Archive for the ‘Global warming’ Category


I realize I was a little snarky with my comments yesterday about the U.S. – Chinese deal on cutting greenhouse gas emissions. Maybe it is my inherent distrust of “gentlemanly handshake” agreements between two of the worlds’ three leaders-in-contest for world hegemony. Maybe it was because our own ex-Senator Max Baucus has been eerily silent during his stint as the new U.S. ambassador to China.

Run a google on Baucus’ accomplishments and statements on his work in China, and you come up with nothing. So of course, after watching him and seeing how he rolled in Congress, it’s easy to see him taking a back-room role in all this, and twisting it somehow to someone’s ($$) benefit. No matter (maybe), I digress.

But this agreement was no watershed moment to me, as there were no treaties signed, no Congressional approval, no third party involvement. It was strictly a political maneuver with a lot of side stories. But taken at its face value, here is what Frank Melum, Senior Point Carbon Analyst at Thomson Reuters had to say:

“We do not expect these new targets to significantly alter the world’s trajectory for emissions growth, but the joint announcement will probably alter the pace of negotiations, and could in time could lead to improved ambition levels”.

“Improved ambition levels.” Nice political double-speak! So, that’s all and good and symbolic, and pressure-setting for other countries and emerging economies. And of course, I remain highly skeptical that either the U.S. or China will meet the expectations set for them by 2030. Continue Reading »


No Friday trifecta would be complete without at least throwing one bone to the deniers to chew on.

“Nearly 4 out of 5 Americans now think temperatures are rising and that global warming will be a serious problem for the United States if nothing is done about it, a new Associated Press-GfK poll finds.

Belief and worry about climate change are inching up among Americans in general, but concern is growing faster among people who don’t often trust scientists on the environment. In follow-up interviews, some of those doubters said they believe their own eyes as they’ve watched thermometers rise, New York City subway tunnels flood, polar ice melt and Midwestern farm fields dry up.”

Does anybody really believe anything will get done?


And to complete my Friday Trifecta:

I suppose god wants it that way. So let’s keep exporting and burning that coal… must have jobs up till the rapture!

by Pete Talbot

Pearls Before Swine by Stephan Pastis

Pearls Before Swine

This is in response to the Polish Wolf’s post over at Intelligent Discontent.  While some of his stats are interesting, his premise is flawed.  Basically he says that the 99% are responsible for their economic plight by shopping at WalMart, buying imported clothing and purchasing gasoline.  There’s a grain of truth to this, I suppose, but I’m thinking that the policies of the last few decades have more to do with wealth inequalities: economic policies that favor Wall Street over Main Street, Free Trade agreements that benefit corporations more than workers, and energy policies that promote carbon-based fuels over renewables and conservation.

Montana Supreme Court rules

Or maybe I should say the Montana Supreme Court rocks!  I certainly have more respect for the majority of Montana Supremes than the majority of SCOTUS justices.  In a 5-2 vote, the justices ruled against the kooky triumvirate of Western Tradition Partnership, Champion Painting Inc. and Gary Marbut’s Montana Shooting Sports Association Inc.  Unlike the U.S. Supreme Court, Montana justices don’t believe corporations should be able to buy and sell elections.

Look up pompous ass in the dictionary

And you’ll see a picture of George Will.  In his latest column, he promotes the Keystone XL pipeline, the Canadian tar sands and fracking in general.  He pooh-poohs climate change, the EPA, the National Labor Relations Board and student loans.  He believes “conservatives should stride confidently into 2012” … “because progressivism exists to justify a few people bossing around most people … ”  He has that backwards, of course, but because he uses a lot of two-dollar words, people think he’s smart.  He’s not.

And locally

Usually reliable reporter Gwen Florio reports on a woman who’s attempting to disqualify Justice of the Peace John Odlin.  This stems from two misdemeanor charges against the woman for “community decay.”  What the hell does that mean?  Did she beat up on some curbs and gutters?  Forget to paint her porch?  Dump raw sewage into a neighborhood park?  I’m dying to know.  Anyway, the Montana Supremes call her case against Odlin “frivolous.”

by jhwygirl

We first wrote about Montana’s HD Rep. Joe Read a few weeks ago. Read, as you may recall, has proposed a bill – HB549 – that says that global warming is good for Montana.

The Colbert Report’s Stephen Colbert picked up on Read’s bill, and did a really nice segment the other night.

Who doesn’t love Tip of the Hat, Wag of the Finger?

Since I wouldn’t know how to embed this, please enjoy this segment that begins with the words “Opinions are like assholes, in that I have more than most people.”

Love this, from Stephen: “OK, it’s law now. A reasonable amount of CO2 – which means any amount produced in Montana – has no verifiable effect on global warming. Just as a reasonable amount of science has no verifiable effect on Joe Read.”

Fortunately, the House Natural Resources has the good sense to table the thing. Wish I knew the vote.

by jhwygirl

The Indy’s Matthew Frank has an excellent article on the Montana GOP’s attack on a “clean and healthful environment”.

He starts it off with Ann Hedges testimony on SJ10, which I actually heard. It was late on a Friday and as I heard one of the legislators say that carbon dioxide was good for Montana I really really felt sorry for her.

Then I was glad I donate to MEIC.

Goddess Bless Anne Hedges. If I were Soros, that organization would have a million bucks donation from me.

by Pete Talbot

Apparently, our President isn’t really that committed to combating climate change.

According to Environment and Energy Daily, the Obama administration is urging the U.S. Supreme Court to toss out an appeals court decision that would allow lawsuits against major greenhouse gas emitters for their contributions to global warming.

(Here’s a link to the publication but unfortunately you need to subscribe to read the story. Trial subscriptions are available. I’ve reproduced the story below the fold.)

The case centers on what’s known as “public nuisance” lawsuits and the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in favor of the plaintiffs — a coalition of states, environmental groups and New York City. The plaintiffs are filing a lawsuit that seeks to force several of the nation’s largest coal-fired utilities to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions.

