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Climate change - droughtLooking for something at least a tiny bit hopeful to mull over during a period in which hopeful news seems to be at a minimum? Here’s something: Charles Koch — yes, that Charles Koch — admits that CO2 is warming the planet.

Koch grudgingly told the Washington Post’s Matea Gold in a recent interview that “…there has been warming. The CO2 goes up, the CO2 has probably contributed to that.”

Naturally, his admission was tempered and followed by lots of untruths — the folks at The Guardian have a nice analysis here in which they more fully explore the various stages of Koch’s denial — but, even so, it has to be seen as at least a small measure of progress that Koch, one of the wealthiest individuals in human history and the underwriter of a network of destructive propagandists who are doing much to hasten the demise of life as we know it, is at least seeing a small sliver of the light.

Let’s fervently hope that the relentless march of time and his own mortality continue to push the aging plutocrat further out into the light of day in the near future (and that the network of climate change deniers he funds get the memo).

Commentary

Politics trumped common sense again today as the North Carolina Senate passed legislation that purports to prevent the state from complying with the Obama administration’s Clean Power Plan — even though the state is well-positioned to do so. Click here to read attorney and veteran regulator Robin Smith’s explanation as to why this action simply makes no sense.

Meanwhile, the good people at the North Carolina Chapter of the Sierra Club responded:

Senate Again Makes Effort to Undermine Clean Power Plan

RALEIGH – This afternoon, the NC Senate gave approval to a revised version of H 571, renamed “An Act to Require State Agencies, Boards and Commissions to Implement a Clean Power Plan Consistent with the Federal Clean Air Act”. The measure does the opposite of what the title suggests and we question that it is in the best interest of the state.

After the Senate’s vote this afternoon, Molly Diggins, state director of the NC Sierra Club issued the following statement:

“Today’s vote is a bad faith circumvention of the historic Clean Power Plan. The Senate would require DENR to create a state plan to reduce carbon dioxide emissions that is designed to fail in order to set up a legal confrontation with EPA.”

“It is bad faith to shut the public, the private sector and even the utilities out of the process of developing the state plan. Without that input, the state cannot develop a plan that keeps the energy system reliable and energy costs reasonable. We should not –by law– prevent the state from claiming credit for carbon reductions that the state will see from renewable energy, energy efficiency, and other measures to achieve EPA’s goals.”

“The EPA is giving states unprecedented flexibility in designing an approach to comply with the rule that works best for them. The Senate’s actions would needlessly and without explanation or justification limit the state to just one option.”

“North Carolina has the chance to again be a leader in the Southeast – just as we were when we passed the Clean Smokestacks Act in 2002 and the Renewable Energy Portfolio Standard in 2007. But it appears that Senate leaders and the McCrory administration would rather use the Clean Power Plan as a political football than as a practical way to improve our state’s air quality, economy, and the health of all our communities.”

More information about H 571 and the Senate’s actions: Read More

Commentary

Climate change - droughtLike their intellectual predecessors who for so long denied the dangers of tobacco smoke, the creativity of climate change deniers in manufacturing excuses and red herring-filled critiques of common sense public regulations knows few bounds. At some point, however, the evidence simply becomes so overwhelming that reasonable people simply stop listening to the denials.

Let’s hope that a new federal EPA report hastens the arrival of that day. This is from a Washington Post article that was reprinted in this morning’s edition of Raleigh’s News & Observer:

“A global agreement to curb greenhouse gas emissions would prevent nearly 70,000 premature American deaths annually by the end of the century while sparing the country hundreds of billions of dollars’ worth of economic losses, according to a major government study on the cost of climate change.

Slowing the carbon build-up in the atmosphere would also prevent severe damage to a wide range of critical ecosystems, from Hawaiian coral reefs that support tourism to shellfish beds off the East Coast, said the report released by the White House on Monday.

The report, a five-year, peer-reviewed analysis that assesses the benefits of alternative strategies for dealing with climate change, concludes that every region of the country could be spared severe economic disruptions that would result if greenhouse gas concentrations continue to soar.”

The article goes on to explain some of the myriad ways in which human health and overall well-being could be enhanced if we would simply stop poisoning the planet so aggressively.

Click here to explore and download the entire EPA report – “Climate Change in the United State: Benefits of Global Action.”

Commentary

Sea-level rise 2For anyone who cares about the North Carolina coast, there is a “must read” in this morning’s edition of Raleigh’s News & Observer by one of the state’s top experts on coastal geology.

As Dr. Rob Young explains in an essay entitled “That ‘more realistic’ sea-level report? Not good news for NC,” the notion that scientists have backed off of the troubling predictions that had developers in a lather a few years back is nonsense. Here’s Young:

“There seems to be a grand misimpression that a new sea-level rise report released by the Science Panel of the Coastal Resources Commission is different from a report released in 2010.

Here’s the shocking news: They’re essentially the same. The main difference is that the Science Panel first was asked to look 90 years down the road. The new report looks 30 years down the road. Interestingly enough, the first report includes a projection for 30 years that essentially matches the 30-year projection from the new report.

Any suggestion that the political establishment somehow chastened scientists into producing a ‘more realistic’ report is nonsense. The new report uses the same data sources, plus a few new ones, and the same approach. It even presents the predicted acceleration of sea level rise toward the middle of the century. (Full disclosure, I was an author on the first report but stepped down from the panel before the second report was completed.)

Yes, it is true that the new report includes different projections for the northern and southern North Carolina coast because northeastern North Carolina is subsiding. But the first report clearly acknowledged this difference. Why did the first report choose to use the higher northern Outer Banks rate for its SLR projection? Because the Science Panel was directed by the CRC to report only one number in that report. Had the CRC requested multiple rates, it would have gotten them.

The real lesson from this exercise is that five years of additional data haven’t changed the basic forecasts.”

As Young goes on to explain, the implications of these latest findings are hard and troubling but undeniable and the same as the ones he explained a couple of years ago in an NC Policy Watch Crucial Conversation: Unless North Carolina wants to waste vast sums of money and actually make things worse in many places, we need a plan for managed retreat in some communities along the coast. Read More

Commentary

Climate change - droughtIt’s become a bizarre article of faith on the modern American Right that climate change and the science demonstrating the human role in bringing it about are all part of some diabolical plot by liberal academics and activists bent on limiting “freedom” and obtaining more funding. Things have gotten so bad that it’s practically forbidden for conservative politicians to even sound like they care about the environment.

In the bill the North Carolina House passed yesterday to repeal the requirement that the state adopt air quality standards for fracking operations, lawmakers even went to the trouble of changing the name of the state “Ecosystem Enhancement Program” (too warm and fuzzy apparently) to the bland and corporate “Division of Mitigation Services.”

Fortunately, it appears that it may still be okay to do a few things to help the environment (and even address the effects of  climate change) so long as you don’t really admit that that’s what you’re doing. Hence, the introduction this week by conservative state senators of legislation called the “Birds and Bees Act.”

As Raleigh’s News & Observer makes clear in this story this morning, the intent of the bill is laudable — to help more bees (a key element of our global food system) survive. Moreover, it’s well-established that one of the chief causes of bee depopulation is climate change.

Just don’t look for any admission of this critical linkage in the law or the explanations that will be forthcoming from lawmakers. Instead, bet your bottom dollar that the “Birds and Bees Act” bill will get explained with chuckles and sold as program to help farmers. All of which is fine and true — it would just be nice to hear conservative politicians admit why such action has become necessary.