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Category: Environment

Millennials in Georgia Clean Up after BP

Contributors: Hilary Doe, National Director of the Roosevelt Campus Network and Shayna Pollock, Roosevelt Campus Network, University of Georgia
As people across the country gear up for tax season, beltway politicos turn their attention to the State of the Union, and everyone everywhere talks about debt and tea parties, let’s not forget about the State of the Gulf Coast–the deficit of wildlife, commerce, and jobs in the area. The destruction that the BP oil spill caused in our waters, on our land, and for the people all along the coast. Though, like everything, BP’s fifteen minutes in the spotlight has ended, there is no deficit of hope on the part of young people, committed to keeping those affected by the oil spill in mind and preventing another disaster from occurring in the future.
The Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill happened nearly 9 months ago. After gushing oil for 86 days, making it the largest accidental oil spill in history, the US government declared the rig officially capped in September. The National Commission on the BP Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill and Offshore Drilling declared the explosion avoidable. Better governmental oversight and implementation of more extensive precautions could have prevented the blowout.
Frustrated by reports of weak oversight, an ineffective claims process, immense wildlife destruction, and economic devastation, the Roosevelt Institute chapter at the University of Georgia, engaged in a project entitled SPIL: Solving Petroleum Impacts Legislatively, traveled to Dauphin Island and Mobile, Alabama to learn first-hand about the impacts of the oil spill through interviews. While the nine students on the trip conducted research beforehand, the trip to the gulf region allowed for further in-depth qualitative research on a variety of topics relating to the spill. The interviews touched on the claims process, contracting for clean-up assistance, oversight of oil rigs, emergency preparedness, and the long-term environmental effects of the spill. Across these numerous facets of the spill, interviewees continued to be disappointed by BP’s coordination of the entire clean-up and claims effort.
Multiple parties are to blame in the environmental disaster that destroyed miles of coastline, wrecked ecosystems, and ruined the tourist industry in the Gulf states. However, the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill is evidence of one overarching systemic problem: the relationship between oil companies and the government.
BP capped the flowing rig, but the primary problem remains unfixed. The government continues their futile efforts to clean up both the economic and environmental effects of the spill. However, their “solution” utilizes the same broken mechanisms that led to the explosion in the first place: the immense influence of BP. How does this promote effective regulation and transparency? BP pays Kenneth Feinberg. BP, along with other big oil companies, develops the industry standard for oil rig inspection and safety. BP hires its own workers for contract instead of using local business people harmed by the spill. BP funds the scientists still researching the damage in the gulf. The disaster continues to unfold through unanswered claims, devastated businesses, and largely unregulated rigs.
The researchers from the trip are now tasked with the immense challenge of composing policies that will reduce the current devastation and set a regulatory framework for the future. The group of researchers will ultimately produce six unique and progressive policies that aim to solve a specific failure within the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill.
As part of this initiative, Roosevelt at UGA will be hosting a conference on April 9, 2011 to unveil the research group’s findings and bring other students, experts, and policymakers together in a mutual exchange of ideas and information about how to solve the current crisis in the gulf and prevent future offshore disasters.
Complimenting the conference at the University of Georgia, Roosevelt at UGA is sponsoring the release of a one-time publication compiling short articles, written by students and policymakers participating in the conference, on the crisis in the Gulf to be published by the Roosevelt Institute and disseminated at the national level.

