Weatherdem's Weblog

Bridging climate science, citizens, and policy

Climate: Two Small Steps Forward; 1 Big Step Backward

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Two pieces of news came out today that are important for climate, climate policy and energy policy.  I’ll start with the good news.  President-elect Obama has selected Harvard University physicist John Holdren as presidential science adviser and Oregon State University marine biologist Jane Lubchenco as head of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.  This is good news on multiple levels.

First, it’s important to note that more scientists are joining Obama’s administration.  The last 8 years have seen a seriously disturbing lack of people with scientific backgrounds in charge of science policy.  Most Americans would agree at this time that this approach has been the wrong approach.

Second, both Holdren and Lubchenco have argued repeatedly for a mandatory limit on greenhouse gas emissions to avert catastrophic climate change.  The debate on the cause is over.  What’s left is to determine what series of solutions to employ about it.  Holdren and Lubchenco understand the real dangers the planet faces and are prepared today to act.  Delayers would wait until they drowned in the rising sea levels, holding onto their ideology with every ounce of faith they could muster.  Thankfully, the delayers lost in the elections last month.

More on this topic can be found below the fold.  I’m going to put the piece of bad news above the fold.

Ugh.  Now the piece of bad news.  President Bush is spending the waning days of his pathetic presidency setting up regulations that are in direct contradiction to President-elect Obama’s (Americans, really) stated goals moving forward.  Yes it’s true that this has become a reality of presidents leaving office.  But as usual, the Bush is working overtime to set a record for the number of regulations they’ll implement after the election and with enough time to spare to ensure it will take months or years to overturn them.

The specific regulation I’m speaking of is the following: Bush is trying to make sure that federal air pollution regulations will not be used to control the gases blamed for global warming.

In a memorandum sent Thursday, outgoing Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Stephen Johnson sets an agency-wide policy prohibiting controls on carbon dioxide emissions from being included in air pollution permits for coal-fired power plants and other facilities.

If Obama wants to change this regulation (he’d better), his administration will have to go through a lengthy rule-changing process.  This is pathetic.  Bush and his cronies are sad, sad, little people.  Here’s how sad they are:

And while the administrator acknowledged public interest in the issue, he writes that “administrative agencies are authorized to issue interpretations of this nature that clarify their regulations without completing a public comment process.”

Did you get that?  The public has an interest in how CO2 emissions are regulated, but the Bush administration will allow them no voice whatsoever in deciding how those regulations should be clarified.  The administration is quite simply locking the world onto its current course toward catastrophic climate change because … they can.  This seems to me to hold more weight than the two excellent choices President-elect Obama announced.  The Obama administration will face non-trivial obstacles to implementing their policies.  Energy and climate policies need to undergo a radical shift the day Obama is sworn in.  We have no more time to give this issue.  When under-informed Americans wonder why Obama isn’t doing anything about climate change, this kind of under-the-radar politics won’t be brought up.

I wrote earlier today about Rep. DeGette’s sternly worded letter supposedly “slamming the Bush administration” about Bush allowing health-“care” workers to deny care to Americans based on their personal beliefs.  Will another Democrat issue a press release “slamming the Bush administration” about this climate regulation?  Because this change will end up having a larger and more profound effect not only on Americans, but the rest of the planet as well.  Maybe a very sternly worded press release that super-slams the Bush administration would do the trick…

The corporate media article I linked to just couldn’t resist finding someone who had a different view on the state of our climate, even though they’re not an expert in the field.  They cited Myron Ebell, director of energy and global warming policy at the Competitive Enterprise Institute: “I think he’s [Holdren] a very bad choice. His views are extreme, they’re not based in fact, and he’s a ranter.”  When your views are as far to the right as Ebell’s, everybody seems extreme.  The majority of the world and a nearly unanimous collection of scientists have moved beyond Ebell’s tired arguments.  We’re looking for solutions.  Ebell continues to try to hold us back.

The corporate media article also points out that the Bush administration hasn’t been exactly science-friendly.  It correctly acknowledges that

The Bush administration’s political appointees have edited government documents to delete scientific findings and to block scientists’ recommendations on issues involving climate change, endangered species, contaminants in drinking water and air pollution.

It then follows this up with

“The president is getting blamed for every little thing that happens that people don’t like in the administration.” [Bush’s science adviser, John H. Marburger III]

I will point out again the absurdity of this statement by noting that either Bush is a unitary executive or he is not.  Is he in control of his agencies or isn’t he?  His appointees’ interference in ensuring scientific findings find their way to the taxpayers that funded them has been exhaustively documented.  Either Bush knew about these efforts and approved of them (because he certainly didn’t stop them, even after they were made public), or Bush didn’t know about them and is a useless figurehead.  Which one is it John?  Because it isn’t about liking or not liking the administration.  It’s about people not doing their freaking jobs that they are paid money to do.  The fact that the Washington Post and MSNBC simply repeated two quotes with no context is a good example why more and more Americans are using the corporate media as their news sources less and less.

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