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Talking points distributed by the NOAA public affairs office to the Climate Program Office and the State Department include a statement asserting, “NOAA supports the view that there is no verifiable link between observed climate change and the intensity and frequency of the most recent Atlantic hurricane season.” An unnamed source later interviewed by the Government Accountability Project, says, with regard to the talking points, “I remember that this was about the time NOAA HQ stopped asking for input from our scientists on the topic and the answers seemed to be coming from mysterious sources.” [Maassarani, 3/27/2007, pp. 43 ]
The NOAA implements a new policy requiring that “information and materials” and “meetings or phone calls with congressional representatives or staff and presentations where congressional staff have been invited or can reasonably be expected to attend must be cleared through OAR [Office of Oceanic and Atmospheric Research] headquarters and sent up through the NOAA Office of Legislative Affairs.” [Maassarani, 3/27/2007, pp. 45 ]
Robert Atlas, director of Atlantic Oceanographic and Meteorological Laboratory (AOML), issues a laboratory-wide email instructing staff to review the NOAA media policy that had been issued in June 2004 (see June 28, 2004). Atlas writes that “one important change from the current AOML policy is that Commerce Public Affairs has asked to be made aware of all media interview requests—especially those pertaining to Katrina and Rita.” [Maassarani, 3/27/2007, pp. 16 ]
Thomas Knutson, a research meteorologist with the agency’s Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory in Princeton, NJ, recieves an interview request from CNBC television for its program “On the Money.” Knutson forwards the request to NOAA public affairs officer Kent Laborde for approval, as is required by NOAA’s media policy (see September 29, 2005). Laborde then directs the request to Chuck Fuqua, deputy director of communications at the Department of Commerce, who asks: “What is Knutson’s position on global warming vs. decadal cycles? Is he consistent with [Gerry] Bell and [Chris] Landsea?” (Bell and Chris have views that are more in line with the Bush administration’s position on global warming) Laborde then calls Knutson and asks him about his views on the future trend of Atlantic hurricane activity. Laborde then writes to Fuqua, saying that “he is consistent, but a bit of a different animal. He isn’t on the meteorological side. He’s purely a numerical modeler. He takes existing data from observation and projects forward. His take is that even with worse [sic] case projections of green house gas concentrations, there will be a very small increase in hurricane intensity that won’t be realized until almost 100 years from now.” Two minutes later Fuqua responds, “Why can’t we have one of the other guys on then?” Knutson is then informed that the interview request has been declined. [Wall Street Journal, 2/16/2006; Union of Concern Scientists and Government Accountability Project, 1/30/2007, pp. 30 ]
The US Department of Commerce’s deputy director of communications, Chuck Fuqua, approves a request from the media for an interview with NOAA hurricane researcher Chris Landsea. Landsea believes that global warming has little or no impact on hurricanes. Notwithstanding, Fuqua says in an email to a NOAA official, “Please be careful and make sure Chris is on his toes. Since [redacted] went off the menu, I’m a little nervous on this, but trust he’ll hold the course.” A week later, Fuqua grants a request for Landsea to appear on the NewsHour With Jim Lehrer. In an email concerning the interview, Fuqua writes, “Please make sure Chris is on message and that it is a friendly discussion.” When Richard Mills, the department’s director of public affairs, is later asked by Salon what Fuqua meant by “stay on message,” Mills explains, “Chuck just meant that Chris should be ready and prepared.” [Salon, 9/19/2006]
Chuck Fuqua, deputy director of communications at the Department of Commerce, rejects a request for an interview with climate scientist Chris Landsea. The request is from an Orlando Sentinel reporter who wants to discuss the issue of “why so many Cat..5s/global warming?” Explaining his decision, Fuqua writes, “I’d prefer that we not do this while dealing with a hurricane coming at us.” [Maassarani, 3/27/2007, pp. 69 ]
A reporter with National Geographic magazine contacts Ronald Stouffer, senior research meteorologist at the NOAA’s Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory, and asks him to comment on a study on melting Arctic sea ice. Stouffer tells the reporter that he needs to obtain permission from the public affairs office before he can respond. Stouffer sends the request to public affairs officer Jana Goldman, who writes in response, “I know the DoC [Department of Commerce] is going to ask—well, what is his position…. So can you give me an idea of how you might respond?” The public affairs office does not make a decision on the interview request until after the reporter’s deadline. [Maassarani, 3/27/2007, pp. 17 ]
NOAA public affairs officer Carmeyia Gillis mentions in an email to colleagues Kent Laborde, Jana Goldman, and John Leslie that media inquiries submitted to the Climate Prediction Center concerning climate change should first be cleared by senior political administrators James R. Mahoney or Ahsha Tribble. [Maassarani, 3/27/2007, pp. 17 ]
NOAA public affairs officer Jana Goldman sends an email to superiors requesting blanket approval for a number of interview requests that scientist Tom Delworth has received from the media. All the requests pertain to the same climate change-related topic. But NOAA Public Affairs Director Jordan St. John rejects her request and says that each interview needs to be considered separately. “There are no blanket answers. Each one has to be dealt with as we get it,” he says. [Maassarani, 3/27/2007, pp. 26 ]
The November issue of NOAA Magazine (a publication of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) reports, “There is consensus among NOAA hurricane researchers and forecasters that recent increases in hurricane activity are primarily the result of natural fluctuations in the tropical climate system known as the tropical multi-decadal signal.” [NOAA Magazine, 11/29/2005] In December, Kerry Emanuel, a climate researcher at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology who believes that hurricanes are becoming more severe because of rising temperatures, tells a roomful of University of Rhode Island scientists that the NOAA report had censored the views of government scientists who believe there is a link between hurricane intensity and climate change. [Wall Street Journal, 2/16/2006; Providence Journal, 3/26/2006] In February, the Wall Street Journal will similarly report that despite what NOAA contended, several of the agency’s scientists “believed man-made warming was a key cause.” The day before the Journal’s report is published, the NOAA will issue a correction stating that the consensus “represents the views of some NOAA hurricane researchers and forecasters, but does not necessarily represent the views of all NOAA scientists.” [NOAA Magazine, 11/29/2005; Wall Street Journal, 2/16/2006]
The George C. Marshall Institute publishes a book titled, Shattered Consensus: The True State of Global Warming. In its press release announcing the book, the institute says the book “demonstrates the remarkable disparities between so-called ‘consensus documents’ on global warming… and climate reality.” The book, edited by longtime climate contrarian Patrick Michaels, a meteorologist, features essays contributed by Sallie Baliunas, Robert Balling, Randall S. Cerveny, John Christy, Robert E. Davis, Oliver W. Frauenfeld, Ross McKitrick, Eric S. Posmentier, and Willie Soon. Michaels is affiliated with at least ten organizations that have been funded by ExxonMobil and the Marshall Institute has received some $630,000 from ExxonMobil in support of its climate change program (see Between 1998 and 2005). [George C. Marshall Institute, 12/14/2005; Union of Concerned Scientists, 2007, pp. 12 ]
Entity Tags: John Christy, Willie Soon, George C. Marshall Institute, Ross McKitrick, Sallie Baliunas, Robert Balling, Oliver W. Frauenfeld, Robert E. Davis, Randall S. Cerveny, Patrick Michaels, Eric S. Posmentier
Timeline Tags: Global Warming
Officials at NASA headquarters order the agency’s public affairs office to pre-screen all public statements made by James E. Hansen, director of NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies. This restriction applies to all of his forthcoming lectures, papers, postings on the Goddard website, and requests for interviews from journalists. His supervisors are even authorized to stand in for him in interviews with the media. According to Hansen, the agency’s efforts to muzzle him began after a lecture he gave on December 6 in which he said that a US failure to significantly cut emissions could turn the earth into “a different planet.” He had noted in his lecture that businesses could cut emissions using existing technologies, if they wanted to, but that the administration’s and industry’s overriding concern is short term profits. A statement he released on December 15 saying that 2005 was probably the warmest year in 100 years also irked top officials (see December 15, 2005). Officials responded to Hansen’s statements with several warnings that there would be “dire consequences” if he continued. Dean Acosta, deputy assistant administrator for public affairs at the space agency, denies that NASA was trying to silence Hansen. He claims the restrictions on Hansen applied to all National Aeronautics and Space Administration personnel. All scientists are permitted to discuss scientific findings, he argues, but are not supposed to issue statements on policy. [New York Times, 1/29/2006; National Public Radio, 1/29/2006; Washington Post, 1/29/2006] While top officials have always tried to deter scientists from speaking publicly on policy issues, Hansen, in a later interview with the New York Times, says the Bush administration is engaged in an unprecedented level of interference. “In my thirty-some years of experience in government, I’ve never seen control to the degree that is occurring now,” he says. [New York Times, 1/29/2006]
