Charts. It’s important to know the data story in these graphs to know just how bad the inequality is in this country, and the greed of the Republicans and Wall Street.
Best video of the year. But let’s not forget the Obama administration and the NYPD are not the #1 enemy.
Yup–the Financial District bike is mine. Click here for the full size picture.
12. Fred Upton: Upton, a moderate who has backed new standards for more efficient light bulbs and admitted that “we need to reduce emissions,” won the chairmanship by shamelessly transforming himself into a Tea Party wanna-be. He now claims he is “not convinced” that carbon needs to be regulated and denounces climate legislation as “an unconstitutional power grab that will kill millions of jobs.” As chairman, Upton is expected to further boost his credibility with the Tea Party by launching an all-out war on new regulations proposed by the EPA, including stricter air-quality standards and tougher limits on toxic coal ash. In fact, Upton has promised that EPA officials will spend so much time being questioned before his committee that “we will give them their own parking place” on Capitol Hill.
11. Bjørn Lomborg [technically, he doesn’t belong on the list since he is neither a politician nor an executive, but who could object?]: The Danish statistician, a self-proclaimed “skeptical environmentalist” who has spent the past decade downplaying the risks of global warming, has long been the darling of do-nothing politicians who cite his bogus numbers to justify their inaction on climate change…. “He’s a performance artist disguised as an academic,” says Howard Friel, an independent researcher who has systematically debunked Lomborg’s work.
10. Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA): The new chairman of the House Oversight Committee has vowed to use his subpoena powers to “investigate” climate scientists, denouncing federal funding of their work as part of a “tsunami of opacity, waste, fraud and abuse.” Insisting that the planet is only going through a temporary and natural “warming cycle,” Issa points to the bogus “climategate” scandal as evidence that scientists “played fast and loose with both the truth and our money.” Money is certainly something Issa knows well: His car-alarm empire has made him one of the richest members of Congress, with an estimated fortune of $160 million. And while he has absolutely no background in science, he has a unique set of credentials for ferreting out wrongdoing: He has been charged twice with auto theft and once with carrying a concealed weapon, and owned a factory destroyed by suspected arson.
9. Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-WV): “I’m concerned that powerful voices continue to argue that climate change is a myth,” Rockefeller declared last year. “Greenhouse gas emissions are not healthy for our Earth or for her people, and we must take serious action to reduce them.” But Rockefeller’s deeds don’t match his lofty rhetoric. Last year, he led the charge in the Senate to prevent the EPA from regulating carbon emissions, insisting that Congress should be the one to “determine how best to reduce greenhouse gases in a way that protects West Virginia’s economy.” Given that there is no chance lawmakers will take action on carbon pollution anytime soon, Rockefeller’s move was just another excuse to burn more coal. What’s worse, it also provided Republicans with bipartisan cover in their crusade to strip the Obama administration of its last remaining way to cut planet-warming pollution on its own. “Who does Senator Rockefeller think will protect Americans from the dangers of global warming if the government is left with no tools to do so?” asks Peter Lehner, executive director of the Natural Resources Defense Council.
8. Ken Cuccinelli: Here’s a novel strategy to make sure nobody thinks too hard about the risks of global warming: Criminalize climate science. Cuccinelli, Virginia’s ultraright attorney general, is using his prosecutorial power to harass and intimidate those who are raising the alarm about climate change….
7. Tim Phillips: As leader of AFP, a corporate front group that funnels cash to the Tea Party, Phillips is on a mission to convince Americans that global warming is a plot hatched by Al Gore to take away their freedom and destroy the economy….
6. Rex Tillerson: As the world’s biggest carbon polluter — its oil spews an estimated 1 trillion pounds of CO2 into the atmosphere each year — ExxonMobil has the most at stake in the battle over climate legislation. In a sharp and cynical ploy, Tillerson rejected the cap-and-trade system being considered by Congress last year and instead backed a direct tax on carbon pollution — perhaps the most effective way to halt global warming, but one he knew had absolutely no chance of passing. To cover his bets, Tillerson also poured $27 million into lobbying, much of it directed toward killing the climate bill….
