supporters -- companies, churches, national labor associations, peace groups, local governments, conservation organizations, and thousands of citizens collectively urging Congress to take action on climate. In Seattle, nearly 50 partner groups -- including Grist; the AFL-CIO and United Steelworkers; coalitions of peace activists and churches; Sightline Institute; the League of Women Voters; and the Sierra Club and other environmental organizations -- are bringing Rep. Jay Inslee together onstage with Presbyterian minister Lisa Domke, student activist Emily Duncanson, Seattle Mayor Greg Nickels, and King County Executive Ron Sims. Organizers are expecting thousands from the Puget Sound area to turn out for one-mile march ending in a rally and sustainability fair.

Scientists and social power

They’ve got it, they shouldn’t be ashamed of using it

In a previous post, I argued that the public doesn’t particularly need a sophisticated scientific understanding of climate change (or evolution, or stem cells) in order to make the right basic policy decisions. A rudimentary understanding, deliverable and understandable by a layman, is perfectly sufficient. We’re warming the climate? It’s gonna hurt us? Let’s stop. Bada-bing, bada-boom. Given this, and given the fact that such rudimentary explanations of the science are ubiquitous, the obvious question is: why does the public persist in believe in goofy things, and supporting goofy policy? The assumption of many scientists is: the public needs more …

But Now What?

Bush withdraws controversial EPA nominations Earlier this month, we reported that President Bush was re-dangling three controversial names for key environmental positions in his administration, suggesting that he might appoint them while Congress was on a break. While he did manage to push one such recess appointment through last week — Susan Dudley as White House regulations chief — he has pulled the other two nominations: William Wehrum for head of EPA’s Office of Air and Radiation and Alex Beehler for EPA inspector general. Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), Environment and Public Works Committee chair, had blocked the nominations when they …

Latter-Day Paints

EPA says racism isn’t a factor in Ford Superfund saga A strange environmental-justice saga is unfolding in New Jersey, pitting Ford Motor Co. against a community of Ramapough Indians and their allies. Decades ago, Ford dumped thousands of tons of toxic paint sludge at a former mining area. The dump was declared a Superfund site, reportedly cleaned up, and delisted. But neighbors said that sludge remained, and was causing illnesses and deaths. So last year, the site was put back on the Superfund list — the first-ever such relisting — and now the EPA inspector general’s office is studying the …

Tax or auction permits upstream

Because shopping shouldn’t require matrix algebra

A lot of people ask why carbon permits or taxes should be levied as far upstream as possible. Why tax or auction permits for pumping or importing oil, rather than burning it? One obvious answer is: red tape. Regardless of where a tax is levied, you will pay. But if it is collected at the wellhead, you don't have to have a separate line on every gas receipt under the sales tax. Your local supermarket does not have to buy a major upgrade to it's software, slowing the line you are in as their system crashes, and the checkers switch to hand calculators.

Al Gore slideshow tidbit

From Al’s Journal: The trainees thus far have already given my slideshow more times collectively in the last six months — 3,000 — than I have been able to give it in 20 years.

Scientists and framing

The public doesn’t really need all that much science

While I was on vacation, science journalist Chris Mooney and social scientist Matthew Nisbet came out with a short commentary in Science. Their thesis was that scientists should pay attention to how they frame their public communication, so as to most effectively reach their target audience. To me this is obvious to the point of banality. Nonetheless, it sparked a enormous blog storm. Nisbet rounds most of the reactions up here. The paper got lots of support, but also lots of the predictable harumphing from scientists who insist that framing amounts to spin and theater — which is, of course, …

Coming soon to a skeptic near you ...

Save the Martians!

GLOBAL WARMING ON MARS! I just read the Nature paper entitled "Global warming and climate forcing by recent albedo changes on Mars," by Fenton et al. I suspect it will make the rounds in the blogosphere in fairly short order, so here are a few things to remember about the paper.

Beyond carbon taxes

A follow-up

My last article made the point that in fighting climate chaos, only a refundable carbon tax, one that returns revenues directly to the population, mitigates regressivity in way that benefits those hit hardest by such a tax. It concludes by pointing out that just about everyone who pays serious attention to the problem of climate chaos concludes that carbon taxes or cap and trade systems -- methods of putting a price on carbon -- cannot by themselves solve the problem. This post will explore in a bit more detail what additional measures can help reduce emissions. We could institute rule-based regulations in the following areas:

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