Environmentalists were shocked with the administration siding with the big coal companies. From the story:

Matt Pawa, an attorney representing plaintiffs in the case, said he and his colleagues expected the White House to stay out of the matter. During a meeting with more than 30 administration lawyers at the solicitor general’s office on June 24, it seemed they had “a lot of friends in the room,” he said.

“We feel stabbed in the back,” Pawa said. “This was really a dastardly move by an administration that said it was a friend of the environment. With friends like this, who needs enemies?”

I’m feeling a little back-stabbed, too.

Continue Reading »

by Pete Talbot

I had to go to that bastion of investigative journalism, Google news, to learn about it. Nothing in our local media — print, radio or TV — and nothing in the statewide press.

The rest of the world seemed clued in: the Philippines, China, New Zealand, Kenya, Brazil; even Dallas, the progressive Mecca of Texas, got in the swing.

They all turned off their lights for one hour Saturday. It was called Earth Hour and it was promoted by the World Wildlife Fund to call attention to global warming. This isn’t new. It’s been going on for four years now.

Granted, it’s a symbolic gesture but it did cut energy demand — by five percent in some cities. It’s also an effective educational tool. It would certainly get the attention of my grandkids if the TV, Playstation, computer, lights, stereo, etc. were turned off for an hour on Saturday night and we did something family-like by candle light.

But I guess Montana won’t be affected by declining fossil fuel reserves or by climate change. No need for us to join the rest of the world. Ignorance is bliss.

by JC

How much more stupid can republicans get? Plenty. What do local weather events have to do with global warming? Absolutely nothing.

Claiming that winter events in parts of the country are evidence that global warming isn’t occurring only points out the ignorance of the difference between “climate” and “weather.” Even in a climate that has warmed several degrees above current average temps, winter will occur. But sea levels will still rise, coastlines will recede, drought patterns will change, food growing capacities will change, populations will migrate, and wars will be fought over scarce resources like water.

And republicans holding a snow shovel in their hands will go: huh, how can it be?

Here’s a graph. Maybe it makes sense to some people. But not to republicans who just want to use a snow storm to win an election.


–Change in global surface temperature anomaly as computed by NOAA (NCDC Dataset), NASA (GISS data set) and combined Hadley Center and Climate Research Unit of the University of East Anglia (UK) (HadCRUT3 data set). Uncertainty in the HadCRUT3 data is shown in gray. Image and quote below credit: WMO:

The year 2009 is likely to rank in the top 10 warmest on record since the beginning of instrumental climate records in 1850, according to data sources compiled by the World Meteorological Organization (WMO)…

The current nominal ranking of 2009, which does not account for uncertainties in the annual averages, places it as the fifth-warmest year. The decade of the 2000s (2000–2009) was warmer than the decade spanning the 1990s (1990–1999), which in turn was warmer than the 1980s (1980–1989)…

This year above-normal temperatures were recorded in most parts of the continents. Only North America (United States and Canada) experienced conditions that were cooler than average. Given the current figures, large parts of southern Asia and central Africa are likely to have the warmest year on record.

by Pete Talbot

Buried in an AP story on climate change was Sen. Max Baucus saying he had “serious reservations” with a modest effort to cut carbon emissions over the next decade.

What a tool.

The bill being considered by a Senate environmental panel calls for a 20 percent reduction in greenhouse gases by 2020. The bill might stave off catastrophic global warming … or at least it’s a start.

Here are some more choice quotes from our senior Senator:

“We cannot afford a first step that takes us further away from an achievable consensus on commonsense climate change legislation.”

There’s Max, trying to build that “achievable consensus” again. He sure did a fine job on health care. And Max, please explain “commonsense climate change legislation” to me. Would that be no legislation?

“Montana can’t afford the unmitigated impacts of climate change, but we also cannot afford the unmitigated effects of climate change legislation,” Baucus added.

Christ, I’m so sick of Max’s double talk I could puke slugs.

Compare Max’s quotes to those of the bill’s author, Sen. John Kerry. From the AP story:

… Kerry acknowledged that the bill would raise energy prices, but said the savings from reducing energy and the money to be made in new technologies were far greater.

“Are there some costs? Yes, sir, there are some costs,” he said and added that while an array of studies show restricting greenhouse gases will lead to higher energy prices, “none of them factor in the cost of doing nothing.”

Well said, John.

I’m surprised that Max stuck his neck out so far on this one. After all, his campaign contributions from the energy industry pale in comparison to the dollars he gets from the health care/insurance industry. Still, there are few Democrats out there who are as capable as Max of doing the wrong thing.

by Pete Talbot

Following on the heels of a New Yorker article I read on global warming, I saw that Rep. Denny Rehberg joined just about every Republican in the U.S House to vote against the modest cap-and-trade, energy and environment bill.

I’m guessing Denny doesn’t read the New Yorker. He’d rather get his info from the Heritage Foundation … or somewhere. Too bad, because James Hansen, head of NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies, and other climate experts, paint a dismal picture.

In a Lee newspaper article, Rehberg called the bill “destructive.” He obviously doesn’t understand the meaning of the word “destructive.”

Nobel Prize-winning economist Paul Krugman has some insights into this congressional malfeasance (via Jay at LiTW).

The Congressional Budget Office says, that over a few years, the bill will likely cost the average American family $175 a year. About what I pay yearly for DVD rentals. So it’s $175 a year for awhile or trillions of dollars much later to mitigate environmental degradation we can’t even imagine.

Isn’t it funny how right-wingers bring up deficit spending as a burden to future generations but they ignore global warming?  Not really.

by Pete Talbot

(In computer parlance, they’re called emoticons, but I’ve hated smiley faces since they first appeared in the 1970’s. That being said, I can’t for the life of me figure out how to embed a ‘thumbs-up’ or ‘thumbs-down’ emoticon in a post, so you’ll have to put up with smiley faces in this week’s review of events.)