At The 100 Day Mark, Climate Is Losing

At the 100 Day mark of the Obama Era, climate protection is behind health care for all.
This shouldn’t be and isn’t a contest. Solving both domestic crises is critical to sustain our economy and our planet.
And the fact that health care is farther along the political process is no reason to be complacent about its final outcome. The insurance and drug lobbies may be on their heels, but they are not beaten.
But the political reality is clear. The proposal to create a public health insurance option had cultivated enough support that the President could successfully insist on leaving open the possibility of passage with a simple majority vote in the Senate. The proposal to cap carbon emissions had no such momentum, as the Senate set a higher supermajority threshold of 60 votes.
Why is this so? Because with the addition of Sen. Arlen Specter to the Democratic caucus, there are now 18 Senate Dems from the top coal-producing states, another four from oil-producing states, and others from states with electricity primarily coal-powered.
Perhaps many of these politicians are sincerely skittish at what a real transition to a clean energy economy would mean for their states. Or as Clean Air Watch’s Frank O’Donnell suggests, perhaps they are unduly influenced by campaign cash for fossil fuel industries.
Whatever the specific reason, these fossil fuel ties are certainly creating a disconnect between them and the will of the President and the public.
Just today, the NBC/Wall Street Journal found that by a 58% to 35% margin, the public supports President Obama’s proposal for, “Charging a fee to companies that emit greenhouse gases … and using the money to provide tax cuts for middle-income families,” even though the poll question raised the possibility of “higher utility bills.”
Yet the Senate flinched from incorporating revenue from such a carbon cap system into the budget resolution.
How can we remove this political barrier between the public and these fossil fuel state Dems?
My earlier Omaha World-Herald oped proposed a policy solution: reinvest the revenue from polluters back into their states for clean energy jobs and consumer rebates. That way, fossil fuel states don’t bear the brunt of a clean energy transition.
But that policy solution needs to be backed up with political muscle if we are to separate the constituents in fossil fuel states from the coal and oil CEOs supplying all that campaign cash.
And that will require mass mobilization.
As Robert Borosage says today:

…what Obama has been missing has been an independent, obstreporous citizens’ movement demanding fundamental reform … it is precisely these movements – independent, disruptive, passionate, demanding bolder reform, taking on entrenched powerful interests – that enabled Roosevelt and Johnson to achieve far more than they ever thought possible.

Similarly Kim Phillips-Fein, author of the new book Invisible Hands chronicling how the conservative movement, drew lessons for progressives in her recent appearance on

Progressive change in this country has come about through … mass mobilization and a genuine populism that is much more difficult for conservatives to attain … There needs to be and kind of consistent emphasis on how …to really engage people in politics and in the struggle to create a more just society…
…The ability to kind of engage large numbers of people in this kind of democratic project is the true strength of progressive politics …To cut taxes, and to deregulate industries and to fight unions you don’t actually need mass support to do those things. But … to build unions, to create national health care, to provide a more democratic structure for the economy you do need to have deep levels of support, mass popular political activity to accomplish those things.

We do have a nascent infrastructure to spark such mass mobilization. Organizations like Powershift, Focus The Nation and Alliance for Climate Protection are helping to prioritize the issue among America’s youth. and VoteVets are activating their memberships and funding TV ads. The Blue Green Alliance and the Apollo Alliance are bringing unions and environmental organizations together to support climate protection legislation.
We even have an important assist from the EPA. Administrator Lisa Jackson said this month the agency is prepared to use its legal authority to follow science and act to regulate greenhouse gas emissions. That puts fresh pressure on Congress to act if it wants to design any new system to cap carbon.
But even though the House is in the midst of public debate on a comprehensive clean energy and climate protection bill, we are not seeing a mass mobilization necessary to diminish special interest influence, and make clear to Senators that the interests of voters in fossil fuel states is vastly different that the interests of fossil fuel CEOs.
Further, I would bet that most Americans, including progressives and liberals, aren’t even aware that we are in a sensitive moment with climate legislation, and do not recognize the time is now to influence it. Why would we, when news items about the hearings are buried in the back pages? Meanwhile, special interest lobbyists are acutely aware of the moment we are in.
As I suggested in my own appearance last week, much of the progressive grassroots’ recent attention has been on the torture memos and not on the House climate bill.
Again, this shouldn’t be a contest. Holding torture architects accountable is extremely important.
But as it is ridiculous for pundits to chastise President Obama for “doing too much” when there is much to do, we progressives must also be able to walk and chew gum simultaneously.
If we are to mobilize when it matters, we cannot simply chase the hot news of the moment as decided by cable TV. We must know our goals, and diligently pursue them every day.
Originally posted at

