Thursday, January 31, 2013

Cod Fishermen Are Even More Screwed Than You Thought

New Bedford's Working WaterfrontAfter months of contentious debate, New Bedford Standard Times reporter Steve Urbon says the New England Fishery Management Council finalized deep cuts to cod fishing quotas yesterday:
The final vote cut the available catch of Gulf of Maine cod by 77 percent to 1,506 metric tons in fishing year 2013. This will have the effect of reducing some fishing boats to one day at sea, or even one hour.

Georges Bank cod was cut by 61 percent, to 2,506 metric tons. Many fishermen this year are not catching their quota but these cuts are deeper than any shortfall they are experiencing. Some members, including John Quinn, of Dartmouth, implored NOAA scientists to get serious about coming up with ways of measuring the effects of freshwater influxes into the ocean, ocean warming and the rise of predators such as seals and dogfish.
Even more alarming for fishermen and their families: The reduced quota is just acknowledging that the fisheries have completely collapsed. As NOAA Fisheries Northeast director John K. Bullard said a week ago, "There are no fish":
Cape Cod's representative on the council, Tom Dempsey, told The Standard-Times that Cape fishermen are very concerned about their inability to even catch their quotas of Georges Bank cod.

Asked what effect cuts in allocation would mean, Dempsey said fishermen already feel as though their quotas have been cut because they cannot find enough fish under the existing levels.
It's sad to see Massachusetts elected officials trying to blame Bullard for the cuts. Do they really think the former mayor of New Bedford would be trying to stick it to fishermen?

Just look at the annual catch of cod on the Grand Banks:
That's cold, hard reality. We overfished cod, the population collapsed, and even reduced catch quotas aren't bringing them back - we're decades too late. We could eliminate all fishing tomorrow and who knows how long it would take for cod to recover - years? Decades? Conversely, we could eliminate all regulations tomorrow, and the fishermen who depend on cod would still be screwed - there are just no fish left to catch.

If we want to help communities like Gloucester and New Bedford, we should be investing in new industries like offshore wind power. Otherwise we're just leaving them to fight over the last fish left in the sea.

Should Obama Pick Polluter Lobbyist to Lead Interior Department?

Smoke Gets in Your EyesSen. Mary Landrieu is floating former Sen. Blanche Lincoln to follow Ken Salazar as Interior Secretary, reports Phil Taylor of E&E News (subscription required). When we last saw Blanche Lincoln, she was trying to screw over ordinary Americans in an attempt to save her own seat, fighting clean air laws and opposing the public option as part of Obamacare. She lost by 21 points anyway, then became a lobbyist for a firm that represented Koch Industries, among others.

Lincoln left that job to work for the "National Federation of Independent Business," a front group backed by a who's who of corporate activists from Karl Rove to ALEC that gives 97% of its political contributions to Republicans. (This is where I should again remind you that we're supposed to believe Blanche Lincoln is a member of the Democratic Party.)

So whose interests is Lincoln fighting for with NFIB?
Lincoln currently leads NFIB's Small Businesses for Sensible Regulations coalition, a campaign that was launched in 2011 to spare businesses from federal rules, including U.S. EPA proposals at the time to curb smog and set emissions standards for the boilers that provide power and heat to many industrial plants (E&ENews PM, Aug. 3, 2011).

As senator, Lincoln was among 35 lawmakers who signed a letter to Salazar urging him to adopt a George W. Bush-era proposal that would have opened several Atlantic and Pacific coast regions to oil and gas drilling (E&ENews PM, Sept. 21, 2009).

Lincoln, who was chairwoman of the Senate Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry Committee, was also the co-sponsor of a bill to allow visitors to national parks and wildlife refuges to carry concealed firearms, codifying what was then a new Interior Department rule put on hold by a federal judge (E&ENews PM, April 3, 2009).
Sounds like the perfect steward for America's public air, lands and waters, don't you think?