:( Judy Stang. In what was already considered a tight race in Senate District 7, with Democrat Paul Clark running against Republican Greg Hinkle, Ms. Stang filed as a write-in candidate. She’d lost a close primary battle with Clark earlier in the season — the key word here being “lost.” Now she has the potential to hand the race to the Republican candidate, thereby giving the state senate a Republican majority. Thanks a lot, Judy.

:) Missoula Red Tape. Missoulian city beat reporter Keila Szpaller and county beat reporter Chelsi Moy have teamed up on a new blog site (it’s new to me, anyway). It offers some insights into local government that might not make it into the daily dead tree edition. Welcome to the ‘sphere, you two. Missoulian blogs tend to ebb and flow. Here’s hoping that this one stays around.

:( Roy Brown. Gubernatorial candidate Brown has the same respect for the scientific community as VP candidate Sarah Palin, that is to say none. He vows increased coal mining and more coal-fired generating plants in Montana if elected. What part of human-caused global warming, much of it coming from the burning of coal, don’t these people fathom?

:) Barack Obama and Dave Stewart. This latest music video has been making the rounds but I haven’t seen it linked to on any of the blog sites I usually visit — so here it is. Enjoy.

:( Direct TV. Yes, I know, Direct TV employs a bunch of people at its call center here in Missoula. That still doesn’t make up for the fact that it shows no local programming (including Grizzly games!). I live in a place that gets a really poor local signal and I hooked up to Direct TV quite awhile ago. Guess I’m going to have to switch over to Dish or maybe even Bresnan. They both carry the local stations.

by Rebecca Schmitz

If you have a few spare moments to spend online, and need further proof that the “drill drill drill” crowd’s solution to our energy problem isn’t one at all, be sure to read this interview with Shock Doctrine author Naomi Klein on the Onion’s AV Club.

by jhwygirl

Until its bitter bitter end, I suppose. The guy has absolutely no boundaries.

Either that or he is stupid.

Maybe it’s both.

A big ole’ hat tip to Pogie over at Intelligent Discontent for this one.

When the G8 Summit on climate change closed out last October week, the Chimpster ended a private meeting by saying “Goodbye from the world’s biggest polluter,” and then, with a big ole’ smile on his face, punched the air.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy and British Prime Minister Gordon Brown, needless to say, looked on in shock.

You didn’t read that in the U.S. press. This news came from the UK Telegraph.

Regarding that October thing? It was late and I’m sticking by that excuse.

by Pete Talbot

(The above headline is to be sung to the tune of “These Are a Few of My Favorite Things” from the Sound of Music.)

I love it when someone actually researches the claims from the right that global warming isn’t happening. Dick Barrett shreds a recent global warming denier’s guest column.

Shane takes up the nuclear energy debate and also has a poll. The poll’s results don’t seem to match the comments. Maybe the nuclear industry lobby folks are also linking to Montana Netroots, and voting but not leaving their opinions.

Also over at NetRoots, Cece is pissed. Apparently, the backers of I-159 have removed the initiative from the ballot for some future political favors. I’m not sure how that works but I wasn’t even aware of the petition drive until just last week when someone thrust a clipboard in front of me at Rockin Rudy’s and asked me to sign.

Jay reviews the Montana Republican convention and I agree, Erik Iverson is one hell of a spin doctor. One of my favorite quotes was, “Our diversity in the Montana Republican Party is our strength.” It came from a Missoulian State Bureau story that was headlined, “Diversity, unity the themes at GOP convention.” Now when I think of diversity, I think about people of color, or gays and lesbians. I don’t think about a bunch of white folks that are right wing and far-right wing.

Another nugget from the convention that goes to the heart of Republican diversity was this. It’s a new plank in the party platform that advocates rounding up all the illegal immigrants in the U.S. and shipping them back to whence they came. First of all — good luck. Second of all — where does the budget for this round up come from? And finally, a few Republican critics of the plank said it sends the wrong message. You think?

Finally, most everybody thinks that 18 gubernatorial debates are overkill. While Jay thinks three is plenty, Lamnidae thinks that 174 is a good number (but I think he’s being facetious).  My belief is that one should suffice.  By the way, excuse my ignorance, but just what is a lamnidae?

by Pete Talbot

Missoula’s Sustainable Business Council will hold its 4th Annual Sustainability Awards tomorrow night (Thursday, May 15) at the Stensrud Building.

The Stensrud Building is on Missoula’s Northside at 314 N. 1st St. W. A social get together starts at 5:30 p.m., the awards will be presented at 6 p.m. and a lecture will follow at 6:15 p.m. It’s free and open to the public, and there are always treats and beverages at these events.

Each year, the SBC presents a series of awards to recognize and appreciate outstanding contributions to the concept of sustainable practices and the resulting positive effect on the quality of life in Missoula and Western Montana. This year’s winners, listed below, will be recognized at the opening of the final lecture for the 2007 – 2008 lecture series.

Categories & Recipients

SBC Business Award: Big Sky Brewing

SBC Nonprofit Award: Missoula Urban Demonstration Project (MUD)

SBC New Venture Award: First Interstate Bank and Missoula Federal Credit Union (for building green)

SBC Advocate Award: Ms. Lizzi Juda

SBC Volunteer Award: Mr. Kevin Dohr and Ms. Kaia Peterson

Following the awards, Merrill Lynch Senior Partner Susan Estep will give a presentation on the $2.71 trillion socially responsible investing market. Estep has over 25 years in the securities industry and is a portfolio manager specializing in socially responsible investing.

(Full disclosure: Pete Talbot is on the board of the Sustainable Business Council. For more information on the SBC, please visit the Council’s website.)

by Pete Talbot

I thought readers might be interested in taking this climate change survey from the Montana Environmental Quality Council.