How To Get 60 Votes For a Carbon Cap

In an oped published Sunday by the Omaha World-Herald (and reprinted today by Grist), I argued for a climate compromise with the coal- and oil-state Senators needed for a 60-vote supermajority: a strong carbon cap that makes polluters pay to pollute, but steering that revenue back into the same states to cushion the transition away from fossil fuels.
On Friday, Rep. Henry Waxman indicated to Bloomberg that a compromise along those lines is possible. Bloomberg reports: “Waxman said Representatives John Dingell, a Michigan Democrat who once chaired the committee, and Rick Boucher, a Democrat from Virginia’s coal country, will support his 20 percent reduction [in greenhouse gas emissions by 2020] even though they have previously called for a reduction of just 6 percent. Dingell and Boucher may be willing to accept the higher reductions in part because of Waxman’s proposal for allocating the permit revenue.”
If this idea gains traction, expect coal and oil CEOs to squeal with more misinformation about how capping carbon would affect families and businesses. When we respond, it’s incumbent on us not to view polluter CEOs as proxies from the voters in coal and oil states.
Because in order to gain the support of wavering Senators, we need to build support among their constituents. And the interests of their constituents (stable and manageable energy bills, safe environment) is not the same as the CEOs (personal profits, no competition from new clean energy companies).
For more background, my oped is below.
Obama’s Carbon-Cap Plan Tests Democratic Coalition
By Bill Scher
Democratic gains in the Plains, the interior West, the Rust Belt and the Old Confederacy have transformed the political landscape. But one primary goal of the Obama administration is straining the geographic diversity of the new Democratic coalition: capping carbon pollution to avert a climate crisis.
While a rapid transition to a clean energy-powered economy is a main plank of the Democratic platform, 17 Democratic U.S. senators hail from the top coal-producing states, with another four representing the biggest oil-producing states. Several more (including Nebraska’s Ben Nelson) serve constituents whose electricity is primarily generated by coal, which would intentionally become more expensive in any effective climate protection strategy.
Many of these senators have signaled their reluctance to pass a strong carbon cap. Yet Speaker Nancy Pelosi and top House Democrats have pledged to pass climate protection as part of a broad clean-energy bill this year.
As energy is a hot-button issue felt by every voter every day, an intraparty regional clash would jeopardize the new Democratic coalition. Can Democrats creatively bridge geographic differences to craft effective legislation? Or will they take a path of least resistance: a paper-thin compromise that fails to address the crisis?
The big sticking point is how much polluters pay. President Barack Obama’s initial proposal would cap carbon, create new pollution permits and sell them. Since there would be a limited number of permits, we would be able to control the amount of carbon gumming up the atmosphere.
Since private companies would no longer get to pollute the public’s sky for free, the cost of carbon-heavy goods would rise. The revenue from polluters would fund both clean-energy production and consumer rebates, making low-carbon goods more affordable.
Businesses that burn a lot of carbon — like coal and oil companies — are not enamored with paying to pollute. They want the permits given away for free. This makes some political sense; it buys off the opposition.
But we saw what happened with freebies when Europe struggled with its attempt at capping carbon. As the Wall Street Journal recently explained: “That let utilities pocket billions of euros in windfall profits, because they got the permits for free, yet were able to pass on higher electricity costs to consumers.”
The crudest way to compromise is to split the difference, give away most permits for free to start with, and then gradually sell more as the program ramps up. But there is great concern in the scientific community that we don’t have time for a slow start.
There is a better way to compromise. It still would not appeal to coal and oil CEOs, but — more importantly for senators thinking about re-election — potentially would appeal to voters in fossil-fuel states.
Sen. Evan Bayh, from coal-heavy Indiana, last month on MSNBC criticized President Obama’s intention to take carbon-cap revenue from polluters and steer it to taxpayers across the country: “You’re taking money from carbon-intensive states like Ohio, Michigan, Indiana, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, and redistributing it to California, New York.” But in that concern lies the key to compromise.
Jesse Jenkins, director of energy and climate policy at the Breakthrough Institute think tank, has a simple solution: “Return 80 percent to 85 percent of the revenue back to the states where it came from. Because they have the most to lose, and they need the most help.”
Jenkins further recommends focusing on clean-energy investments rather than taxpayer rebates to get the best bang for the buck: creating clean-energy jobs, lowering the cost of clean energy, easing our ability to purchase less energy and making our bottom-line energy bills manageable and stable.
Coal and oil CEOs would still complain, but that’s inevitable. After all, the whole idea is to lessen our dependence on their products. But if voters in carbon-intensive states know that there will be money on the table to create green jobs and keep their energy bills in check, the corporate scare tactics will ring hollow and skittish senators should be reassured.
The key to keeping the Democratic coalition geographically solid so it can effectively govern is thoughtful policymaking. If communicated directly to voters, that could lock in grass-roots support.
Splitting the difference in back rooms with special interests will not only lead to bad policies that sell voters short but also will greatly shorten the era of Democratic dominance.
Cross-posted at

