With the election at hand, Greenpeace has been particularly concerned about the lack of action to address global warming from President Barack Obama as well as his challenger, Governor Mitt Romney. Both candidates have been asked for months to break the climate silence, yet we have heard very little from either candidate even after hurricane Sandy, the "Frankenstorm," wrought havoc on the U.S. east coast (see pictures).
If you missed the first two times Mitt Romney was asked on camera about how he plans to address the global crisis of climate change now that superstorm Sandy has, check out the video in our previous blog. Asked three times about global warming, Governor Romney seems to have deferred to the instructions of his campaign managers and public relations advisers: tell 'em to read your book!
Beyond dodging questions from attendees at his recent campaign events, governor Mitt Romney also bit his tongue during a speech in Virginia Beach yesterday, when a protester holding a "End Climate Silence" banner for CNN's camera's interrupted Romney's speech, asking "Romney! What about climate? That’s what caused this monster storm! Climate change!" That video is available here:
Check out this interactive graph of how both candidates positions and actions have been notably inconsistent on solutions to climate change, or even its scientific basis.
Today, President Obama received the coveted endorsement of New York City’s Mayor, Michael Bloomberg, and the Mayor highlighted climate change as a big reason why Mitt Romney should not get his endorsement.
Let’s be clear though. It took a Superstorm Sandy to force an endorsement of Obama for another term. As Mayor Bloomberg noted, both candidates have run administrations implementing policies to reduce pollution. What damns a Romney endorsement is not Obama’s fantastic record but the fossil industry-crazed climate denialism that has come to rule the Republic platform and Romney’s overt positions.
The climate policy record of Obama’s first term is dismal if you consider the scale of the problem. In the context of international negotiations, other governments have asked the Obama government to describe emissions reduction policies as a percentage of the country’s pollution, but the Obama negotiators have no number to provide. The only policies implemented in the last four years to make a significant dent economy-wide are the new car standards, which, optimistically, reduce pollution by a few percent.
If we are going to have any hope of avoiding runaway climate change, developed countries must cut about a third of greenhouse gas emissions in less than a decade.
The US federal government should be leading at home, and advocating strongly that other countries do the same. Far from being a climate leader, the Obama administration has dragged its feet on all fronts. We have no limits yet on current stationary sources of pollution, such as coal-fired power plants. We have no limits on climate pollution from aviation, which Obama has been fighting internationally. We have no limits on climate pollution from agriculture. And Obama’s team in the international climate talks has continuously attempted to stall and confuse the negotiations. The President has ceded political debate on climate to Fox News and friends, which has made climate politics in America even more backward.
There is little doubt that President Obama wants to deal with climate change, but so far that has not translated into him making it a priority for the country. Quite the contrary, the President has gone out of his way to please the fossil fuel industry. This pandering has been painfully obvious in the recent presidential campaigns, but the Obama administration has also been a fossil friend of substance.
The Department of Interior has energetically scaled up fire sales of publicly-owned coal. This coal is sold under the auspices of satisfying domestic demand, although it is often to foreign buyers who fully intend to export. The climate doesn’t know the difference. Despite one of the worst human-caused environmental disasters ever, the BP blowout in the Gulf of Mexico, the Obama administration opened up new areas to dangerous ultra-deepwater drilling on the outercontinental shelf and signed an historic agreement with Mexico to drill the deepest wells ever even further offshore. The administration hasn’t ruled out the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline, and continues to move forward with drilling in the fragile Arctic Ocean. Leaving unanswered a letter from 68 organizations calling on Obama to stop fracking in the absence of regulations and adequate knowledge of impacts, the administration seems intent to both allow fracking on public lands and to possibly approve exports of high carbon-footprint fracked gas.
In effect, the Obama administration is actively increasing supply of carbon polluting sources of energy, while dillydallying on policies and advocacy to reduce carbon pollution.
Mayor Bloomberg also criticized both candidates for failing to cite the “hard decisions” they would take to get the economy back on track. We should be asking the same regarding runaway climate disruption. The problem with endorsing Obama for his overt position on climate is that just as many, if not more, of his hard decisions have benefited climate polluters.
Written by David Pomerantz, crossposted from Greenpeace blogs.
Meet Hurricane Sandy, brought to you by global warming.
That's a tough message to swallow right now. It means that the devastating scenes we are seeing from the Northeast are not a freak coincidence, but a reflection of our new reality on a hotter, less stable planet, and a reality that will get much worse if we don't do something about it.
Fortunately there are things we can do, both to better prepare ourselves for more extreme weather events like Sandy, and to slow down the global warming at their root.