Why would President Obama nominate someone who's pro-pollution, pro-risky oil drilling, and pro-guns-everywhere to head the Interior Department? If Obama were to nominate Blanche Lincoln as Interior Secretary, why not give up the pretense of democratic elections and just turn over Interior to become a wholly owned subsidiary of Exxon Mobil?

Fortunately, I have heard Blanche Lincoln's name nowhere else and it seems like Mary Landrieu is just trying to do a solid for an old friend. Landrieu's up for re-election in 2014 and if her bid falls short, I'd be gobsmacked if she herself wasn't working alongside Lincoln in the polluter lobbying industry in two years.

Condescending Wonka Talks to Scott Brown About Climate Change

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Yes, Climate Science Deniers Really Are Getting Dumber

When I first started tracking climate science denial on this blog six years ago, rebutting denier arguments had a Catcher in the Rye feel to it - you had to try to grab the worst ones and let some go by. Fueled by polluter money, front groups burned the midnight oil trying to come up with new ways to make it seem like carbon pollution wasn't cooking the planet.

But in 2013, denier arguments are so silly, so self-defeating, I'd rather bring attention to them than rebut them. This week, George Will and Fox News are ignorantly cherry-picking numbers to try to claim 2012's wildfire season wasn't so bad.

Really? After Colorado's terrifying, record-breaking 2012 Waldo Canyon fire, you're going to sit in your comfy Washington office or New York City studio and tell Coloradoans to quit whining? Please, proceed.

Here's Stephen Colbert attacking President Obama's radical, pro-survival agenda:

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Gore: Climate-Fueled Extreme Weather "Like a Nature Hike Through the Book of Revelation"

Former Vice President Al Gore appeared on NBC's The Today Show this morning talking about how the climate crisis is fueling extreme weather:
Hurricane Sandy and other recent weather-related disasters, like this week’s intense flooding and monstrous sea foam levels in Australia, are a direct result of climate change, former vice president Al Gore said Tuesday.

These storms – it’s like a nature hike through the Book of Revelation on the news every day now,” he told TODAY’s Matt Lauer. “People are connecting the dots.”
Watch it below and check out a bonus clip of Gore meeting actress Melissa McCarthy.

Visit for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

Friday, January 25, 2013

Local Bug: "I'm Screwed, Right? I'm Totally Screwed."

I found this bug in our apartment yesterday. Bizarre to see a bug when it's 15 degrees outside. But was 55 in New Bedford on Sunday, and much like some of DC's cherry blossoms got fooled by the warm snap into thinking it was spring, I wonder if this guy came out of hibernation too early:

We don't think it's big deal when it's a bug, but global warming is wreaking havoc on hibernation across the animal kingdom.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

CNN's Climate Bamboozlement 1, Jon Stewart's Satire 0

"Global warming is a total hoax. And I'll tell you how I know: Because it’s cold, today, where I live," said Jon Stewart at the open of last night's Daily Show. "That’s jus’ science." Ha ha! Satire ... right?

Little did Stewart know that just 10 blocks away at CNN's New York studios, Piers Morgan was hosting a segment asking if global warming was a total hoax because it was cold, today, where he lives. And it wasn't even the only CNN segment last night that prominently featured a professional denier lying about climate science.

Your move, Stewart.

Daily Show clip via Talking Points Memo

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Worcester Official Unleashes Epic Clean Water Whine

Overflowing sewerThe Environmental Protection Agency is doing a routine inspection to make sure Worcester's water system isn't poisoning anyone. Does Worcester Mag's Walter Bird, Jr. report on whether this will potentially keep people and the fish we eat healthy - maybe even save lives? No - he reports on how Worcester Public Works and Parks Commissioner Robert Moylan, Jr. thinks it's all a huge pain in the ass:
Public Works and Parks Commissioner is not relishing a visit to the city Tuesday, Jan. 22 by the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), saying inspectors likely will be looking for "faults" in the operation and maintenance of Worcester sanitary sewer collection system. That is the conclusion he reached after talking to colleagues in Portland, New Bedford and Holyoke, where the EPA conducted similar inspections. Visits were also made to Andover and Lawrence.