The LiberalOasis Radio Show: Enviro Preview Edition

Today at 10 AM ET, The LiberalOasis Radio Show was broadcast on WHMP-AM in Western MA. My special guest was Grist’s David Roberts, who gave us a preview of the year in environmental legislation, to prepare us for the battles ahead.
The audio podcast for the show is here: (iTunes / XML feed / MP3).
Video of the opening monologue, about staying focused on economic recovery legislation, is below. After that are related thoughts posted earlier at, “Beware Bright Shiny Things.”
Beware Bright Shiny Things
My friend and fellow Huffington Post contributor Logan Nakyanzi Pollard recently expressed her concern that I was too forgiving of internal dissent in my recent post criticizing overblown assessments of recent Obama-Senate deliberations. She writes:

There’s a conceit on the Left that all the public disagreements and squabbles are helpful – that this is the burden of a big tent party.
And what’s made the territory even muddier is the fact that journalism, opinion and advocacy have crossed lines in our new media. I suppose too that the cocktail of what passes for news – the Ann Coulters, the Rick Warrens, the Rod Blagojeviches, the Caroline Kennedys, the Palins – make life interesting, but the net result is a narrative of special interest squabbles. The ‘air in the room’ has been taken up by these stories and scarce else can be covered…
…And this is the nub of it for me with the Lefties: they do not truly understand who they are, nor what they are motivated by. They are confederates and not a unified body. The slightest bump in the road leads to anarchy or dissent…
…In just days Mr. Obama will take the oath of office with urgent, complicated problems to solve. But in the weeks leading up to this date, the public’s been heartened not by the facts, figures and information that will equip people to understand their predicament, but rather, by a slew of tabloid-y stories. So Obama will have a double load to carry: to pry the public’s gaze away from the car crashes all around them and show the highway ahead.”

