Climate Capsule: “Catastrophic, In Fact”
This week’s stories:
- Highlight of the Week: Science Solid, America’s Polar Bears on Thin Ice
- Quote: Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL)
- Economic Story of the Week: Speeding Towards Fuel Efficiency
- Editorial of the Week: Climate Change & the Plight of the Whitebark Pine
- Capps for Clean Air
- Schweiger Says: Will Someone Ask If News Corp. Was Behind Hacked Climate Emails?
- Preview: Study: Climate-Induced Weather Extremes and the Future for Indian Country
- Debt Deal, No Deal for Climate
- Happening this Week
Subscribe to the Climate Capsule RSS Feed to have your weekly update delivered automatically!
Science Solid, America’s Polar Bears on Thin Ice
The Bureau of Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement (BOEMRE) has reportedly placed on administrative leave Dr. Charles Monnett, a wildlife biologist, pending an internal investigation into “integrity issues.” Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER) has alleged the query is a “political attempt to impugn [Dr. Monnett’s] observations on polar bears’ vulnerability to retreating sea ice.”
Dr. Doug Inkley, senior scientist with the National Wildlife Federation, said:
“When it comes to science demonstrating the threat to polar bears posed by global warming, this study is only the tip of the iceberg. There’s a massive body of established scientific evidence showing receding Arctic sea ice is putting polar bears in greater danger with each passing year.
“The latest major study conducted by the U.S. Geological Survey only deepened concern, documenting long swims to Arctic summer sea ice put polar bear cubs at risk of drowning and force mothers to burn needed calories. So far, 2011 is no exception – the Arctic’s summer sea ice is at record-low levels.
“The terrible plight of polar bears due to climate change is based on decades of outstanding science that is absolutely irrefutable. Should BOEMRE, the agency responsible for handing out Arctic drilling permits, conduct its own investigation into Arctic polar bear science?”
“The weather is getting worse and more violent. Catastrophic, in fact. The federal government needs to do more to be ready to protect federal assets and provide disaster assistance on an increasing frequency…We’ve stopped talking about this on Capitol Hill. We’ve decided that the debate over global warming is too contentious. I think it’s a big mistake.”
– Senator Dick Durbin, Chair, Senate Subcommittee on Financial Services and Government.
Speeding Towards Fuel Efficiency
President Obama has announced new fuel economy standards for cars and light trucks that would double the current requirement to 54.5 miles per gallon (mpg) by 2025, resulting in a dramatic reduction in America’s oil dependence and carbon pollution.
“Whether you’re a commuter in a compact car or a sportsman who needs a pickup truck, every American deserves access to the most fuel-efficient, technologically-advanced vehicles that save them money, cut pollution and deliver great performance,” said Larry Schweiger, president and CEO of the National Wildlife Federation. “These rules are an important step toward reducing our billion-dollar-a-day addiction to imported oil, money that stronger fuel efficiency standards will keep at home to invest in job creation here in America.”
The new standards would raise car fuel efficiency standards 5 percent annually between 2017 and 2025, while light trucks would be required to reach an annual gain of 3.5 percent between 2017 and 2021, and 5 percent between 2022 and 2025.
“A broad range of interests – from automakers to unions to conservationists – has come together behind these new rules,” said Schweiger. “The technology is ready, the standards are achievable and poll after poll shows the American people strongly support getting the job done. We all benefit from robust standards to cut our oil dependence, create American jobs, and protect wildlife and public health, and we stand ready to defend these gains from extremist, politically-motivated attacks.”
Climate Change & the Plight of the Whitebark Pine
For centuries, the whitebark pine, Pinus albicaulis, has grown on hundreds of thousands of acres across the West. It is a keystone species of an entire ecosystem — one now seriously at risk. Most of the whitebark pines in Yellowstone and Glacier National Parks are dead. It has been declared an endangered species in Canada. And, last week, the Fish and Wildlife Service stated that the whitebark pine “warranted” listing as threatened or endangered, making it one of the very few species officially acknowledged as threatened by climate change. The tragedy is the ongoing demise of an ecosystem, one for which humans are culpable. What looks, from the air, like a plagued forest has been plagued by the choices we have made over the past century.