5. Tom Donahue: “The main purpose of the Chamber,” says climate expert Joe Romm, “is to launder money from large industries and multinational corporations to affect public policy.” Last year, the Chamber spent $81 million on lobbying, far more than any other group. During the midterm election, it also pledged $75 million for ads to help elect Republicans, nearly all of whom are ardent climate deniers. After helping to derail climate legislation and calling for a new “Scopes monkey trial” on the science of global warming, Donahue is now taking aim at the EPA….
4. Gregory Boyce: As head of the world’s largest publicly held coal company, Boyce is the darling of Wall Street, beloved for his crisp management style, nice suits and political muscle. To keep America addicted to coal, Peabody spent $5 million on lobbying last year, arguing that any attempt to limit carbon pollution will jack up energy prices and destroy the U.S. economy…. The greatest global danger, Boyce declared, is “not a future environmental crisis predicted by computer models” but the “human crisis” of 3.6 billion people who lack easy access to electricity. The solution? More coal, which Boyce laughably referred to as “the only sustainable fuel with the scale to meet the primary energy needs of the world’s rising populations.” It was the kind of statement that made sense back in 1910. A century later, it’s a recipe for climate catastrophe.
3. Sarah Palin, Retired half-term governor, Alaska: No state suffers more from global warming than Alaska, where glaciers are already melting, methane is bubbling up through the permafrost, and animals are being forced to alter their migration patterns. Yet Palin, the host of Sarah Palin’s Alaska, continues to ridicule climate change as a “bunch of snake-oil science.” On her reality show, Palin tromps through the wilderness gushing about what she has called “the grandeurs of God’s creation.” But in the real world, she disses climate scientists, trashes clean-energy jobs and throws her political weight behind candidates who deny the reality and risks of global warming. (More than half of the 64 candidates she endorsed in the midterm elections won.)
2. Charles and David Koch: With a combined worth of $43 billion, these two aging, archconservative brothers are America’s leading funders of the climate-disinformation machine. By perpetuating the use of fossil fuels, they in turn fuel their sprawling empire of oil refineries and pipelines — the second-largest private corporation in the country. The Kochs have contributed $5 million to Americans for Prosperity, the driving force behind the Tea Party. They also gave nearly $25 million to conservative think tanks like the Heritage Foundation and the Cato Institute, two of the leading players in the climate-denial racket. And to help kill climate legislation in Congress, Koch spent $38 million on lobbying — more than any energy company except ExxonMobil and Chevron. Last year, besides underwriting a host of conservative candidates in the midterm elections, the Koch brothers backed Proposition 23, the unsuccessful effort to end California’s crackdown on climate pollution, and funded attacks against the EPA’s right to regulate carbon emissions. In David Koch’s twisted view, global warming is actually good for us. “The Earth will be able to support enormously more people,” he says, “because a far greater land area will be available to produce food.”
1. Rupert Murdoch: No one does more to spread dangerous disinformation about global warming than Murdoch. In a year of rec ord heat waves in Africa, freak snowstorms in America and epic flooding in Pakistan, the Fox network continued to dismiss climate change as nothing but a conspiracy by liberal scientists and Big Government. Glenn Beck told viewers the Earth experienced no warming in the past decade — the hottest on record. Sean Hannity declared that “global warming doesn’t exist” and speculated about “the true agenda of global-warming hysterics.” Even Brian Kilmeade, co-host of the chatty Fox & Friends, laughed off the threat of climate change, joking that the real problem was “too many polar bears.”
Murdoch’s entire media empire, it would seem, is set up to deny, deny, deny….
Murdoch knows better. In 2007, he warned that climate change “poses clear, catastrophic threats” and promised to turn News Corp. into a model of carbon neutrality. But at his media outlets, manufacturing doubt about global warming remains official policy. During the 2009 climate summit in Copenhagen, the Washington editor of Fox News ordered the network’s journalists to never mention global warming “without immediately pointing out that such theories are based upon data that critics have called into question.” Murdoch may be striving to go green in his office buildings, but on air, the only thing he’s recycling are the lies of Big Coal and Big Oil.