James E. Hansen of the NASA’s Goddard Institute of Space Studies posts a statement on the institute’s website saying that 2005 was the warmest year on record. “The highest global surface temperature in more than a century of instrumental data was recorded in the 2005 calendar year in the GISS annual analysis,” it says. The 2005 summation infuriates top NASA officials, who are already annoyed with Hansen because of a December 6 speech he gave criticizing the administration and industry for putting short term profits ahead of efforts to curb greenhouse gases. The officials order Hansen to remove the statement, complaining that it should have been screened by the administration before publication. [Washington Post, 1/29/2006] Additionally, NASA’s public affairs office tells Hansen that there is a “storm of anger at headquarters” over his statement and past remarks (see, e.g., October 26, 2004), and threatens him with “dire consequences.” [Maassarani, 3/27/2007, pp. 34 ]
NOAA Public Affairs Director Jordan St. John says in an email that he has rejected a request for an NOAA scientist to participate in a debate. “I talked to producer [sic],” St. John says. “They are setting this up to a debate on whether there is global warming. I told John to call her back and say thanks, but not [sic] thanks.” [Maassarani, 3/27/2007, pp. 17 ]
The Chinese Academy of Sciences reports that Tibet’s glaciers are melting at an increasingly quick pace and will decrease in size by 50 percent every decade. Over the last 20 years, the country’s average temperature has increased by 2 degrees Fahrenheit. The plateau’s 46,298 glaciers, which cover almost 60,000 square miles, provide water to 300 million people in China alone. According to the academy, the melting of the glaciers will result in an “ecological catastrophe.” The region will suffer more droughts and sandstorms and the tundra will turn into a desert. Many of the world’s largest rivers will be devastated. “The melting glaciers will ultimately trigger more droughts, expand desertification and increase sand storms,” says Dong Guangrong, a spokesperson for the academy. [Xinhua News Agency, 2/5/2006; Chinese Academy of Sciences, 2/27/2006; Independent, 5/7/2006]
David Hofmann, a lab director at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, informs research scientist Pieter Tans that anything having to do with climate change has to be cleared by the White House, including his laboratory’s website content. The deputy director will also inform Tans of this policy. [Maassarani, 3/27/2007, pp. 69 ]
NASA officials attempt to discourage Washington Post reporter Juliet Eilperin from interviewing James E. Hansen, director of NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies, for an article she is doing about global warming. The officials say that Hansen can only speak on the record “if an agency spokeswoman listen[s] in on the conversation,” Eilperin reports. [Washington Post, 1/29/2006]
Flowchart showing NOAA’s review process for press releases [Source: Government Accountability Project] (click image to enlarge)A February 2006 NOAA document features a flowchart outlining the review process that news releases must go through before they are published. According to the flowchart, the press release is submitted and reviewed by several layers of bureaucracy within the NOAA and the Department of Commerce. As a report by the Union of Concerned Scientists will note, “a successful press release must pass review by several entities that primarily serve political and public relations functions, and scientists do not have a right of final review to ensure scientific accuracy of the final product.” [Union of Concern Scientists and Government Accountability Project, 1/30/2007, pp. 32 ] In April 2006, Ronald Stouffer, a senior NOAA research meteorologist, will say he “stopped trying to get press releases out” because of the difficulty of explaining the science to the agency’s public affairs officers and because of the complexity of the approval process. [Maassarani, 3/27/2007, pp. 28 ]
In its 2007 budget request, NASA proposes canceling or delaying a number of significant earth science programs that scientists consider critical to understanding global climate change. The Plain Dealer reports that these cutbacks are being made “in order to pay for human spaceflight projects.” [Plain Dealer (Cleveland), 5/28/2006; Boston Globe, 6/9/2006] The Bush administration has pledged that the US will launch manned space flights to the moon by 2020, and eventually to Mars.
(see January 11, 2004)
James E. Hansen, speaking before an audience at the New School university in New York, says that the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) wants to implement a new rule requiring that minders be present for any media interviews with its scientists. “It seems more like Nazi Germany or the Soviet Union than the United States,” he says. Hansen caused a stir in late January when he accused Bush administration officials of suppressing information on global warming and placing restrictions on his communications with the media (see After December 6, 2005). The officials were upset about a speech he had given on December 6, in which he said that commitments to short term profits were taking precedence over curbing greenhouse gases. He repeats this statement in his remarks during the panel discussion at New School. [New School, 2/10/2006 ; Washington Post, 2/11/2006] In his presentation, Hansen also says that the administration is misleading the public about the potential links between global warming and hurricane intensity.
He makes the charge that the “public, by fiat, received biased information” when “the NOAA took an official position that global warming was not the cause of hurricane intensification” (see November 29, 2005- December 2005). [New School, 2/10/2006 ]
Reporter Peter Lord of the Providence Journal calls the NOAA public affairs office and requests an interview with scientist Thomas Knutson, the author of a 2004 paper (see September 28, 2004) suggesting that increased carbon dioxide in the atmosphere may increase the intensity of hurricanes. Lord speaks with public affairs officer Kent Laborde, who tells him that NOAA has discounted research linking global warming to more intense hurricanes. “What we’ve found is, if you look at a couple segments of science, observational or modeling, there is no illustrated link between climate change and hurricane intensity,” Laborde says. “We actually have periods of intensity followed by periods of lower intensity. We have evidence of periods going back to the 1930s. It follows a clear pattern.” When Lord says he would like to interview Knutson, Laborde asks, “What is the topic?” Lord says he wants to talk about Kerry Emanuel’s “theories linking climate change to worsening hurricanes.” Laborde responds, “Chris Landsea would be better. He’s an observational scientist.” Unlike Knutson, Landsea does not believe hurricane intensity is influenced by global warming. [Providence Journal, 3/26/2006; Maassarani, 3/27/2007, pp. 79 ]
Jerry Mahlman, a retired NOAA scientist who is writing a book on the history of the NOAA, visits the agency’s David Skaggs Research Center. He later recalls that upon arriving at the lab he was “mobbed” by scientists wanting to discuss the “censorship.” [Maassarani, 3/27/2007, pp. 18 ]
Thomas L. Delworth, an NOAA scientist who works in the Climate Dynamics and Prediction Group, will later say that by this date, a quarter of his prospective interviews with journalists have fallen through because of delays in the agency’s approval process. He also says that one third of the reporters he usually deals with no longer request interviews with him on account of the delays. He estimates that a typical request takes 24 hours to process while interviews that are potentially more controversial take longer, sometimes as long as five or six days. [Maassarani, 3/27/2007, pp. 25-26 ]
The Washington office of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)—the agency charged with protecting endangered salmon—sends word to its employees on the West Coast that all questions from the media concerning salmon need to be redirected to Washington headquarters. From this point on, only three people in the entire agency—all of whom are political appointees—are permitted to speak on the issue. [Washington Post, 5/31/2006] The day before, the Washington Post had quoted federal scientists in the NOAA and Department of Interior saying that hydroelectric dams on the Klamath River should either be removed or be rebuilt in a way that allows salmon to migrate upstream. [Washington Post, 4/2/2006]
Joellen Russell, a former GFDL research scientist who is now an assistant professor of geosciences at the University of Arizona, sends an email to NOAA public affairs officer Jana Goldman explaining why the NOAA should issue a press release on a paper he lead authored. Many of the coauthors are NOAA scientists. He writes: “Ron Stouffer asked me to contact you. He told me that you and Maria had discussed the following paper, ‘The Southern Hemisphere Westerlies in a Warming World: Propping the Door to the Deep Ocean.’ I am the lead author of this paper that describes the critical role of the Southern Ocean in the global climate response to increasing greenhouse gases. I have a number of GFDL [Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory] co-authors (Ronald Stouffer, Keith Dixon, Robbie Toggweiler, and Anand Gnanadesikan) and our study uses the latest GFDL coupled climate models to quantify the large and growing influence of the Southern Ocean on climate. Therefore, we think this paper is worthy of a press release.” But the request is denied. Goldman explains, “The lead author’s organization/agency usually takes the lead in issuing releases.” [Maassarani, 3/27/2007, pp. 30-31 ] In October, the NOAA will issue a press release on a study whose lead author is not a US government scientist. In that study, the conclusion is that hurricane activity is suppressed by dust clouds and that periods of intense hurricane activity seem to have taken place when there were fewer dust storms. (The implication being that dust storm scarcity, not global warming, may have caused the recent increase in hurricane activity) (see October 13, 2006).