A press conference was held on Capitol Hill last week in support of an amendment to the House Environment and Interior Appropriations bill that would protect people and wildlife by striking a rider in the bill that delays the Environmental Protection Agency’s ability to limit mercury and other harmful air toxics emitted from power plants.
The amendment, introduced by Representative Lois Capps (D-CA) would allow the EPA to set standards for dangerous air pollution that will save thousands of lives each year and reduce 90 percent of mercury that is emitted from coal-fired power plants. Mothers in Congress spoke at the event, including Rep. Lois Capps, Rep. Doris Matsui (D-CA), Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-FL) and Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-IL), all expressing concern about the effects of mercury on children and women of child bearing age. Mercury is especially dangerous to children and developing fetuses; exposure affects a child’s ability to walk, talk, read, write and learn.
The American Lung Association is also using a nation-wide television campaign to urge Congress not to support policy that, according to Senator Harry Reid, would bring America back to “the robber-baron era where there were no controls on pollution from power plants, oil refineries and factories.”
Will the media finally start asking if Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp. was connected to the illegal hacking of climate scientist emails?
It’s been frustrating that for all the rightful attention paid to The News of the World phone hacking scandal, virtually no journalist has been willing to ask if News Corp.’s lawbreaking extended into email hacking.
Given how quickly the stolen emails were handed to climate science deniers who were then immediately featured on Fox News, it’s a fair question to ask.
When the hacked emails were subject to independent investigation, climate scientists were vindicated. But given the clear as well as alleged connections between Scotland Yard and News Corp. in recent news, there’s been no similar independent investigation of who stole the emails in the first place. And as much as journalists were eager to report to the controversy on the emails, they’ve shown little interest in tracking down the thieves.
The National Wildlife Federation is releasing a new report on the disproportionate impacts of climate change on North American Indian Tribes. North American Indian Tribes are especially harmed by climate change, as more ecological shifts and more frequent, more extreme weather events occur. Because Tribes are heavily dependent on natural resources, severe weather events like droughts, floods, wildfires, and snowstorms make tribal communities particularly vulnerable and impact American Indians and Alaska Natives more than they impact the general population.
Legislation to raise the debt ceiling and cut federal spending passed Congress today and was signed into law by President Obama. The deal imposes discretionary budget program caps, resulting in reductions for the Departments of Interior, Agriculture and Energy, Environmental Protection Agency, and other agencies that focus on conservation and little chance of attaching a tax on carbon pollution to pay down the deficit. The Waxman-Markey bill that passed the House last congress and Senator John Kerry’s climate proposal were both deficit reducers.
According to Climate Progress there have been 110 anti-environmental votes taken since the 112th Congress began with 20 related to climate change, 28 on air and water pollution, and 22 on clean energy. Click here to take action and tell your Congressperson to stop the attacks on our health, wildlife and the nation’s national resources.
“The deal to resolve the Congressional debt ceiling crisis and avoid the catastrophe of a national default is clearly a relief for America,” said NWF president and CEO Larry Schweiger. “But moving forward, members of Congress must remember the heavier a burden our conservation programs are forced to bear in the short term, the higher a risk we face in the long term – not just in higher public health costs, but in jeopardizing the wildlife and special places that generations of Americans have protected and handed down to their children and grandchildren.”
Wednesday, August 3
Teleconference and Report Release: Climate Change Hurts Indian Tribes Disproportionately, 12 PM EST, email Weinmanna@nwf.org for more information
Hearing on energy tax policy reform, Ways and Means, 10:00 AM, 1100 Longworth
Hearing on five public lands bills, Energy and Natural Resources, 2:30 PM, 366 Dirksen
Thursday, August 4
For more global warming news on Wildlife Promise click here.