Energy & Environment

More Rubio Climate Change Skepticism

Jonathan Cohn addresses the conservative argument that efforts to reduce carbon emissions are “futile, because we produce only a portion of the world’s greenhouse gasesand the other big polluters aren’t about to do anything about their share. As Senator Marco Rubio put it earlier this month, ‘None of these proposals that liberals want us to impose on ourselves would do anything about the problem.’”

“Are Rubio and his allies right? The U.S. is responsible for about one-fifth of the world’s carbon dioxide emissions. That’s a lot of carbonenough, seemingly, to make reductions worthwhile for their own sake.” And China is now the world’s most prodigious producer.

US and China carbon emissions, via the New York Times

But one of the Obama administration’s goals of setting emissions reductions standards is to encourage large polluters, like China, to follow.

According to Carol Davenport of the New York Times, Chinese officials will be paying close attention next week: “I’f the EPA standard is really stringent, that will make a difference in the domestic debate in China,’ Qi Ye, director of the Climate Policy Center at Tsinghua University, told Davenport. ‘It will have an impact.’”

When it Comes to Climate Change, ‘Global Warming’ is the Clearer Term

EcoWatch: “In a surprising report released today by the Yale Project on Climate Change Communication, researchers looked at the impact of the two most common terms for human-induced climate warming—global warming and climate change—on Americans.”

The authors found that the term ‘global warming’ is associated with greater public understanding, emotional engagement and support for personal and national action than the term ‘climate change,’ which is often favored by scientists.

The report “shows that they mean different things to different Americans. The general public tends to favor the term ‘global warming’—and perhaps we should take note.”

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Koch Brothers’ Lobbying Dollars Dwarf Competitors in Renewable Energy Battle

Topeka Capital-Journal: “The latest filings posted by the Kansas Governmental Ethics Commission show that spending on official lobbying topped $1 million through April in the 2014 session, driven largely by a heated debate over the state’s renewable energy standards.”

“Much of the spending on the issue came from Americans for Prosperity, whose session-long bid to repeal the standards ended with the House’s 60-63 vote on the last day of the session, May 2.”

Amount spent by Americans for Prosperity: $386,852.75 ($382,932.90 on “mass media,” $3,495.87 on “food and beverage,” $98 on “recreation” and $325.98 on “other.”)

On the other side of the debate, Wind Works for Kansas, spent a fraction of the AFP amount: $43,685.71

Could Impending Climate-Change Initiative be Obama’s Signature Achievement?

Wall Street Journal: “The Obama administration will next week unveil a cornerstone of its climate-change initiative with a proposed rule aimed at allowing states to use cap-and-trade systems, renewable energy and other measures to meet aggressive goals for reducing carbon emissions by existing power plants.”

“Energy companies and others affected by the proposal will be watching for key details, including the percentage by which companies and states must reduce carbon emissions, which is expected to be proposed in a range instead of a single number. The baseline year against which those reductions are calculated will also be closely monitored.”

“Central to the strategy of flexibility: the option to include a cap-and-trade component where a limit is set on emissions and companies can trade allowances or credits for emissions as a way of staying under different benchmarks the EPA sets for each state.”

Jonathan Cohn: “Along with other steps the administration has taken, like setting higher fuel standards for cars and trucks, the new regulations could make climate change action one of Obama’s signature achievementssomething historians will cite alongside Obamacare, rescue of the auto industry, and the Recovery Act.”

Green Energy Dominating in a Red State

National Journal: “Texas has … become the top spot for states with the most wind power.”

“Green energy has steadily gained traction in the deep-red state. In 2003, wind made up less than 1 percent of the power supply, according to state grid operator the Electric Reliability Council of Texas. By 2013, that share had risen to roughly 10 percent … From 2013 to 2014, ERCOT estimates that wind capacity will increase by 33 percent.”

“What’s causing wind production to soar? In a word: infrastructure.”

“In 2005, the Texas legislature approved a sprawling network of transmission lines … After years of construction, the power lines—known as Competitive Renewable Energy Zones—started shipping electrons across the state in December.”

“Policy has also played a role. The expiration of the renewable production tax credit … prompted a rush to break ground on new wind projects before the credit lapsed at the end of last year.”

Steyer’s Moneyball Approach to Climate Change

The Hill: “Billionaire climate activist Tom Steyer is launching a data-driven campaign across seven states for the 2014 midterms to prove he’s not all talk when it comes to hurting ‘climate deniers’ at the polls.”

“NextGen will focus on the data of climate change and turning out voters who will back candidates that want action on the issue.”

That means drawing on the ‘moneyball’ thesis of baseball, a strategy outlined in the best-selling book of the same name by Michael Lewis.

“That’s what Steyer says he wants: to ‘level the political playing field’ through field work and data-driven modeling to locally and strategically target voters and identify non-traditional voter blocs … it’s about targeting undervalued voters that the opposition previously expected to be out of play in a midterm election year.”

Steyer’s top strategist, Chris Lehane: “This is the year, in our view, where we are able to demonstrate you can use climate … as a wedge issue to win in political races … The side that does a better job of changing or expanding the voter pool is the side that has the competitive advantage.”

Lawmakers More Interested in Alien Life Than Climate Change

Huffington Post: “Rep. Lamar Smith (R-Texas), chairman of the House Science, Space, and Technology Committee, has a long track record of climate change denial. And under his leadership, the committee has spent more time holding hearings on the existence of extraterrestrial life than it has examining climate science or the repercussions of global climate change.”

