Sunday, December 30, 2012

Ignoring the Climate Crisis, Fixating on Phony Ones

Water DamageWhen our children are wondering why we didn't solve the climate crisis when we had the chance, I'm sure they'll be thankful we took the time to try to gut their retirement benefits.

This morning I watched +Meet The Press host David Gregory and his panel not only agree Social Security and Medicare must be cut, but to brainstorm aloud strategy for making it happen. This very same panel had just gotten done unanimously agreeing that objective journalists are not allowed to say that Republicans are the problem in Washington. But they were now designing their very own political campaign.

Despite massive public opposition to social safety net cuts, why did these champions of objectivity assume gutting the social safety net is as American as apple pie? Because people in the insular, wealthy world of Beltway politics will never need to put off a trip to the grocery store until their Social Security check arrives. The threat of going hungry could never compare to the alleged threat of the budget deficit.

Except the same people who push deficit hysteria in public tip their hand at the negotiating table. They don't care about deficits - what they're really after is tax cuts for the wealthy:
In a tremendous irony, Republican requests for lower tax rates, a high estate tax threshold, and a permanent AMT fix; combined with Democratic requests to delay the sequester, include a “doc fix” for Medicare physicians, and extend emergency unemployment benefits; have left the parties negotiating toward a plan that would result in no net deficit reduction over 10 years, according to Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin.
Republicans know it's all a charade - Social Security is solvent through 2038 and Medicare is solvent through 2024. And even then - at least a decade from now - the programs face not crippling bankruptcy but the need for a bit more funding. Considering effective federal tax rates have never been lower, this is not an insurmountable problem.

Meanwhile, James Hansen warned of looming climate insolvency in 1988 and the crisis went full-blown ten years later when we shattered the record for Earth's hottest year. Congress did nothing. After 14 more years of unlimited carbon pollution, 2012 has seen what will likely be America's hottest year on record, record drought and wildfires, and a climate-fueled Superstorm Sandy.

Less than two months later, global warming is once again off the radar in DC - even though just as many Americans recognize global warming is a serious problem as oppose social safety net cuts. This actual crisis, battering America right now, is rarely mentioned on television news and wasn't mentioned in any of this year's presidential debates.

Instead, pundits focus on imaginary social safety net problems and addressing the fiscal cliff austerity crisis that Congress voluntarily created, while ignoring the climate cliff we're already tumbling down. When The Onion gets it and Meet the Press doesn't, we're in big trouble.

Friday, December 28, 2012

Most Viewed Posts of 2012 at The Green Miles

Sunset off Aruba's Eagle Beach
As the sun sets on 2012, here are the most viewed posts of the year at TheGreenMiles.com:
  1. GOP VP Nominee Paul Ryan: Science Denier, Fiscal Fraud
  2. Arlington's Dumbest Attack Yet on Westover Beer Garden: Help People Drive More!
  3. Things Reporters Can't Say: Mitt Romney is Lying About the Environmental Protection Agency
And my top 3 posts of all time since I started blogging here in 2007:
  1. Ask The Green Miles: Recycling VHS Tapes
  2. Arlington Passes Strip Mall Preservation Act
  3. Small Earthquake Felt in Northern Virginia
If you just can't get enough of The Green Miles at The Green Miles, you can follow me on the Facebook, tweet me on the Twitter at @MilesGrant, and + me on the Google+ at +Miles Grant

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Promised Land: Can Hollywood Make America Care About Fracking?

The 2010 fracking documentary Gasland hit home with environmentalists, but took in less at the box office in its entire national run than The Hobbit did in six average theaters last weekend.

Now comes Promised Land, a new film starring Matt Damon, Frances McDormand and John Krasinski, which focuses on fracking and opens widely on January 4. Will it get Americans talking about the risks of America's barely regulated fracking industry?

Friday, December 14, 2012

What's The Minimum Length for a Sabbatical?

I've always wanted to be a big enough thinker to take one of those. Is a week enough to count?

I'm off to Aruba with my girlfriend and won't have internet access (and even if I found it, my girlfriend would club me to death with my laptop), so don't expect any posts over the next week. A high-carbon-footprint flight, I know, but we'll try to make up for it while we're there, won't even be renting a car. I hear the wildlife is mostly limited to iguanas & other lizards, but maybe we'll catch a migrating bird or two.

See you next week! Can't wait to hear all about the fiscal cliff deal they reached while I was gone when I get back ...

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Bill Nye Makes Talking Climate Science Simple

The best way you can advocate for climate action is to talk about climate science and the need for governments to cut carbon pollution. Talk about warmer temperatures, talk about extreme weather, talk about rising sea levels. Talk to your family, your neighbors, your elected officials.

David Roberts gave progressives a simple map for talking climate change and now Bill Nye and the Climate Reality Project are making it even simplerer with Climate 101:



You don't have to know all the answers to know we need to take climate action now. Don't be afraid to speak up.

If someone asks you something you don't know, tell them that's a good question and you want to find out the answer with them! The internet is never far away and it's loaded with really good climate answers.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Climate Change Hurting New Hampshire Hunters

New Hampshire MooseWarmer temperatures and extreme weather fueled by global warming took their toll on New Hampshire's moose hunting season:
Warm weather was one of the factors that attributed to the decrease in the overall success rate, according to biologists. Because moose have already grown their heavy winter coats, they tend to bed down during the day during unseasonably warm weather and wait until nightfall to move about when temperatures drop. Some hunters also reportedly cut their hunts short to head home before the arrival of developing Hurricane Sandy.
It was easiest bag a moose in the north, toughest in the south:
Preliminary numbers show moose hunters having the highest success in the North region at 82 percent, with 73 percent in the Connecticut Lakes Region, 64 percent in the White Mountain Region, 51 percent in the Central Region, 45 percent in the Southwest Region and 35 percent in the Southeast Region.
It's part of a broader trend - temperatures in New Hampshire have risen about three degrees in the last 150 years. (Note that the Eastern Moose is far from endangered - with natural predators like wolves and cougars wiped out, hunting is actually needed to control the population.)

Polls show that even though sportsmen lean conservative politically, they firmly support cutting carbon pollution. Global warming isn't an abstract idea to them - they're already seeing the effects of climate change in the places they hunt and fish, whether it's overheated moose in New Hampshire, a tick explosion in Massachusetts, threatened fish breeding grounds in Florida, or duck habitat drying up in the Plains.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Exxon: Making a Fortune Destroying Your Kids' Future

Exxon Mobil knows that the carbon pollution from its oil causes climate change, fueling extreme weather and sea level rise, yet it continues to use the profits from its oil sales to fight climate action. What else can you conclude but that Exxon Hates Your Children?



Want to help get this message from Oil Change International and The Other 98% on TV? Donate at ExxonHatesYourChildren.com.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Sen. Whitehouse Slams GOP's Generational Fraud on Climate Change

Sheldon Introduces National Endowment for the OceansClimate-fueled superstorm Sandy caused $14 million in damage to Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse's home state of Rhode Island, and apparently it's left him fed up with Congressional deniers of scientific reality.

