Environment Correspondent
Deborah's Feed
Feb 10, 2010
via Tales from the Trail

Amidst the shivering in Washington, the case for global warming


OK, it’s cold in Washington. It’s really cold. And snowy. And blizzardy. It’s hard to recall that long-ago moment — what was it, six days ago? — when you could go for a walk without cross-country skis and a flask of brandy. But just because it’s winter doesn’t mean global warming is a myth.

But the storms gave conservatives fresh fodder for mocking former Vice President Al Gore and his efforts on global climate change.  Senator Jim DeMint tweeted “It’s going to keep snowing in DC until Al Gore cries ‘uncle’,” Politico reported.

Feb 10, 2010

Wind, solar groups push U.S. renewable energy standard

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. industry executives from the wind, solar, hydropower, geothermal and biomass sectors pushed on Tuesday for a federal renewable energy standard, which they said would foster growth and create jobs.

This could also spur these industries at a time when China is moving swiftly into this area, said Denise Bode, CEO of the American Wind Energy Association.

Feb 10, 2010

Asian affluence endangers world tiger population

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Demand by a newly rich Asian population for such goods as tiger bone tonic wine and tigers’ skin, meat and teeth is putting pressure on these endangered creatures worldwide, wildlife advocates reported on Wednesday.

Because of this increased Asian demand for tiger products, tiger farms in Asia are breeding the animals for their body parts, even though there is a ban on this trade in Asia, said Crawford Allan, Director of TRAFFIC-North America, which monitors such illicit commerce in animal products.

Feb 8, 2010

New climate service aims to help business adapt

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – A proposed new U.S. NOAA Climate Service is meant to help businesses adapt to the impact of climate change, and to spur development of new technologies to cope with it, U.S. Commerce Secretary Gary Locke on Monday.

“Even with our best efforts, we know that some degree of climate change is inevitable and American citizens and businesses, and American governments … must be able to rise to environmental and economic challenges that lie ahead,” Locke told reporters in announcing the move.

Feb 4, 2010

Scant Arctic ice could mean summer “double whammy”

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Scant ice over the Arctic Sea this winter could mean a “double whammy” of powerful ice-melt next summer, a top U.S. climate scientist said on Thursday.

“It’s not that the ice keeps melting, it’s just not growing very fast,” said Mark Serreze, director of the U.S. National Snow and Ice Data Center.

Feb 2, 2010
via Tales from the Trail

A film classic ripe for a Washington-style update?


It’s Oscar nomination day, which means some in snow-covered Washington DC — Hollywood for ugly people, if you believe the old saying — are daydreaming about what it would be like to make a blockbuster film. “Avatar” seems to have the inside track in this year’s Academy Award race, but isn’t there an old classic movie ripe for a Washington-style remake?

How about “Meet John Doe”? It’s a Frank Capra morality piece made in 1941, where a soda jerk can speak basic truth and a rail-riding hobo is played by Gary Cooper, the George Clooney of his day. Everybody’s scrounging for a job and a buck, they’re laying off the old pros at the local newspaper and a cigar-chomping oil magnate wants to get into politics. Barbara Stanwyck plays a hard-driving columnist who fakes a letter from a mythical “John Doe” who says he’s going to leap off the city hall roof on Christmas Eve to protest widespread corruption and the state of the world in general.

Jan 28, 2010

Extreme US winter signals climate change-report

WASHINGTON, Jan 28 (Reuters) – Extreme winter weather in the northern United States shows that climate change can have severe effects, even when it doesn’t warm things up, the National Wildlife Federation reported on Thursday.

Climate change is expected to bring shorter, milder winters overall, but some U.S. areas will have more intense snows, with more disruption to such activities as skiing and ice fishing, which depend on predictable conditions, the report said.

"More oddball winter weather is terrible news for skiers," the federation’s Chip Knight, a former U.S. Olympic slalom skier, told reporters.

Mountain snow sports that require reliable snow conditions provide about $66 billion to the U.S. economy; without them, local communities are vulnerable, Knight said.

He pointed to extreme efforts under way to get snow to sites at the Vancouver Winter Olympics as "a startling example of what’s at stake."

In the northern United States, spring now arrives 10 to 14 days earlier than it did 20 years ago. However, some areas are expected to have more heavy snowfalls as winter storm tracks shift northward. For example, reduced ice cover on the Great Lakes is likely to result in more lake-effect snows.

