Global environmental challenges
from Tales from the Trail:
Oil caused the mess in the Gulf of Mexico. Should U.S. oil royalties pay for scientists to study what happened, and what's still happening, to this complex environment?
At least one scientist thinks so. Ed Overton of Louisiana State University figures the billions of dollars collected in royalties by the now-defunct and much-reviled Minerals Management Service -- re-named and re-organized as the Bureau of Ocean Energy -- must have enough money to pay for research into the environmental impact of the Deepwater Horizon blowout and spill.
Speaking at a Senate hearing last week on the effects of oil-dispersing chemicals, Overton and other experts called the BP spill an unintentional "grand experiment" into what deep water oil exploration can do to animals, plants, water and land in the Gulf. As Overton put it, the oil and dispersants are out there now. Best to study them over the months and years ahead to figure out what they're doing to the environment.
"The Mineral Management Service has generated royalty income to the federal government of billions of dollars. And virtually all of that money has been spent on not understanding the environment," Overton said.
By now, almost everybody — with the possible exception of Republican Senate candidate Carly Fiorina — realizes there’s a difference between climate and weather. Fiorina, running in the California primary and ultimately aiming to unseat Democrat Barbara Boxer, paid for and appeared in a campaign ad slamming the sitting senator for being “worried about the weather” when there are serious concerns like terrorism to deal with.
Take a look here:
A few problems with this ad earned it the not-so-coveted beyond-false “Pants on Fire” rating from Politifact, a Pulitzer-prize winning journalism website that checks on the truthfulness of political advertising. First off, Boxer didn’t say she was worried about the weather. She said that climate change was “one of the very important national security issues” — a position in line with the Pentagon and the CIA. The site also found that it’s not an either/or thing, that focusing on climate change doesn’t necessarily mean neglecting national security. They took a look at Boxer’s record and found she has supported at least six bills against terrorism.
With BP’s spilled oil shimmering off the U.S. Gulf Coast, and a re-tooled bill to curb climate change expected to be unveiled this week in the U.S. Senate, what could be more appropriate than a bouquet of new environmental polls? Conducted on behalf of groups that want less fossil fuel use, the polls show hefty majorities favoring legislation to limit emissions of climate-warming carbon dioxide.
In the kind of harmonic convergence that sometimes happens inside the Capital Beltway, a new poll released on Monday by the Clean Energy Works campaign showed “overwhelming public support for comprehensive clean energy legislation,” with 61 percent of 2010 voters saying they want to limit pollution, invest in clean energy and make energy companies pay for emitting the carbon that contributes to climate change. A healthy majority — 54 percent — of respondents said they’d be more likely to re-elect a senator who votes for the bill.
Fred Krupp is president of the Environmental Defense Fund. The views expressed are his own.
It’s as though three mammoth challenges facing America are intertwined like the strands of a rope: reducing our dependence on Mideast oil; creating new American jobs from clean energy; and reducing pollution responsible for climate change.
The sweeping legislation unveiled in the U.S. Senate today aims to curb climate change, arguably one of the biggest tasks ever undertaken on this planet. But it’s a bill that runs to more than 800 pages, and hidden in its folds is a provision that could turn a noted symbol of New York City — the yellow taxicab — green.
And it wouldn’t just be in New York. Boston, San Francisco, Seattle and other major U.S. cities would be able to create taxi fleets made up entirely of hybrid vehicles under the proposed Green Taxis Act of 2009.
For those keeping track, there are five months left before the December meeting in Copenhagen where the world is supposed to agree on how to tackle climate change after crucial aspects of the carbon-capping Kyoto Protocol expire. Before they can agree on anything, they have to have a document to work from, and that’s where people like Michael Zammit Cutajar come in.
He and other diplomats at the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change will get together next month in Bonn to whittle down a 200-page text to something more manageable. On a visit to Washington, he said he didn’t expect any big breakthroughs at that meeting because “people don’t like to work much in August.” So far, he himself hasn’t read through the whole draft and admits it’s likely to be a tough thing to read: “You pick it up, you look at it, you see three pages, you say ‘interesting,’ you put it down again. It’s not meant to be read top to bottom.”