"Our nation’s best and brightest minds accept the evidence of climate change, and are urging us to act," Whitehouse fumed on the Senate floor today. "Yet still for some in this body, the deniers carry the day."

Then Whitehouse lit into Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY):
When it’s the deficit, he's urged us “to make sure that we have the same kind of country for our children and our grandchildren that our parents left for us.” He’s even talked about, and I quote, “the Europeanization of America,” and as a result of that Europeanization of America “our children and grandchildren could no longer expect to have the same opportunities that we’ve had.”

On virtually every traditional anti-Obama Republican Tea Party bugbear – Medicare, Obamacare, the stimulus, the deficit – even this Europeanization of America – out come the children and grandchildren. Let’s assume they are sincere; let’s assume they have a sincere concern for what is left for our children and grandchildren.

So, when it comes to big corporate polluters of today leaving our children and grandchildren a damaged and more dangerous world, where then is the concern for those children and grandchildren? To have children and grandchildren pay for the care of their grandparents through Medicare and Social Security is a sin and an outrage. To force on them the untold costs and consequences of the harms done by today’s corporate polluters? For that, the future generations’ interests receive nothing from the Republicans but stony silence, or phony and calculated denial.

But the cost will be on them; and the shame will be on us.
McConnell's concern for our children's bottom line stops at his own - both the polluting oil & gas and coal mining industries give 90% of their political contributions to Republicans, both at all-time highs back to the start of OpenSecrets.org records in 1990. Overall, the energy and natural resource drilling/mining industry gives 80% of contributions to Republicans, also an all-time high.

Wondering how to rebut common climate denier talking points? Check out this great guide from ClimateProgress.org.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Nuclear Giant Exelon Back to Bullying Wind Energy

Corn field and wind turbinesNuclear power giant Exelon is once again complaining that wind power makes electricity prices too low. On page 21 of Exelon's new report slamming government support for wind energy:
[S]ubsidized wind generation also exacerbates artificially low electric prices, thus imposing economic harm.
on competitive generators that are needed to maintain system reliability.
Aw, poor little Exelon! Considering the company brought in $19 billion in revenue last year while dumping vast amounts of carbon pollution into the air at no charge, I bet that cheap wind power had Exelon executives crying in their Johnnie Walker Blue.

Exelon isn't poor or little - it's a big, powerful bully that has no problem putting its best interests ahead of your family's best interests. Exelon spent $9.2 million on lobbying last year, just one of many electric utilities fighting to protect our dirty, expensive energy status quo. The entire alternative energy industry - from wind to solar to biofuels - spent $28.6 million.

As Michael Hiltzik writes in the Los Angeles Times, for all the nuclear and fossil fuel complaining about wind energy incentives, you don't hear those same industries volunteering to give up their own breaks to level the playing field:
Fossil-fuel producers reap tax accounting breaks such as the depletion allowance, which is worth an estimated $1 billion a year, according to the Environmental and Energy Study Institute, a Washington think tank created to advise Congress on energy policy. Tax-expensing options for drillers bring them $1.9 billion a year. Relief on royalty payments due to drillers on government property: $53 billion over the lifetime of the leases. Partially as a result, the U.S. government's take from its oil and gas leases is among the lowest in the world, the Government Accountability Office found in 2007.

Then there's coal, the owners of which get to classify royalty income as capital gains, therefore paying a preferential tax rate. This break was enacted in 1951 as relief from the high taxes levied to pay for the Korean War (paying for wars from tax revenue, not by borrowing, was a quaint practice of that era). Bizarrely, it never went away and today is worth as much as $170 million a year to the coal industry.

Finally, there's nuclear, which over its fledging years received subsidies that dwarf all others, while producing a small fraction of the energy per subsidy dollar of any other fuel source. To this day, according to a study by the Union of Concerned Scientists, the nuclear power industry receives subsidies worth as much as 11.4 cents per generated kilowatt, or five times as much as the 2.2-cent wind tax credit. (The figure includes such breaks as the federal cap on the industry's liability for nuclear accidents and the government's shouldering of waste management costs.)

What gives away the game on the real goals of the lobbying against the wind credit is that for all their talk about letting "the market" dictate energy policy, Romney and the Koch types never seriously advocate ending the existing subsidies for oil, gas or nuclear. Those politically connected industries are the antithesis of market operators, and their real goal is to tilt the playing field back toward the past, not the future.
Again: I understand the reasons why the nuclear industry is so terrified of extending wind energy incentives, but they're the exact same reasons average Americans should be asking their members of Congress to extend them.

Friday, November 30, 2012

New Progress for Atlantic Offshore Wind Energy

London Array Phase 1 Offshore wind Farm is seen under Construction at Frinton On Sea (1209) Saturday 14th April 2012The Obama administration today announced plans to sell leases for preliminary offshore wind energy development activities in two areas of federal waters recently identified and reviewed off the coasts of Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and Virginia. The leases will be sold through a competitive auction in 2013:
“Wind energy along the Atlantic holds enormous potential, and today we are moving closer to tapping into this massive domestic energy resource to create jobs, increase our energy security and strengthen our nation’s competitiveness in this new energy frontier,” said [Interior Secretary Ken] Salazar. [...]

The lease sales, which will be held next year, will be the first-ever competitive sales on the Outer Continental Shelf (OCS) for wind energy, and are major milestones in the Administration’s “Smart from the Start” wind energy program to facilitate the siting, leasing and construction of new projects. These lease sales cover two WEAs along the Atlantic coast that have high wind resource potential.
"Properly-sited clean energy like offshore wind is critical for protecting wildlife from the dangers of climate change, and we applaud the Obama Administration for taking action to advance an important new clean energy source for America," said the National Wildlife Federation's Catherine Bowes.

But like anything that's good for America's air, climate & wildlife these days, wind energy faces a threat from Congressional Republican leadership. A key incentive for wind energy investment is set to expire unless Congress acts soon. Please take a moment to email your member of Congress to keep wind incentives alive.

Possible Autism Link Yet Another Reason to Limit Air Pollution

Soot RemainsSix in ten Americans support stronger limits on soot pollution from industrial facilities, according to a new poll conducted by Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research for the American Lung Association. And the support from the core constituencies that swung the 2012 election to Democrats - young, women, black & Latino voters - is even stronger.

As is the case with lead and mercury pollution, the more we research air pollution, the more we find out it has much great impacts than we first thought:
Researchers from the University of California Keck School of Medicine examined traffic-related air pollution levels in two groups of children: 279 with autism and 245 without. The study found that autistic children and their mothers were twice as likely to live in high-pollution areas during pregnancy and the first year of life.

One in 88 children in the U.S. is affected by autism.

