Commentary

ExxonMobil: Strong government action is necessary to avoid catastrophic climate warming

Many in the hopeless, head-in-the-sand crowd on the far right will still be denying the reality of climate change when the ocean water is knee deep in Greenville, but fortunately, their position is becoming increasingly isolated. As the Washington Post reported on Sunday, even the bosses at the world’s second largest oil and gas company are now calling for strong government action to address the crisis:

“To understand how dangerously extreme the Republican Party has become on climate change, compare its stance to that of ExxonMobil.

No one would confuse the oil and gas giant with the Sierra Club. But if you visit Exxon’s website , you will find that the company believes climate change is real, that governments should take action to combat it and that the most sensible action would be a revenue-neutral tax on carbon — in other words, a tax on oil, gas and coal, with the proceeds returned to taxpayers for them to spend as they choose.

With no government action, Exxon experts told us during a visit to The Post last week, average temperatures are likely to rise by a catastrophic (my word, not theirs) 5 degrees Celsius, with rises of 6, 7 or even more quite possible.”

But, of course, as we know all too well, such obvious science and common sense talk mean nothing to the denizens of right-wing “think tanks” and cynical politicians who place, respectively, their fetishistic worship of obscure Austrian economists and lust for personal power above the survival of the biosphere.

In such a situation, it is more important than ever that caring and thinking people who want the planet to survive in some semblance of its current self to redouble their efforts to defeat the deniers. And as for ExxonMobil finally coming around to the obvious truth, all one can say is “welcome to the fight — better late than never.”

Commentary

The best editorial of the weekend: NC’s shameful backslide on climate change

You don’t have to have read the lead editorial in Sunday’s edition of Raleigh’s News & Observer to know that North Carolina’s conservative political leaders have charted a disastrous course on climate change and fossil fuel emission in recent years. Heck, one need only watch TV commercials being run by various oil companies in which even they — the chief polluters themselves — admit the need to take action.

That said, the editorial makes several excellent points that should be taken to heart. Here, with the recent and promising climate talks in Paris as the backdrop, is the central thrust:

“In that regard, it matters how seriously North Carolina’s state and local governments take the issue and what actions that concern produces. Generally, North Carolina is more part of the solution than the problem of global warming. The state has been a leader in encouraging renewable energy, especially solar energy, and some of its cities and towns have promoted the use of renewable energy in homes and required it in public buildings.

But that positive record is being clouded by the rise of climate-change skeptics in the General Assembly and the administration of Gov. Pat McCrory. Not only has state government lost a sense of urgency or even obligation about addressing global warming, it also has begun rolling back earlier efforts and thwarting current ones.

Last session, the General Assembly allowed a renewable energy tax cut to expire, undermining the state’s booming solar power industry. Meanwhile, some lawmakers are continuing to seek an end to mandates requiring utilities to produce a rising percentage of their electricity from renewable sources. The legislature has backed fracking in North Carolina despite its tendency to leak methane from drill sites. The McCrory administration opposes the EPA’s new Clean Power Plan, which calls for reductions in carbon emissions from power plants. And the governor is leading a regional push to allow off-shore drilling….

Fortunately, an oil and natural gas glut has slowed North Carolina’s movement into fracking and may make off-shore drilling not worth the effort. And the gains of earlier years are still having an effect in growing solar and wind power. But in a race against global warming in which time is essential and governments at all levels must contribute, North Carolina’s state government has chosen to run backward.”

Let’s hope fervently, that in 2016, our state gets back in the business of saving the planet, rather than laying waste to it. Click here to read the entire editorial.
Commentary

Advocates respond to McCrory administration’s assault on Clean Power Plan

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.

Commentary

This week’s most hopeful NC news story: Prominent meteorologist comes around on climate change

Image: WRAL.com

Image: WRAL.com

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 WRAL.com 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

New evidence that climate change is making North Carolina more like Florida

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.