I think her characterization of “Lefties” to be too general and too harsh. And I stand by my earlier post that the traditional media chronically misreports normal democratic deliberations in Congress as sensationalized intra-party smackdowns.
But I strongly agree with Logan’s fundamental point.
If we in the progressive movement are continually distracted by the bright shiny object of the media moment — Is Caroline qualified? Why doesn’t Reid just seat Burris? What did [INSERT PALIN FAMILY MEMBER] do now? — we will not be able to maximize our influence on the democratic process, and help enact the policies that could firmly establish liberal governance for a generation.
If we can show that after a generation of failed of conservative policies, active progressive government is helping create good-paying jobs, generate clean energy, avert a climate crisis and provide health care for all, then we will have active progressive government helping solve problems for the next generation.
That is the primary task before us.
And while the President-Elect has stated he wants to achieve those goals, he cannot achieve them alone. When we are not fully engaged, conservative misinformation still has the ability to distort the discourse and unduly influence politicians.
Ask yourself: Were we in the progressive movement fully focused last month while the United Auto Workers took a fact-free PR beating from conservative apparatchiks, potentially making it harder to pass the Employee Free Choice Act, which could do so much to ease unionization, expand the middle-class and strengthen our economy?
If we were pressing harder during the past month to quickly pass legislation, like the American Recovery and Reinvestment Plan — transforming our government from one of conservative neglect to one of active progressive government that invests in job creation, modern infrastructure, energy efficiency, health care and education — would Obama have felt compelled to grease the legislative wheels with ineffective business tax breaks?
Bottom line: Our level of engagement on the immediate Washington policy battles in this early phase of the Obama Era has been poor. D minus.
The damage has been limited because of Obama’s own skills, and because the conservative movement is not exactly firing on all cylinders at the moment.
But that’s no reason to be complacent. We need to get sharper and keep our eye on the ball.
I do part with Logan’s view that liberals and progressives “do not truly understand who they are, nor what they are motivated by.” I think it’s quite clear that we are bonded by a belief in responsive and responsible government to best achieve equality and broad prosperity, at home and abroad.
But our bond has proven so easily susceptible to distraction that I have to agree with Logan when she observes “the slightest bump in the road leads to anarchy or dissentâ€? among liberals and progressives.
We complain so much when conservatives in power employ propaganda tactics to distract the public from the real issues, yet we have our own bright shiny things that lead us to debilitating distraction.
Perhaps Sen. Harry Reid was inelegant in his handling of the Burris appointment, but will that have any impact on our ability to get our economy back on track?
And I like watching a unintentionally funny Joe The Plumber clip as much as the next guy, and there’s value in calling attention to things that show what unadulterated conservatism represents.
But the Bush Era is over, and with it the need to be primarily oppositional.
The Obama Era begins Tuesday. Now we need to be pro-active.
That means getting up every morning thinking, “How will I help create good-paying jobs, strengthen unions, cap carbon emissions, make health care and education accessible to all, protect civil liberties and rights, fight global poverty and forge peace?”
It’s a lot to do. So get to work!

Netroots Nation: The Future of Enviro Blogging

After attending two panels on environment and energy activism online, I interviewed several panelists about what bloggers can do to help frame environmental issues and move the debate forward.
Energize America’s Mark Sumner and A Siegel both discussed how bloggers can participate in both drafting and advancing clean energy legislation.
Mark Sumner
A Siegel
And Natasha Chart of MyDD, Open Left and Pacific Views talked about how bloggers make environmental issues more accessible both inside and outside the blogosphere.

I drill, You drill, we all drill in ANWR

Solar panels on White HouseI was recently sent an email arguing for for drilling in ANWR. This email dovetails very nicely into a recent Republican strategy which can be summed up in a phrase: drilling our way out of the oil crisis.
For everyone over the age of 25, we’ve been here before. In late 1970s, as oil prices began to skyrocket, we had a debate in this country over oil and energy independence. Our president at the time was Jimmy Carter argued for conservation. Carter and a Democratic Congress who pushed for higher fuel standards in cars. He asked Americans to turn down thermostats. He even had a fireside chat from the White House wearing a sweater. He argued for development of alternative energy. President Carter went so far as to put solar panels on the White House.

Since 1980, we lived under a Republican dominated government. President Reagan could not wait to take down solar panels. There was no push from the Reagan administration or either of the two Bush administrations for conservation, for higher fuel standards or for developing alternative energies. Instead, slowly but surely, we’ve injected more and more of our money into oil technology. The pinnacle of the strategy was for the current Bush administration to actually give our tax dollars to the “failing” oil industry. The results of these policies is nothing short of déjà vu all over again. We are currently in another oil crisis. We have the opportunity to either learn from the past or to push America back into oil dependence.