But whatever we do won't matter until our politicians start getting honest about the problem.
“There has been a series of extreme weather incidents. That is not a political statement. That is a factual statement. Anyone who says there’s not a dramatic change in weather patterns, I think is denying reality ... I said to the president kiddingly the other day we have a 100-year flood every two years now."
Michigan Governor Jennifer Granholm sees the obvious too:
“There’s a clear link to climate change. And, yet, for the first time in over a quarter century, climate change was not brought up even once at the presidential debates.”
President Clinton may have drawn the sharpest, clearest connection so far, in a critique of Gov. Romney earlier today:
Clinton gets the facts slightly wrong in his scathing take-down of Gov. Romney (he made his "rising seas" joke at the RNC, not in a debate) but his point stands that Romney's campaign has completely ignored the looming thread of climate change, and even flirted with denying it. Perhaps even worse than Romney's joke that Clinton mentioned - one that is likely to become infamous in the post-Sandy world - is the fact that Romney's budget proposal would cut FEMA funding by 40 %. That's not exactly a smart resilience policy for a hotter planet with more extreme weather events.
Despite President Clinton's praise, President Obama has also been mostly silent on the climate discussion for some time. While Obama has made strides on clean energy in his presidency, he has run a campaign almost entirely devoid of any mentions of climate change, instead trying to out-embrace Gov. Romney for who could better endear himself to the fossil fuel industry responsible for the problem in the first place.
It may feel funny to talk about politicians right now, but if we are serious about steeling ourselves for the next disaster and slowing down the global warming that's putting these hurricanes on steroids, then part of picking up the pieces means finding out which politicians we can trust to be honest about what's exacerbating these disasters.
That starts with the next president. Pres. Obama and Gov. Romney will likely both be talking about Sandy this week: it's a good chance for them to show they'll be one of the politicians who gets it.
Aerial views of damage caused by Hurricane Sandy along the New Jersey coast on October 30, 2012.
Written by Cassady Sharp, crossposted from Greenpeace blogs.
Climate change is now changing the weather. All weather events are affected by climate change because the environment in which they occur is warmer and moister than it used to be . The past few years have been marked by unusually severe extreme weather characteristic of climate change .
Hurricane Sandy grew to record size as it headed north eastwards along the US coast. Less than 48 hours before it was due to make landfall Sandy's tropical storm-force winds extended north eastwards 520 miles from the centre. Since records of storm size began in 1988, only one tropical storm or hurricane has been larger--Tropical Storm Olga of 2001  . New York and New Jersey suffer the brunt of the damage and New York Governor Andrew Cuomo has certainly noticed the pattern in his state giving the below statement in press conference today.
"There has been a series of extreme weather incidents. That is not a political statement. That is a factual statement. Anyone who says there’s not a dramatic change in weather patterns, I think is denying reality."
September 2012 saw the second highest global ocean temperatures on record. During the same month, ocean temperatures off the mid-Atlantic coast were 1.3°C above average. These unusually warm ocean temperatures have carried on into October, enabling Sandy to pull more energy from the ocean than a typical October hurricane.
Hurricane Sandy could have been just some coincidental freak storm. A rare occurrence with impacts few infrastructures are prepared to handle. The same coincidence that caused the East Coast derecho this summer or the simultaneous Midwest drought. But aren't coincidences and freak storms supposed to be rare?
2012 has been packed with extreme weather, and the aftermath of these events has been devastating not only to individuals, but to the operation of our country. Although mum's been the word on climate change during this year's election overshadowed by a debate on which candidate is a better friend to coal, the issue is now at the feet of President Obama and Governor Romney. The latest reports claim Hurricane Sandy caused 16 U.S. deaths, 7 million without power and $10 billion in damages. That could make Hurricane Sandy the costliest natural disaster in U.S. history. What would Hurricane Sandy be beating out for that prestigious title? Hurricane Katrina whose devastation was so grave, it nearly led to the condemning of one of America's greatest cities.
The global scientific consensus makes it clear that the burning of fossil fuels is driving climate change and its impacts. It is up to our leaders in government and business to protect us from this growing threat.
President Obama and Mitt Romney must articulate the scale of the global warming problem to the American public, and offer real plans to not only enhance US preparedness for extreme weather caused by climate change, but also to dramatically reduce the fossil-fuel emissions that are driving the worst effects of catastrophic climate change.
American citizens are paying for climate change when they're left to clean up the mess after extreme weather events such as Hurricane Sandy. President Obama and Governor Romney have indicated a willingness to address taxpayer subsidies to the fossil fuel companies that are driving climate change. Both candidates should commit to prioritizing an end to these subsidies in the first days of their administration.
