Friday, July 3, 2009

Getting Warmer

  • ChrisinParis (AmBlog): Scottish sheep shrinking due to global warming
    Mother nature always knows.
    The case involves a rare herd of wild sheep on the remote Scottish island - known in Scottish Gaelic as Hirta - that are refusing to bow to conventional evolutionary pressure, which says big is best. Instead, they have steadily decreased in size since the 1980s.

    Scientists have now stepped in to solve the conundrum, and fingered the culprit as the new Moriarty of mankind: global warming.

    The experts say shorter and milder winters mean that lambs do not need to put as much weight on during their first few months of life. Smaller animals that would have perished in harsh winters a few decades ago can now survive to their first birthday. As a result, the average weight of the sheep has dropped by 81g each year.
Sully: Yglesias Award Nominee
"It is perfectly legitimate to argue that the House cap-and-trade system is flawed beyond redemption -- so complex and confusing that it only benefits regulators and the lobbyists who outwit them -- and that Congress should start over with a carbon tax. It is also legitimate to contend that, while the cap-and-trade system is flawed, it is better than inaction and necessary to spur innovation. And for eight House Republicans who took this stand at great political risk, it is not only legitimate -- it is admirable," - Michael Gerson, yesterday's Washington Post.
  • Via Benen -
    * Quote of the Day, from Thomas Friedman: "There is much in the House cap-and-trade energy bill that just passed that I absolutely hate. It is too weak in key areas and way too complicated in others. A simple, straightforward carbon tax would have made much more sense than this Rube Goldberg contraption. It is pathetic that we couldn't do better. It is appalling that so much had to be given away to polluters. It stinks. It's a mess. I detest it. Now let's get it passed in the Senate and make it law."
  • Ezra Klein: It's The System, Stupid

    The main thing we could do to improve the functioning of the legislative process would be to dissolve the U.S. Senate. Its composition is wildly anti-democratic, its rules are aggressively anti-majoritarian, and its culture holds all this aloft as a good thing.

    But the main thing we could do to improve the media's understanding of the problems in the legislative process would be to dissolve the office of the presidency. (This blog, you have to admit, has a very high ratio of reforms-to-sentences.) It's a bright, shiny, simple thing that's not the actual issue but that no one seems able to look away from. You see this in Clive Crooks' column today. The actual subject of the column is the halting and problematic legislation being produced by the Congress. But the putative subject of the column is how Barack Obama feels about the legislation being produced by the Congress. "The president has cast himself not as a leader of reform," sighs Crook, "but as a cheerleader for 'reform.'"

    This endless op-ed alchemy in which anger at the hard, complicated thing (our relentlessly dysfunctional system of government) gets transformed into disappointment with the simple, easy thing (the single individual who occupies the White House) isn't just analytically lazy. It's actively damaging. it implies a solution that will not solve the problem. It implies the need for different presidents, or maybe better presidents. Presidents of the other party, or maybe no party at all (remember Unity 08?).

    To take health-care reform as an example (and when, at this blog, do we not use health-care reform as an example?), full-scale reconstruction of the health-care system has been contemplated or attempted by FDR, Harry Truman, Richard Nixon, Jimmy Carter, George H.W. Bush, and Bill Clinton. If any of those men had been czar, health reform would have been finished decades ago. But all of them failed, or turned back. And it is not because they were all dunces or Democrats, cowards or incompetents. It is because the system is resistant to large-scale change, even when the problem is obvious. In response to these failures, we frequently change the president, or switch out the party that controls Congress. And then they too fail, and we eventually switch back.

    Clive Crook's criticism of Obama is that Obama is playing within the constraints of the system. And by focusing his criticism on Obama, Crook, too, is playing within the constraints of the system. But the problem is not Obama. It is the system.

The conservative Washington Times ran a piece today on one of the right's new favorite subjects.

