Monday, October 20, 2014

What Ebola and Global Warming Have In Common

An Ohio man was told by a friend that he was in the same bridal shop at the same time as a woman later diagnosed with the Ebola virus. If only our elected officials could be as level-headed as Peter Pattakos:
Pattakos, 36, a Cleveland attorney who lives in Bath Township, called the health department, which told him to call back if he exhibits any Ebola symptoms. He called a doctor, who told him not to worry.

"I didn't exchange any bodily fluids with anyone, so I'm not worried about it," he said. "I'm much more likely to be mistakenly killed by a police officer in this country than to be killed by Ebola, even if you were in the same bridal shop." [...]

Concerns over the deadly disease, which is spread through infected bodily fluids, have led to business, government and school closings throughout Cleveland and Akron. Pattakos thinks people are overreacting, and he blames wall-to-wall media coverage. He hopes Vinson recovers soon.

"I wish people would freak out this much about climate change," he said. "It's one of those problems that's real easy for the media to cover, rather than some of those other problems that people should be more concerned with."
Unfortunately, the Ebola and climate change comparison is apt: In both cases, we're ignoring the experts. Doctors tell us not to freak out over Ebola, and we panic anyway. Scientists tell us we SHOULD freak out about climate change, and we don't.

Friday, October 10, 2014

Pat McCrory Doesn't Know Our Oil Comes from North Dakota, Not Saudi Arabia

Gov. Pat McCrory (R-NC) is a leader in the fight to drill for oil off Atlantic Coast beaches, yet somehow that position hasn't taught him anything about where the oil in our gas tanks comes from:
A coalition of governors along the Gulf Coast and Southeast who support offshore drilling is chaired by North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory. McCrory said besides the prospect of good jobs and business profits, more states should contribute to building American energy independence from foreign imports by allowing drilling.

“We are hypocrites in North Carolina if we expect to get all our energy from somewhere else and just expect that our hands are clean in this whole thing,” he said.
If McCrory is defining "somewhere else" as North Dakota, then he's right:

Under President Barack Obama, U.S. oil production is nearing all-time highs. In fact, oil prices have been falling thanks in part to "oversupply from the U.S. because of increasing shale oil production." So why do we need offshore oil drilling, or the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline to bring in oil from Canada, or any of the American Petroleum Institute's other demands? We don't.

It's hard to know if McCrory's just ignorantly spouting Republican talking points or willfully in Big Oil's pocket. If we've learned anything from Gov. McCrory's administration, it's that he'll say whatever polluters want. In the wake of a coal ash disaster, McCrory worked to protect not North Carolina's drinking water and fish but to shield Duke Energy, his former employer, from accountability. McCrory is also a climate science denier.

Let's be generous and pretend what McCrory means here is yeah, but we still import around half of our oil! Most of the "unfriendly" countries big enough to have slices on this pie chart have economies that are built on oil money - if ISIS took over Saudi Arabia and stopped selling oil, it would go bankrupt approximately 30 seconds later. And since oil is a global commodity, if it just stopped selling oil to the U.S., they'd have to sell it to, say, China, and the oil that would've gone to China from somewhere else would just flow to our pie instead. It's also not 1973 anymore and the government price controls that worsened that era's oil crisis have long since been abandoned.

So what has all this great energy independence done for American families? Gas prices may be slightly lower today, but they're still not far from all-time highs, even as those low prices are subsidized by a shrinking gas tax. It's created jobs, but only in places like North Dakota and Montana, where the oil boom has been a mixed blessing. Overall, drill baby drill has been an epic failure.

The only way to cut our energy bills is to use less energy. The Obama administration has made great strides on fuel efficiency standards, but there's much more we could be doing at the federal, state and local levels to provide public transportation and to allow more housing to be built in cities and close to transit. Well, we could also nationalize the oil industry and give the oil away at cost, but if Congress thinks bike paths are socialism, I'm guessing they'll find this option significantly less palatable.

But "energy independence" is a much easier sell for Republicans like Pat McCrory than the truth, which is "let Big Oil rape our coastlines, kill our wildlife, destroy our climate for future generations, and take all the profit while you pay more for gas."

Monday, October 6, 2014

Reuters Covers Sea Level Rise Flooding Miami, But Won't Say Climate Change

Miami families chalk 6' sea level rise at event (Jayme Gershen)
Reuters has a compelling story on how sea level rise is impacting Miami Beach, but even more interesting is what the story leaves out: Climate change. And there's evidence to suggest Reuters' omission is no accident.