And we can all take part in an energy revolution.
Last week, Greenpeace posted a comparison of Romney’s new “War on Coal” TV ads with coal industry advertising. Our analysis shows that Romney’s ads mirror four decades of coal industry advertising.
It turns out that the coal industry is not only providing Romney with talking points for his TV ads, but also with human props. The Romney “War on Coal” TV ad features the candidate speaking in front of a crowd of coal miners. Murray Energy Company forced these miners to miss a day of work without pay, and told them that attendance was mandatory at the Romney event. On Tuesday, Progress Ohio filed an FEC complaint over the use of coal miners in the Romney TV ad. "Clearly the [Romney] campaign should have thought better of exploiting the forced support of these workers,” said Brian Rothenberg, Executive Director of ProgressOhio.
The TV ad is running in coal states, including Ohio and West Virginia. In the ad, Romney declares “we have 250 years of coal! Why wouldn’t we use it?” Greenpeace analysis revealed that this estimate is frequently used in coal advertising, even though the National Academy of Sciences shows it to be vastly overestimated.
Mitt Romney released new TV ads this week about Obama “ruining” the coal industry, conveniently timed with a sudden House Republican push for the so-called “Stop the War on Coal Act.”
A Greenpeace investigation released last week highlights the recurring themes of Big Coal advertising, with decades of ads from coal mining companies, coal-burning utilities, and industry front groups. The Big Coal industry advertising machine has been working for decades to “keep America stupid,” as Rolling Stone put it.
This week’s political messaging about a supposed “war on coal” illustrates a troubling trend that the Big Coal public relations machine is co-opting America's elected leaders.
New Romney TV ads on coal mirror the industry’s old and new ads
One of Big Coal’s main advertising themes since the 1970s has been abundance of coal and energy security. Romney's new TV ad highlights this theme, featuring a stump speech clip with Romney declaring “We have 250 years of coal! Why wouldn’t we use it?”
The 250-year coal supply figure is an extreme overestimate, since US coal reserves can only be confirmed to last about 100 years, according to a National Academy of Sciences report five years ago. So, where did Romney get that number?
Maybe Romney got it from this coal industry front group advertisement, claiming that using less coal will make dictators smile. Check out the ad up close.
Or maybe Romney got the 250-year claim out of this internet ad from ACCCE, the coal industry’s public relations association.
Coal industry estimates of incredible abundance are notoriously incorrect. At least Romney’s estimate was slightly more accurate compared to this National Coal Association ad from 1977, claiming coal would last 500 years. In 1976, an American Electric Power ad used the 500-year coal supply along with an estimate that America would run out of oil and natural gas by 1988. People say hindsight is always 20/20.
Not only does the coal industry provide talking points for Romney’s stump speeches and TV ads, but it also provides the human props. The Romney TV ad features shots of the candidate speaking with a crowd of coal miners behind him. Murray Energy Company forced these miners to miss a day of work without pay, and told them that attendance was mandatory at the Romney event.
Obama also influenced by Big Coal advertising
Unfortunately, the Republican candidate is not the only one susceptible to coal industry public relations. The Obama campaign aired radio ads criticizing Romney for saying a dirty coal plant “kills people” when he was Governor of Massachusetts. Obama has made so-called “clean coal” and CCS technology part of his energy platform. As a way to keep their industry alive, Big Coal invests heavily in “clean coal” advertising, even though the touted CCS technology that captures carbon dioxide is unproven at scale and exorbitantly expensive. Check out this nonchalant Peabody Energy ad from 2009.
The clean coal advertising theme existed decades before CCS technology, when simply “washing” coal meant that it was now “clean,” like in this AEP ad from 1979.
Congress is another vehicle for coal industry public relations
The coal industry advertising doesn’t only influence presidential politics. Republicans in the House Friday morning passed the so-called “Stop the War on Coal Act.” The Act is several coal-friendly bills packaged into one big wish list for the coal industry, including stripping EPA authority to regulate greenhouse gases, restricting EPA from regulating coal ash and delaying the EPA mercury rule. The bill package will be dead-on-arrival in the Senate.
The Act provided Republicans with the opportunity to lambast the EPA for protecting public health from coal pollution. As two Republicans wrote in a Sept 20th op-ed, “President Obama and his extreme EPA have issued new rules and regulations that are crippling the coal industry” and “this ‘Train Wreck’ of new EPA regulations is already…costing jobs in places where unemployment is staggering.”