Researchers have been looking at a potential link between air pollution and the enigmatic developmental disorder for three years. Fine particle pollution and nitrogen dioxide — two of the leading pollutants emitted by internal combustion vehicles — affect the behavior of certain genes in the early stages of development. One of these genes is known to be less active in children with autism, according to a report on the study published on WebMD.
Tell President Obama you support tougher limits on soot pollution.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Think We're Saving Money by Driving a Little Less?

red oil barrelsNope - Big Oil is just raising the price of gasoline to make sure your money keeps flowing in. Even though Americans are driving less than we have since 2001, oil companies are on pace for a record revenue year.

It doesn't matter where we drill, or how much we drill, and it may not even matter if we just use a little less. As long as we're dependent on oil companies, we're over a barrel. 

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

All Downhill for Skiing Industry in Warming World

Ski School at NashobaThe skiing industry will be extinct in Massachusetts before a child born today turns 30, according to a new study on the effects of global warming:
Of 103 ski resorts operating in the Northeast, less than half could be economically viable in 30 years if winter temperatures rise by between 2.5 and 4 degrees over the next several decades as expected, according to a study by Scott that will be published early next year. The report says that if society continues to rely heavily on fossil fuels, causing emissions from heat-trapping gases to rise, no Massachusetts ski areas would survive the next 30 years, and only seven of 18 New Hampshire resorts and eight of 14 Maine mountains would remain open.
Check out this graphic the Boston Globe created using data from Daniel Scott, director of the Interdisciplinary Centre on Climate Change at the University of Waterloo in Ontario:


Money quote from Katie Johnston's Globe story: "Ski area officials prefer not to dwell on such dire predictions." Politicians, too!

But ignoring global warming has a decades-long track record of failing to solve the problem. With carbon emissions rising faster than worst-case scenarios, the climate crisis is accelerating faster than worst-case predictions.

Time to acknowledge reality - and do something about it.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Green Monster: Red Sox Cash In With Car-Focused Spring Training Park

Remember how the otherwise-green-conscious Red Sox moved to a new spring training facility called JetBlue Park in Fort Myers, FL that virtually forces you to drive there? Turns out there's plenty of green motivation behind the lack of transit and bike parking - the cash kind:
Fort Myers’ coffers retained parking fees collected from Red Sox games under the terms of the city’s 1991 contract.

Today, the teams keep all the money generated from game day parking, tickets sales, concessions and advertising, while the county pays for expansions that increased the teams’ ability to sell those items.
As the article details, Lee County is on the hook for hundreds of millions of dollars in ballpark costs while the Red Sox and nearby Twins owe only a small fraction of that in lease payments - and that doesn't cover the cost for road expansion & maintenance to bring all those cars to JetBlue Park.

But even with the driving mandate and JetBlue Park's total lack of solar energy despite the park's Sunshine State location, the Red Sox still got a baseline LEED green building certification, because the U.S. Green Building Council apparently is now giving them away to anyone who recycles.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

We Love Our Children Enough to Put Them on the Shittiest Buses Possible

Day 11 - Highway 180, CA - IMG_1257.jpgTwo blocks up the hill - that's how far a New Bedford school bus was, yet a cloud of diesel exhaust still hung on my street in its wake, leaving the air smelling like a tire fire as I went out to get the morning paper.

All across America each morning, parents who won't let their children out of the house unsupervised because it's "not safe" are happy to put them on some of the most polluting vehicles in America:
According to a study carried out in the Los Angeles area, the levels of diesel exhaust on a bus can be four times as high as those found in passenger cars driving just ahead of the bus. And the concentration of diesel fumes found inside the buses were more than eight times that of the average amount found in California’s outdoor air.
And this:
Children on diesel buses breathe in more soot than everyone else in the surrounding metropolitan area combined, and up to 70 percent more soot than the average commuter. … Kids not only face this increased risk from exposure; they are also more vulnerable to the impacts of air pollution. Research from the Harvard School of Public Health showed that young children’s lungs will get two and half times the dose of soot particles as an adult’s lungs.
Check out the above link from Get Energy Smart Now's Adam Siegel to learn much more about why investing in hybrid school buses would make our children healthier, save taxpayers money in the long run, and curb climate pollution. And make oil executives and Saudi oil barons angry! Good kids win, bad guys lose.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

The Fishing Lobby's Paradox

Worthy of the SeaThe two most frequent themes from local advocates for the Massachusetts fishing industry: The contradiction seems to be rarely noticed locally, never mind discussed. (I don't know nearly enough about the fishing industry or fisheries science to judge which concerns are actually valid.)

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Stephen Colbert Blows Away "Wind Turbine Syndrome"

The New Bedford Standard-Times splashed a study on its front page this weekend claiming to find evidence of health effects from wind turbines ... from as far as 4,500 feet away! Wind turbines are barely audible at 900 feet and at 1,500 feet they fall below the background noise of a populated area. But somehow people three times that distance are blaming a variety of hard-to-disprove problems - trouble sleeping, general anxiety - on wind turbines.

The study itself compares wind turbine noise to "road, rail & aircraft noise," all of which we all agree can be annoying, but no one is blaming trains for making them sick or talking about tearing up all roads near houses. When the study leads off with the mind-blowing statement, "Environmental noise is emerging as one of the major public health concerns of the twenty-first century" ... well, you have to wonder if the authors might not be completely objective.

A Massachusetts effort to look at all available studies found no evidence for so-called "Wind Turbine Syndrome," while other studies have noted that giving cash to its alleged victims seems to be a miracle cure. As Stephen Colbert points out, one study that did claim to find evidence for this "syndrome" not only blamed wind turbines for weight loss and weight gain but ... herpes:

Monday, November 12, 2012

Climate Change Fueling Tick Invasion in Western Massachusetts

Deer Tick (Ixodes scapularis) Catching up on some posts that got lost in the shuttle before the election. Got this email from friend in western Massachusetts in late October:
I was bow hunting yesterday afternoon for the first time this year. At the end of the hunt, I picked 14 deer ticks off of me. I have never seen this kind of infestation as bad as this. It makes you not want to wonder out into the woods. In the 31 years that I have been hunting this area, I don't think I've pulled 14 ticks off me total. Very discouraging.
Deer ticks are one of the nasty creatures that are thriving thanks to climate change. Massachusetts officials expanded the allowed take for deer hunters on Martha's Vineyard & Nantucket this year due to extremely high deer populations.

People freak out at sightings of black bears, which very rarely attack people. But we let 30 million tick-carrying, car-smashing deer wander around without a worry, because Bambi.

Friday, November 9, 2012

If You Don't Want People Parking in Your Driveway, Why Have a Driveway?

Seen while knocking on doors in New Bedford:


 Why would you give up a chunk of your yard and pay someone to pave it over if not to encourage your home's visitors to park there? Do people deliberately park in a stranger's driveway, then just walk off to go shopping? Considering a company mass-produces these signs, is this a widespread problem?