I’m not an energy expert but I do know that we have to decrease our dependence on oil. I guess there are two ways to look at this. We can either wean ourselves off of our dependence or we can stop cold turkey. It is hard for me to understand how drilling anywhere, whether in northern Alaska or off our shores, will help us reach our goal of energy independence from the Middle East (remember they are the guys that hate us). Instead, more drilling seems to be the equivalent giving just “a little bit” of heroin to a heroin addict.
Either through regulation or through tax incentives, we have to encourage business to pump tens of billions of dollars into developing alternative energies. There won’t be one simple solution. Instead, there should be multiple solutions to our energy problem. In some areas of the country solar panels make sense. In other areas of the country, wind power and tidal power may be the answer. As far as nuclear energy, I think France has shown that nuclear energy can be done safely. My problem with nuclear energy is that we end up with radioactive waste that will decay over thousands of years. We, as a country, have not decided what to do with this nuclear waste. Nobody seems to want it in their backyard. Therefore, until the problem of how to dispose of nuclear waste is decided, it seems reckless to build more nuclear reactors.
Finally, we have to address the politics of this situation. Republicans have clearly had a mutual and symbiotic relationship with big business over the last 30 to 40 years (probably much longer). If Republicans are pushing an idea, you can be guaranteed that the idea is not helping the average American worker. Instead, the idea helps big business. Drilling everywhere will clearly help big business. How does it help the average American today and tomorrow? With the oil industry owning over 4000 undeveloped and unexplored oil leases off the American coasts, it seems to me that we need to develop what we have before we look for more. We can help the average American worker by developing energy alternatives which will open tens of thousands of jobs in these fields. Now, that’s a plan that will put money into the pocket of the average American worker.

The Coastal Drilling Con

Over at the Campaign for America’s Future blog for the last few days, I’ve been blogging about Bush’s and McCain’s proposals to lift the ban on coastal drilling — which will do absolutely nothing to lower gas prices. You can check out the posts here.

Watch the Global Warming debate

If you don’t really pay attention to the news, you might get confused on the issue of Global Warming. On one hand, you have the environmentalists telling us that the sky is falling (or at least getting warmer). On the other hand, you have those that support Big Business tell us that everything is fine.
First, let’s look at the science. First, let’s take Global Warming. To quote Cheney or more correctly misquote him – There is no doubt that Global Warming is occurring. The National Academy of Sciences has said so. In a 155 page report, they clearly show that Global Warming is occurring. There is a large consensus report in which the leading experts on Climate got together and their conclusion is that Global Warming is a fact. I’m not an expert on the science of climatology. I’m a trauma surgeon. I do know something about the scientific process. Anyone who says they don’t believe in Global Warming needs to be asked if they believe in molecules or bacteria. Heck, even Newt Gingrich admitted that Global Warming is real.
The second question that needs to be asked is if Global Warming is being caused by man. Or to put the question another way, what is the cause of Global Warming? Some of those who are kind of smart on the Right have said that this is just the normal cycle of our planet. It is clear that the Earth goes through cycles of hot and cold. By using this logic, the Right is showing that they don’t completely deny science. They are just having a problem with its conclusions. Nice. Unfortunately, for the Right, the data is overwhelming. Man is causing this warming trend. One of the neatest experiments that just brings it home was an experiment that was done on 9/11 (yep, 9/11 changed everything but the neocons weren’t talking about this). The scientist looked at temperature readings across the United States on 9/12. On 9/12/2001 there were almost no planes flying. None. Therefore, he could measure the effect of the condensation trails that most jets leave behind on temperature. He found that we were significantly cooler on the day without planes than on the day before and the day after. This small little experiment clearly showed that man can influence temperature across a continent.
Just for a second let’s look at the other side of this argument. Let’s look at those who are speaking against Global Warming. Well, there’s Glenn Beck. Glenn Beck who can’t really put together a thoughtful argument for his position. Next. There are several scientists who have written that Global Warming is a crock and there is no consensus in the scientific community. Many of these scientists are on the payroll of Big Oil and as such have a huge conflict of interest on this subject. As a matter of fact, Big Oil has offered $10,000 to anyone who writes an article and gets it published that bashes Global Warming.
A nice simple paper that everyone can read can be found here. It has references to all of the major papers in the field. This short summary basically says that several large groups of scientists came together, they worked for a long time and reviewed all of the current literature. Their conclusion is that Global Warming is a fact and it is being caused by man. Here’s the rub – this debate has been poisoned by the Right. Unless, the public is going to read these scientific papers we aren’t going to make headway on this subject. So, we need a new strategy to achieve the same goal. Michael Shellenberger was on the Thom Hartmann program today. He has a new book called Breathrough. He argues that this is a National Security issue. Bingo, he has the hook because this is a National Security issue. If we had an endless supply of clean energy would we be in Iraq? Would we give a hoot about Iran? NO!! This is a National Security issue and we need to convenience the public. Republicans would never argue against our National Security. If they did they would lose the only weapon that they have over the Democrats. National Security – that’s the ticket.