Ronald Stouffer, senior research meteorologist at the NOAA’s Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory, tells Tarek Maassarani of the Government Accountability Project that the number of interviews he has had with the US media have dropped to almost zero. He attributes this to the cumbersome approval process that a journalist must wait through before being permitted to interview a scientist. Even if an interview is approved, the approval often comes too late, after the reporter’s deadline for the story. Stouffer refers to the NOAA’s clearing process as a “pocket veto” since delaying an approval often produces the same result as turning down an interview request. Stouffer also tells Maassarani that European journalists are usually “shocked” when they learn that interview requests need to be cleared by the public affairs office. [Maassarani, 3/27/2007, pp. 23-24 ]
Screenshot of draft document [Source: Government Accountability Project] (click image to enlarge)In response to a number of questions for the record (QFRs) submitted by senators Daniel Inouye (D-HI) and Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ) regarding an April 26, 2006 testimony on projected and past effects of climate change, scientists at NOAA submit a document of draft responses to an NOAA legislative affairs specialist for review. The document is ultimately reviewed by individuals at the EPA, Energy Department, White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB), and White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, who suggest a number of changes. For example, the OMB suggests keeping the sentence, “The full range and magnitude of the biological and biogeochemical effects of ocean acidification are still so uncertain that a reliable and quantitative estimate of the likely socio-economic
effects is not yet possible,” but removing the sentence immediately following that: “However, healthy coral reef ecosystems are important to both the fisheries and tourism industries and negative impacts on these ecosystems could affect these industries.” According to the OMB, “[a]s written this seems to conflict with the factual first sentence of the paragraph, which adequately answers the question.” In another instance, the OMB recommends adding a sentence that attributes global warming to increasing water vapor, drawing from a quote taken out of context from an article written by scientists Thomas Karl and Kevin Trenberth. When NOAA scientist James Butler attempts to explain that the edit is not scientifically valid, the OMB insists on keeping the change. Finally, Karl himself enters the fray, recommending a change that the OMB accepts. The Government Accountability Project, which will obtain the draft document that shows the changes, comments, “These two examples show that, while federal climate scientists are occasionally able to correct distortions to scientific findings in congressional communication, political appointees can still introduce inaccurate information that goes unchecked.” [Union of Concern Scientists and Government Accountability Project, 1/30/2007, pp. 37, 80 ; Maassarani, 3/27/2007, pp. 44-46 ]
A panel consisting of seven climate scientists from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) have completed a consensus report on the views of agency scientists concluding that global warming may have an impact on the intensity of hurricanes. The report is due to be released this month. But in an email sent to the panel’s chair, Ants Leetmaa, a Department of Commerce official says the report will not be released and needs to be modified so it is less technical. When this is reported in the journal Nature in September, the NOAA will deny that the report was blocked, insisting that the publication in question was just a two-page fact sheet about the issue. The agency says there were two reasons it wasn’t released: one, it wasn’t completed before the beginning of the annual hurricane season, and two, the agency cannot take an official position on a field of science that is changing so quickly. However Leetmaa notes that the draft did not take an official position of any kind; rather it just referred to the “current state of the science” [Associated Press, 9/27/2006; Giles, 9/28/2006]
Following the release of the film, An Inconvenient Truth, the Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI), a group funded in part by ExxonMobil, launches an advertisement campaign welcoming increased carbon dioxide pollution. “Carbon dioxide: They call it pollution, we call it life,” the ad says. [Competitive Enterprise Institute, 5/2006; New York Times, 9/21/2006]
The broadcast public relations firm Medialink Worldwide produces a video news release (VNR) titled, “Global Warming and Hurricanes: All Hot Air?” Medialink was hired to make the VNR by Tech Central Station, a project of the Republican lobbying and PR firm DCI Group. ExxonMobil, a client of the DCI group, gave Tech Central Science Foundation $95,000 in 2003 and specified that those funds be used for “climate change support.” The VNR features meteorologists Dr. William Gray and Dr. James J. O’Brien who deny there’s a link between global warming and hurricane intensity. Gray has said in the past that global warming is a “hoax,” while O’Brien is listed as an expert at the George C. Marshall Institute, which in 2004 received $170,000 from ExxonMobil. The VNR is aired by WTOK-11 in Meridian, Mississippi on May 31, 2006. The segment is re-voiced by the station anchor, Tom Daniels, who introduces the piece by saying, “Hurricane seasons for the next 20 years could be severe. But don’t blame global warming.” He does not disclose that the report was produced by a PR firm that was paid by an organization funded by ExxonMobil. [Center for Media and Democracy, 11/14/2006; Democracy Now!, 11/14/2006; San Francisco Chronicle, 11/15/2006]
Warren Washington, a senior scientist at the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) in Boulder, Colorado, accuses the Bush administration of suppressing climate change data, limiting journalists’ access to government scientists, and rewriting news releases on global climate change. According to Washington, Bush administration officials are “trying to confuse the public.” He says these tactics are taking place at numerous federal agencies, including NASA, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA ), and the US Forest Service. NOAA spokesman Jordan St. John denies the allegations. “NOAA is an open and transparent agency,” he says. “It’s unfair to the people who work at this agency that this kind of characterization keeps being made. Hansen said it once (see After December 6, 2005), and it took on a life of its own and just keeps getting repeated.” [Rocky Mountain News, 6/8/2006]
A team of Russian and American scientists conclude in a study published in the journal Science that the melting of Siberia’s carbon-rich permafrost could result in the release of about 500 billion tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere over the next 100 years. That would almost double the atmosphere’s current load of the greenhouse gas which currently stands at about 700 billion tons. When permafrost melts, it makes organic material available to microbes which convert much of the carbon in it into carbon dioxide. This process results in what is known as a “positive feedback” loop whereby the increased presence of greenhouse gases leads to more warming and consequently to the melting of more carbon-rich permafrost. Leading climate models do not factor in the melting of Siberia’s permafrost, which covers some 400,000 square miles, when trying to make predictions about climate change. Previous estimates of the amount of carbon contained in the permafrost have put the value much lower. “We have known [about] the permafrost in Siberia before,” explains atmospheric scientist Bala Govindasamy, “Previous estimates for global permafrost [are] between 200 and 400 [billion tons]. This study has found higher carbon content in the Siberian permafrost and estimates that the total global amount could be about 1,000 [billion tons].” This report “makes it kind of scary—it means there’s a form of climate risk that we really haven’t got a good handle on,” notes Chris Field, director of the Carnegie Institution’s Department of Global Ecology at Stanford. Another scientist, paleoclimatologist David Anderson of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s National Climate Prediction Center, tells the San Francisco Chronicle that carbon dioxide released from Siberia “could raise temperatures dramatically beyond the current projections. Second, it could raise the rate at which temperatures rise.” [Los Angeles Times, 6/16/2006; San Francisco Chronicle, 6/16/2006; Zimov, Schuur, and Chapin, 6/16/2006]
Environment California releases a report concluding that carbon dioxide emissions have increased dramatically since 1960. The study was based on data collected by the Oak Ridge National Laboratory. The report’s major findings include the following:
Between 1960 and 2001, US carbon dioxide emissions increased by 95 percent from 2.9 billion to almost 5.7 billion metric tons.
The steepest rates of increase in carbon dioxide emissions during that period occurred in the Southeast and Gulf South, which grew by 163 and 175 percent, respectively.
Texas was the leading polluter of carbon dioxide in 2001. In that year, the state was responsible for 12 percent of the nation’s total carbon dioxide emissions. Between 1960 and 2001, the state’s emissions increased 178 percent from 240.7 million to 668.5 million metric tons.
During the period under review, carbon dioxide emissions more than doubled in 28 states. The increases were highest in Texas, Florida, California, Georgia, Louisiana, Indiana, Kentucky, North Carolina, Missouri, and Arizona. [California, 6/2006 ; Environment California, 6/20/2006]
When Cornelia Dean of the New York Times contacts James Titus, EPA project manager for sea level rise, for an interview, he says he is no longer permitted to discuss such issues publicly. Instead, he refers Dean to the EPA public affairs office, which says it will not allow him to be interviewed on the record. Dean wants to interview Titus for an article she is doing on global warming and rising sea levels. In 2000, Titus wrote an essay titled “Does the US Government Realize That the Sea Is Rising?” The EPA redirects Dean to Bill Wehrum, the agency’s acting assistant administrator for air and radiation. He tells her: “The administration’s strategy for dealing with climate change is to continue to put significant resources into understanding climate change. The goal is to develop information that will be useful for local planners. This is about looking at coastal areas and assessing how those areas are used and then helping people with the question of how much protection they might want to provide for those areas if sea level continues to rise.” [New York Times, 6/20/2006; Maassarani, 3/27/2007, pp. 37-38 ]
A National Academy of Sciences study concludes that the last few decades were warmer than any other comparable period in the last four centuries. The study’s findings are based on evidence from tree rings, boreholes, retreating glaciers, and other indicators of past surface temperatures. The study was commissioned by Congress in 2005 to investigate whether the claims made in a controversial 1998 climate study by climate scientist Michael Mann are true. That study had concluded that the climate is now warmer than any other time in the last 1,000 years. Mann had also reported in his study that the 1990s were the warmest decade, and 1998 the warmest year. The authors of the current study say they were unable to draw any solid conclusions about temperatures extending beyond the last 400 years for lack of reliable data. Nonetheless, they do agree that available evidence indicates that Mann’s conclusion regarding the last 1,000 years is indeed “plausible.” “Based on the analyses presented in the original papers by Mann et al and this newer supporting evidence, the committee finds it plausible that the Northern Hemisphere was warmer during the last few decades of the 20th Century than during any comparable period over the preceding millennium,” the report concludes. [National Research Council, 2006; National Academies, 6/22/2006; San Francisco Chronicle, 6/23/2006; BBC, 6/23/2006]
A study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) argues that “the present warming and associated glacier retreat are unprecedented in some areas for at least 5,200 years.” As evidence, it notes the widespread melting of mountain glaciers, the uncovering of plants that were buried thousands of years ago, and a change in the chemical isotopes of ice cores taken from seven mountain glaciers over the past 30 years, including the Huascaran and Quelccaya ice caps in Peru, the Sajama ice cap in Bolivia, and the Dunde and Puruogangri ice caps in China. According to the study’s authors, the ice samples also indicate that there was a sudden cooling of the climate five millennia ago. [Independent, 6/27/2006] Additional evidence of the sudden climate change has come from Mount Kilimanjaro; African lakes; Greenland and Antarctic ice cores, lead author Lonnie Thompson notes in an interview with the Washington Post. “There are thresholds in the system,” he says. “There is the risk of changing the world as we know it to some form in which a lot of people on the planet will be put at risk.” [Washington Post, 6/27/2006]