Makes you wonder if every house has a driveway in most communities because residents demand one, or if every house has a driveway because that's just what you're supposed to do in car-centric America.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

"Avalanche on Bullshit Mountain"

After years of denying the science on everything from cigarettes to climate change, conservative media turned its denial to political polls this year. And as The Atlantic's Conor Friedersdorf writes, it meant Republicans were we the last to know things were going wrong:
Most conservative pundits know better than this nonsense -- not that they speak up against it. They see criticizing their own side as a sign of disloyalty. I see a coalition that has lost all perspective, partly because there's no cost to broadcasting or publishing inane bullshit. In fact, it's often very profitable. A lot of cynical people have gotten rich broadcasting and publishing red meat for movement conservative consumption. [...]

It ought to be an eye-opening moment. But I expect that it'll be quickly forgotten, that none of the conservatives who touted a polling conspiracy will be discredited, and that the right will continue to operate at an information disadvantage. After all, it's not like they'll trust the analysis of a non-conservative like me more than the numerous fellow conservatives who constantly tell them things that turn out not to be true.
Meanwhile, Jon Stewart watched the right-wing media's fantasy land crumble with delight:

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

A True Change Election

US-VOTE-2012-ELECTION-OBAMAIf Republicans can't get enough old white dudes to support their extremist policies, they have to cheat by trying to prevent young & brown people from voting - and even that doesn't work anymore.

That's what I'll remember most about the 2012 election. Yes, I'll remember Mitt Romney making class warfare explicit with his 47% comment, Paul Ryan making generational warfare explicit in the vice presidential debate, Rick Santorum explaining that he's against welfare for blah people, George Allen running a campaign that made Fred Thompson look passionate & energetic, and Scott Brown begging Elizabeth Warren to stop bringing his party into their campaign. Oh, and Mitt wanting to fire Big Bird.

The 2012 elections have revealed just how much the GOP's exclusionary extremism - against brown people, against women's rights,  against LGBT equal rights, against young people, against low-income families, against conservation, against cities - have narrowed Republican path to victory. It was breathtaking (and little admitted in a media that ate up Romney's claims of a Secret Plan to Win the Rust Belt) how much the GOP has narrowed its field of play, as Buzzfeed visually explained.

When you hear that Mitt Romney barely scraped out a win in North Carolina while losing Ohio, Virginia, Colorado, New Hampshire, Iowa and likely Florida ... and that a Senate that was supposed to be primed for GOP takeover is now a Democratic gain ... if I was a Republican, I'd be wondering how Karl Rove's plan for a permanent conservative majority has suddenly flipped into a minimum of eight years of playing defense.

As Duncan Black put it at Atrios, "For awhile it was 'the heartland' and 'the South' and now it's simply 'white dudes in the heartland and the South.'" And with that core constituency, the plan still worked! They not only won big percentages of white men, they turned them out in high numbers. The GOP's percentage of the white vote was the highest it's been since George H.W. Bush clobbered Mike Dukakis in 1988.

But in 2012, that's not enough to win a national election - or even a statewide election in much of America. Look at Jon Tester pulling out a surprise win in Montana, or Bill Nelson destroying Connie Mack in Florida.

I wish I could say that I was confident today that Republicans across America are blinking their eyes, wondering how they could've fallen under the spell of Karl Rove, Rush Limbaugh & David Koch as they lined their own pockets and marginalized the entire party. In an ideal world, a Republican Party interested in broadening its base could return to that pragmatic past and play a critical role in hammering out solutions to some of our biggest problems - from immigration reform to climate action to easing skyrocketing student loan debt burden.

I grew up in a New England that was filled with reasonable Republicans, people like Lincoln Chafee, Bill Weld and Jim Jeffords. Having strong, sensible Republican candidates on the ballot kept Democrats honest & on their toes. (And unlike Christine O'Donnell, Richard Mourdock & Todd Akin, they actually won statewide elections.) But you know how this story ends: Chafee, Weld & Jeffords were all subsequently cast out of the GOP.

But today those same hucksters are telling Republicans that they didn't go far right enough. It was Sandy! And the media! And the blahs! And Mitt was never one of us in the first place! And if you'll just write a check to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce or Karl Rove's Super PAC, next time it'll all be different. They promise.

Friday, November 2, 2012

Conventional Wisdom Fortune-Tellers Act Blindsided by Data

Terps ACC Title Hopes Dashed As Seminoles Defeat Maryland 37-3Until Hurricane Sandy, the political media derided anyone who said global warming was fueling extreme weather as an environmental activist who was overstating science to make his case. Then Sandy came, and the media acted like no one could have seen it coming.

Today, the pundits all insist the presidential race is a toss-up and Nate Silver is a moron for saying otherwise. Tuesday night, they'll all insist no one could possibly have predicted Barack Obama would decisively win the Electoral College.

In fortune-telling business, it's important to insist that only you are allowed to look into the magic crystal ball and see the future. Otherwise the rube forking over $5 for a phony fortune might be able to tell you're a huckster with a glass toy and maybe they'd be better off controlling their own destiny.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Bill Koch Lashes Out at Massachusetts: Why Won't You Sacrifice Your Health to Protect My View?

Koch ProsperityBill Koch is finally speaking out about his opposition to Cape Wind, and he has a question Massachusetts residents: Why do you jerks keep prioritizing clean air, clean water, and a stable climate over the luxurious views of a handful of extraordinarily wealthy Cape residents?

The reclusive oil, gas and coal baron has been posing as an environmentalist to try to stop Cape Wind, spending millions of his personal fortune to delay the clean energy project. But he finally sat down for an interview with Patrick Cassidy of the Cape Cod Times, and wouldn't you know it, it turns out protecting wildlife isn't exactly at the top of his list:
"Cape Wind to me is somewhat of an irritant," said Osterville property owner and billionaire William Koch, who has contributed $4 million to Romney's campaign.

Koch said he views Cape Wind in two ways: "No, 1, it's visual pollution. For some reason in Massachusetts that doesn't count for much."

The second problem: Cape Wind's power costs too much, he said. "Cape Wind has to get a price that is 2.5 times the current market price," he said.
To recap, Bill Koch's reasons for opposing Cape Wind are: Protecting his views (him); and keeping us hooked on low-priced but high-pollution energy sources (him again). Gee, I wonder why this guy is having so much trouble getting other people on board with his quixotic campaign to stop Cape Wind?

But let's look at his points one at a time. Here's what Cape Wind will look like from shore:


And here's what the Brayton Point coal-fired power plant in Somerset looks like from Fall River's Kennedy Park:

Cooling Towers, Brayton Point Power Station

Which one is the eyesore?

As for the cost, those bleeding heart liberals over at NStar say Cape Wind would increase a typical monthly residential electric bill by $1.08, with electric bill increases for all types of customers within their Massachusetts service area in the 1.3% to 1.7% range. A September 2010 Suffolk / 7 News poll found 76% willing to pay at least that much, compared to only 18% not willing to pay more. A MassINC survey found 80% willing to pay at least that much, to just 17% unwilling.

