Remember the stories about rivers in Illinois earlier this year? They were about a long drought so bad it was slowing barge traffic on the Mississippi River down to a halt.
And here we are in spring with our rivers and half the state flooded. In fact, heavy flooding forced the closure of about a dozen locks on the Illinois and Mississippi Rivers. Sections of both rivers have been closed to barge traffic.
I just took the train from Chicago to Springfield and I saw all kinds of water in places where it isn’t supposed to be. It’s bad.
(Photo Credit: Chris Young)
In the Quad Cities, WQAD TV news has a story about drought and flooding hitting a Christmas tree farm along the Rock River. Drought had killed 900 trees when they first covered the farm in July. Now, he has to visit his trees in a boat. He says he has never seen it go from one extreme to another this badly before.
As usual, almost no one in the press is pointing it out, but this is exactly what those nagging scientists told us would happen. They warned the Midwest would have more erratic, extreme and unpredictable weather, including more droughts, and more severe storms leading to flooding. A federal report on the impacts of climate change in the Midwest summarized:
The likely increase in precipitation in winter and spring, more heavy downpours, and greater evaporation in summer would lead to more periods of both floods and water deficits.
The 2009 report even warned that low river levels would cause problems for river traffic. It’s like they could see into the future. That report was either written by clairvoyant fortune tellers, or a group of scientists who really knew what the hell they were talking about.
So yes, we get both more flooding and more droughts thanks to climate change. Barge traffic is interrupted in both winter and spring.
At this point it’s more descriptive to go ahead and call it a Climate Clusterfuck. That’s what we’re dealing with from here on out.
More attention is given to the threat of rising sea levels on the coast, but the Mississippi River Valley is already being hit hard in ways that harm our regional economy, food supply, and safety. No one can say exactly what the weather would have looked like this year if climate change wasn’t happening, but we do know that if we really want more seasons like this and worse, then we should keep burning fossil fuels. Continue reading Illinois drought and flooding isn’t climate change. It’s a climate clusterfuck.
ONE: I Just Can’t Quit Her
She might be an obscure political footnote waiting to happen, but Michele Bachmann will always be heroic to me. Even among her fellow House Republicans, few would even try to yearn to aspire to attempt to emulate her straight-up weirdness, seemingly involuntary lying, and relentless misunderstanding of pretty much everything about everything. Unlike wannabes such as the suspiciously non-contiguous Sarah Palin or the implosion-primed Nikki Haley, Bachmann is truly the GOP’s current It Girl.
As I mentioned a few weeks back, Bachmann kicked off the 113th Congress by unsuccessfully trying to repeal Obamacare. Yes, that’s something the House Majority does compulsively at this point, like meth or knuckle cracking, but Bachmann brought a whole new level of earnest sincerity to this nasty habit:
That’s why we’re here because we’re saying let’s repeal this failure before it literally kills women, kills children, kills senior citizens. Let’s not do that. Let’s love people, let’s care about people. Let’s repeal it now while we can…
ThinkProgress managing editor Igor Volsky covered himself completely with dust and glory in his enviably nimble reporting on Bachmann’s speech:
Moments after calling for the complete repeal of a law that will extend health care coverage to 30 million Americans, Bachmann claimed that her belief in Christ inspires her to care “for the least of those who are in our midst.” After she completed her remarks, fellow Republican Rep. Michael Burgess (TX) observed that the Minnesota Congresswoman “has a way of stating these things that none of us are capable of.”
Yes, she certainly has a unique way of going about all kinds of things, so unique that the Office of Congressional Ethics has apparently developed something of a fascination with it:
The Daily Beast has learned that federal investigators are now interviewing former Bachmann campaign staffers nationwide about alleged intentional campaign-finance violations… investigators have allegedly asked about allegations of improper transfer of funds and under-the-table payments actions by Bachmann’s presidential campaign…
In a piece last weekend, Charles M. Blow of the New York Times insisted:
People like Bachmann represent everything that is wrong with the Republican Party. She and her colleagues are hyperbolic, reactionary, ill-informed and ill-intentioned, and they have become synonymous with the Republican brand. We don’t need all politicians to be Mensa-worthy, but we do expect them to be cogent and competent.
Sorry, but please speak for yourself, Mr. Blow. I expect no such thing, at least from Republicans.
As for you, Michele Bachmann, long may you run, be it for office or from the law.
TWO: Pride and Prejudice and Piss and Vinegar
Bachmann isn’t the ’12 cycle’s only failed Republican hopeful still attracting headlines. Two of her primary rivals are at the center of a fascinating new story by Joshua Green of Businessweek:
As Mitt Romney struggled in the weeks leading up to the Michigan primary, Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum nearly agreed to form a joint “Unity Ticket” to consolidate conservative support and topple Romney.