Live Earth

If today’s Live Earth global event is stirring your interest in solving the climate crisis, you may be interested in the copious enviro-blogging I’ve been doing the past several months for Campaign for America’s Future. All of my environmental posts are here, enjoy.

The Neville Chamberlain of Global Warming

Bill Blakemore of ABC News recently gave us a moment of clarity:
The President — as far as the extensive and repeated researches of this and many other professional journalists, as well as all scientists credible on this subject, can find — is wrong on one crucial and no doubt explosive issue. When he said — as he also did a few weeks ago — that “There’s a debate over whether it’s manmade or naturally caused” … well, there really is no such debate.

At least none above what is proverbially called “the flat earth society level.”
It is not comforting to hear a reputable journalist say that your President’s understanding of the world is blindly pre-modern. Again, our President is asserting things that are not real, comparable but scarier than saying that the earth is flat — after all, there are graver consequences to the President’s willful ignorance.
2006 is now the year that global warming became real, because the press decided that it was real. They happen to be right, although one has to ask where they’ve been up to now. 60 Minutes’ Scott Pelley has been doing great work, as has Time Magazine. And regarding Al Gore’s foray into cinema, “Scientists give An Inconvenient Truth five stars.” (The remarkable thing about this last AP article is that they actually contacted 100 climatologists to ask their opinions on the science presented in the movie. That’s how journalism is done, folks. Seth Borenstein, take a bow.)
And we must give high praise to new environmental hero, Rep. Sherwood Boehlert (R-NY), who in the face of severe resistance from Energy and Commerce chair Joe Barton (R-Exxon), requested a National Research Council report which confirmed that indeed, global warming is real and caused by us. (This would have been real Profiles in Courage stuff, but Boehlert’s retiring.)
Global warming is the story of the year… and unfortunately it’s going to continue as such, because it literally hits home. It’s not just Katrina and last year’s horrific hurricane season: New England is seeing historic flooding; tornadoes are at an all-time high. To say that global warming didn’t necessarily cause any of these individual events ignores the elephant in the living room: Last year was the hottest year in 2000 years. The global-warming deniers look more and more like dismembered-but-undeterred Black Knight from Monty Python’s Holy Grail:
“I’m invincible!”
“You’re a loony.”

Al Gore and his “slide show”, of course, are smack in the middle of this. Finally, he’s being taken seriously as a fellow with real ideas, because 1. he’s treating the issue with the urgency it deserves, and 2. he’s right. I have to agree with some critics who feel that the biographical background and political swipes may narrow the appeal of the film to those already favorably disposed to Gore. (Can you really imagine W deigning to watch the film’s rehash of the 2000 recount?) And the film does gloss over the eight years of the Clinton administration’s ambivalent attitude towards taking action on global warming, a lack of moral and message clarity which may well have led to Gore losing Florida to … Ralph Nader. That being said, Gore is the moral leader of this historical moment, filling a huge gap that institutional Democrats have been unable or unwilling to address.
And so, Bush becomes progressively isolated from the real world. Normally politicians are very sensitive to the public sentiment, and try to get out in front of externalities. While one could contend that a lack of attention to polls is a virtue, Bush’s inattention to reality is the reason why he’s polling in the 30’s.
Al Gore quotes Winston Churchill in An Inconvenient Truth: “The era of procrastination, of half-measures, of soothing and baffling expedients is coming to a close. We are entering an era of consequences.” Unless he wakes up and smells the externalities, Bush can only be called the Neville Chamberlain of global warming.