The bottom line, as always, is that wind turbine opponents have a terrible case, and know it. You never hear the Koch-funded "Alliance to Protect Nantucket Sound" front group talking about protecting Bill Koch's view.

Clean energy projects like Cape Wind can cut our dependence on dirty fossil fuels that emit the pollution that causes global warming and asthma and puts mercury in our waterways and fish and pregnant women. They can also create jobs and make our energy supply more dependable and secure, benefiting everyone at a tiny cost.

But clean air, healthy kids and energy security are the last thing that a selfish, polluting extremist like Bill Koch wants to talk about. Want to stand up to him? Pledge to stand with Cape Wind right now.

Business Week: It's Global Warming, Stupid

It's Global Warming, Stupid

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Like a Disaster Movie with Deficit Concern Trolls

Gothamist shares this post-Sandy subway map created by Zach van Schouwen. Looks like a giant lizard took a bite out of New York:


But instead of Robert Downey, Jr. quickly coming up with a plan to save the day with everyone doing their part to help, we have contrarian reporters scolding "you can't PROVE it was the lizard" and Beltway pundits asking "at a time of big deficits, can we afford the plan to fight the giant lizard?"

Real life is the worst.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Seth Meyers on "The Steroid Era of Storms"

Climate scientists compare global warming's impact on weather with the influence of steroids on baseball - it changes the playing field and loads the dice for extreme results.

Last night on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon before an empty studio as Hurricane Sandy raged outside, Seth Meyers took the analogy one step further - just like we ignored that our favorite baseball players were bulking up, the presidential debates have ignored climate change's impact on extreme weather.

Skip to 1:55:

Monday, October 29, 2012

Another Unanswered Hurricane Sandy Question

Remind me again why it's against the rules for President Obama to point out that a never-before-seen storm like Hurricane Sandy might be reason to take climate action now? Or that it might be reason for voters to choose candidates who support climate action?

Oh, right. Might anger people who think pointing out scientific reality is politicizing disaster. But aren't those people already voting for Mitt Romney? If not already hosting right-wing talk shows?

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Warmer Water Fueling Hurricane Sandy: How Will Science Deniers Respond?

Hurricane SandyHurricane Sandy is being fueled by water temperatures off the Atlantic Coast that are five degrees warmer than normal, one of several ways global warming is lending strength to the storm.

How are climate science deniers responding to that fact? Denying the water is warmer? Insisting that the water must be warm for some other reason?

Watts Up With That has a really long post on Sandy that does a great job of seeming like it's responding to the climate link without actually doing so (Sandy is just like Hazel which happened in 1954, so it can't be global warming! ... except Sandy formed a full 17 days later in the year) and avoids the water temperature question altogether. National Review's Planet Gore has barely responded to Sandy at all. Climate Depot ... whew, I'd never actually been there and the site's layout is such a mess good luck finding anything, but it seems to be responding to climate change's influence on Sandy by plugging its ears and yelling NO NO NO NOT HAPPENING.

Anyone seen a climate denier response to warmer water temperatures fueling Sandy? If so, post the link in comments. Thanks!

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Hurricane Sandy, Climate Change & New England's Stormy Future

The FloodA new report from Rep. Ed Markey on the impact of climate change on New England:
Rep. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) today released a report that pulls together the latest studies on climate change’s negative effects on New England, painting a picture of a region already changed, and in danger of losing essential characteristics and economic engines.

“If climate change continues unchecked, Hurricane Sandy won’t be our October surprise, it could be the new normal for New England, where dangerous storms and other climate effects put lives and livelihoods in danger,” said Rep. Markey, who is the top Democrat on the Natural Resources Committee and the co-author of the only climate change bill to pass a chamber of Congress. “The Perfect Storm was supposed to be a once-in-a-lifetime event, but climate change is increasing the chances of these sorts of historic extreme weather events.” [...]

We have some of the best skiing, fishing and foliage in the world in New England, and it all is at risk due to climate change,” said Rep. Markey. “In order to save our traditions, we need more innovations that will cut the carbon pollution that is changing the very face of our planet.”
Stronger storms, weatier summers, slushy skiing, lower maple syrup production, more ticks, fewer of the tastiest fish ... not a pretty picture.

Let's drill down into what we know about climate change and Sandy as she approaches the East Coast. How is man-made global warming influencing to the storm? Two of the key ways: Warmer water and changing weather patterns. Weather Underground's Jeff Masters details the warm water's influence:
If Sandy makes landfall farther to the north near Maine and Nova Scotia, heavy rains will be the main threat, since the cold waters will weaken the storm significantly before landfall. The trees have fewer leaves farther to the north, which will reduce the amount of tree damage and power failures compared to a more southerly track. However, given that ocean temperatures along the Northeast U.S. coast are about 5°F above average, there will be an unusually large amount of water vapor available to make heavy rain. If the trough of low pressure approaching the East Coast taps into the large reservoir of cold air over Canada and pulls down a significant amount of Arctic air, the potential exists for the unusually moist air from Sandy to collide with this cold air from Canada and unleash the heaviest October rains ever recorded in the Northeast U.S., Nova Scotia, and New Brunswick. This Northeast U.S. scenario would probably cause damages near $100 million dollars.
Climate Central's Andrew Freedman explains the shifting patterns:
Such a scenario looks plausible partly due to an unusual, independent weather pattern projected for early next week: a large dome of high pressure between the Canadian Maritimes and Greenland, which may act as a block (it's tecnically known as as a “blocking high”), preventing Sandy from moving out into the open ocean, and instead helping to direct it northwestward, back toward the U.S.

Recent studies have shown that blocking highs have appeared with greater frequency and intensity in recent years, which some scientists think may be related to the loss of Arctic sea ice as a result global warming.
And this is just one impact of climate change in one corner of the country - similar stories are playing out with wildfires in the West, drought in the Midwest, and floods in the South. Yet climate change is barely mentioned on the campaign trail.

Why aren't all the Very Serious People seeking Tough Choices to Real Problems silent on climate solutions? You don't think they're only talking about the deficit as an excuse to slash or eliminate Social Security, Medicare & Medicaid to fund tax cuts for themselves because they don't actually care about current or future poor people, do you?

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Another Polluter Front Group Issues Fake Climate Report

The Cato Institute, a former big tobacco front group that now shills for big polluters, is putting out a phony report designed to fool reporters into thinking it's related to an actual U.S. government climate science report.

It's not the first time a polluter front group has tried to trick reporters. Back in 2008, the Heartland Institute put out the "NIPCC report," trying to glom onto the U.N.'s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report.

What's most bizarre is that Cato and Heartland then go around whining that no one takes them seriously as an authority on climate science.