First, the Reuters coverage of the Miami Beach "King Tide" that's expected to peak October 9 at about a foot above normal:
The event, caused by the alignment of the sun, moon and Earth, provides a taste of the potential impact of a longer-term two-foot sea level rise predicted for south Florida by 2060, according to the United States Geological Survey. The low-lying greater Miami area, with a population of 5.7 million, is one of the world's most at-risk urban communities, scientists told a U.S. Senate subcommittee hearing in April.

The King Tide is expected to rise to almost four feet. With seven miles of coastline, Miami Beach is already seeing more frequent salt-water street flooding at high tide, according to Miami Beach City Manager Jimmy Morales.

To combat such widespread flooding, the city has set aside $300 million to 400 million to install up to 50 pumps in the coming years in what some say is a vain effort to protect an estimated $23 billion of real estate.

Bigger sea walls are not an option as Miami Beach's flooding is caused largely by water rising underfoot through porous limestone bedrock. Officials concede pumping water back into the ocean is only a short-term solution.
It's a really interesting article, but it leaves you with an unanswered question: Why is sea level rising? It's a critical part of the story. Leaving out the cause makes sea level rise seem like something that's beyond our control, but it most certainly is not. The intensity of future global warming and the height of future sea level rise will be determined by how much and how fast we cut industrial carbon pollution right now.

You might think it's a coincidence that Reuters left out any mention of global warming - maybe they just assumed everyone knows and accepts mainstream climate science! But there's evidence the action is deliberate. As Media Matters has reported, a former reporter accuses Reuters Deputy Editor-in-Chief Paul Ingrassia of denying the clear scientific connection between industrial carbon pollution and global warming intensity. The reporter accused Ingrassia of letting his personal politics taint Reuters' climate coverage and repeated Media Matters investigations have shown Reuters climate coverage continues to decline in frequency and quality.

Reuters' silence on the connection between sea level rise and carbon pollution comes with real consequences, especially in Florida. Gov. Rick Scott wouldn't even let climate scientists finish making their case for climate action before cutting them off. Sen. Marco Rubio lets his pro-polluter politics cloud his judgment on climate change.

In this case, Reuters isn't just failing to connect the dots for its readers - it's letting science deniers off the hook for their reckless decision to put politics ahead of people.


Tonight, Chris Hayes Begins "All in America: Coal Country"

The All In with Chris Hayes staff has also put together a series of advanced reading posts to learn more about the politics of coal, what is "clean" coal, coal & tobacco, and alternative energy:

Thursday, September 25, 2014

How Many Times Can Rep. Mike Coffman Be Wrong About Global Warming In One Debate Answer?

election005When Republicans like Rep. Mike Coffman of Colorado try to accept some climate science while still rejecting the need for their polluting donors to cut carbon emissions, they somehow end up sounding even dumber than if they'd just denied climate science outright:
Asked whether humans contributed significantly to climate change, [Coffman] responded that he did not think so.
Wrong. Here are 10 reasons why.
Asked whether climate change could be reversed, he answered, “Don’t know.”
Wrong. We can reverse climate change, though all we really need to do is stop accelerating it.
Asked by a Post moderator, “What? Sir?” Coffman said, “Um, no.”
Coffman quickly sought to clarify his answer, backtracking to say humans do contribute to climate change, but the magnitude of the influence is unclear.
Wrong. Temperature increases we've already seen are at least 75% attributable to manmade pollution.
“On the climate change issue, I just think the science is not quite settled."
Wrong. The greenhouse effect has been established for hundreds of years, global warming was predicted decades in advance, and it's now been confirmed by observations.
"Does it have an impact? Yes,” Coffman said. “Do I know how much of an impact it has, man-made climate change? I don’t know. But I think we need to do everything responsible to bring down carbon emissions. Sometimes, my worry is we go too far."
This is a good place to point out Rep. Coffman has taken nearly half a million dollars from the oil & gas industry in his career, making oil & gas his top industry patron.
“What happens is we push, particularly manufacturing jobs overseas to a country like China, that has no environmental rules, and those products are made with greater carbon emissions than otherwise would have been made in the United States. So I think there has to be a balance to the issue here.”
Wrong. China has announced plans to limit carbon pollution and is rapidly trying to cut is coal dependence in the face of rising protests over its insanely dangerous air pollution.

So that's a 6th wrong, but this answer comes closest to the truth of Coffman and other politicians firmly in the pocket of polluters: Your only choices are letting American polluters smash the planet or letting foreign polluters smash the planet! Or maybe a balance between those two!