"I have contacted my colleagues in Portland, Maine; New Bedford; and Holyoke who are responsible for the sanitary sewer system in their community," Moylan says in a Jan. 16 memo to City Manager Mike O'Brien. "Each of them is a seasoned veteran with extensive experience. Each stated unequivocally that the inspection was aimed at finding fault; this was not an inspection to assist, advise or to be helpful. The EPA team was not interested in what the community was doing right, they were only interested in finding what they believed to be failings and stated the same."

Look, I don't doubt the EPA's wastewater system oversight is terribly boring and very complex - but it's also incredibly important. It focuses on "failings" because that means people are getting sick or ecosystems are being polluted. Have Worcester's public officials and journalists forgotten that?

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

How to Confuse the Public for Fun & Profit, CNN Edition

Run a special on climate change that doesn't mention carbon pollution at all, then poll people and act surprised when more of them don't connect climate change to carbon pollution.

Update: Much more on this from Media Matters.

Friday, January 18, 2013

Does Car Dependency Make Us Winter Wimps?

Frozen Beetle.Faced with similarly cold weather, people in suburban southeastern Massachusetts complain even more than people in warmer cities. Is the car culture the difference?

The Green Miles moved from DC to New Bedford last summer and as winter has set in, I've been a little surprised at how much whining I've heard about the cold. When the weather turned cold inside the Beltway, folks would walk into office pulling off their scarves talking about how chilly it was, but with an edge of bravado - "Cold couldn't stop me! Tauntaun froze to death on the way to Metro, but I KEPT GOING."

In this area, there's more of a feeling of dread. While New Bedford's downtown is walkable, there are public buses & lots of people bike, the city and its neighboring towns aren't dense enough to make a car-free diet an option for most people. (The lack of a downtown grocery store doesn't help, either.) Most people make most trips in their cars.

Driving everywhere combines the cold with helplessness - instead of striding out into the cold and warming up as you go, you have to sit there shivering waiting for the car to heat you up. I'm used to layering up and getting ready to show the cold who's boss, but around here, people leave the house wearing only what they need to keep them warm long enough for the car's heat to kick in. It's odd to think of urban folks as more in touch with nature than their suburban counterparts, but in this sense, they are.

And it's not hard to imagine the impact beyond winter - other things the car keeps you sheltered from year-round, whether positive (a new restaurant whose menu you might've liked had you walked by instead of sped past) or negative (graffiti that's easier to ignore from your glass & steel cage).

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Climate Change Turning Northeast Into New Hurricane Alley?

Hurricane Sandy in Boston, MassachusettsClimate change is shifting hurricane tracks away from the Gulf Coast and towards the Northeast, according to a new study that's backed up by both previous research and the historical record. Reports Paul Voosen of E&E News (sub. req.):
By the end of this century, fewer hurricanes are likely to barrel through the Caribbean Sea into the U.S. Gulf Coast, with the storms instead curving back into the Atlantic Ocean -- and possibly toward an East Coast newly sensitive to hurricanes, according to climate models developed by researchers in Hawaii and Miami. [...]

Their results match a modeling study published in 2010 by Hiroyuki Murakami and Bin Wang, two Hawaii-based researchers who used a powerful Japanese climate model to simulate the Atlantic basin. Like [researcher Angela] Colbert, they saw storm tracks shift east. But they went a step further, finding that this shift increased influence of tropical storms for Florida and the northeastern United States.

"I feel these results are very robust," Murakami said.

In fact, a slight eastward shift can already be seen in historical records since the late 19th century, compiled by the National Hurricane Center and corrected by Gabriel Vecchi, a co-author of Colbert's paper and researcher at the Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. These observations are far from definite but do lend some credence to the models' results, Colbert said.
Research also shows global warming is making hurricanes stronger (though climate change's impact on hurricane frequency is still being debated). 

It's not exactly reassuring for this stormy future that Congressional Republicans doing all they can to skimp on Superstorm Sandy aid. Maybe time to cut carbon pollution now?