It would be like me going up on stage in a wig & skinny jeans, calling myself Justin Biemer, and singing "Boyfriend," then complaining no one took me seriously as an artist.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Why Won’t Inhofe’s Pro-Pollution, Anti-Women Tour Stop in MA for Scott Brown?

Hey, Sen. Jim Inhofe! You forgot to include Scott Brown in your "give me a Republican Senate so I can let Big Oil and Big Coal murder the Environmental Protection Agency" tour!
Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.) is hitting the road to fire up support for GOP Senate candidates opposed to Obama administration rules on coal and other energy sources.
Inhofe's due to stop in Montana, Missouri and Ohio. Surely, it must be some sort of oversight that Sen. Inhofe isn't making a stop in Massachusetts, amirite?
“We’re real close to a presidential election win and close to an election that will elect [Montana Republican Senate candidate] Denny Rehberg and give us a majority," Inhofe said, according to the Billings Gazette. [...]

Montana was Inhofe's first stop on a three-state swing in which he will stump for candidates who want to repeal environmental rules the Oklahoman opposes. The current ranking member of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works, Inhofe is in line to take the chair if Republicans control the Senate.
Elizabeth Warren detailed the Brown-Inhofe connection at the first debate:
Sen. Brown has been going around the country talking to people saying you've gotta contribute to his campaign because it may be for the control of the Senate. And he's right. This race may really be for the control of the Senate. But what that would mean is, if the Republicans take over the Senate, Jim Inhofe would become the person who would be in charge of the committee that oversees the Environmental Protection Agency. He's a man who's called global warming a hoax. In fact, that's the title of his book. A man like that should not be in charge of the Environmental Protection Agency overseeing their work. I just don't understand how we could talk about going in that direction.
Read more about why electing Scott Brown would help Sen. Inhofe run wild in a Republican Senate, leading to disaster for our climate, air & water quality and for women's rights, at KeepTheSenateBlue.com.

Mann Fights Back, Sues Climate Science Slimers

The Republican war on science faces a new counterattack - a libel lawsuit filed by climate scientist Michael Mann against the National Review and Competitive Enterprise Institute.

From Mann's Facebook page:
Dr. Mann, a Professor and Director of the Earth System Science Center at Pennsylvania State University, has instituted this lawsuit against the two organizations, along with two of their authors, based upon their false and defamatory statements accusing him of academic fraud and comparing him to a convicted child molester, Jerry Sandusky. [...]

In response to these types of accusations, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the National Science Foundation and seven other organizations have conducted investigations into Dr. Mann’s work, finding any and all allegations of academic fraud to be baseless. Every investigation—and every replication of Mann’s work—has concluded that his research and conclusions were properly conducted and fairly presented.

Despite their knowledge of the results of these many investigations, the defendants have nevertheless accused Dr. Mann of academic fraud and have maliciously attacked his personal reputation with the knowingly false comparison to a child molester. The conduct of the defendants is outrageous, and Dr. Mann will be seeking judgment for both compensatory and punitive damages.
Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli clumsy attempt at "investigating" Dr. Mann's work was laughed out of court. Mann has been contemplating a lawsuit for months and is now moving forward, so he must feel he has a much stronger legal case than science's hapless enemies.

Like Affordable Housing? Oppose Parking Minimums

Parking LotEven within the city limits of Boston, one of America's great walkable cities & home to one of the country's most-used transit systems, developers are required to build a minimum of half a space for each unit of housing up to a ridiculous 1.5 parking spaces per unit of housing, whether the residents want them or not. It adds to the cost of housing and adds an incentive to drive - if you're forced to pay for a parking spot, you feel like you should keep a car there (or at least a large, rectangular box).

But some mavericky developers are boldly refusing to build things their customers don't want to pay for:
One of those developers is Dave Mullens with the Urban Development Group. He opened the Irvington Garden in a close-in Northeast Portland neighborhood last year. It’s 50 units with no parking places.

The cost of parking would make building this type of project on this location unaffordable,” Mullens says.

Mullens calls the difference “tremendous.”

Parking a site is the difference between a $750 apartment and a $1,200 apartment. Or, the difference between apartments and condos,” he says. Mullens says the current market is friendlier for affordable rental apartments than for condominiums. He says the Irvington Garden filled within weeks of opening, and has remained that way. He says the majority of renters don’t have cars – though some do, and park on the street.
And when some renters DO park on the street? Duncan Black flagged the worst horror stories single-family-home-owning neighbors have had to offer:
“The personal anecdotes I’ve heard have to do with elderly relatives coming to visit, or driving into the neighborhood, and having to park a block or two away, and/or fears about that.”
Parking a block or two away??

Monday, October 22, 2012

Is PEER's New England Chapter Lost in the Woods?

Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility does some great work nationally, but the PEER New England Chapter's strong opposition to an offshore wind project has split the group from many of its traditional allies in the conservation community, with its opposition to a public transportation initiative also raising eyebrows.

While most conservation groups are supporting Cape Wind or at least staying neutral, PEER's New England Chapter has joined wealthy oil baron William Koch in vehemently opposing the project. Even though Cape Wind would lead to massive reductions in air pollution, including the greenhouse gases fueling the climate change that threatens people and wildlife, PEER New England Chapter Chair Kyla Bennett says the potential threats to wildlife are too great. Mr. Koch, for his part, wants you to believe his opposition is all about environmental preservation and not at all about protecting the views of a handful of wealthy Cape Cod landowners.

swampPEER's New England Chapter is also the environmental group most often cited in opposing a plan to extend commuter rail from Boston to the SouthCoast cities of Fall River and New Bedford, both in desperate need of an economic boost. Despite highways clogged due to limited transit options and extensive environmental reviews, PEER's New England Chapter says trains wouldn't be worth the money and would cause irreparable damage to the Hockomock Swamp.

PEER New England Chapter Chair Kyla Bennett lives in Easton, MA, which is next to the swamp. As New Bedford Standard-Times columnist Jack Spillane put it, "Apparently, development in and around the Hockomock Swamp is alright when it's for the benefit of mostly white suburbanites, but not so acceptable when it's for the benefit of urban people, many of whom are of color."

Reasonable people can debate the costs and benefits of each project and disagree about the best course of action. But to me (and here is where I should remind you that, as always, I speak only for myself on this blog), it comes down to this: Is environmentalism about pragmatism to benefit the many? Or absolutism to protect the few?

Friday, October 19, 2012

BP Wants Sweetheart Oil Spill Settlement

Brown Pelicans Wait for Cleaning at Ft. JacksonI spent weeks covering the Gulf oil disaster for the National Wildlife Federation, so to hear that BP thinks it can bully the Justice Department into giving it a sweetheart settlement deal? What's the word I'm looking for?

Malarkey.

I recently moved from the DC area to New Bedford, MA, whose waters have been fouled by not one but two major oil spills in the last 40 years - the Florida barge spill in 1969 and the Bouchard No. 120 spill in 2003. You may not have heard much about either of those spills because New Bedford ain't exactly Miami Beach, but fishermen and wildlife lovers can still tell you plenty about the reduced catches and silent marshes.