This leaves me speechless. Via the New York Times:
“…(W)hile a growing number of local and national nonprofit groups have formed to spread the “creation care” message, an increasingly fierce backlash against the mingling of Christianity and environmentalism has emerged from other quarters of the evangelical movement.
Leading the Christian counterargument on the environment is the Cornwall Alliance, an evangelical nonprofit that strenuously opposes action on climate change and describes the environmental movement as a “false religion” that Christians must avoid at all costs. (…)
Mr. Beisner, a former professor of theology and a ruling elder in the Orthodox Presbyterian Church, argued that the science is still unsettled on whether greenhouse gases are warming the climate and that projections of dangerous human-driven warming in the future are flawed and unreliable. But an “Evangelical Declaration on Global Warming” on the Cornwall Alliance’s Web site urges all evangelicals to accept that recent global warming is natural and that mankind is incapable of altering the climate.
“We believe Earth and its ecosystems — created by God’s intelligent design and infinite power and sustained by His faithful providence — are robust, resilient, self-regulating, and self-correcting, admirably suited for human flourishing, and displaying His glory,” the group’s declaration reads. “Earth’s climate system is no exception. Recent global warming is one of many natural cycles of warming and cooling in geologic history.” “
Read the whole declaration on the Cornwall Alliance site. It seems like anything humans do is ok, because the earth is “self-regulating and self-correcting.” Economists call this moral hazard, which means when there is no risk of consequences, then people to immoral things–which was the concern when the banks were bailed out after they made risky loans–what is their incentive to avoid risky, bankruptcy creating behavior if there is no consequence? According to the Cornwall Alliance declaration, nothing humans do will have any consequnces to the environment, so why worry. Just plunder for economic gain. “Faith based” environmental policy–pretty radical viewpoint. Hope not too many people believe it.
An Almanac of Extreme Weather
By JACK HEDIN
An Almanac of Extreme Weather
THE news from this Midwestern farm is not good. The past four years of heavy rains and flash flooding here in southern Minnesota have left me worried about the future of agriculture in America’s grain belt. For some time computer models of climate change have been predicting just these kinds of weather patterns, but seeing them unfold on our farm has been harrowing nonetheless.
My family and I produce vegetables, hay and grain on 250 acres in one of the richest agricultural areas in the world. While our farm is not large by modern standards, its roots are deep in this region; my great-grandfather homesteaded about 80 miles from here in the late 1800s.
He passed on a keen sensitivity to climate. His memoirs, self-published in the wake of the Dust Bowl of the 1930s, describe tornadoes, droughts and other extreme weather. But even he would be surprised by the erratic weather we have experienced in the last decade.
In August 2007, a series of storms produced a breathtaking 23 inches of rain in 36 hours. The flooding that followed essentially erased our farm from the map. Fields were swamped under churning waters, which in places left a foot or more of debris and silt in their wake. Cornstalks were wrapped around bridge railings 10 feet above normal stream levels. We found butternut squashes from our farm two miles downstream, stranded in sapling branches five feet above the ground. A hillside of mature trees collapsed and slid hundreds of feet into a field below.
The machine shop on our farm was inundated with two feet of filthy runoff. When the water was finally gone, every tool, machine and surface was bathed in a toxic mix of used motor oil and rancid mud.
Our farm was able to stay in business only after receiving grants and low-interest private and government loans. Having experienced lesser floods in 2004 and 2005, my family and I decided the only prudent action would be to use the money to move over the winter to better, drier ground eight miles away.
This move proved prescient: in June 2008 torrential rains and flash flooding returned. The federal government declared the second natural disaster in less than a year for the region. Hundreds of acres of our neighbors’ cornfields were again underwater and had to be replanted. Earthmovers spent days regrading a 280-acre field just across the road from our new home. Had we remained at the old place, we would have lost a season’s worth of crops before they were a quarter grown.