(This is a real survey, unlike a Denny Rehberg survey I saw last fall. Rehberg’s was one question long and it read something like this: “If you agree with homosexuals, communists and devil worshipers that we should lock up our federal lands to any future recreation, development or agricultural uses — please mark the box below.” The EQC survey is comprehensive and takes about 15 minutes.)

A tip o’ the hat to Peggy Miller, who sent me an email about this and Sonja Nowakowski, who said she’d field any questions. I’m pasting the original email below with appropriate links.

The Montana Environmental Quality Council, a committee of the state legislature, wants to know how Montanan’s feel about climate change and a host of recommendations aimed at reducing greenhouse gas emissions in Montana.

As part of its interim work, the EQC is reviewing the 54 recommendations included in the “Montana Climate Change Action Plan: Final Report of the Governor’s Climate Change Advisory Committee.” The final report was released in November 2007.

In order to better understand how the public feels about the recommendations, the EQC is conducting a survey. Members are asking Montanans to take the survey online at . Members themselves also are participating in the survey.

The 54 recommendations are broken down into five categories: Residential, Commercial, Institutional, and Industrial (RCII); Energy Supply (ES); Transportation and Land Use (TLU); Agriculture, Forestry, and Waste Management (AFW); and Cross-Cutting Issues (CC). Throughout the survey, the page numbers where you can learn more by referencing the full report and appendices are listed as hyperlinks.

While this survey is lengthy, EQC members believe it is imperative that the public have as much opportunity as possible to weigh in on the individual recommendations as well as the subject of climate change. Results of the survey will be compiled and shared with the EQC during a meeting March 10-11 in Helena.

If you have any questions, please feel free to contact Sonja Nowakowski at 406-444-3078 or via e-mail at Thank you.


EQC Homepage

by Rebecca Schmitz 

Expect to hear a lot of tortured arguments over the next few days from our friends in the Flat Earth Society about how a Nobel Peace Prize doesn’t mean anything scientifically.

*Newt’s new book, A Contract with the Earth, outlines a free market-based plan for curbing global climate change.

by Pete Talbot

MISSOULA, Mont., July 5, 2007 – A record 102 degrees Fahrenheit, according to the Missoulian, breaking the old record by five degrees.

Hot enough for all you neocon naysayers, Libertarian hacks and corporate whores who deny global warming?

Sure, sure – one day of extreme heat isn’t proof. But there’s other news in today’s paper, like the announcement that fire season is here. That’s three weeks ahead of normal, according to a Montana DNR spokesman.

And swimmer’s itch, the pesky little parasite that gets under your skin, has arrived.

“The weather’s a lot hotter this year,” said a Flathead City-County Health Department worker, “and the water’s heating up sooner.” Ergo an early outbreak.

Now I’m not going to get into a tit-for-tat with the officious Libertarians down at the think tanks in Bozeman. They’ll claim global warming is some kind of natural cycle, if they acknowledge its existence at all. It certainly isn’t human caused and even if it is, there’s nothing to be done about it.

I love that sort of “can’t do” philosophy.

I know I should be doing more about it, personally. Riding my bike (I did that yesterday and started sweating like a pig in a down jacket). Being more energy efficient at home. Traveling less for business and pleasure – that one’s really going to hurt. And the list goes on.

But where’s the national mandate? I’m going to need a little help here since, like most Americans, I don’t want to radically change my lifestyle.

So, where is the energy-efficient mass transit? Or the big push for conservation or solar? Why are we still burning coal? Or planning our communities with longer-and-longer commutes?

I realize that our current national leadership doesn’t give a rat’s *ss about this issue. Let’s hope that changes.

‘Cause today (July 6) is supposed to be even hotter – could break all records – and without some major energy, transportation and planning policy shifts, it’s only the beginning.

Stay cool.

by Jay Stevens

There’s a lot of resistance in some circles to the idea that global warming is real, despite the overwhelming evidence. The question is, why?

Believe it or not, I think an answer can be found in Krayton Kerns’ paranoid theory that a cabal of “environmental disaster wizards” whose goal is…well…it’s not exactly clear. To return cattle ranch land to its “pristine” state? To subvert everyone under a socialist state?

My sense is that Kerns, and people like Kerns, are wary of the chorus of voices urging change, most of it lifestyle change. They want to dictate what kind of car you buy, goes the theory, they want to tell you what light bulbs to use in your home. It’s intrusive government policy that’s concerning here, not the raw data on climate change.

(By the way, Kerns’ conspiracy is patently ridiculous. As a card-carrying member of the Democratic party, and with many personal connections to environmentalists of all stripes, I can say with utmost confidence that there is no conspiracy. If you don’t believe me – and why would a conspiracy buff believe me? — consider the conspiracy itself. The means by which the conspiracy is implemented – banking on some wily carbon-trading scheme – is too complex. And the conspiracy’s goals are vague and unrewarding. Why would so many people – so many connected people – want to turn ranch land into wilderness? What’s the payoff?)

You can see the conspiracist’s concern in the debate over Al Gore’s energy usage, an argument that genuinely befuddles and aggravates those that believe climate change is here and is a problem. To us, it looks like the ol’ bait-and-switch con game. Distract us with the – irrelevant – details of an individual’s lifestyle, while continuing to deny and address a problem that threatens our economy, geography, and, eventually, our very existence as a species. And to what end? To continue supporting big oil companies? To avoid the hard facts of scientific data?

(Criticizing Gore’s energy usage is ridiculous, of course. The key data missing from the allegations is how much energy he would be using if he didn’t conserve. I’d expect a filmmaker, PR man, celebrity, former vice president, and possible presidential candidate to use more energy than your average schmoe. How many functions does he host? How many laptops are going at one time in his house? How many guests stay over? Gore’s energy use is not an indictment of the man’s principles, but an indictment of the energy choices available to us.)

