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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.

Commentary

Climate change - droughtThe good people at the Center for American Progress have released a new and sobering set of fact sheets documenting the abysmal state of climate change denial in Washington. Sadly, several members of North Carolina’s congressional delegation are “recognized” for being on record in support of the denial efforts. The list includes: Senators Richard Burr and Thom Tillis and Representatives Virginia Foxx, Richard Hudson, Walter Jones, Robert Pittenger, David Rouzer and Mark Walker (as well as Gov. Pat McCrory).

This is, of course, a tragic and maddening state of affairs given the the fact that ninety-seven percent of climate scientists (as well as several fossil fuel companies!) agree that current human activity is contributing to the warming atmosphere and causing the global climate to change.

Unfortunately, as the fact sheets note, North Carolina’s denier delegation is far from alone:

  • One hundred sixty-nine Republicans in the 114th Congress are on record questioning or denying the science behind climate change.
  • Fifty-three percent—or 131 members—of the House Republican caucus question or deny the science behind climate change.
  • Seventy percent—or 38 members—of the Senate Republican caucus question or deny the science behind climate change.

Click here to see the North Carolina fact sheet and the disturbing documentation with respect to each of our head-in-the-sand lawmakers.

Commentary

Some good news today for renewable energy and global warming!  A new study shows that the cost of utility-scale solar energy is as low at 5.6 cents per kilowatt hour in comparison to natural gas at 6.1 cents and coal at 6.6 cents.  The investment banking firm Lazard, who conducted the study, highlights that even without subsidies solar is coming in at 7.2 cents and wind at 3.7 cents.  You can read the New York Times story about the report here.

Solarize Charlotte Project. by Jack Miczek, Greenpeace.

Solarize Charlotte Project. by Jack Miczek, Greenpeace.

For North Carolina we’ve already seen our national ranking as #4 in solar growth and wind energy opportunities abound, especially off-shore.  As renewables become more competitive and create new economy jobs, will our state continue to advance renewable energy and do our part to combat global warming?  Will we put ratepayers first? Or will we continue down a fossil fuel path of fracking and off-shore oil drilling?