The 2010 growing season has again been extraordinarily wet. The more than 20 inches of rain that I measured in my rain gauge in June and July disrupted nearly every operation on our farm. We managed to do a bare minimum of field preparation, planting and cultivating through midsummer, thanks only to the well-drained soils beneath our new home.
But in two weeks in July, moisture-fueled disease swept through a three-acre onion field, reducing tens of thousands of pounds of healthy onions to mush. With rain falling several times a week and our tractors sitting idle, weeds took over a seven-acre field of carrots, requiring many times the normal amount of hand labor to control. Crop losses topped $100,000 by mid-August.
The most recent onslaught was a pair of heavy storms in late September that dropped 8.2 inches of rain. Representatives from the Federal Emergency Management Agency again toured the area, and another federal disaster declaration was narrowly averted. But evidence of the loss was everywhere: debris piled up in unharvested cornfields, large washouts in fields recently stripped of pumpkins or soybeans, harvesting equipment again sitting idle.
My great-grandfather recognized that weather is never perfect for agriculture for an entire season; a full chapter of his memoir is dedicated to this observation. In his 60 years of farming he wrote that only one season, his final crop of 1937, had close to ideal weather. Like all other farmers of his time and ours, he learned to cope with significant, ill-timed fluctuations in temperature and precipitation.
But at least here in the Midwest, weather fluctuations have been more significant during my time than in his, the Dust Bowl notwithstanding. The weather in our area has become demonstrably more hostile to agriculture, and all signs are that this trend will continue. Minnesota’s state climatologist, Jim Zandlo, has concluded that no fewer than three “thousand-year rains” have occurred in the past seven years in our part of the state. And a University of Minnesota meteorologist, Mark Seeley, has found that summer storms in the region over the past two decades have been more intense and more geographically focused than at any time on record.
No two farms have the same experience with the weather, and some people will contend that ours is an anomaly, that many corn and bean farms in our area have done well over the same period. But heavy summer weather causes harm to farm fields that is not easily seen or quantified, like nutrient leaching, organic-matter depletion and erosion. As climate change accelerates these trends, losses will likely mount proportionately, and across the board. How long can we continue to borrow from the “topsoil bank,” as torrential rains force us to make ever more frequent “withdrawals”?
Climate change, I believe, may eventually pose an existential threat to my way of life. A family farm like ours may simply not be able to adjust quickly enough to such unendingly volatile weather. We can’t charge enough for our crops in good years to cover losses in the ever-more-frequent bad ones. We can’t continue to move to better, drier ground. No new field drainage scheme will help us as atmospheric carbon concentrations edge up to 400 parts per million; hardware and technology alone can’t solve problems of this magnitude.
To make things worse, I see fewer acres in our area now planted with erosion-preventing techniques, like perennial contour strips, than there were a decade ago. I believe that federal agriculture policy is largely responsible, because it rewards the quantity of acres planted rather than the quality of practices employed.
But blaming the government isn’t sufficient. All farmers have an interest in adopting better farming techniques. I believe that we also have an obligation to do so, for the sake of future generations. If global climate change is a product of human use of fossil fuels — and I believe it is — then our farm is a big part of the problem. We burn thousands of gallons of diesel fuel a year in our 10 tractors, undermining the very foundation of our subsistence every time we cultivate a field or put up a bale of hay.
I accept responsibility for my complicity in this, but I also stand ready to accept the challenge of the future, to make serious changes in how I conduct business to produce less carbon. I don’t see that I have a choice, if I am to hope that the farm will be around for my own great-grandchildren.
But my farm, and my neighbors’ farms, can contribute only so much. Americans need to see our experience as a call for national action. The country must get serious about climate-change legislation and making real changes in our daily lives to reduce carbon emissions. The future of our nation’s food supply hangs in the balance.
Jack Hedin is a farmer.