Republican lawmakers, coming off a loss Friday in their attempt to block passage of a massive climate bill, have seized on a global warming memo they say was suppressed by the Obama administration.

The memo, drafted by two environmental economists, is highly critical of the science behind an Environmental Protection Agency memo that found carbon dioxide to be a greenhouse gas.

Sen. James M. Inhofe of Oklahoma, the ranking Republican on the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, and Sen. John Barrasso, Wyoming Republican, said the memo shows that the EPA did not have accurate information when it completed its finding.

In their letter to EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson yesterday, Inhofe and Barrasso claim to "have learned" that a "senior EPA official suppressed" a "rigorous account" of "the most up-to-date science of climate change."

Last night, Fox News picked up on the same argument, insisting that the EPA "suppressed" a "report" that contradicted the standard scientific consensus on climate change.

I know we covered this the other day, but it's probably best to keep setting the record straight before bogus claims gain traction.

At issue is a "memo" put together by Alan Carlin, who works at the EPA as an economist, not a climate scientist. He happens to believe the planet may be getting cooler, all evidence to the contrary notwithstanding.

Did Carlin prepare a "report" on climate change? No. In his spare time, he put together an argument against global warming, which wasn't requested by anyone at the agency. His argument stems from his personal hobby.

Was Carlin's memo "suppressed"? No. The EPA's National Center for Environmental Economics allowed him to put together his memo, and it was reviewed by agency scientists.

Was Carlin's memo any good? No. I've seen it described this week as "a hodgepodge of widely discredited pseudoscience," and "a ragbag collection of un-peer reviewed web pages, an unhealthy dose of sunstroke, a dash of astrology and more cherries than you can poke a cocktail stick at."

Zachary Roth spoke to Carlin, and the economist conceded that his "studies" were not "specifically commissioned by the EPA," and they've been published, but "not all in academic journals."

I don't imagine Inhofe or Fox News will find these details important, but it's something to keep in mind if the "story" starts to get wider play.

Think Progress: Media Outlet Refuses To Run Republican TV Ad Filled With Misrepresentations Of Clean Energy Bill
This afternoon, Roanoke television station WDBJ-TV, announced they will be refusing to air a National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC) ad attacking freshman Rep. Tom Perriello (D-VA), citing factual inaccuracies. The NRCC had been planning to run television ads against Democratic members of Congress, like Perriello, who voted for the Waxman-Markey clean energy economy legislation that passed last week. After receiving information about the factual inaccuracies in the ad, the station pulled it from rotation.

For any objective observer, the the ad is pulled out of thin air. The ads erroneously state that the bill will “destroy jobs” and “cost middle-class families $1,800 a year.” According to a study by the Center for American Progress, clean energy economy legislation will create 1.7 million American jobs while simultaneously addressing climate change by capping carbon dioxide emissions. The $1,800 figure used by NRCC is also made of whole cloth. The Congressional Budget Office has scored the bill and found that by 2020, the annual cost would be about $175 per household — about a postage stamp a day. An EPA estimate of the bill found similar results, projecting the cost to be about $80 to $111 per a year.

Still refusing to accept reality, the Republican leadership is instructing its members to lie about the clean energy economy bill:

– Last week, Republican whip Rep. Eric Cantor (R-VA) posted a message erroneously claiming that clean energy legislation will amount to “a national energy tax of up to $3,100 on all Americans.”

– Republican leader Rep. John Boehner (R-OH) posted on his website that the clean energy bill will cost “$3,100 a year,” then modified that number to “$3,000 per household per year.”

– Republican conference chair Rep. Mike Pence (R-IN), not to be outdone, claimed the clean energy bill would be “over $4,000 a year.”

All the numbers cited by Republicans are at least seventeen times the highest possible projection by the CBO and EPA.

Clearly, Republicans opposed to the clean energy bill seem willing to justify their opposition using outright falsehoods. But fortunately, at least some stations are not willing to propagate it.

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