Considering that energy experts will tell you that competition from renewable energy and natural gas are actually causing the decline in coal, why are these Republicans so focused on EPA regulations? One could list several political reasons but, coincidentally, blaming the EPA has been a regular theme for Big Coal advertising since Nixon established the EPA in the 1970s.
In this 1974 ad, EPA is blamed for blocking the use of coal which somehow, in a bizarre twist of logic, would result in Middle Eastern oil moguls buying American coal fields from under our noses.
Another 1974 American Electric Power ad criticized EPA for encouraging the use of pollution scrubbers on coal plants. In comparison, the coal industry now celebrates scrubber technology for making coal “clean" while still attacking the EPA for new clean air rules. This ACCCE internet ad claims the EPA will cost 1.65 million jobs.
Coal advertising themes like "coal is abundant," "coal is clean," and "EPA kills jobs" are completely integrated now into Presidential and Congressional debates. After decades of Big Coal advertising efforts, some of our elected officials have mutated into Big Coal spokespeople.
But first, a dose of climate reality:
In a recent study, scientists found that climate change will decrease the number of seasonal flowers, leading to an overall decrease in the number of butterflies, who rely on flowers for a sustainable source of energy - no destruction required. Another recent study found that climate change will increase the number of Lyme disease infected ticks, parasites that drill into their prey and extract their blood, leaving sickness and suffering in their wake.
It’s almost poetic that continued reliance on puncturing the earth and sucking out the oil will lead to more parasites puncturing and sucking us in return…
Speaking of bothersome pests - Senator James Inhofe, staunch global warming denier and human prune, went on the Rachel Maddow Show to discuss his new book, "The Greatest Hoax: How the Global Warming Conspiracy Threatens Your Future."
During the interview, the good Senator from Oklahoma repeated his belief that a global conspiracy of environmentalists and scientists (and global temperature readings) are colluding to create the illusion of a changing climate, just to justify taxes.
See the left portion of this graphic for a summation of Inhofe’s climate views:
Though Inhofe has said ludicrous things about climate science many times before, he rarely mentions why he initially became such a zealous climate denier.
As he revealed in the interview, Inhofe became skeptical of climate science once he found out solving the looming climate crisis might cost money. In the interview he said “I thought it must be true until I found out what it cost.”
So, if Inhofe lets money dictate his policies, what does it mean that the top three contributors to his campaign are dirty energy companies (Koch industries being #1), or that he has taken well over $1 million from the fossil fuel industry since 1999?
Come on Inhofe, dont be such a tick.
Written by Kyle Ash, crossposted from Greenpeace Blogs
It has become tiresome to rip on President Obama for failing America and the world on climate. We could not help but get excited in November 2008 when we realized Bush II and his oil lackeys were out of office in two months. But one could argue that President Obama led us on by saying things like “Now is the time to confront this challenge once and for all.” And, regarding White House leadership, “That will change when I take office.”
The bar for Obama administration action on climate has become so low that it doesn’t take much to get people excited. For example, the President used the words “climate change” during his recent state of the union address, having failed to mention this existential dilemma last year. Some people read a lot into that.
So, yesterday, it was unsurprising to see an over-excited reaction to a State Department announcement on a new climate initiative. President Obama’s Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, called a press conference to announce that the United States and several other countries would start a new, official collaboration to reduce short-lived climate pollutants, such as methane, black carbon and HFCs. However, it’s pretty clear that this is no announcement about US policy to reduce climate pollution. It’s great countries are talking, but also not new. The US contributed $12 million for this collaboration. This is is about what Mitt Romney would have earned after taxes if he paid the same tax rate my mother does. $12 million is lot of money for one person, but for an intergovernmental partnership to tackle global climate disruption, it’s laughable.
The best thing about Secretary Clinton’s announcement yesterday is that the Obama administration publicly professed to being active on climate, and reiterated actions they’ve been taking already to reduce climate pollution. The worst thing about yesterday’s announcement is that it reminded everyone of what the Obama administration has done to increase climate pollution. A large funder of Obama’s campaign in the past, who has contributed $35 million to campaigns and environmental causes, announced her support was gone because of Obama’s failures on climate.
Let’s put this in context.
A lot was achieved up front when the President pushed for passage of the American Recovery and Investment Act of 2009. The bill included grants and tax incentives for efficiency and renewables production and research, smart grid development, and low-emissions vehicles. The Obama administration has continued to press continuing incentives for renewables and efficiency. The Environmental Protection Agency has not yet implemented any standards for large stationary sources of climate pollution that have any significant impact, but the new vehicle standards will have an impact. Expectations for EPA, however, remain much higher than for the rest of the Obama administration, and we still hold out hope for climate pollution standards to be strengthened on both vehicles and stationary sources.