Yet, from a global-warming denier’s perspective, Gore’s alleged “hypocrisy” supports her suspicion that she’s being played. Here’s the most famous climate-change alarmist, and his energy bills are twelve times the average household’s! In other words, he’s jetting around the country “dictating” to us what products we can and can’t buy, where our energy comes from, and basically how we live our lives – and he’s not even following his own dictates! (All false claims, by the way. I don’t recall Gore ever “dictating” to us how to live our lives.) It must be a con!

Let’s face it, we’ll never convince a climate change denier to believe in global warming. The more evidence we provide, the more scientists and scientific organizations agree on the problem, the more governments decide to take action, the more the denier believes there’s a conspiracy afoot.

But here’s what I would say: don’t confuse the science with the policy.

Scientifically, global warming is a real problem, and it’s clear that human activity contributes to it. There’s a dispute on how serious the problem will be, and there’s room to maneuver on just how much human activity contributes. But there’s no denying that climate change is happening, and that it’s already having an adverse effect on our lives and pocketbooks.

Putting aside climate change, there’s also no denying that our fossil-fuel-based economy is causing a lot of negative impacts. Whether you think climate change is happening, you probably are concerned that the average American is putting 16 tons of carbon into the atmosphere – each year. And our reliance on oil creates political problems in places like Iraq and Iran; until we wean ourselves off of oil, we’ll be entangled in Middle East politics. (We’re also headed for a confrontation with Russia and China in the oil-rich Central Asian republics, but that’s another topic.)

Fighting climate change also reduces pollution and could potentially head off further global conflict over oil. Fighting climate change would also strengthen the domestic economy.

Even if the danger of climate change is wildly exaggerated, the policies to combat it are positive.

But here’s the thing: it’s policy-making time. While deniers are pretending the problem doesn’t exist, those that do believe are making policy. Personally, I’m concerned over the general trend of alternative energy plans that seem to involve millions and billions in taxpayer money, yet would only perpetuate the domination of energy by big corporations.

Wind farms, for example, are wildly expensive, put money into big business pockets, and aren’t that efficient, anyway. Compare wind farms to insulation. Take this post from MaxSpeak, rejecting the common ideology that we should switch energy sources, but instead should work more to make our current sources more efficient:

Take the case of attic insulation again. In my home state of Washington, the optimum amount of attic insulation is ~R50. With R20 insulation or less upgrading to this will pay itself back in four years or fewer. (In new homes of course the payback is even faster.) However regulations only require R38. Almost every new home built is at the R38 level. Even when existing homes upgrade from R20 or below, they typically choose R38. (That is because insulation contractors know that competitors will quote R38, and don?t want to be the high bidder.) A price rise sufficient to motivate homeowners to demand R50 in new homes, and to let contractors risk bidding higher insulation levels would cost consumers much more than including an R50 insulation requirement in a comprehensive set of efficiency regulation.

Because the energy saved with increased efficiency pays for the cost of the upgrade in insulation, it’s not only cost-effective for the home owner, but saves on energy consumption, too. Image a state program that extends loans to homeowners who wish to better their insulation. The homeowner easily pays off her loans with the energy savings from the insulation; the state program pays for itself off the interest from the loans, perhaps using the money to upgrade household insulation for the elderly, say, or the poor. Or you could use tax incentives, giving homeowners a tax break if they upgrade their insulation.

Of course, such a program would never fly without a lot of lobbying. Why? Quite simply, it takes money out of the utilities’ pockets and puts it right into our pockets.

So, yes, be wary about the policies associated with global warming. Fight like hell to make sure energy-reduction happens the right way. But deny climate change? The facts are there, folks. The problem is clear.

by Jay Stevens 

I know I’m a big proponent of transparency. I recently touted Montana’s Democratic legislators’ blog as an exercise of democracy, and a benefit to the voters of the state. But there are some folks better off without a website. Like Krayton Kerns.

You may remember Kerns. He made a splash in the news on Election Day because he beat out Democrat Emilie Eaton by three votes in the election. It’s safe to say that, with a 3-vote margin of victory, Kerns’ election was hardly a ringing endorsement of conservative values in Laurel.

But here’s what he writes – for example – about climate change (no link – you have to click “Weekly Postings” on the sidebar, then “The Biggest Hoax”):

Carbon dioxide emission as a cause of global climate warming is the biggest hoax of the last 30 years. In 1975 the number one slot was held by those who proclaimed that the earth was entering the next ice age because economic growth was producing pollutants that were eating a hole in the ozone layer and letting the earth’s heat escape into space.

I don’t remember that the hole in the Ozone would have caused an “ice age,” but it certainly has changed the climate. Used to be you could outdoors for an hour without getting burnt. Thank goodness we successfully regulated the gasses that destroy the ozone. This is actually a real-life success story for the environmental movement.

The environmental disaster wizards are much craftier this time, so those of you equipped with well adjusted logic-meters had better be on your toes. The shake-down technique is so refined this time many folks buy into it without seeing what is coming. Frighteningly, man caused global warming is being taught as a religion, and the ministers who promote it are particularly aggressive. If you cast doubt on their faith you become the target. (Did you see what happened on the Weather Channel the week of January 15th?)

What can I add here? This is hilarious. Kerns may be the first person who claims that the environmental movement is actually organized. A couple of notes: the majority of scientific consensus says that climate change is real, it’s here, and humans are – at the very least – contributing to it.

(And I find Kerns’ accusations that January’s weather was somehow involved in a “liberal plot” to foist climate change on all of us. I suppose the early snow melts and summer wildfires are the left’s fault, too.)

Here is how the scam works: Carbon credits are trading on the Chicago Climate Exchange. You folks in agriculture are viewed as an asset because you have CRP ground, forest land, and un-grazed pastureland containing vegetation that is being promoted as a vehicle to store carbon. (Plants are made of chains of carbon molecules.)
In the process of turning coal into electricity, the coal is burned and the carbon molecules are released into the air. The believers radically proclaim this release is causing global warming.