The American Enterprise Institute (AEI) sends letters to scientists and economists offering to pay them $10,000 each for 500- to 10,000- word essays that provide a “policy critique” of the next report from the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), due early next year (see February 2, 2007). The institute, which has received more than $1.6 million in contributions from ExxonMobil (see Between 1998 and 2005), also offers additional payments and travel expense reimbursement. The letters, written by Kenneth Green and Steven Hayward, accuse the UN panel of being “resistant to reasonable criticism and dissent and prone to summary conclusions that are poorly supported by the analytical work.” It asks for articles that “thoughtfully explore the limitations of climate model outputs.” The letters set a December 15 deadline for the papers, but responses from recipient scientists prompt AEI to cancel the project. The institute had hoped to time the release of the scientists’ essays to coincide with that of the IPCC report. David Viner of the Climatic Research Unit at the University of East Anglia describes the AIE effort as a “desperate attempt by an organization who wants to distort science for their own political aims.” Similarly, Ben Stewart of Greenpeace remarks: “The AEI is more than just a thinktank, it functions as the Bush administration’s intellectual Cosa Nostra. They are White House surrogates in the last throes of their campaign of climate change denial. They lost on the science; they lost on the moral case for action. All they’ve got left is a suitcase full of cash.” Green defends AIE’s campaign against the report, saying, “Right now, the whole debate is polarized. One group says that anyone with any doubts whatsoever are deniers and the other group is saying that anyone who wants to take action is alarmist. We don’t think that approach has a lot of utility for intelligent policy.” [Guardian, 2/2/2007; Reuters, 2/4/2007]
The Intermountain Rural Electric Association (IREA) of Sedalia, Colorado, gives Patrick Michaels, a climatologist who disputes the consensus opinion that greenhouses gases are responsible for global warming, $100,000 and helps launch a fundraising campaign for him. Michaels had told Western business leaders the year before that he needed more funds to continue his research and writing. In a July 17 letter to 50 other utility companies, Stanley Lewandowski, IREA’s general manager, writes, “We cannot allow the discussion to be monopolized by the alarmists.” He requests that the other electric cooperatives collaborate on a campaign to discredit “alarmist” scientists and Al Gore’s movie An Inconvenient Truth. According to Lewandowski, one company has said it will contribute $50,000 to Michaels, while another plans to give money the following year. [Associated Press, 7/27/2006]
Britain’s top scientific body, the 1,400-member Royal Society, demands in a letter to ExxonMobil that it end its support for groups that spread misinformation about global warming. In 2005, the company gave 39 such groups a total of $2.9 million (see 2005). The letter accuses the oil giant of having “misrepresented the science of climate change by outright denial of the evidence.” According to the Society, the company’s statements on the issue have been “inaccurate and misleading.” In particular, the letter strongly criticises the company’s “corporate citizenship reports,” which insist that “gaps in the scientific basis” undermine arguments that climate change is anthropogenic. The letter states that there is a “false sense somehow that there is a two-sided debate going on in the scientific community” concerning the causes of climate change. While “thousands and thousands” of international scientists agree that climate change is linked to greenhouse gases, ExxonMobil’s assertions rely on the views of just “one or two professional contrarians.” In response, ExxonMobil says the letter “inaccurately and unfairly described [the] company” and adds that it stopped funding one such group, the Competitive Enterprise Institute, earlier in the year. [Royal Society, 9/4/2006 ; Guardian, 9/20/2006; New York Times, 9/21/2006]
A study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) concludes that there is an 84 percent chance that human activity is responsible for rising sea surface temperatures (SST). Climate scientist Tom Wigley, one of the study’s authors, says data from 22 different computerized climate change models showed “exceptional correlation” between human activity and climate change. The only plausible explanation for the dramatic increase in sea surface temperatures is deforestation and the burning of fossil fuels. “There is less than a one percent chance that the changes in SST could be the result of non-human factors,” Wigley explains. The paper also finds that higher sea surface temperatures are increasing the frequency and intensity of storms in the Atlantic and Pacific oceans. [Inter Press Service, 9/12/2006; Boston Globe, 9/12/2006; Santer et al., 9/19/2006]
A group of 14 Democratic lawmakers, led by Senator Frank R. Lautenberg, sends a letter to the inspector generals of both the Commerce Department and NASA requesting formal investigations into allegations that Bush administration political appointees suppressed evidence linking global warming to increased hurricane intensity (see 2005, October 16, 2005, October 19, 2005, and November 29, 2005- December 2005). [Office of Senator Frank Lautenberg, 9/29/2006; Associated Press, 11/2/2006]
Entity Tags: Frank R. Lautenberg, Hillary Clinton, Maria Cantwell, Thomas R. Carper, Harry Reid, James Jeffords, Jeff Bingaman, Robert Menendez, Barbara Boxer, Joseph Lieberman, Dianne Feinstein, Richard (“Dick”) Durbin, John Kerry, Barbara Mikulski
Timeline Tags: US Environmental Record, Global Warming
The NOAA issues a press release on a study co-authored by Jason Dunion, a hurricane researcher with the agency’s Atlantic Oceanographic and Meteorological Laboratory. The study finds that dust storms suppress hurricane activity. The authors say that periods of intense hurricane activity seem to have taken place when there were fewer dust storms, suggesting the possibility that dust storm scarcity, not global warming, may have caused the recent surge in hurricane activity. The lead author of the study was Amato Evan of the University of Wisconsin-Madison. [National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, 10/13/2006; Maassarani, 3/27/2007, pp. 31 ] Earlier in the year, the NOAA rejected a press release linking global warming to greenhouse gases because, according to the public affairs office, the “lead author’s organization/agency usually takes the lead in issuing releases.” (see April 10, 2006).
An anonymous public affairs officer tells the Government Accountability Project that political appointees in the NOAA have been instructing career employees in the agency’s public affairs office to closely monitor what scientists communicate to the media on the topic of global warming. Their jobs depend on it, he says. He says he must inform his superiors of any interview requests from major news outlets, provide them with minute details about the interview, and specify whether the interviewee is considered to be a “loose cannon” or someone who will “go along with the company line.” If it’s suspected that the scientist will say something that undermines the credibility of the administration, his bosses ask him to redirect the reporter to a different scientist more willing to toe the line. He might tell the reporter, “Oh, such and such is not going to be available, but I’ve got such and so.” In at least one instance, according to the anonymous public affairs officer, an appointee actually instructs him to silence a certain scientist (see (2004)). The public affairs officer also says that his bosses have been closely involved in the vetting of press releases. They require that he personally provide them with hardcopies of draft releases on “sensitive” issues, such as those mentioning “global warming,” “warming,” “melting,” and “glaciers.” He says he was instructed not to email any drafts to them. When the superiors disapprove of a certain press release, they tell him to inform the researchers that the release has been rejected because it is not news worthy, that there were already too many press releases on the issue, or “some other excuse.” In some cases, where rejecting a press release would be too conspicuous, political appointees have sought to undermine the press release by having another press officer repeatedly mark up the document with requests for changes and corrections in an effort to delay the release until it is too outdated to publish. [Maassarani, 3/27/2007, pp. 89-90 ]
Officials at NASA and the Department of Commerce confirm that the inspectors general of both agencies have begun investigations into whether the White House has sought to prevent government climate scientist from conveying their findings to the public. The investigations were prompted by a request from 14 Democratic senators in late September (see September 29, 2006). The inquiries are expected to be completed by early 2007. [Scientists Say Findings Were Suppressed, 11/2/2006]
The Bush administration imposes what reporter and author Charlie Savage will later call “unprecedented controls” on scientists working with the US Geological Survey (USGS), an agency that studies environmental issues such as global warming and endangered species. Now, USGS scientists must submit research papers and prepared speeches to White House officials for approval prior to dissemination. The rules also require the scientists to let the public affairs office know about “findings or data that may be especially newsworthy, have an impact on government policy, or contradict previous public understanding to ensure that proper officials are notified and that communication strategies are developed.” USGS scientists say that the restrictions mean that government officials are monitoring and censoring their work. “The explanation was that this was intended to ensure the highest possible quality research,” says Jim Estes, a marine biologist who has worked for USGS since the 1970s. “But to me it feels like they’re doing this to keep us under their thumbs.” [Savage, 2007, pp. 106-107]
The National Climatic Data Center of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) reports that 2006 was the warmest year on record. Average temperatures in the US were 2.2 degrees Fahrenheit warmer than mean temperatures for the 20th century. Seven months were much warmer than average, and December 2006 was the fourth-warmest December on record. An NOAA news release acknowledges that the warming is being caused by human activity. “A contributing factor to the unusually warm temperatures throughout 2006 also is the long-term warming trend, which has been linked to increases in greenhouse gases,” it states. “People should be concerned about what we are doing to the climate,” says Jay Lawrimore, chief of NOAA’s climate monitoring branch in Asheville, NC. “Burning of fossil fuels is causing an increase in greenhouse gases and there’s a broad scientific consensus that [it’s] producing climate change.” [National Climatic Data Center, 1/9/2007; United Press International, 1/10/2007; New York Times, 1/10/2007]
Six months after lawmakers asked (see July 20, 2006) the White House Council on Environmental Quality to provide them with documents related to its internal communications on climate change, the Bush administration releases nine documents. But the following day, Congressman Henry Waxman says the documents “add little to our inquiry. In some cases, they do not even appear to be records we were seeking.” [US Congress, 1/30/2007 ]
A survey conducted by the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) and the Government Accountability Project (GAP) bolsters allegations that the Bush administration is pressuring climate scientists to produce material that does not contradict its position on global warming. The survey was distributed to 1,600 climate scientists at seven federal agencies. Of those, 279 responded. The survey found:
Forty-six percent of the respondents indicated that they perceived or personally experienced pressure to remove the words “climate change,” “global warming,” or other similar terms from their writings.
Forty-six percent said their writings had been changed or edited by a superior in a way that changed its meaning.
Forty-six percent said they perceived or personally experienced new or unusual procedural requirements that impair climate-related work.
Twenty-five percent of the respondents said they know of scientists who have actively objected to, resigned from, or removed themselves from a project because of pressure to change a scientific finding.
150 climate scientists said they personally experienced political interference in the past five years, for a total of at least 435 incidents.
Seventy-eight percent of the scientists who indicated that their work involves controversial climate research said that they have personally experienced at least one incident of inappropriate interference with their work. Of those, more than one-quarter said they had experienced six or more such incidents during the last five years.