Smith’s committee has organized 15 hearings on space exploration, “including three that focused on discovering alien life.”

“Meanwhile, Smith’s committee has held just two hearings dedicated to climate change.”

“Several House committees are responsible for addressing U.S. energy and environmental issues. The House Energy and Commerce Committee has held only one hearing on climate change, while the House Natural Resources Committee has yet to take up the issue in the 113th Congress.”

“While much of the congressional climate change denial happens in the House, the Democrat-led Senate has also failed to exhibit substantial interest in the issue.”

“The Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee hasn’t addressed the topic since 2012. The Environment and Public Works Committee has held three hearings on climate change this Congress.”

Hatch: Enviromental Activists are Some of the ‘Stupidest People’

Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) is fed up with environmentalists, remarking on Wednesday: “I think we have some of the stupidest people in the environmental movement.”

According to The Hill, Hatch’s comments were in reference to California’s drought, which he believes “was man made because the flow of water is being controlled to protect a species of fish. He said this was a ‘stupid approach’ because it has harmed California’s economy.”

Hatch: “Some want to put the needs of fish ahead of the needs of people.”

El Nino Helps Sway Climate Change Debate

Nate Cohn writes that the coming El Niño “might represent a turning point”  in the debate over climate change.

“The oscillation between El Niño and La Niña, El Niño’s cold-water cousin, is part of the reason for slower atmospheric warming. Sea surface temperatures in the Pacific rise during El Niño and ultimately heat up the atmosphere” to produce a “mini” global warming event. The reverse happens during La Niña.

“For a decade, climate scientists have battled a public-relations challenge: Even though atmospheric temperatures are higher than at any time in the past 4,000 years, surface temperature increases seem to have slowed down since 1998. The planet has gotten warmer over the last decade, but climate change skeptics have used this so-called hiatus or pause in warming to take aim at the accuracy of the climate models, which appeared to predict more significant warming than has so far happened.”

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“The shifts between El Niño and La Niña offer an elegant explanation for at least some or perhaps most of the slowdown in atmospheric warming.”

“The return of El Niño is likely to increase global temperatures … [and] that could make a difference in the battle for public opinion.”


Another Contributor to Sea-Level Rise?

Scientific American: “In a finding offering another sea-level rise warning, scientists … reported the existence of deep, canyon-like valleys in the bedrock underneath the Greenland ice sheet that could facilitate the extensive flow of ice into the ocean.”

“That means that as these glaciers retreat, their fronts will remain in contact with warm ocean water that melts ice, rather than hitting higher ground anytime soon. ”

“Greenland’s ultimate contribution to sea-level rise is a subject of ongoing debate among scientists. A report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change last year found that between 1993 and 2010, the Greenland ice sheet contributed less than 10 percent to global sea-level rise. Thermal ocean expansion of the ocean and glaciers contributed the most.”

States Tackle Climate Change While Waiting for Executive Action

State leaders in California, New York and Washington are looking for legislative solutions to dealing with climate change, rather than waiting for the federal government to take action.

New York Times: California Gov. Jerry Brown “has made battling climate change one of the centerpieces of his tenure … He has pressed for continued enforcement of the state’s cap-and-trade program … despite some critics’ calls to scale back amid the weak economy. And he has repeatedly criticized Congress for not doing enough to take action.”

“Last month, Gov. Jay Inslee of Washington signed an executive order to create a cap-and-trade program similar to California’s and updating the state’s emission limits.”

“Gathering support from other state and national leaders for stricter environmental regulations has been a cornerstone of Mr. Brown’s efforts. This summer, he plans to travel to Mexico as part of a trade mission and plans to press leaders there to sign a pledge to reduce greenhouse gases.”

Capital New York: In New York, “Attorney General Eric Schneiderman will propose legislation requiring the state’s electric and gas utilities to prepare for climate change to prevent widespread power outages.”

And: “Earlier this year, the state ordered Consolidated Edison to invest $1 billion to prepare its infrastructure for rising sea levels and extreme storms.”



‘Fracking’ and ‘Cap-and-Trade’ Added to Dictionary

Associated Press: “Climate change and the environment did not go unnoticed, with the addition of cap-and-trade, a system that limits the amount of carbon emissions companies can produce but allows them to buy extra emissions from others.”

“Fracking also made it into the update, which has already shipped to retailers. So did e-waste and freegan, one who scavenges for free food in store and restaurant trash bins as a way to reduce consumption of resources.”

“‘It’s a young word, from 2006,’ Sokolowski said of freegan. ‘It’s one of the youngest in this list. This kind of environmentalism was a Lone Ranger type of activity before but has taken off.'”

The Price for Denying Climate-Change

Lucia Graves of the National Journal writes there’s evidence that efforts are paying off to make climate-change denial an issue of vulnerability:specifically, that along with other defining issues like gun-control, gay marriage, and immigration, the media is increasingly asking GOP candidates about their views on climate change.”

“Climate change, as National Journal‘s Ronald Brownstein has observed, is one of several issues that matter to core Democratic constituencies, including and maybe even especially young voters. By embracing priorities that matter to these groups, like climate change, gun control, and gay marriage, Democrats are hoping to appeal to what Brownstein describes as a ‘coalition of the ascendant.'”