So far, we can’t put a number on how much less climate pollution the world will see because of the Obama administration. We can say that the US goal of 17% under 2005 levels by 2020 is so unambitious that it was possibly imminent before the President announced it. We can also say that the Obama administration may be doing as much to increase climate pollution through other measures.
Although the President has continued to call for the removal of fossil fuel subsidies, the reality is that his administration has been a great friend to coal, oil, and gas.
President Obama’s administration has decided to increase coal mining on public lands, for example in Wyoming where federal leases will allow mining of about 758 million tons of coal. Although some of this coal will definitely be burned in the US, the administration intends to use coal mining expansion to help meet its goal of doubling exports by 2014. So, although we will succeed at shutting down old coal-fired power plants in America, US coal can still contribute to as the largest global contributor to climate disruption.
In the first quarter of 2011, US exports of coal rose by 49% compared to the same quarter of 2010, amounting to 26.6 million short tons. This is the highest amount of coal exported since 1992 (when 27 million short tons were exported).
Similarly, if vehicles in America become more efficient, the plan seems to be to make sure the oil is burned anyway. 2011 was the first year in almost two decades when the US became a ‘net exporter of fuel’. In each day of February, the US exported 54,000 more barrels of petroleum than it imported. To add insult to injury, the Obama administration now appears bent on drilling in the Arctic which is more accessible to climate polluters because they’ve made the ice melt.
An irony about the State Department initiative to reduce emissions of methane is the Global Shale Gas Initiative, and other efforts by the Obama administration, to push US methane (natural gas) abroad. There is a likelihood using shale gas for electricity leads to emissions as high as with coal, or higher. Shale gas that is liquified, transported, thousands of miles, and re-gasified I argue certainly has a higher carbon footprint than local coal.
It seems the general attitude among climate advocates has gone from glum to numb. To be fair, our despair about climate policy is fueled by the undying Republican platform that environmental ignorance and scorn are praiseworthy. There are also Democrats who have donned ignorant and scornful attitudes about climate disruption, but mostly their problem is letting Republicans spearhead the debate on climate. Climate disruption for the Obama White House seems to be viewed not as a real problem but a political problem.
Rachael Robson was a co-author of this blog.
How great would it be if our elected officials had to follow a set of rules that created a fair playing field in politics? Mistruths and false promises would be seriously penalized by watchful referees and policy ideas could succeed or fail on their merit, rather than the checkbook of their supporters. Instead we have a system where industry and government collude to pass projects that are bad for people and bad for the environment, but increase corporate bottom lines and campaign coffers. Politicians repeat dishonest and twisted information, violating the trust between the electorate and the elected. A low blow to the American people, yet usually no one is there to blow the whistle.
This kind of poor sportsmanship was on full display at yesterday’s meeting of the House subcommittee on energy. The committee met in response to the rejection of the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline, a Canadian project that would pump the dirtiest and most carbon intensive crude oil in the world from Alberta, Canada to the Gulf Coast.
(Picture of the tar sands)
Promoters of the pipeline were attempting a Hail Mary to save Keystone XL by stripping the ability to regulate it from the Obama administration and giving it to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC). To make their case, Keystone XL’s congressional supporters (who have taken a whopping $41 million in campaign contributions from Big Oil) were willing to toss around all the falsehoods and industry talking points that have been polluting the debate from the beginning.
Fans of the Tar Sands pipeline, like Joe Barton, John Shimkus, and Fred Upton, claim the pipeline would provide 20,000 jobs, lower gas prices for Americans, and decrease our dependence on foreign oil. These claims are all false - in reality the pipeline would create less than 1/3rd of the jobs pipeline enthusiasts claim, there would be no cost savings on gas for Americans, and the oil will be exported from Port Arthur, Texas, so it would not even be used in America. To top it all off, Port Arthur is registered as a foriegn trade port, meaning the U.S government would not even recieve taxes from the tar sands oil shipped abroad.
(Activist referees calling a foul)
The deceptive claims made by fans of the tar sands are a violation of the American people’s trust in their elected representatives. That’s why a group of activist referees attended the committee hearing, and threw a penalty flag every time Big Oil’s congressmen tried to pull a fast one. Not used to playing by the rules, Congressional advocates racked up a ton of red flags as they repeated their inaccurate data and manipulative talking points over and over. Check out a video of the committee hearing for a taste of what these refs had to deal with.
A group of activist dressed as referrees keep close watch on the republican led House energy subcommittee