Sixty-seven percent said their work environment has become less enjoyable over the last 5 years ago. This figure was the highest for scientists working at NASA (79 percent). [Union of Concerned Scientists, 1/30/2007 ; Reuters, 1/30/2007]
Jeremy Grantham, chairman of a Boston-based fund management company, in his quarterly letter to clients includes a commentary on the United States’ policy toward climate change, particularly that of the current administration. One of Grantham’s clients happens to be Vice President Dick Cheney. In his piece, titled “While America Slept, 1982-2006: A Rant on Oil Dependency, Global Warming, and a Love of Feel-Good Data,” Grantham writes, “Successive US administrations have taken little interest in either oil substitution or climate change and the current one has even seemed to have a vested interest in the idea that the science of climate change is uncertain.” Grantham embraces the conclusions of the latest IPCC report (see February 2, 2007), saying, “There is now nearly universal scientific agreement that fossil fuel use is causing a rise in global temperatures. The US is the only country in which environmental data is steadily attacked in a well-funded campaign of disinformation (funded mainly by one large oil company)” (see Between 1998 and 2005). If anyone is still sitting on the fence, he suggests considering Pascal’s Paradox—in other words, comparing the consequences of action vs. inaction if the IPCC’s conclusions are correct. Grantham, whose company manages $127 billion in assets, disputes the notion that going green would harm the US economy, noting that industrialized countries with better fuel efficiency have on average seen better economic growth than the US over the last 50 years. Instead of implementing a policy that would have increased fuel efficiency, the country’s “auto fleet fuel efficiency went backwards over 26 years by ingeniously offsetting substantial technological advances with equally substantial increases in weight,” he notes. “In contrast, the average Western European and Japanese cars increased efficiency by almost 50 percent.” He also writes that the US might have eliminated its oil dependency on the Middle East years ago had it simply implemented a “reasonable set of increased efficiencies.” If there were just 10 percent less cars on the road than there are today, and each one drove 10 percent fewer miles using vehicles that were 50 percent more efficient, US demand for oil would be 28 percent lower, he explains. If similar efficiency had been attained in other modes of transportation, the US would have been able to reduce its reliance on foreign oil by 38 percent completely eliminating its reliance on oil from Middle East, which currently accounts for only 28 percent of US oil imports. He also notes in his letter, which apparently was leaked to President Bush before publication, “Needless to say, our whole attitude and behavior in the Middle East would have been far different, and far less painful and costly. (Oil was clearly not the only issue, or perhaps even the biggest one in Iraq, but it is unlikely that US troops would have fought two wars had it been a non-oil country in, say, Africa or the Far East that was equally badly behaved.)” [Street, 2/5/2007; Grantham, Mayo, Van Otterloo, 2/5/2007]
The UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change issues a summary of its fourth report concluding for the first time that global warming is “unequivocal.” The authors of the report also conclude that there is a 90 percent likelihood that greenhouse gases produced as a result of human activities have been the main cause of global warming since 1950. In its last report (see January 22, 2001), the panel made the same assessment, but with a confidence level of only 66 to 90 percent. The 20-page summary, meant for policymakers, will be followed by four technical reports that will be completed and published later in the year. The panel’s conclusions are based on “a three-year review of hundreds of studies of past climate shifts; observations of retreating ice, warming and rising seas, and other changes around the planet; and a greatly expanded suite of supercomputer simulations used to test how the earth will respond to a growing blanket of gases that hold heat in the atmosphere,” the New York Times reports.
Partial list of conclusions -
Global temperatures will increase 3.5 to 8 degrees Fahrenheit if carbon dioxide concentrations in the atmosphere attain levels twice that of 1750, before the Industrial Revolution.
Concentrations of carbon dioxide have reached a level not seen during the last 650,000 years, and the rate of increase is beginning to accelerate.
Even a moderate warming of the global climate would likely result in significant stress to ecosystems and change longstanding climate patterns that influence water supplies and agricultural production.
Sea levels will likely rise between 7 and 23 inches by 2100 and continue rising for at least the next 1,000 years.
“It is very likely that hot extremes, heat waves, and heavy precipitation events will continue to become more frequent.”
The panel expects that precipitation will increase at higher latitudes, while rainfall will likely decrease at lower latitudes. Semi-arid subtropical regions could see 20 percent less rain.
Oceans will absorb billions of tons of carbon dioxide which will form carbonic acid, thus lowering the pH of seawater and harming certain kinds of marine life such as corals and plankton.
If the level of greenhouse gases continues to grow, average temperatures by the end of the century could reach temperature not seen since 125,000 years ago when ocean levels were 12 to 20 feet higher than they are now. Much of that extra water is currently locked in the ice sheets of Greenland and Antarctica, which are beginning to melt. While there is evidence that the glaciers and ice sheets in the Arctic and Antarctic could flow seaward far more quickly than current estimates predict, the climate change panel did not include this in its assessment because it is forbidden by its charter to engage in speculation. According to Michel Jarraud, the secretary general of the United Nations World Meteorological Organization, “the speed with which melting ice sheets are raising sea levels is uncertain, but the report makes clear that sea levels will rise inexorably over the coming centuries. It is a question of when and how much, and not if.”
The harmful consequences of global warming can be lessened if governments take prompt action.
Achim Steiner, executive director of the United Nations Environment Program, which administers the panel along with the World Meteorological Organization, says: “In our daily lives we all respond urgently to dangers that are much less likely than climate change to affect the future of our children. Feb. 2 will be remembered as the date when uncertainty was removed as to whether humans had anything to do with climate change on this planet. The evidence is on the table.”
John P. Holdren, an energy and climate expert at Harvard, who is the president of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, says the report “powerfully underscores the need for a massive effort to slow the pace of global climatic disruption before intolerable consequences become inevitable.… Since 2001, there has been a torrent of new scientific evidence on the magnitude, human origins and growing impacts of the climatic changes that are under way. In overwhelming proportions, this evidence has been in the direction of showing faster change, more danger and greater confidence about the dominant role of fossil-fuel burning and tropical deforestation in causing the changes that are being observed.”
Richard B. Alley, one of the lead authors and a professor at Pennsylvania State University, says: “Policy makers paid us to do good science, and now we have very high scientific confidence in this work—this is real, this is real, this is real. The ball’s back in your court.” [Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, 2/2/2007 ; New York Times, 2/3/2007; Independent, 2/3/2007]
Four hours after the release of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC)‘s report on global warming (see February 2, 2007) finding that greenhouse gases are “very likely” the main cause of rising global temperatures, Secretary of Energy Samuel Bodman says in a statement, “We are a small contributor to the overall, when you look at the rest of the world, so it’s really got to be a global solution.” The United States, with about 5 percent of the world’s population, is responsible for roughly a quarter of all greenhouse gas emissions, more than any other country. [Associated Press, 2/2/2007]
The US Fish and Wildlife Service in Alaska issues a memo to biologists and officials instructing them not to discuss climate change, polar bears, or sea ice unless they are designated to do so, when traveling around the Arctic. The memo, which bears the subject heading “Foreign Travel—New Requirement—Please Review and Comply, Importance: High,” states, “Please be advised that all foreign travel requests (SF 1175 requests) and any future travel requests involving or potentially involving climate change, sea ice, and/or polar bears will also require a memorandum from the regional director to the director indicating who’ll be the official spokesman on the trip and the one responding to questions on these issues, particularly polar bears.” [New York Times, 3/8/2007] The memo forbids the scientists to discuss climate change, polar bears, and sea ice, even if asked. A White House spokesman says the rule about having a single spokesman is merely an attempt to observe “diplomatic protocol,” but Deborah Williams, a former Interior Department official in the Clinton administration who later sees the memo, has a different view. To Williams, the rules sound like an attempt to impose political control over what government scientists can and cannot discuss with their peers. “This sure sounds like a Soviet-style directive to me,” Williams will observe. [Savage, 2007, pp. 107; New York Times, 3/8/2007]
Ford Motor Co. chief executive Alan Mulally acknowledges in a telephone press conference that global warming is happening and is being caused in part by auto emissions. “The vast majority of data indicates that the temperature has increased, and I believe the correlation and the analysis says that is mainly because of the greenhouse gases keeping the heat in. You can just plot it with the Industrial Revolution and the use of all of our resources,” he says. [Denver Post, 4/24/2007]