Taking back our energy choices from the control of polluters is no more a possibility in Coffman's world view than accepting climate science.

If you have a few dollars laying around, donate to Coffman's Democratic challenger Andrew Romanoff.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Jon Stewart Proves Climate Science Deniers Wrong With 3rd Grade Science

In 2014, 26 years after James Hansen first told Congress that global warming is now happening, why is the People's Climate March still necessary? As Jon Stewart explained on last night's Daily Show, because the U.S. House Committee on Science, Space and Technology is run by climate science deniers:

Bristol County DA Sam Sutter Is The Best, I'm The Worst

A few weeks ago I questioned why Bristol County District Attorney Samuel Sutter was pursuing charges against two anti-coal activists. Sutter told me on Twitter that he hadn't been allowed to act or even comment on the charges until Jay O'Hara and Ken Ward had their day in court. The minute they did, Sutter not only dropped the charges immediately, he publicly supported the activists, saying, "I agree that climate change is one of the greatest crisis the planet has ever faced and that we have to act more boldly now."

And Sutter didn't stop there. Last weekend, he went to New York City and joined the People's Climate March, where 310,000 Americans called for climate action:

Was I completely wrong about Sam Sutter? All I can say is ...

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Today Show Accidently Proves NYC 11-Year-Old Totally Safe Without Parents

Champions / Life underground (54)
Kids on NYC subway, Flickr's Victor Shoup
New York City 11-year-old Kareem Granton ran away from home last spring and spent five days hanging out at Chuck E. Cheese and riding the subway before the police found him. The Today Show presented this as a HARROWING TALE of a near-teenager somehow surviving without a parent monitoring his every move, before giving us a "social experiment" that purported to prove how dangerous everyday life is for kids.

Today's implication was that Granton could've been murdered at any moment, even though half a million NYC students take the subway or bus to school every day, and no less of an authority than New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg says it's perfectly safe for children ages 8 and up to ride the subway to school by themselves.

So to show how life is actually terribly risky in URBAN HELLHOLES like New York, The Today Show's Jeff Rossen sent an 11-year-old BY HIMSELF to extremely safe, busy public areas, then told bystanders they were history's greatest monsters for not immediately treating him like a kidnapping victim.

"At New York's famed Coney Island amusement park, Bjorn boarded ride after ride with no mom or dad in sight," reported Rossen, with absolutely no hint of self-awareness that he was actually describing an idyllic day for an 11-year-old of any previous generation. When Bjorn asked questions of strangers, they helpfully gave him whatever he needed.

Fortunately, Rossen was able to turn to John Walsh to inform people on the boardwalk that Bjorn was actually lucky to have survived the hour without being murdered by a lurking predator:
"Yeah, but he seemed comfortable and confident, self-assured," replied one. "He seemed old enough, it's broad daylight, lots of people around."

But Walsh pointed out: "They're not going to be crying or hysterical. And kids are so vulnerable, at that age particularly. They're so trusting, they're so innocent, and you don't want the bad guy to come up and say, 'I can help you.'"
Even if a child looks totally safe and secure, you must still treat them like they're terrified and in grave danger!
The experiment continued at a much quieter park where Bjorn walked through a group of adults, passed women pushing strollers, and listened to a musician. No one even looked twice. When the Rossen team had Bjorn sit alone on a bench for many minutes with no guardian in sight, no one said anything.
An 11-year-old sitting by himself with no one bothering him in a park filled with parents, and no one called the police? YOU SAVAGES.

The moral of the story: If we see an 11-year-old outdoors alone, we should be constantly asking him if he needs help. But having spent my entire childhood roaming the streets of Boston with friends with not one horror story but plenty of Kareem Granton-esque adventures, all I could conclude was:
  • Bjorn had fun
  • No one bothered him and he didn't hurt himself
  • Whenever he needed help, there was always a grownup right there happy to assist him
What Today didn't say is that America's kids are as safe today as they've ever been, but there are real questions about how much harm we're doing by overprotecting our children and arresting parents for letting their go kids outside alone.

Minutes later, Today launched into a new warning to parents: "Kids hooked on the Internet can suffer from chronic sleep deprivation, poor nutrition and academic failure."

Might letting them out of the house once in a while by themselves ease that problem? Sorry, we'll have to leave it there!

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

The Must-Read Book of the Moment: Naomi Klein's "This Changes Everything"

Seems like this is the book everyone's talking about this week. Joe Romm of says Klein is right that unchecked capitalism will destroy civilization. Time to go look for $22 in my couch cushions & I'll try to get up a review of my own.