To counter this release, carbon-offset companies provide a mechanism whereby evil-multinational-electricity-generating plants pay you not to harvest your crop of timber, grassland or farmland so they can continue to produce carbon emissions. Although not much, any money is better than none so you take the cash. I would too. Step one of the shakedown is complete.

The years pass, and the $4.00 per acre per year of standing timber or $25 per acre of un-harvested hay ground has allowed you and the Mrs. to take a week’s vacation to Jackpot Nevada every winter before calving season. Things seem great. Then the other shoe drops.

Suddenly, Reverend Global-Warming-Climatologist announces that the biggest source for the release of carbon dioxide is not electricity generating plants, it is cattle. The shakedown now shifts direction. Your 300 momma cows are now assessed an annual carbon tax forcing you to BUY carbon credits from the Chicago Climate Exchange just to stay in business. Today Carbon Credits are trading in Europe for $16 a unit, so you will likely be forced to purchase them at even higher prices. You have just been conned.
Furious, you write your legislators and congressmen, but they reply the carbon tax regulations are set in concrete. Because of the narrow margins in agriculture, this tax will put you out of business. You struggle in the death throes for a few years living off the equity of your land, but the inevitable day comes: You are forced to sell the family farm to a conservation group who returns your land to the undeveloped state of the 1850’s. To the environmental extremist, the carbon-credit world is now in balance.

Nice conspiracy theory. Again, has anyone accused the left of being this organized before? I’d love to hear Kerns’ opinions on alien abductions and 9/11 theories. I’m sure he’s got a thing or two to say.

You move to town and get a job as a Wal-Mart greeter. Time slowly passes. When a blizzard rolls in you gaze out the window and across the parking lot and sadly think of the days when such weather meant moving the heifers into the calving lot.

“Will the heifer take the calf after it comes out of the hot box or will she kick it off,” you reminisce to yourself. But, none of that matters now.

At the day’s end you go home and dig through the mail looking for your Social Security check. Because of the lean years in agriculture, it isn’t much and your budget is tight. Once proud, now you are forced to beg the government for a bigger handout because you are completely dependent on them. Your economic freedom is gone and you are hopelessly trapped under the security blanket of socialism. The con is complete.
Carbon sequestration regulation is everywhere in this 60th meeting of the Montana Legislature. Get educated. Stay alert and be prepared. We will fight this one but it will get nasty.

This is the funniest bit: Walmart is part of the “socialist conspiracy.”

Okay, so how out of touch is this guy with reality? Pretty dang far.

As I’ve shown before, just about every scientist on the planet agrees climate change is a serious problem. The one MIT scientist who’s trotted out by the flat-earthers – Richard Lindzen – claims that the dangers of climate change are overstated, but agrees that human activity contributes to climate change.

And let’s face it, there’s no reason not to institute changes in our energy consumption, anyway. Higher gas mileage on cars saves our finite supply of fuel, makes us less dependent on oil. Ending subsidies for Big Energy will make gas and oil prices rise, allowing the free market to make alternative energy sources more attractive to consumers and saves taxpayer money. Filling our markets and restaurants with more locally grown food cuts down on gas consumption and gives an economic boost to local family farmers. Et cetera and company.

All the effects of weaning us of oil, gas, and coal are good for everybody but the big energy and agricultural multinationals.

That a legislative representative of Montana clings to a conspiracy theory that rivals staged moon landings and the dinosaur hoax is quite disturbing. As the wildfires again whip out of control this summer, I’m sure homeowners, ranchers, and taxpayers who shoulder the brunt of climate change’s damage to our local environment, property, and health and well-being will not find Kerns’ mubo-jumbo very amusing.

by Jay Stevens 

Old friend and “free market” advocate, Pete Geddes, writes today in New West about climate change.

In the past, he and his FREE buddies have fought tooth and nail against instituting any meaningful reform in trying to reduce carbon emissions, once going so far as to say that trying to solve the problem would damage the economy and cost millions of lives, especially in the developing world.

Today Geddes trashes greens and environmental activists:

I find it interesting that green activists and their political allies uniformly favor dramatic and draconian action to avert climate change. Serious policy analysts are different; they generally favor less dramatic action applied over the long term. What explains this difference?

So, what are these “dramatic and draconian” actions Geddes writes about? Curious, I went over to Green Peace’s website for some radical solutions…but all I could find was this:

The latest report from the International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) confirms that hundreds of technologies are now available, at very low cost, to reduce climate damaging emissions, and that government policies need to remove the barriers to these technologies.

Implementing these solutions will enable people to usher in a new era of energy, one that will bring economic growth, new jobs, technological innovation and, most importantly environmental protection.

However, for green solutions to global warming to find a foothold in the market, governments and corporations need to shift away from polluting technology. In most industrial countries, conventional electricity is heavily subsidised, and the negative environmental impacts of its production are not reflected in the cost to end-users.

The time has come for us end our addiction to fossil fuels and other climate damaging technologies. Here you can discover how clean renewable energies, like wind, solar, bioenergy, hydroelectric, and other sources can combine to create a clean energy revolution….

Um…a call for an end to subsidizing the oil and gas industries? Lifting government barriers to the use of alternative technologies? Er…this sounds pretty reasonable to me, doesn’t it? And, I might add, would employ the free market to solve the problem.

So…who exactly is advocating “radical” proposals to stop climate change? Well, according to FREE chairman, John Baden, it’s people like this, an ignorant, but well-meaning movie going liberal friend. In other words, a straw man.

(Worse still, the friend had never heard of — *gasp* — MIT professor Richard Lindzen. You haven’t heard of Professor Lindzen? Shame on you! He’s the…well…only…“reputable” scientist who denies that human activity was a major component of the 20th-century spike in global temperatures…Except that he does admit human activity does cause CO2 emissions, and that a high level of CO2 would cause global warming. Oh, and Lindzen has received a fortune from the oil and gas industries.