Gulf Coast residents can stop me if this sounds familiar: The companies responsible wrote their checks, the government cleaned up what it could & moved on, but the oil from both spills isn't hard to find.

Tell U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder to hold BP fully accountable.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Subsidized Past, Bleak Future: Time for Big Coal to Stop Blaming Treehuggers & Face Reality

Roaring Fork Headwaters, Wise County, Va.- Photo by Matt Wasson, Appalachian VoicesOver at Coal Tattoo, Ken Ward Jr. flags some real talk from a coal industry analyst:
Calling the uncertain future of Central Appalachian coal mining the “elephant in the room,” industry consultant Alan Stagg said he expects mining in the high-cost region to cease in the next 10 to 20 years. Speaking at Platts Coal Marketing Days on Sept. 21, Stagg said producers in Central Appalachia need to accept that difficult physical mining conditions, combined with inescapable regulatory restrictions, will soon erase profitability.

This is the elephant in the room. No one wants to acknowledge that reserve depletion is profound,” said Stagg, president and CEO of Stagg Resource Consultants Inc. “Mining conditions are difficult, and the cost to produce is high. That is a physical fact. It’s not pleasant. Nobody wants to acknowledge it. That is a fact, and companies that ignore that fact will not do so well.” [...]

Are recent regulatory pressures a straw man in addressing problems facing the coal industry?” he asked. “Even if U.S. coal companies got all of their permits, what would they do with them? You cannot sell that coal at $40, $45 or even $50 per ton.”
Blaming treehuggers is way easier than admitting to your investors, consumers & policy-makers that you picked all the low-hanging fruit decades ago & every remaining ton of coal (or barrel of oil) will be increasingly expensive to extract.

Meanwhile Reuters reports, "Asian economies, hungry for coal, stand to gain from a U.S. program meant to keep domestic power cheap and abundant." How much is at stake? "One analyst concludes that the federal government missed out on nearly $30 billion in revenue over the last three decades through poor management of the coal lease program."

Talk about picking winners & losers! How much better off would we be right now if the government had let the free market decide our power sources & just cut $30 billion in checks directly to help Americans pay their power bills?

Eliminating coal subsidies now would be a small step towards making things right - but right now, it sounds like coal companies need all the government welfare they can get.

Despite Media's Best Efforts, Climate Science & Carbon Cuts Still Not Controversial

Americans know global warming is happening and want the federal government to regulate the carbon pollution that's causing it. From a recent Washington Post/Kaiser Family Foundation poll:
36. Do you think the federal government should or should not regulate the release of greenhouse gases from sources like power plants, cars and factories in an effort to reduce global warming? Do you feel that way strongly or somewhat? 
SHOULD 74% (51% strongly, 23% somewhat)
SHOULD NOT 23% (13% strongly, 8% somewhat)
NO OPINION 5%
The numbers hold strong across party lines - 87% of Democrats, 73% of independents, and even 61% of Republicans want the federal government to limit carbon pollution. The numbers are backed up by another new poll from the Pew Research Center.

A skeptic might point out this question doesn't force a hard choice - what about cost? Well, a 2009 Washington Post poll (when support for climate action was much lower) showed a majority of voters (55%) would support carbon pollution limits even if it cost them $25 a month, a figure far above actual cost estimates.

But studies show the American media keeps reporting climate action as controversial and looking for scientific debate where there is none. Media critic Jay Rosen calls it verification in reverse - un-nailing it.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Shocking: Anti-Wind Town Bylaw Doesn't Go Far Enough for Anti-Wind Activists

In the Massachusetts town of Fairhaven, two new wind turbines have been menacing 2nd Amendment rights forcing people to gay marry quietly collecting free electricity, saving the town $45,000 in just their first three months of operation. Despite a NIMBY group called "WindWise" that couldn't be more eager to make unfounded claims about impacts on health or wildlife, real evidence of the turbines doing anything besides saving taxpayers tons of money has been hard to come by.

But absence of evidence is no reason for politicians not to leap into action!
A first draft of a new turbine bylaw would halve both the height and power output of future Fairhaven wind turbines. The draft, written by Planning Board Chairman Wayne Hayward, will "completely scrap the existing bylaw" in favor of more conservative zoning regulations. [...]

Under the draft bylaw, the blade-tip height of new turbines could be no higher than 265 feet, and turbines could produce no more than 600 kilowatts. Fairhaven's two existing turbines at the Waste Water Treatment Plant have a tip height of almost 400 feet and produce 1,500 kilowatts.
Reasonable people can disagree on the best height of wind turbines ... but setting a kilowatt maximum? So if you had a 265-foot, 600KW turbine, and someone came along with a generator that was twice as efficient at collecting free electricity, installing it would be against the law?

The kilowatt maximum is the tell that the new proposal is less about legitimate concerns about community character than it is about trying to appease anti-wind protesters. These new-fangled machines, they make you sick!

But anti-wind folks have made it clear that they won't be appeased by reality, and before the ink on the new bylaw proposal is even dry, they're saying it doesn't go far enough:
"OK, so we cut the height and the wattage, but has anyone researched whether that is enough to stop the health problems in our town?" she said. "We can't just be choosing arbitrary numbers. We need to ask ourselves are we making an assumption about turbines or are we actually making decisions about facts and data."
Of course, an independent panel of doctors & scientists has already reviewed all available data and found no evidence of health impacts, other than "limited epidemiologic evidence suggesting an association between exposure to wind turbines and annoyance," in which case anti-wind activists would need to be classified as a health hazard as well.

HEY WORLD, LISTEN UP: AMERICANS ARE TOTALLY GONNA KICK CLIMATE CHANGE'S ASS

THAT'S RIGHT, I SAID TAKE A KNEE, EUROPE/ASIA/AFRICA/WHATEVER OTHER TINY BACKWATER ISLANDS ARE TRYING TO CALL THEMSELVES A CONTINENT THESE DAYS: AMERICA IS HERE TO CONFRONT CLIMATE CHANGE, AND WE ARE GOING TO KICK ITS ASS.

LOOK, IN AMERICA WE DON'T CHANGE OUR RISKY BEHAVIORS - WE JUST KEEP TRYING NEW RISKY CURES THAT MIGHT LET US CONTINUE THE RISKY BEHAVIOR.

SO WE'RE DRILLING FOR MORE OIL THAN EVER WHILE A CALIFORNIA BUSINESSMAN IS DUMPING SHITLOADS OF IRON SULPHATE INTO THE PACIFIC OCEAN.

BECAUSE IF THERE'S A CHANCE WE CAN STILL KEEP POLLUTING OUR AIR AND WATER BY BURNING AS MUCH OIL AND COAL AS WE WANT NO MATTER HOW EXPENSIVE IT GETS, HOW AWESOME WOULD THAT BE? IF WE HAVE TO, I DON'T KNOW, GRIND UP SOME ENDANGERED SPECIES AND BLAST 'EM INTO SPACE, WE SHOULD TOTALLY DO IT, AM I RIGHT BRO?

