With the devastating impacts of global warming starting to flood in (literally and figuratively) like water off a rapidly melting glacier, the administration of Gov. Pat McCrory continues to do the destructive bidding of the fossil fuels industry. Rather than capitalizing on our state’s natural advantages and moving rapidly to deploy sustainable energy like solar power, the McCrory team is, sadly (even tragically), doing what it can to undermine the federal EPA’s delayed and still inadequate Clean Power Plan. The good folks at the Sierra Club explain today’s developments:

EMC backs McCrory administration draft carbon rules
Draft rules expected to be rejected by the EPA

RALEIGH – Earlier today, the North Carolina Environmental Management Commission (EMC) approved the Department of Environmental Quality’s (DEQ) plan to move forward with a state Clean Power Plan rule that is designed to be rejected by US EPA. The Commission also agreed to waive their normal internal 30 day review period for the agency’s draft proposal to meet carbon dioxide emissions reductions known as the Clean Power Plan. The EMC also approved the draft plan proposed by the agency, opening the rule to a period of public comment as required by state law.

“Rather than make an honest effort to reduce carbon emissions, the McCrory administration would rather use taxpayer money and resources to pick a fight with the EPA,” said Molly Diggins, state director of the NC Sierra Club. “In order to meet a false deadline to pursue a politically charged lawsuit, the Commission gave up its own 30 day opportunity to study the rule, and scheduled public hearings at the peak of the holiday season.”

During presentations to the EMC, DEQ staff made it clear that the draft Clean Power Plan only uses one path of reducing carbon dioxide emissions: greater efficiency at coal fired power plants. The EPA’s rule allows states to use three pathways (known as building blocks) to reduce carbon emissions, including natural gas and clean energy generation. DEQ has rejected the other options due to their legal quarrel with EPA.

“Our state has a booming clean energy sector that can help create jobs, lower utility bills, and reduce carbon dioxide emissions. But rather than move our state forward, Governor McCrory’s administration is intentionally submitting a plan that they know the EPA will reject,” added Diggins. “This is not a good use of time, money, or energy for our state. We should be making a legitimate effort to reduce harmful greenhouse gas emissions and do our part in addressing climate change.”

The EPA Clean Power Plan requires NC to reduce carbon dioxide emissions by millions of tons; the draft plan only achieves 0.4% of the required reductions, according to DEQ officials.

“Today’s action will cost the state countless dollars to litigate the rule, without taking significant steps to reduce our carbon emissions in the meantime. This entire process is disrespectful of the public input and basic tenants of good governance,” added Diggins.



Most readers have probably already seen something about this story as it has been public in one form or another for weeks, but it seems worth reiterating and celebrating today after it received front page treatment in yesterday’s edition of Durham’s Indy Week. I speak, of course, of the recent actions and statements of Greg Fishel, the much-beloved (and devoutly Christian and conservative) meteorologist at Raleigh’s WRAL TV, in which he finally and publicly discarded his skepticism about global warming and the contributing role that humans are playing.

As Fishel explained in an article for last week, the science is simply to overwhelming to deny or ignore any longer.

“We have known for almost 200 years what gases make up our atmosphere, and what the radiative properties of those gases are. We know for a fact that the pre-industrial revolution levels of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases are the difference between life and death on this planet. In other words, without the natural levels of these gases, the earth would be an iceball and uninhabitable. That is fact, not conjecture.

We know for a fact that the earth’s temperature is rising, and that it’s not the sun. If it were the sun, the entire atmosphere would be warming, but it’s not. The troposphere, where most of the weather occurs, is warming up, and the stratosphere is cooling. This is all part of the radiative adjustments that are taking place because of what man is doing to the composition of our atmosphere.

Satellites confirm that the amount of long-wave radiation leaving the earth is decreasing and is emanating from a higher and higher altitude. Again, the exact response one would expect from human forces.

We know for a fact that the lifetime of carbon dioxide molecules is on the order of hundreds and even thousands of years, unlike water vapor molecules whose lifetime in the atmosphere is just shy of two weeks.”