So…on one side you have Professor Lindzen, and on the other you have the scientists of the Academia Brasiliera de Ciências (Bazil), Royal Society of Canada, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Academié des Sciences (France), Deutsche Akademie der Naturforscher Leopoldina (Germany), Indian National Science Academy, Accademia dei Lincei (Italy), Science Council of Japan, Russian Academy of Sciences, Royal Society (United Kingdom), National Academy of Sciences (United States of America), Australian Academy of Sciences, Royal Flemish Academy of Belgium for Sciences and the Arts, Caribbean Academy of Sciences, Indonesian Academy of Sciences, Royal Irish Academy, Academy of Sciences Malaysia, Academy Council of the Royal Society of New Zealand, Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences, NASA’s Goddard Institute of Space Studies (GISS), National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), National Academy of Sciences (NAS), State of the Canadian Cryosphere (SOCC), Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), American Geophysical Union (AGU), American Institute of Physics (AIP), National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR), American Meteorological Society (AMS), and the Canadian Meteorological and Oceanographic Society (CMOS).

The question shouldn’t be, “who’s Richard Lindzen?” but “why does Richard Lindzen get so much attention?”)

So on one hand, you have semi-fictitious movie goers suggesting NASA’s Jet Propulsion labs should solve climate change, and on the other you have “serious policy analysts,” who one must assume includes Pete Geddes himself. So what does the “serious policy analyst” propose to reduce carbon emissions?

Currently, the price of fossil fuels does not reflect their social costs. One solution is to place a “green tax” on our energy consumption, e.g., a $3 per gallon tax on gasoline. This gives consumers incentives to reduce consumption. Producers would have incentives to bring innovative and climate-friendly alternatives to market.

Another option is carbon emissions trading, with a cap on global CO2 emissions. Companies are then given emission credits, allowing them to emit a specific amount of CO2. Companies that emit beyond their allowances must buy credits from those who emit less. (This worked well for greatly reducing lead and SO2 in our air.) The European Union has implemented just such an approach.

First note that a $3-a-gallon tax is far more draconian than anything Greenpeace suggested.

Next, note that a tax affects the consumer first and foremost, and that both the tax and trading carbon emission credits are policy changes that don’t lead big corporations away from the feeding troughs of government subsidies.

Still, I find these suggestions eminently reasonable – though the tax is, of course, politically infeasible.

So why all the fuss from Geddes? You know…I have no idea. I’m glad he’s finally come around to calling for real action to combat climate change. Of course, I’d suggest he doesn’t even begin to mention all the different ways we can combat carbon emissions…from promoting local agriculture, to raising automobile and (especially) SUV mileage standards, from capping emissions, to investing in alternative energies. None of these things are “dramatic and draconian,” yet all of them would help slow climate change.

by Jay Stevens 

While we’re all waiting for the outcome of the SCOTUS case on climate change, which will decide whether our government has the right to regulate carbon dioxide emissions, let’s consider one way we can actually do something the problem – and reduce petroleum consumption, promote healthier eating, and improve the lot of family farms: farm-to-table projects.

I was reminded of this by an Ed Kemmick column in the Gazette recently, which detailed the hopes of a Glendive man who wants to promote consuming local agricultural products in Montana. Kemmick’s column concentrated on the benefits Bruce Smith’s culinary school and associated promotion would have on Montana’s agricultural community. Kemmick further emphasized this in a blog post, which says that farm-to-table projects cut out the middlemen and put that money into farmers’ and restaurateurs’ pockets:

Smith pointed out that 72 percent of every food dollar now goes to “the middleman,” which is a catch-all term encompassing those involved in transportation, marketing, advertising and whatnot. It does seem to make sense that producing, selling and eating foods locally should put money in the pockets of farmers and consumers, and it undoubtedly will result in better food.

One shortcoming in Kemmick’s articles is that he neglected the environmental benefits of farm-to-table projects: they reduce the amount of fuel used to transport produce and meat.

Here in Missoula, a number of Environmental Studies grad students started the University of Montana’s successful “farm-to-college” project, which encourages the university to purchase food from local farmers and ranchers. The school, of course, moved ahead slowly, but has ended up buying a substantial portion of its food locally:

These inquiries culminated in a festive breakfast event called Montana Mornings. Menus were printed, with detailed descriptions of the origins of all ingredients. Eggs from Moiese were cooked into omelets, stuffed with shitake mushrooms from Ninemile, shallots and cheese from the Bitterroot, and salsa from Belgrade. Cider syrup from Bitterroot apples was poured over Cream of the West hot cereal, made in Harlowton. Waffles from Scobey, bacon and potatoes from Kalispell, and beef from Ronan were on the menu as well.

Besides a publicity event, Montana Mornings was a market test, an attempt to assess student interest in local food. The response, based on an exit survey, was very positive. Most breakfast eaters said they would choose local food on a regular basis if they could. Encouraged, FTC rolled forward.

Three years and more than $1.2 million later, the program’s purchases exceed 13 percent of the UDS annual food budget. “Farm to College has become standard operating procedure,” says UDS Executive Chef Tom Siegel. “At first, finding new vendors was this big effort. Now we have our inroads laid. We know our vendors. We’ve made the leap; it’s not new anymore. It’s the way we do business.”

So how much does this help our environment and reduce carbon emissions?

Another member of Hassanein’s Action Research Group is Kimberly Spielman, a graduate student in geography. She’s doing her thesis on a concept called food miles, or the number of miles a product travels from farm, through supply chain, to the consumer. Spielman has done extensive research comparing the food miles traveled by an FTC burger and fries with those traveled by a conventional equivalent made from ingredients purchased through SYSCO. By comparing the routes, from points of production to consumption, of beef, buns, potatoes, and oil, she found that, for fiscal year 2005, a year’s worth of non-local burgers and fries traveled 110,450 miles, while the FTC equivalent traveled 33,624 miles, burning 43,184 fewer gallons of diesel fuel. Nearly a million fewer pounds of carbon dioxide was released into the atmosphere via the local burger and fries.