Some of the tens of thousands of salmon killed due to the artificial water lowering by the Department of the Interior. [Source: Environmental News Service]The House Natural Resources Committee, led by Nick Rahall (D-WV) and Mike Thompson (D-CA), decides to investigate the role of Vice President Dick Cheney in a 2002 salmon kill (see April 2002) on Northern California’s Klamath River, the largest fish kill in modern Western history (see September 2002). “We know where the smoking gun lays,” says Chris Lawson, a fisherman and president of the Bodega Bay Fisherman’s Marketing Association. No one in Northern California or Oregon (another state affected by the fish kill) knew of Cheney’s role until a recent story in the Washington Post uncovered Cheney’s successful attempt to subvert both scientific evidence and the Endangered Species Act to allow a water release that drastically lowered the water level in the Klamath. The day the article appears, Thompson and 35 other Democrats call for a hearing by the House Natural Resources Committee, saying in a letter that “[t]he ramifications of that salmon kill are still being felt today as returns to the Klamath River are so low that commercial, sport and tribal fishing seasons have been curtailed for the past three years.” A day later, Rahall agrees. The hearing will be held a month later (see August 1, 2007). In October 2002, Thompson piled 500 pounds of dead coho salmon in front of the Interior Department, accusing that agency of “gross mismanagement” in the wildlife disaster. Now Thompson asks, “We know that science was manipulated and the law was violated. Did in fact the vice president of the United States put pressure on mid-level bureaucrats to alter the science and circumvent the law in order to gain political votes for his re-election or the election of other people in Oregon?” Cheney’s office responds to the hearings by saying it is “disappointing the Democrats would rather investigate than legislate,” and that the Post story is nothing more than “a repackaging of old accusations.” Cheney’s office refuses to say whether Cheney will agree to testify before the committee. The reduced river flow in 2002, says Thompson, “wasn’t about salmon or water, it was about electoral votes in Oregon.” Since the fish kill, the courts have prohibited the diversion of Klamath water for agricultural use once the water levels drop below a critical point. But in the years after the fish kill, the salmon catch has been gravely reduced. Commercial fishing in California and Oregon has suffered a more than 90% drop as recently as 2006; Congressional Democrats say the result has been over $60 million in damage to coastal economies. Only in 2007 have the number of young salmon in the Klamath shown indications that salmon numbers may once again be increasing. [Associated Press, 6/28/2007; Santa Rosa Press-Democrat, 7/9/2007] However, the Klamath salmon are still gravely threatened by rampant fish diseases infesting tens of thousands of juvenile salmon, as well as abnormally high water temperatures and low water levels. [CounterPunch, 7/16/2007]
Representative Nick Rahall. [Source: Nick Rahall]The House Natural Resources Committee holds a hearing to investigate the role that Vice President Dick Cheney and other Bush administration officials played in the decision that led to the largest fish kill in modern Western United States history (see Mid-2001 - Early 2002 and June 27-28, 2007). The committee is unable to find conclusive proof that Cheney directly gave the orders that led to the fish kill. A former Interior Department official, Deputy Inspector General Mary Kendall, testifies that Cheney pressured the department to release water in the Klamath River in Northern California, even though the water release would threaten the life cycle of tens of thousands of salmon who live and breed in the river. The water release was to benefit drought-stricken farmers and ranchers in the area. The decision went against the provisions of the Endangered Species Act as well as an overwhelming majority of scientific opinion and the tribal water rights of local Native Americans. Former fisheries biologist Michael Kelly, who worked on the Klamath issue, testifies that he cannot be sure whether Cheney interfered in the situation. “I was aware that President Bush had declared he’d do everything he could to get water to the farms,” Kelly says, and adds that he knew his own superiors were being pressured to speed up assessments and tilt the science to favor the farmers. “I was essentially asked to support a conclusion that made as much sense as 1+1=3,” Kelly says. The biological opinion underlying the plan was “completely bogus and illegal,” he adds. Chairman Nick Rahall (D-WV) calls the Klamath fish kill “a fiasco” and lambasts Cheney and Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorne for refusing to testify before the committee. “I will not pretend to be surprised [Cheney] declined our invitation,” Rahall says. “But I am obliged to express disappointment at the difficulty we have had in trying to learn the truth and conduct basic oversight over an agency and an administration that have made secrecy and lack of accountability hallmarks of their tenure.” Rahall notes that “[w]hen it comes to political interference and ethical lapses at the department, the Klamath River is just the tip of the iceberg.… I find it difficult to see how we can trust any decision made in an agency that has, time and again, betrayed its own career scientists, repeatedly failed to hold its appointees to ethical standards and so callously disregarded its mission for the sake of political gain.” [Environmental News Service, 8/1/2007]
Some skeptics of global warming embrace a recent scientific study showing that ocean bacteria, not greenhouse gases and fossil fuels, are the primary cause of global warming. Unfortunately for the skeptics, the study is a hoax. The faux study, published in the “Journal of Geoclimatic Studies,” is laden with pseudo-scientific jargon “proving” that bacteria in the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans emit at least 300 times more carbon dioxide than industrial activity, and apparently fools skeptics. A British scientist e-mails the report to 2,000 colleagues before realizing it was a spoof. A US scientist calls the report a “blockbuster.” [Reuters, 11/8/2007] The conclusion of the “study” is especially interesting to those who dispute global warming. The authors write, “[W]e recognize that in [overturning man-made climate change] we lay our careers on the line. As we have found in seeking to broach this issue gently with colleagues, and in attempting to publish these findings in other peer-reviewed journals, the ‘consensus’ on climate change is enforced not by fact but by fear. We have been warned, collectively and individually, that in bringing our findings to public attention we are not only likely to be deprived of all future sources of funding, but that we also jeopardize the funding of the departments for which we work.” [Note: The site hosting the spoof study has disappeared from the Web, but remains for now in Google’s cache.] [Institute of Geoclimatic Studies, 11/3/2007; Grist Magazine, 11/9/2007]
Rush Limbaugh Taken In - Talk show host Rush Limbaugh tells his listeners of the study, apparently misunderstanding a warning from global warming skeptic Dr. Roy Spencer. While Spencer tells Limbaugh that the study is a spoof, Limbaugh tells listeners that the study proves global warming itself is a hoax. Spencer will apologize to Limbaugh for “not being clear.” [WeatherQuestions (.com), 11/11/2007] (Spencer is a scientific adviser for the “Interfaith Stewardship Alliance,” a “coalition of religious leaders, clergy, theologians, scientists, academics, and other policy experts committed to bringing a proper and balanced Biblical view of stewardship to the critical issues of environment and development.” [Interfaith Stewardship Alliance, 2005] Conservative blogger and global warming nonbeliever Neil Craig writes: “This could not be more damaging to man-made global warming theory.… I somehow doubt if this is going to be on the BBC news.”
Hoax Exposed and Revealed - But real scientists quickly knock the study down. Deliang Chen, professor of meteorology at Sweden’s Gothenburg University, says, “The whole story is a hoax.” Two of the report’s supposed authors claim to be on the Gothenburg staff, but Chen says they are not students or faculty at his school. [Reuters, 11/8/2007] The research center cited by the article does not exist. Nor does the “Journal of Geoclimatic Studies,” which supposedly published the study. [WeatherQuestions (.com), 11/11/2007] The actual author of the spoof uses the pseudonym “Dr. Mark Cox” in an interview for Nature magazine’s blog, “The Great Beyond.” “Cox” says he wrote the spoof “to expose the credulity and scientific illiteracy of many of the people who call themselves climate skeptics. While dismissive of the work of the great majority of climate scientists, they will believe almost anything if it lends support to their position. Their approach to climate science is the opposite of skepticism.” He says the science proving global warming “could scarcely be clearer.” To a question asking what he would say to those taken in by his hoax, he replies, “More fool you.” [Nature, 11/9/2007]
The annual summit of the G-8 nations, an informal association of the Northern Hemisphere’s eight largest industrialized nations—Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Russia, Britain, and the United States—concludes with what Vanity Fair will call “a tepid pledge to cut greenhouse gases by 50 percent by the year 2050.” President Bush lets his feelings about global warming and the US’s role in dealing with the issue show when, bidding farewell to his fellow heads of state, he says, “Goodbye from the world’s greatest polluter.” [Vanity Fair, 2/2009]
During a House Subcommittee on Energy and Environment hearing, Representative John Shimkus (R-IL) argues against a so-called “cap-and-trade” system to limit carbon dioxide emissions in the atmosphere. Shimkus argues that the world’s ecology depends on carbon dioxide to survive: “It’s plant food.… So if we decrease the use of carbon dioxide, are we not taking away plant food from the atmosphere?… So all our good intentions could be for naught. In fact, we could be doing just the opposite of what the people who want to save the world are saying.” The National Wildlife Fund responds to Shimkus’s statement by noting that the world’s plant life has sufferred tremendous damage from the inordinate amount of carbon dioxide and other gases resulting from the burning of fossil fuels. Liberal analyst Matthew Yglesias writes: “The point about our CO2 emissions is that the rate at which fossil fuel use puts new carbon into the atmosphere greatly exceeds the rate at which plants remove it. The aim is not to eliminate the CO2 from the atmosphere but to stabilize the amount of CO2, which means curtailing emissions to a level much closer to the rate at which plants consume it.” [Think Progress, 3/27/2009]
Representative Todd Akin (R-MO) tells his House colleagues that he does not want to be responsible for eliminating the seasons. In a speech opposing pending legislation to reduce carbon emissions, Akin calls the transition from winter to spring “good climate change,” and repeatedly conflates “climate” with “weather.” Global warming is a “comedy,” Akin says, and he asks who would “want to put politicians in charge of the weather anyways[?]” His fellow Republicans are more knowledgeable than Democrats on the subject, he implies, because they have “passed high school science.” Akin tells the House: “This whole thing strikes me, if it weren’t so serious, as being a comedy, you know. I mean, we just went from winter to spring. In Missouri when we go from winter to spring, that’s a good climate change. I don’t want to stop that climate change, you know. Who in the world want[s] to put politicians in charge of the weather anyways? What a dumb idea.… Some of the models said that we’re going to have surf at the front steps of the Capitol pretty soon. I was really looking forward to that.… We’ve been joined by another doctor, a medical doctor but also a guy who graduated from high school science as well, from Georgia, my good friend, Congressman [Phil] Gingrey.… So to have actually a guy who’s passed high school science is tremendously helpful.” The liberal news and analysis website Think Progress notes that in Akin’s home state of Missouri, “climate change has already caused growing conditions to shift and several species of birds common to the state have migrated northward. If global warming persists, climatologists have predicted that Missouri can expect ‘warmer temperatures, shorter winters, and an overall increase in rain and flooding.’” [Think Progress, 6/3/2009]