HIGH FIVE!

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Cutting Lead Exposure Even More Beneficial to Kids Than We Thought

Red StairsAs fears of childhood lead poisoning swept Boston in the 1980s, The Green Miles distinctly remembers being dragged to the doctor by The Green Mom to have his blood tested for lead poisoning, despite my protestations that no kid so wicked smahht could've been impaired by lead.

Now Slate's Matt Yglesias flags new research adding to the growing mountain of evidence that those fears about lead exposure were not only justified, but understated. The research by Jessica Wolpaw Reyes published in the National Bureau of Economic Research finds cutting lead exposure has made Massachusetts children measurably smarter:
Childhood exposure to even low levels of lead can adversely affect neurodevelopment, behavior, and cognitive performance. This paper investigates the link between lead exposure and student achievement in Massachusetts. Panel data analysis is conducted at the school-cohort level for children born between 1991 and 2000 and attending 3rd and 4th grades between 2000 and 2009 at more than 1,000 public elementary schools in the state. Massachusetts is well-suited for this analysis both because it has been a leader in the reduction of childhood lead levels and also because it has mandated standardized achievement tests in public elementary schools for almost two decades. The paper finds that elevated levels of blood lead in early childhood adversely impact standardized test performance, even when controlling for community and school characteristics. The results imply that public health policy that reduced childhood lead levels in the 1990s was responsible for modest but statistically significant improvements in test performance in the 2000s, lowering the share of children scoring unsatisfactory on standardized tests by 1 to 2 percentage points. Public health policy targeting lead thus has clear potential to improve academic performance, with particular promise for children in low income communities.
When we talk about environmental regulations, the public debate centers almost entirely on cost - higher taxes, higher prices, etc. But as David Roberts has detailed, limits on lead have had massively higher benefits than anyone predicted.

It's a lesson worth remembering whenever industries or their allies scream bloody murder about efforts to limit pollutants like mercury, carbon - or even, after all these years and all this research about the massive return on investment, lead.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Things Reporters Can't Say: Mitt Romney is Lying About the Environmental Protection Agency

RNC 2012-53It's not that Mitt Romney doesn't have his facts straight about the Environmental Protection Agency. It's not that reasonable people can disagree with the Environmental Protection Agency about the best approach to solving a set of problems. Mitt Romney is choosing to lie about the Environmental Protection Agency because he thinks that will give him a political advantage.

But as Paul Krugman said on ABC's This Week, "The press just doesn’t know how to handle flat-out untruths," so you get articles like this in Politico today:
The GOP presidential nominee is telling voters in Colorado, Nevada, Ohio and Virginia that Obama’s EPA is to blame for wiping out the coal industry. Romney and his surrogates are warning Iowans of EPA plans to regulate for farm dust and railing against the agency for flying airplanes over livestock operations to spy for dirty water.

In many instances, Romney’s EPA attacks stretch the boundaries of what the agency actually does or can do. The EPA has repeatedly denied any plans for new farm dust rules, and the planes have been used as a cost-cutting enforcement measure dating back to the George W. Bush administration. Energy experts say the coal industry’s problems are a byproduct of all-time lows in natural gas prices rather than new air pollution requirements that have been subject to legal battles for more than a decade.
Mitt Romney says something that's not true. Even after widely-available facts to the contrary are pointed out, Mitt Romney keeps saying it anyway. We'll have to leave it there.

How can you tell Romney's lies are calculated and deliberate? Because he often shifts between lies and the truth depending on his audience. Talking to the Republican National Convention? Global warming's a joke. Talking to scientists? Global warming's serious business. It's part of the fabric of his campaign, as Romney's brazen lies in the first presidential debate about his $5 trillion tax cut plan and letting insurance companies deny coverage to sick people showed.

Romney is counting on articles like this to make his clear-cut lies seem debatable. As media critic Jay Rosen writes, "a post-truth campaign for president falls into the category of too big to tell."

UPDATE 10/9: As usual, The Onion can say it, but political reporters can't. "People are usually too afraid to ask me straight up if I’m lying, because that is apparently not something you ask someone who is running for president."

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Big Bird vs. Big Oil

The climate crisis didn't come up in last night's presidential debate as moderator Jim Lehrer made sure Barack Obama and Mitt Romney wandered aimlessly from how much to destroy Social Security & Medicare to reduce the deficit to how many federal workers to lay off to reduce the deficit.

But Mitt Romney had another idea to cut the deficit: Fire Big Bird. It was a ZINGER!! so effective that pundits are already asking whether it will blow the bounce Romney may have otherwise received.

There's just one thing Romney won't do to cut the deficit: Ask incredibly rich people or rich corporations (or rich corporate people) to give up a dime in tax breaks or subsidies. That prompted Oil Change International & The Other 98 Percent to team up on the infographic of the night:

Paul Ryan Won't Tell You Which National Parks He'd Sell Off, Either

Mt. Moran at Oxbox BendEveryone knows Paul Ryan doesn't want to explain the math behind the Romney-Ryan $5 trillion tax cut for the wealthy, but in a new interview with Outdoor Life, he doesn't have any more interest in explaining their plan to sell off America's public lands:
OL: In your 'Path to Prosperity' budget plan, you have several proposals to sell government property, from things like automobiles to buildings to federal land. Can you give me an example of some type of public land that may fall under that plan?

PR: Not off the top of my head, I couldn’t.

OL: What criteria, though, will you use?

PR: That would be something you have to work with Congress on. There have been lots of hearings that Congress has had on excess federal properties. The ones that we’ve looked at from budget savings were more buildings and assets like cars and things like this, a lot of vacant properties. That is really where a lot of our concern for budget savings has been. With respect to federal lands, that would take a lot more research to give you a good answer.

OL: So that’s not really a main part of that, though?

PR: That part, we thought the savings was buildings.
It's a clear part of the Romney-Ryan strategy: We won't tell you what our plans are, you just have to trust us that we'll slash taxes & it'll maybe cost nothing, gut health care but I bet you'll pull through, and auction off America's public lands but I'm sure Big Oil doesn't want the good ones so we'll fill in that blank later.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Imma Let Teddy Finish, But the Real TR is the Best of ALL TIME

I'm really happy for the Washington Nationals racing mascot Teddy, who finally won today's race after opening his career with a 525-race losing streak.

But the real Theodore Roosevelt established 150 National Forests, 51 Federal Bird Reservations, 4 National Game Preserves, 5 National Parks, 18 National Monuments, 24 Reclamation Projects, and 7 Conservation Conferences and Commissions.

Oh, and he got shot in the chest, got up, said "it takes more than that to kill a Bull Moose," and gave a 90 minute speech before finally relenting and letting his staffers take him to the hospital.

THAT'S winning.