The Climate Post: Uptick in denialism halts glacier melt, lowers sea levels
First things first: “The absence of an actual bill” is one impediment to the Senate taking up climate legislation, The Hill reported earlier this week. The climate leadership troika of Sens. John Kerry (D-Mass.), Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), and Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) continue to work behind the scenes to steer the many interests toward a common framework. Key business leaders and allied politicians are reportedly encouraged by movement away from the comprehensive approach that passed the House of Representatives last summer. The oil industry, which found the House bill rather expensive, is listening cautiously to a policy that would require them to pay a “carbon fee” rather than buy into an economy-wide fix. President Barack Obama met with 14 senators for more than an hour Tuesday to talk about their shared goals for viable climate legislation, despite a lack of agreement on details or White House demands.
Graham has threatened to walk away from climate (and immigration) legislation if the Democratic majority passes health care reform through a process called “reconciliation,” which circumambulates typical Senate procedure [CongressDaily, sub. req.].
Two “actual bills” would slow or kill the Environmental Protection Agency’s new regulations to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Two West Virginia Democrats, Sen. Jay Rockefeller and Rep. Nick Rahall, have co-authored a bill that would freeze the agency’s move for at least two years. Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) introduced a bill that would undo the EPA’s ruling that greenhouse gas emissions pose public harm.
The international negotiation process stumbles forward, toward its year-end COP-16 meeting in cheery Cancun, Mexico. Please do check out the, uh, planned agenda, participants, and guiding documents, here. India and China this week formally signed up for the Copenhagen Accord, the non-binding, vague document to emerge from the Copenhagen COP-15 meeting in December. The developing giants agreed to be “listed” among the Accord countries, rather than “associated” with them, a lesser affiliation reflecting the current difficulties and confusion.
Not dead yet: If there’s an enduring legislative metaphor from 20th century cinema, it’s the classic moment from the absurd comedy Monty Python and the Holy Grail, when a man wheels his cart through a Plague-stricken town, telling residents to “Bring out your dead!” The newest body on the cart suddenly exclaims, “I’m not dead yet,” to which he’s told, “You’ll be stone dead in a moment.” The farce ends when the near-deceased is knocked over the head with a club.
In a hyper-partisan atmosphere, with an election approaching, with health care reform absorbing the Senate, and financial and immigration reform not far behind, conventional wisdom holds that climate legislation in the Senate this year is analogously “not dead yet.” (Disclaimer: The conventional wisdom says a lot of things.) The Chicago Tribune documents the rise of climate-science skepticism in the GOP. Read the story from the bottom-up, and you’ll learn that Sen. Scott Brown (R-Mass.) recently chatted with his new colleagues Sens. Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.) and Susan Collins (R-Maine) about their climate bill, which would limit national emissions, compel big polluters to purchase credits for each ton they’re allowed to emit, and dispatch all the proceeds back to consumers.
The Nicholas Institute this week released a modeling study of Cantwell and Collins’ CLEAR Act. Senior Research Economist Eric Williams compares results to the Energy Information Administration’s analysis of the Waxman-Markey climate bill that passed the House of Representatives last summer. The synopsis: The Cantwell bill’s cost to emit a ton of carbon grows from $21 in 2012 to $55 in 2030, a 5.5 percent annual rise. Market demand for carbon credits pushes the price to the maximum allowed under the legislation — called a “price ceiling” — in every year of the program. Net greenhouse gas emissions, including a companion greenhouse gas-reduction program, might result by 2030 in a 16 percent to 19 percent drop below 2005 levels, far short of Cantwell’s target. That’s compared to EIA’s prediction of a 34 percent net drop under the (now politically dead) House climate bill.
We have met the emitter, and he is us: Everything about climate change is hard. This week’s reminder came from the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, which published an analysis of national responsibility for emissions based on trade, rather than emissions within borders. Steven Davis and Ken Caldeira of the Carnegie Institution for Science conclude that goods and services traded internationally account for nearly a quarter of industrial carbon emissions. Given the amount of manufacturing in and exporting from China, it’s no surprise that its trade partners are “responsible” for nearly as high a percentage of emissions from the world’s largest national polluter.
Oh, scientific community… We know you’re trying: Never underestimate the incompatibility of traditional media and scientific discourse. The Washington Post this morning ran a slim article on an inside page that deserves full quotation by headline and lede:
Is it fair to introduce the readers an ambitious new oversight project by saying what it will not do? Isn’t that a little bit like headlining the article, “Scientists Too Dim to Focus Review on What You and I Know the IPCC’s Problem Is”? It’s not that this is a particularly egregious article — it’s not like it’s the post-Murdoch-takeover Wall Street Journal’s news page — but what would be so terrible if conventional journalists added in more explanation into their stories? Regular Post readers are likelier to know that the Himalayas will still be there in 2036 than they are to know just how well-understood the basics of climate change are. If you posit the latter, this headline and lede are less than coherent.
The Green Grok files this typically perspicacious account.
Scientists and science writers have begun to fight back against the misinformation and disinformation campaigns against them. But they’re still bleeding. A new Gallop poll shows that half of Americans think climate change is overblown — 48 percent, up from 41 percent last year. Recent work by the authors of last year’s “Six Americas” study, shows that the number of respondents who are “dismissive” of climate change is has jumped from 7 percent to 16 percent since 2008.
Adaptation, already in progress: From Malawi comes this horrifying story of how extreme meteorological patterns can take individual lives. Unusually heavy rain on a house of unbaked mud brick caused a roof collapse that killed a mother, father, and two children in Lilongwe. A Malawi government report to the UN documented that in the last 20 years there have been enough droughts and floods to “clearly show that there are large temporal and spatial variables in the occurrence of climate-related disasters and calamities.”
In Hampton Roads, Virginia, a planning director has the difficult political task of corralling 16 cities and counties into a discussion of adaptation to rising sea levels, when many constituents posit that climate change risk assessments are wrong, made-up, or overblown.
Problem solved!: The Boston Globe takes up the “competitive conundrum” of clean energy technologies. That’s a snazzy way of saying that new technologies are more expensive than infrastructure from the last century, such as coal, oil, gas, and nuclear. Without a cost breakthrough — either in the form of a scalable energy invention or a functioning government policy — the 21st century energy economy can’t get started.
I can’t help but wonder if the wrong companies are on the case. Shouldn’t Starbucks (which more than doubled the price of coffee), Apple (whose iPod delivers a tenth the sound quality of analog music at four times the cost), and AT&T (more dropped calls) get to work on making expensive-but-clean tech a style-driven phenomenon?
The Climate Post offers a rundown of the week in climate and energy news. It is produced each Thursday by Duke University’s Nicholas Institute for Environmental Policy Solutions.