The press releases a confidential, “sensitive” memo from the American Petroleum Institute (API) detailing a plan to create “Astroturf” rallies at which industry employees posing as ordinary citizens will urge Congress to fight climate change legislation. The memo was obtained by the environmental group Greenpeace and sent to several reporters. It urges oil companies to recruit their employees for events that will “put a human face on the impacts of unsound energy policy,” and will urge senators to “avoid the mistakes embodied in the House climate bill.” The campaign is funded by a coalition of corporate and conservative groups called the “Energy Citizens” alliance, which includes the anti-health care reform group 60 Plus, the industry “grassroots” organization FreedomWorks (see April 14, 2009), Grover Norquist’s Americans For Tax Reform, the American Conservative Union, and the National Taxpayers Union. API president Jack Gerard, who signed the memo, asks recipients to give API “the name of one central coordinator for your company’s involvement in the rallies.” And it warns, “Please treat this information as sensitive… we don’t want critics to know our game plan.” At least two major oil corporations, BP and Shell, are members of API and also belong to the US Climate Action Partnership, which supports the House legislation sponsored by Henry Waxman (D-CA) and Edward Markey (D-MA). API has spent over $3 million lobbying against that bill this year. API spokesman Bill Bush says his organization is not trying to deceive anyone. “I don’t think anyone’s hiding the ball about this,” he says. “I don’t think anyone’s trying to suggest that this doesn’t have anything to do with the oil and gas industry.” Greenpeace has asked API to reveal the member companies funding the Astroturf efforts. Shell Oil Company later informs reporters that it will not take part in the rallies. In a statement, the corporation says, “Shell’s position is not aligned with the consensus opinion of the API on Waxman-Markey, therefore Shell will not participate in the rallies.” [Gerard, 8/2009; TPM Muckraker, 8/14/2009]
Entity Tags: British Petroleum, American Conservative Union, 60 Plus Association, American Petroleum Institute, Bill Bush, Greenpeace, National Taxpayers Union, Energy Citizens, FreedomWorks, Royal Dutch/Shell, Americans for Tax Reform, Jack N. Gerard
Timeline Tags: Global Warming, Domestic Propaganda
Craig Rosebraugh, the former spokesman for the environmental activist Earth Liberation Front (ELF—see 1997 and 1996 and After), announces the launch of a new quarterly magazine, Resistance, Journal of the Earth Liberation Movement. Rosebraugh, a Portland, Oregon, native, operates the magazine out of Arizona, where he attends law school at Arizona State University; he co-edits the magazine with a number of other environmental and animal rights activists. The magazine calls itself “radical” and names Shell Oil Company as its “Ecoterrorist of the Season.” The magazine is nationally distributed and is available through chain bookstores. Rosebraugh tells an interviewer that he wants his readers to understand that the environment “is being destroyed because government and industry are making a lot of money off that destruction.… ‘Resistance’ was created to inform readers not only of the dangerous state of the planet, but also the urgency of action. The magazine features discussions on the strategy, theory, news, and frontline actions of a new emerging environmental movement.” The magazine advocates boycotts, sit-ins, and “economic sabotage,” which Rosebraugh describes as “nonviolent property destruction” that targets profits made by environmental exploitation. Rosebraugh says he became active in the environmental resistance movement (which some call “ecoterrorism”—see 1970s) because in 50 years of acceptable, aboveground protests and resistance, little progress has been made in reversing global warming and other environmental depredations: “It is the profit motive that is driving environmental destruction. So it only makes logical sense to work to directly remove that profit motive from these entities so they either are persuaded to stop their harmful practices or go out of business.” He says he “definitely” supports environmental activists breaking the law: “Historically, in order for any major social or political movement to make progress people in each case had to step outside social law.” Rosebraugh says he and many other ELF activists departed the ELF after a 2006 federal crackdown that saw many ELF members go to jail; since that crackdown, he says, “the more radical end of the environmental movement has really kind of dropped off.” [Oregonian, 10/19/2009; Eugene Weekly, 10/28/2009]
Robert Bryce, a senior fellow at the conservative Manhattan Institute and the author of Power Hungry: The Myths of ‘Green’ Energy and the Real Fuels of the Future, writes an op-ed for the New York Times claiming that solar power production is too costly in part because of the “huge” amount of land it requires. “[W]hile energy sources like sunlight and wind are free and naturally replenished, converting them into large quantities of electricity requires vast amounts of natural resources—most notably, land,” he writes. “Even a cursory look at these costs exposes the deep contradictions in the renewable energy movement.” Bryce cites as one example the Ivanpah solar plant, which takes up about five and a half acres in the Mojave Desert and will generate about 370 megawatts of power when completed (see September 22, 2013). “The math is simple: to have 8,500 megawatts of solar capacity, California would need at least 23 projects the size of Ivanpah, covering about 129 square miles, an area more than five times as large as Manhattan,” he writes. “While there’s plenty of land in the Mojave, projects as big as Ivanpah raise environmental concerns. In April, the federal Bureau of Land Management ordered a halt to construction on part of the facility out of concern for the desert tortoise, which is protected under the Endangered Species Act” (see August 13, 2013). Wind power generation consumes even more land, he writes, citing the example of a wind farm in Texas that covers 154 square miles and generates over 781 megawatts of energy. Add to that the need for “long swaths of land for power lines,” and you have what one conservation group calls “energy sprawl,” the need for large amounts of land to generate power. He concludes: “All energy and power systems exact a toll. If we are to [keep power generation systems small] while also reducing the rate of growth of greenhouse gas emissions, we must exploit the low-carbon energy sources—natural gas and, yes, nuclear—that have smaller footprints.” [New York Times, 8/6/2011]
'Gusher of Lies' - In 2010, the progressive news Web site Think Progress called Bryce’s book “a gusher of lies,” and recruited renewable energy expert Adam Siegel to debunk it. Siegel wrote: “Masquerading as an unbiased, fact-based look at America’s energy situation and viable paths forward into the future, Robert Bryce’s Power Hungry is a mixed collection of factual material, thought-provoking constructs, selective ‘truthiness,’ questionable (if not simply wrong) data crunching, and outright deceptions. This mix of material makes Bryce’s work dangerous reading for those without a serious grounding in energy (related) issues while that same mix calls into question this work’s value for anyone with that more serious background.” [Think Progress, 9/14/2010]
Counter-Claims - In 2003, the US Department of Energy concluded that most of the land needed for renewable energy sites could be supplied by abandoned industrial sites. Moreover, “with today’s commercial systems, the solar energy resource in a 100-by-100-mile area of Nevada could supply the United States with all of its electricity. If these systems were distributed to the 50 states, the land required from each state would be an area of about 17 by 17 miles. This area is available now from parking lots, rooftops, and vacant land. In fact, 90 percent of America’s current electricity needs could be supplied with solar electric systems built on the estimated 5 million acres of abandoned industrial sites in our nation’s cities.” The federal government is expanding its efforts to find “disturbed and abandoned lands that are suitable for renewable energy development.” Groups concerned with minimizing the impacts of energy development on wildlife prefer prioritizing these areas for development. The Energy Information Administration says: “Covering 4 percent of the world’s desert area with photovoltaics could supply the equivalent of all of the world’s electricity. The Gobi Desert alone could supply almost all of the world’s total electricity demand.” And a 2009 study found that “in most cases” solar arrays in areas with plenty of sunlight use “less land than the coal-fuel cycle coupled with surface mining.” [National Renewable Energy Laboratory, 1/2003 ; US Energy Information Administration, 12/19/2011; Defenders of Wildlife, 1/14/2013 ; Media Matters, 1/24/2013]
The Los Angeles Times publishes a long analysis of the environmental impact solar power projects are expected to have on the southwestern US desert (see August 13, 2013). Written by Julie Cart, the analysis focuses on the Ivanpah solar power project in the Mojave (see September 22, 2013), which is projected to expand to some 3,500 acres of public land when finished. The plant “will soon be a humming city with 24-hour lighting, a wastewater processing facility, and a gas-fired power plant. To make room, BrightSource [the firm building the plant] has mowed down a swath of desert plants, displaced dozens of animal species, and relocated scores of imperiled desert tortoises, a move that some experts say could kill up to a third of them.” Environmental attorney Johanna Wald, who was involved in the negotiations to build the plant, says: “I have spent my entire career thinking of myself as an advocate on behalf of public lands and acting for their protection. I am now helping facilitate an activity on public lands that will have very significant environmental impacts. We are doing it because of the threat of climate change. It’s not an accommodation; it’s a change I had to make to respond to climate.” Cart says that plants like the Ivanpah facility will result in “a wholesale remodeling of the American desert” in Arizona, California, Nevada, New Mexico, and Utah. “[H]undreds of square miles of wild land will be scraped clear,” Cart writes. “Several thousand miles of power transmission corridors will be created. The desert will be scarred well beyond a human life span, and no amount of mitigation will repair it, according to scores of federal and state environmental reviews.” Dennis Schramm, the former superintendent of the Mojave National Preserve, warns: “The scale of impacts that we are facing, collectively across the desert, is phenomenal. The reality of the Ivanpah project is that what it will look like on the ground is worse than any of the analyses predicted.” Cart writes that at the moment, solar energy is “three times more expensive than natural gas or coal” because of “capital costs and other market factors,” and ratepayers will pay “as much as 50 percent higher for renewable energy, according to an analysis from the consumer advocate branch of the [California] state Public Utilities Commission.” The impact on the environment will be dramatic in some places, with birds and other wildlife abandoning some areas entirely, and the possible “massive losses of pollinators because you have all these insects getting burned in the mirrors,” according to government biologist Larry LaPre. Desert tortoise expert Jeffrey Lovich says no one really knows the impact the plants will have on the desert. “This is an experiment on a grand scale,” he says. “Science is racing to catch up.” Most large environmental groups such as the Sierra Club and the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) have chosen not to protest the development, instead agreeing to become part of the negotiation process and winning some environmental concessions from the developers. Wald, who works with the NRDC, says of the projects: “We didn’t make them perfect. We didn’t eliminate their environmental impact because you can’t eliminate the environmental impact. But we made them better.” [Los Angeles Times, 2/5/2012]