Friday, January 11, 2013

Screw Your Kids, Top Virginia Democrat Wants Uranium Mining Now

If future generations don't like Virginia Democratic Senate Minority Leader Dick Saslaw's refusal to protect Virginia's public health from the dangers of uranium mining, they can dig him up and kiss his dead ass:
State Sen. Dick Saslaw does not mince words about his support for uranium mining. A Northern Virginia Democrat who is also the Senate minority leader, Saslaw says burying the radioactive byproduct known as tailings underground should be a solution to environmental concerns. And he says he can’t be concerned about what might happen 100 [years] from now.

"What about 10,000 years from now? I’m not going to be here," Saslaw says. "I can’t ban something because of something that might happen 500 or 1,000 years from now."
Terry McAuliffe, Virginia's Democratic candidate for governor this year, must be tearing his hair out. If you can't trust the leader of Virginia's Senate Democrats to protect your children & grandchildren from a no-brainer like radioactive uranium mining waste, how can you trust Virginia Democrats to protect them on anything else?

Virginia Democratic leaders will tell you that Dick Saslaw is an excellent leader because big businesses write him lots of big checks, as if people only write checks to the Democratic Party in one of America's largest swing states because of Dick Saslaw. And Saslaw is terrible at leading the caucus, having almost lost the Democratic majority in 2009, signing off on a terrible redistricting plan that gave away the Virginia House for a decade in hopes of hanging onto the Senate, then losing the Senate anyway.

Virginia Democrats need to dump Dick Saslaw.

A Bigger Problem Than the New York Times Environment Desk Closure

New York Times MagazineThe New York Times is breaking up its environment desk, reports Katherine Bagley at InsideClimate News.

It's disappointing in the broader context of declining NYT newsroom staffing, a bad public signal that the environment isn't a top priority, and if they lay off staff that works on environment issues that's a big setback. But this desk was just formed in 2009 so it's not like they're tearing down some storied institution, and NYT news & editorial coverage of climate change has been strong.

It's the Washington Post that's the real obstacle to a national conversation that takes the climate crisis seriously. It too often takes a disdainful "why are we talking about that climate thing when we could be gutting the social safety net or starting new wars?" attitude that trickles down from its editorial page into its news coverage.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

The Cost of Nuclear Power is Killing Nuclear Power

Prairie Island 2010 Proponents of nuclear power love to blame the lack of new nuclear power plants on environmentalists. But in reality, many environmentalists have given up their past opposition to nuclear on safety grounds in the face of the need to cut carbon pollution from fossil fuels as quickly as possible.

What's stopping the expansion of nuclear power is its own high cost, as in this example from David Shaffer of the Minneapolis Star Tribune:
Xcel originally planned to boost the output of the Prairie Island plant by 164 megawatts with upgrades to the reactor in 2014 and 2015, but the utility shelved those plans last October.

Electricity demand has not been growing as fast as the company earlier estimated, and cheaper natural gas had become more attractive as an alternative power source, the utility told state regulators.
Not only do you have to build the plant (expensive!), you have to have a plan for what to do with the spent fuel (expensive & dangerous!), get a water source to cool the plant (increasingly uncertain - thanks, climate change!) and the big one, you have to insure the plant (incredibly risky & expensive!). At every step of the way, nuclear power relies heavily on taxpayer support, either directly through subsidies & loan guarantees or indirectly through use of public resources & public assumption of risk.

Given all that, why not just build a natural gas plant, or better yet, a wind farm? That's nuclear's real problem.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

2012: The Year the Climate Crisis Got Medieval on America

2012 wasn't just America's hottest year on record - it left every previous year in the dust. If you're in the Midwest or Plains, where 2012's historic drought now stretches into 2013, you can take that literally.

Check out that graphic of NOAA data from 1998 beat 2006 by just a hundredth of a degree and 5th-place 1921 by only half a degree. But 2012 beat 1998 by nearly a full degree. Amazing.