Strange winter weather is likely to strain local budgets if overall milder winters are interrupted by heavy snowstorms that require snow removal and road maintenance, said Sheldon Drobot of the National Center for Atmospheric Research. Extreme variability from one winter to the next makes planning for maintenance difficult, he said.

The current season has offered sudden temperature swings that, among other things, stranded a flock of brown pelicans that failed to migrate south during a mild period in late fall. They’re spending the winter indoors in Maryland after suffering frostbite, said the federation’s Amanda Staudt, a climate scientist.

Cutting the greenhouse gas emissions that spur climate change is "an essential first step," Staudt said. However, she added that climate change is already occurring and must be dealt with.

"It’s clear that we’re already seeing some impacts and we need to start preparing for the new climate realities," she said. "We can’t continue to plan based on what the historical trends have been."

Curbing U.S. greenhouse gas emissions has been one of the Obama administration’s top priorities, and one carbon-cutting bill passed the House of Representatives but stalled in the Senate. President Barack Obama called for climate change legislation in Wednesday’s State of the Union address, and a trio of senators are working on a compromise measure.

Jan 27, 2010

U.S. climate bill possible this year: Sen. Graham

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Two key U.S. senators on Wednesday renewed their commitment to passing a climate change law backed by President Barack Obama, saying they would continue to seek a compromise cap-and-trade bill this year.

“In this area, the opportunity exists this year, in a bipartisan fashion, to get something…,” Senator Lindsey Graham, a South Carolina Republican, said of a bill to tackle climate-warming emissions.

Jan 27, 2010

No "scaling back" on US cap-and-trade – Sen. Kerry

WASHINGTON, Jan 27 (Reuters) – Senator John Kerry, a key U.S. lawmaker trying to craft a cap-and-trade bill, denied a report on Wednesday that advocates of this plan to curb climate change were scaling back their efforts.

"Our goal remains exactly what it was before: to price carbon and to create a target for reduction of emissions that is real," the Massachusetts Democrat told a forum on clean energy, jobs and security.

"So we have not scaled back our goals, they are the same," Kerry said. "We have not recalibrated some lesser approach that is only energy or only this or that … We have to price carbon in order to get the marketplace moving properly."

Kerry was responding to a New York Times report that said prospects for a comprehensive cap-and-trade measure were dimming after a surprise election loss by Democrats last week robbed them of a critical majority in the U.S. Senate.

Scott Brown, who won the Massachusetts seat and eliminated the Democrats’ ability to overcome opposition procedural blocks, opposed a federal cap-and-trade bill in his campaign.

Kerry has been working with Republican Senator Lindsey Graham and Senator Joe Lieberman, an independent, to put together a bill to cut U.S. greenhouse gas emissions.

Graham was quoted in the report as saying cap-and-trade bills in the U.S. House of Representatives and Senate are "going nowhere" because they aren’t "business-friendly" enough and fail to lead to energy independence.

Graham was scheduled to address the clean energy forum later in the day.

Kerry noted Graham’s position, but said the issue under discussion was how to put a price on carbon, not whether to do it.

"Cap is on the table, trade is on the table, all these things are on the table, and we’re having a lot of conversations about it," Kerry said. "And you simply won’t get the impact of the reductions (in climate-warming carbon dioxide emissions) you need unless you do it."

Kerry said defense review being released by the Pentagon next week will for the first time list climate change as an instability factor that affects U.S. troops "and may in fact wind up costing us lives down the road." (Editing by David Storey)

Jan 26, 2010
via Tales from the Trail

State-of-the-Union Bingo!


Yes, of course, President Obama’s State of the Union address is a serious occasion, full of solemn portents for the nation and the world. But even Washington wonks have to have a little fun. Strangely enough, they’re likely to have fun this year by playing SOTU bingo.

For the uninitiated, SOTU bingo involves modified bingo cards, usually filled in with various words or phrases the president is likely to utter. It’s pretty easy to figure out which bingo-card-makers are friendly to Obama and which are foes. Some simply want to push a cause and hope Obama brings it up when he talks to Congress on Wednesday night.

    • About Deborah

      "I started with Reuters in 1986 in New York City, moving to Washington DC two years later. I've covered the Winter Olympics in Calgary and Salt Lake City, a couple wars, the State Department, White House, Pentagon, several long trials and a presidential sex scandal. Since 2006, I've been reporting on the environment and climate change."
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