That’s not insignificant, especially considering the university could still probably get another 40 or 50 percent of its food locally, if historical consumption patterns could still hold true today.

It’s an elegant solution to a serious problem – a solution that benefits Montanans economically and physically. But it’s also a solution that runs against the “free market,” despite its obvious benefits to both suppliers and consumers. It’s no coincidence that both projects – in Missoula and Glendive – are run under the auspices of state-funded institutions. That’s because farm-to-table projects do exactly what Kemmick says: they cut out the middlemen, who in the case of farm products, are huge multinational agricultural corporations. Until the distribution networks are established, the farm-to-table projects will have to be organized and run by the consumer – grocery stores, restaurants, individual households – who will have to seek out locally produced food.

Here in Missoula, there are Garden City Harvest’s community gardens, in which you can work a few hours a week for pretty much all the vegetables you and your family can eat. (Or you can buy a “share” of the harvest for a fraction of what it costs in the stores.) Hunting is also an excellent means of acquiring food while conserving fuel.

by Jay Stevens 

There’s a crucial matter about climate control up before the SCOTUS right now: several states are suing the government to regulate carbon dioxide emissions from motor vehicles. It’s a pretty simple case: the states are arguing that CO2 is a pollutant under the Clean Air Act, and EPA says it can do whatever the hell it wants.

Outlook doesn’t look that good, to be honest. Based on Dahlia Lithwick’s description of the proceeding, the SCOTUS justices seem to be sympathizing with the government’s “toddler” defense:

Now, maybe it’s because I have a toddler at home, but the EPA’s argument, presented by Deputy Solicitor General Gregory Garre, quickly sounds very familiar. 1) I can’t clean it up; 2) Even if I could, I don’t want to clean it up; 3) You can’t make me clean it up; and 4) China is making an even bigger mess. How come China never has to clean it up? When and if all that fails, the EPA, like my son, just puts its hands over its eyes and says there is no mess in the first place.

One of the dangers of the decisions is that, if the SCOTUS rules against the states, it could keep the states themselves from regulating emissions and effectively set back the battle against climate change a dozen years. (Once again big corporations’ profits would trump states’ rights with “conservatives.”)

On the other hand, if the SCOTUS rejects the case, the Democratic-led Congress might actually introduce legislation that allows the government to regulate carbon-dioxide emissions. Which the President probably would veto and make the issue one of the hot topics for 2008.

Still, what’s not to under-emphasize is that, if the SCOTUS does rule against the case, it would do so on the basis that the harmful effect of carbon dioxide on the environment can’t be proved beyond a doubt. Unfortunately the same can be said for most pollutants, as well. That is, if the SCOTUS rules against the regulation of CO2, it might mean the end of the Clean Air and Clean Water Acts.

And you thought Bush’s SCOTUS appointments were about abortion!

by Jay Stevens 

There have been a couple of interesting articles I’ve linked to in the past few days about corporate responsibility and their role in how they can be steered to do good. Of course “good” is a wildly subjective term, and some feel big business shouldn’t be “steered” at all. But most reasonable people realized unchecked corporate power is bad and that there are serious issues that need addressing.

Leon Gettler of The Age admits that even libertarians’ grandpappy Milton Friedman realized a need for corporate social responsibility even as he railed against it. Gettler notes that companies can attract workers and customers through social responsibility, they can make profit off of new markets that cater to burgeoning social responsibilities (like alternative energy), but that they should also be aware of negative social consequences their products

For example, Health Minister Tony Abbott’s accusation last week that Coca-Cola was fuelling Australia’s childhood obesity crisis should be put in the context of calls around the world for controls on the marketing of fast foods.The tobacco, oil, mining, banking, forestry and pharmaceutical industries have all felt the long-term impact of social issues when they were caught out by society’s changing expectations.

With an issue such as obesity, for instance, the public’s view once upon a time was that the responsibility lay with the individual. Now the blame has shifted to the way companies are marketing fattening foods. The same applies to the tobacco industry.

That is, a company can suddenly find its product sales dropping precipitously if it doesn’t remain aware of the social conditions in the environment where the sales are made.

But while it’s clearly arguable with whom the blame lies in the problems created by things like fatty foods or tobacco products, these products revolve around individual choice. That is, the only person directly impacted by a Big Mac is the consumer eating it.

Other products affect more than the person consuming it. For example, a manufacturer who dumps toxic waste into a public water supply is adversely affecting the community where the plant is based, not the consumers of the plant’s product. Relying on the market to correct the damage done by the plant is foolish. For those situations, where a company’s practices are clearly harmful to the public good, we must regulate.

Helping corporations do the right thing through regulation—which, it should be noted, also levels the playing field so that a greenish BP doesn’t have to worry about a dirty Exxon¬Mobil—is not exactly a new idea. It’s more or less what we used to do, in the long period from Teddy Roosevelt and the trustbusters on to about the 1980s.

Enter climate change. It’s a problem. There’s a near-unanimous scientific consensus that says human activity, at the very least, contributes considerable to climate change and, if unchecked, that will lead to serious consequences to global living conditions and economies. The problem of leaving the market to “correct” the problem of global warming is that it’s a delayed effect – our behavior now will make the climate worse later. By the time consumers realize there’s a serious problem with their habits of consumption, it’ll be too late.

There were a lot of arguments against regulating change to combat climate change, and most of it from those with vested interest in big energy profits. First it was “global warming doesn’t exist.” When the temperatures rose, it became “it’s a natural temperature shift.” Now that scientific and popular consensus recognizes the problem, it’s now “too late to do anything about it.”

Global warming is real, it’s here, it’s our fault, and we can do something about it. We can raise emission standards, for example, sign on to international treaties to reduce CO2, raise gas mileage requirements, give subsidies or loans to energy-saving improvements on public and private buildings, and invest heavily in alternative fuels. None of these things would be difficult or overly expensive.

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