And our climate inaction comes with a huge pricetag. Thanks in large part to Superstorm Sandy, Evan Lehmann of E&E News reports most of the global economic burden of the climate crisis fell on America:
Nearly all the world's economic damage from storms, drought, fire and earthquakes was centered in the United States as it experienced the highest temperatures ever recorded, according to Munich Re, a global reinsurance company. More than 90 percent of insured losses worldwide occurred in the United States, well above the 30-year average of 65 percent. says 2012 was the year climate change got real for Americans:

So far in 2013, Australia has been ground zero for the climate crisis. The heat wave there has been so unprecedented, forecasters have had to invent new colors for the temperature map.

Friday, January 4, 2013

Climate Change Fueled Wild Weather in New England in 2012. Will 2013 be Worse?

Hurricane Sandy on Cape Cod - October 29, 2012 212While NOAA and NASA haven't made official pronouncements yet, 2012 is looking like a climate change-fueled record-smasher for America's hottest year ever. As you'd expect, cities across the country broke local records for hottest year ever, with MetroWest Daily News' Rob Haneisen detailing 2012's extreme weather in Massachusetts - not only on record temperatures, but drought and strong storms:
For Boston, statistical highlights were that it was the second warmest winter on record and the warmest spring on record. These records go back to 1878. The average mean temperature for the year was 2.8 degrees above normal; rainfall was 7.04 inches below normal and snowfall - not surprisingly - was 31.7 inches below normal. Winter and spring also had average mean temperatures of 5.4 and 5.3 degrees above normal.

For Worcester, statistical highlights were that it was the second warmest winter and the warmest spring on record. The average mean temperature for the year was 3.4 degrees above normal; rainfall was 4.19 inches below normal and snowfall was 14.4 inches below normal. Winter and spring also had average mean temperatures of 6.0 and 5.6 degrees above normal.

2012 was also an above-normal season for tropical storms with 19 named storms (average is 12) and 10 hurricanes (average is 6). Here's a link to a wrap-up of the Atlantic tropical season from NOAA. Our most notably entry is post-tropical cyclone Sandy this year - the second consecutive year of a devatasting cyclone affecting New England (Irene was 2011's entry).
Hartford also broke its record for warmest year on record, with Providence coming in at 2nd-warmest. But as Elizabeth Harball of E&E News reports, The Queen City takes the cake: "The biggest record jump occurred in Burlington, Vt., which had an average temperature of 50 degrees in 2012, exceeding the site's previous high, set in 1998, by 1.6 degrees." That's not 1.6 degrees above average, or breaking a single-day's record by 1.6 degrees - the average temperature for an entire year was nearly two degrees higher than any previous year on record. Amazing.

And New Scientist warns that because global warming is melting Arctic sea ice, 2013 could see even more extreme weather:
Predictions that a major El NiƱo warming event - and the coming solar maximum - would help make next year the warmest on record now seem wide of the mark. All eyes will probably be on the Arctic instead. Some say the record loss of sea ice in summer 2012 was a one-off, others that it was the start of a runaway collapse. If the latter, summer sea ice could virtually disappear as early as 2016. What is certain is that the ice reforming now will be the thinnest on record, priming it for destruction next summer. [...]

Research in 2012 implicated the fast-warming Arctic in a slowing of the jet stream. This is bringing extreme weather to mid-latitudes, including prolonged cold spells in Europe, Russia's 2010 heatwave, and record droughts in the US in 2011 and 2012. Watch out for more weird weather in 2013.
Learn more about how global warming is fueling extreme weather.

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Sunday on CNN: The Coming Storms

Update: The special made no mention of the carbon pollution that's fueling climate change. "It was very well done for showing climate impacts, but doing an hour documentary on climate change and not mentioning fossil fuels is like doing an hour on sexually-transmitted diseases and not mentioning sex," former CNN producer Peter Dykstra & current publisher told Climate Progress.

On Sunday January 6th at 8pm ET, CNN Presents will focus on how climate change is fueling extreme weather, premiering "The Coming Storms":

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

U.S. Temperatures Went Off the Charts in 2012