Refutation of Land Use Requirements - In 2003, the US Department of Energy concluded that most of the land needed for renewable energy sites could be supplied by abandoned industrial sites. Moreover, “with today’s commercial systems, the solar energy resource in a 100-by-100-mile area of Nevada could supply the United States with all of its electricity. If these systems were distributed to the 50 states, the land required from each state would be an area of about 17 by 17 miles. This area is available now from parking lots, rooftops, and vacant land. In fact, 90 percent of America’s current electricity needs could be supplied with solar electric systems built on the estimated 5 million acres of abandoned industrial sites in our nation’s cities.” The federal government is expanding its efforts to find “disturbed and abandoned lands that are suitable for renewable energy development.” Groups concerned with minimizing the impacts of energy development on wildlife prefer prioritizing these areas for development. The Energy Information Administration says: “Covering 4 percent of the world’s desert area with photovoltaics could supply the equivalent of all of the world’s electricity. The Gobi Desert alone could supply almost all of the world’s total electricity demand.” And a 2009 study found that “in most cases” solar arrays in areas with plenty of sunlight use “less land than the coal-fuel cycle coupled with surface mining.” [National Renewable Energy Laboratory, 1/2003 ; US Energy Information Administration, 12/19/2011; Defenders of Wildlife, 1/14/2013 ; Media Matters, 1/24/2013]
Entity Tags: Ivanpah Solar Complex, Energy Information Administration, BrightSource Energy, US Department of Energy, Sierra Club, Los Angeles Times, Dennis Schramm, Natural Resources Defense Council, Julie Cart, Larry LaPre, Jeffrey Lovich, Johanna Wald
Timeline Tags: US Solar Industry
A brief article in the Wall Street Journal claims that solar energy does not reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the aggregate, because the carbon savings from desert-based solar projects will be offset by “disturbing caliche deposits that release carbon dioxide.” The Journal cites a formal complaint filed by three Western environmental organizations claiming that desert-based solar projects not only endanger desert ecosystems, but “soil disturbance from large-scale solar development may disrupt Pleistocene-era caliche deposits that release carbon to the atmosphere when exposed to the elements, thus negat[ing] the solar development C [carbon] gains.” The Journal acknowledges that some aspects of the complaint may be exaggerated. The Journal does not mention that the report cited in the complaint, a 2011 study released by the University of California-Riverside, says that the 560,000 metric tons of carbon saved per year by a single solar plant would more than offset the estimated 6,000 metric tons of carbon released by disturbing caliche deposits. [Wall Street Journal, 9/4/2012; Media Matters, 1/24/2013]
South Korea’s Supreme Court rules that US chemical corporations Monsanto and Dow Chemical must pay 39 Korean Vietnam War veterans $415,000 in total for skin diseases they suffered when they came into contact with the defoliant Agent Orange. South Korea sent some 300,000 soldiers to fight alongside US and South Vietnamese forces during the Vietnam War. The court also sends back for review a 2006 case that ordered the two firms to pay $61 million in compensation to 6,795 South Korean veterans and their families. The lawsuit filed by over 16,000 veterans in 1999 alleged that Agent Orange was responsible for skin diseases such as “chemical acne,” shown to be caused by exposure to the dioxin in Agent Orange. Veterans in South Korea estimate the number of Korean victims of Agent Orange at about 150,000. Dow says, in a statement quoted to the Yonhap news agency, that it disagrees with the ruling, and that the verdict was not backed by the available evidence. Dow cited US court rulings which had found in chemical corporations’ favor. The South Korean Supreme Court says in sending back the $61 million ruling case to a lower court, “There is no evidence their diseases were caused by their exposure to the defoliant sprayed during the Vietnam War.” Agent Orange, which contained the lethal chemical dioxin, was used heavily in Vietnam to deprive enemy forces of ground cover in rain forests, and to destroy food crops used by guerrillas and civilians. Vietnam has also asserted claims, saying that millions of its citizens have suffered and some have died due to Agent Orange exposure. The US has consistently refused to accept responsibility for the Vietnamese government’s claim, though it has agreed to be liable for the health complications in US soldiers that resulted from exposure (see 1960-1973). [Birmingham News, 7/12/2013; Agence France-Presse, 7/13/2013]
As the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power (LADWP) begins phasing out coal and natural gas power plants, it is turning more and more to “solar parks” in the desert to the east to generate much-needed power. However, these solar parks are raising concerns among environmentalists and local residents. The Ivanpah Solar Complex in the Mojave Desert has taken steps to minimize the impact its existence will have on the fragile desert tortoise population. The Genesis Solar Energy Project in Riverside County, California, was recently forced to halt construction when Native American burial remains were found on the construction site. Donna Charpeid, a farmer in Desert Center, California, says of the Desert Sunlight Solar Farm being built near her home: “My heart aches every time I look out my window and see the construction over there. It’s just unbelievable, the destruction.” The Desert Sunlight plant is being built near Charpeid’s 10-acre plot near the Joshua Tree State Park. It is projected to provide enough power to run 160,000 average homes and decrease the amount of CO2 pumped into the atmosphere by 300,000 tons annually. Seventeen “Solar Energy Zones” have been proposed for California by the Bureau of Land Management and the US Department of Energy. Charpeid says of the zones: “This is a whole new form of gentrification. If all these projects come to fruition, people will simply not be able to live here. This is all seems like corporate welfare to me.” Critics worry that although water is not used by all solar-thermal plants for power generation, the water consumed by the plants—keeping dust down, rinsing panels, providing for the needs of workers—will deplete the water reserves in the area. In Desert Center, the residents’ water comes from deep underground reservoirs that are not generally replenished by groundwater; Charpeid says their water was found to be up to 30,000 years old. She also worries about the impact on the local weather: dust storms have increased over the last few years, she says, threatening her ability to farm jojoba. And animal habitats are being threatened. “I really wish [President] Obama would’ve given out that stimulus money to do rooftop solar instead,” she says, “like they’ve done in Germany.” LADWP board commissioner Jonathan Parfrey, the director of advocacy organization Climate Resolve, says: “I’ve been out in the desert; I know some of the people being impacted. I’m an enviro, I want to conserve that land. But it’s not just as easy as saying LA’s got to slap solar on rooftops. There has to be a balanced approach.” Parfrey says that solar plants need to be constructed in areas that are not rich in wildlife or used for recreational purposes, but adds that these solar desert plants must be built somewhere. Using solar arrays on rooftops of businesses and homes is expensive, he says, and sometimes interferes with distribution balancing and voltage problems as they co-exist with grid-produced electricity. He says: “In my view the transition to clean energy has to happen as inexpensively as possible. Otherwise people will rebel and they won’t even want to pay for it in the face of climate impacts. They will say, ‘That’s too bad about what’s happening to the environment, but I can’t afford to put food on my table because my electricity bills are too high.’” The LADWP is experimenting with inexpensive solar rooftop arrays, Palfrey says. “If I could have my moment like in The Graduate where [a character] says to Dustin Hoffman, ‘The future is in plastics,’ mine is how do we do distributed generation where we maintain the utility business model and we’re able to provide continual service for people. When we find the magic key to that I think it will be a revolution. I think it will really help affect the transition away from fossil-fuel energy sources.” [Grist Magazine, 8/13/2013]
Grist reports new data that shows America is using substantially less energy than in previous years, because of gains in energy efficiency as well as shifting market conditions and pollution regulations. CO2 emissions have dropped from 1.6 billion tons in 2007 (a record peak) to 1.4 billion tons in 2011, an 11 percent drop. Emily E. Adams of Earth Policy writes that both vehicle fuel efficiency and the number of miles driven by vehicles are improving, adding: “Average fuel efficiency, which had been deteriorating for years in the United States, started to increase in 2005 and keeps getting better. Americans are traveling farther on each gallon of gas than ever before. Furthermore, people are driving less. For many years Americans as a group drove billions more miles each year than the previous one. But in 2007 this changed. Now more cars stay parked because more people live in urban areas, opt for public transit, work remotely, or retire and thus no longer commute to work.” Coal, the dirtiest fossil fuel, is shrinking in usage, though it continues to dominate conventional energy generation structures. Utilities are steadily shifting from coal to natural gas, and some are retiring old, inefficient coal plants instead of paying for expensive retrofits to bring them in line with current pollution regulations. US carbon emissions from coal have fallen 20 percent from their peak in 2005. Natural gas usage has risen sharply, and even though it produces only half the CO2 emissions that coal produces, natural gas added 373 million tons of carbon to the atmosphere in 2012. Solar and wind energy have no carbon emissions whatsoever; solar usage has increased 1,400 percent since 2007, and wind usage over 300 percent. Adams writes, “This is just the beginning of reductions in carbon dioxide emissions as the explosive growth of wind and solar power cuts down the use of dirty fossil fuels.” President Obama has set a goal for the nation to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by 17 percent by 2020, and the decrease in energy usage and improvements in fuel efficiency are helping to reach that goal. [Grist Magazine, 10/2/2013; Grist Magazine, 10/11/2013]
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