Environment Forum

A winter’s tale of climate skepticism

USA/Another winter storm is brewing in Middle America. So what else is new?

It’s been one spate of severe weather after another even before 2011 began. And you would expect those skeptical of climate change to capitalize on the cold snap by questioning whether human-spurred global warming is a real deal.

Strangely enough, climate skeptics appear to be less vocal than they were last year, when Republican Sen. James Inhofe of Oklahoma built an igloo as a blizzard blew through Washington DC, and dubbed it “Al Gore’s new home.” If it’s so cold, the argument went, how can there be global warming?

Gore himself offered an answer last week, in a blog post meant to respond to just such a question from Fox News’s Bill O’Reilly.

“In fact, scientists have been warning for at least two decades that global warming could make snowstorms more severe,” Gore wrote. “Snow has two simple ingredients: cold and moisture. Warmer air collects moisture like a sponge until it hits a patch of cold air. When temperatures dip below freezing, a lot of moisture creates a lot of snow.”

All the numbers indicate the planet as a whole is warming, which means climate change is already under way. But climate skeptics remain unpersuaded.

from Tales from the Trail:

Team Obama’s Environmental Irony Tour

OBAMA/Okay, so it's August in Washington. It's hot. Congress has gone home. Even the summer interns are packing up and getting out of town. So it's not surprising that top members of the Obama administration might be ready for a road trip.

That's basically what the White House announced in a statement headlined: "Obama Administration Officials Travel America, Talk Clean Energy Economy." President Obama went to Indiana to announce $2.4 billion in funding for advanced battery and electric drive projects; Energy Secretary Steven Chu headed for Minnesota to look at renewable energy projects and North Carolina to announce a big grant to a lithium battery firm, finishing up the week in Massachusetts to talk about clean energy jobs at Harvard; Interior Secretary Ken Salazar went to a solar panel company in Colorado; EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson was in Florida and Commerce Secretary Gary Locke traveled to Missouri.

ENVIRONMENT-USA/WINDProbably only a crank would wonder just how much greenhouse gas all this official travel spewed into the atmosphere. There's no hybrid Air Force One, after all. But it does seem like an exquisite irony that, with the best of environmental intentions, the Obama team may have stomped all over the United States with a heavy-duty carbon footprint.

How much would you pay?

What’s the real cost of global warming? More to the point, how much would you — the person reading this blog — be comfortable paying to stave off the worse ravages of climate change? A hundred bucks to keep the rising seas out of your back yard? A thousand to replenish mountain snowpack? Maybe a few dollars to put more trees back in the rainforest?

Luckily, there’s no shortage of estimates of how much each individual in the United States might have to pay to curb the greenhouse emissions that spur climate change. One particularly pertinent estimate was delivered on Capitol Hill by EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson at a Senate hearing geared to send the message that, yes, the United States Congress is getting serious about tackling the problem.

As Reuters’ Jasmin Melvin wrote in this story, Jackson said it would cost the average U.S. household about 50 cents a day to fight global warming, though wealthier households would probably pay more. Even if this cost doubled, Jackson told the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, that would only be a dollar a day. Who wouldn’t pay that?

California wastes no time pressing new EPA

California wasted no time asking incoming U.S. Environmental Protection Agency chief Lisa Jackson to reconsider a request to let the state impose stiff targets to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from cars.

 The state’s top air quality regulator sent a letter to Jackson on Wednesday, the Obama administration’s first full day at work. Jackson hasn’t even been confirmed as the new EPA administrator yet, but California isn’t beating around the bush.

Stephen Johnson, the EPA administrator under former President Bush, drew the ire of California and more than a dozen other states in 2007 when he denied the state’s request for federal permission to impose tough new standards on auto emissions. 

New EPA chief ready to give California new car rules of its own?

Environmental Protection Agency chief-to-be Lisa Jackson said science would be her guide on policy – and that may mean California is in the driver’s seat on setting new global-warming-style regulations on cars. (Not to mention the nearly 20 other states ready to follow in its footsteps.)

Jackson said she would reconsider whether California should get a waiver from the EPA that would allow it to regulate carbon pollution from cars, the San Francisco Chronicle said. The Bush administration has said no to such a waiver – but Jackson said she would focus on the science.

“She said today ‘I’m going to do it’. I mean, she didn’t say that — but I don’t think the auto industry has any doubt,” Sierra Club chief Carl Pope said shortly after a Senate confirmation hearing for Jackson. “She didn’t have to signal that strongly.”

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