In both his article and the Indy week story, Fishel laments the fact that so many of his fellow conservatives see acceptance of the facts of climate change as some kind of surrender of their core values. This is from the WRAL article:

“In closing, I believe science is a gift from God. We benefit from science in our daily lives 1,000 times over through all the conveniences we enjoy. Why have we chosen to turn our back on science when it comes to basic chemistry and physics? It is time to stop listening to the disingenuous cherry-pickers and start taking responsibility for learning the truth about climate change.

For those of you who are ardent skeptics, it’s going to be uncomfortable. I know, I have gone through the entire process. But in my mind, I didn’t make a mistake, I simply grew as a human being. There aren’t too many experiences in life that can top that.”

In the Indy Week story Fishel even opines that the issue has become a new passion for him that may even become the “focus of my life from here on.”

To which all a caring and thinking person can say in response is: Congratulations, Greg. Thanks for your honesty and courage.

Commentary, News

A lot of deniers will never be convinced, even when the water is lapping at their ankles, but for anyone interested in scientific facts, this article on the NC Coastal Review (“Climate Change Evidence All Around”) is worth a read this morning.

“Despite what you might hear, there’s strong evidence that climate change is having an impact on North Carolina: Look carefully at the fish.

That was one of the messages from Pete Peterson, a researcher and professor at the University of North Carolina’s Institute of Marine Sciences in Morehead City. He was among the scientists, TV weathermen and journalists on the boat Friday touring the marshes of the White Oak River. The boat trip was part of a workshop on climate change’s effects on coastal habitats organized by the N.C. Coastal Federation….

Peterson, whose work involves research and teaching grad students in paleoecology, invertebrate fisheries management, estuarine habitat evaluation and barrier island ecology, said that it’s fairly easy to see the effects on local waters and fish.

For example, he said, a thermometer hung for decades in the water off the bridge to Pivers Island – home of NOAA’s Beaufort Lab and the Duke Lab – clearly shows a 1.8-degree Fahrenheit rise in water temperatures in the past two decades.

At the same time, Peterson said, there’s been an equally clear shift in the composition of fish stocks in some locations. The NOAA lab, he said, has for decades sampled reef fish, and has found that over the past four decades, there’s been a marked decrease in the number of northern, temperate species, and a corresponding dramatic increase in the number of tropical species.”

In other words and in lay people’s terms, North Carolina is slowly but surely starting to look more like Florida. And anyone (i.e. the Koch-funded groups on the right) who denies this plain reality and helps stymie the efforts to address it is contributing to this potentially catastrophic problem.


Emily Atkin of Think Progress has posted seven great questions put forth by progressives — including former Equality NC director Ian Palmquist — that ought to be posed of all presidential candidates, including the five Democrats who will debate on CNN tonight:

1)“What do you think are the top three things the next president needs to do in order to make sure fewer families have to go through the pain that mine has?” – Erica Lafferty Smegielski, daughter of deceased Sandy Hook Elementary School principal Dawn Hochsprung.

2) “Will you engage in aggressive litigation against the fossil fuel industry’s conspiracy of climate denial, as the Clinton administration did against the tobacco industry?” – R.L. Miller, president of Climate Hawks Vote.

3) “What would you do to prevent the racially charged attacks on the right to vote?” – Sean McElwee, research associate at Demos.

4) “When you step into office, will you commit … [to use] your authority to immediately end leasing of public fossil fuels in the U.S.?” – Erich Pica, president of Friends of the Earth Action.

5) “What will you do to ensure that young people maintain access to critical healthcare services despite growing conservative attacks on birth control, abortion, and other services?” – MS Keifer, policy analyst at Advocates for Youth.

6) “Will they work to eliminate all mandatory minimum drug sentences? And how would they allocate federal funds and specifically design programs to prevent recidivism?” – Zellie Imani, Black Lives Matter activist and New Jersey teacher.

7) “What would your administration do to make sure young LGBT youth are getting education, not incarceration?” – Ian Palmquist, director of leadership programs for Equality Federation.

Click here to read the entire article and the full explanations of each question.


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).