Damn. As much as I loved seeing Barack Obama and Joe Biden beat Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan, I reckon I’d have loved seeing Obama and Biden beat Gingrich and Santorum just a little more. Or should that be Santorum and Gingrich?
… the negotiations collapsed in acrimony because Gingrich and Santorum could not agree on who would get to be president.
Poor bastards should have called me; I could have told them the only one who would get to be President was the guy who already had been for four years.
Like Gingrich, Santorum has fallen back on public speaking gigs, continuously augmenting an already lengthy record demonstrating why he’s unfit to hold any elected office, of any kind, anywhere, ever. Santorum, essentially, is very hard to distinguish from a vile little bigot:
… during a speech in Naples [Florida]… Santorum… said he found that Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama lacked leadership in defending the U.S. against the threats of radical Islam.
“I’m not talking about all Muslims, just like I’m not talking about all Christians and all Jews. The Christian faith, the dominant religion in the west, and the Islamic faith, come down to two men, Jesus Christ and Mohammed,” he said.
“Jesus did not fight, rule or reign. Mohammed fought, killed, ruled, conquered and governed,” Santorum said.
In a clear indication that Santorum slept through every stinking thing that happened in the world from his regrettable birth in 1958 right up until the moment he took the stage, his grubby little stem-winder included this astounding pseudo-observation:
“We are about to hand off to our children, grandchildren, the most destabilized, threatening world we’ve ever seen,” he said.
Ironically, he would have been eloquently correct had he been talking about catastrophic climate change, but Santorum is on record as a stalwart climate change denialist, who once sneered on the campaign trail:
“… an absolute travesty of scientific research that was motivated by those who, in my opinion, saw this as an opportunity to create a panic and a crisis for government to be able to step in and even more greatly control your life.”
Vexing as you and I might find it, Santorum’s refusal to go away is a timely morale boost for the vile little bigot wing of the Republican Party (often referred to simply as “the Republican Party”) since said wing might soon have to adjust to the tragedy of life without vile little bigot Gary Bauer. Bauer might be irrelevant now to all but three or four other Republicans – who are probably related to him – and he quite possibly spends most of his time floating in a jar of formaldehyde on a shelf in a dark K Street basement, but he spoke Tuesday at a DC march organized by the National Organization for [some] Marriage, waving his stunted little saber valiantly at the Republican Party and the spring sky over the National Mall, and declaring the preservation of marriage inequality his personal line in the litmus:
“… if you bail out on this issue, I will leave the party and I will take as many people with me as I possibly can.”
I guess I’m a sentimental fool, but somehow I find it touching that Gary Bauer is still out there on the front lines of the 21st century, fighting to keep a Republican Party recklessly flirting with the 20th stuck firmly in the 19th. And the Unhappy Warrior has company, such as the equally post-relevant Mike Huckabee:
When asked by the website Newsmax “if he sees the GOP ever pivoting and backing gay marriage,” Huckabee admitted they might.
“And if they do, they’re going to lose a large part of their base because evangelicals will take a walk…”
As someone who’s been suggesting they take a walk for years now, I for one can’t wait.
THREE: Neighborhood Watch
Speaking of raging bigots, the festering sore on the body politic known as the Westboro Baptist Church is still widely acknowledged as an on-point answer to the question: What’s the matter with Kansas? But Fred Phelps’ hatemongering Topeka “church” couldn’t deter a decorative new neighbor from settling in right across 12th Street, a gay-rights center, complete with rainbow-painted clapboard and a conspicuous Pride flag:
The center is the work of a roving do-gooder named Aaron Jackson, a 31-year-old community-college dropout whose other projects have included opening orphanages in India and Haiti and buying a thousand acres of endangered rain forest in Peru. This year, his charity, Planting Peace, also intends to de-worm every child in Guatemala.
While Planting Peace works for a worm-free Guatemala, the folks across the street will be equally busy. Currently, they’re gearing up to picket not only the Final Four at the Georgia Dome, but Kansas City concerts by Bon Jovi (who apparently “stood by silently” while gay people “took over this nation”), Itzhak Perlman (for killing Jesus), Carrie Underwood (for “promoting sin and shame”) and Fleetwood Mac (because “singer Stevie Nicks proudly joins fellow sodomitical harlots Lady Gaga, Cher and Madonna as a well known ‘gay icon’”).
Is it just me or is Sodomitical Harlots the greatest band name ever? Oh, and call me petty, but why, when I simply want to know what the Westbores are up to, do I have to wander around 10 of their deeply hideous websites? Why can’t they just put everything together under one convenient URL, like GodHatesEveryoneButUs.com? Continue reading Take Five (Zero Worship edition)
I love irony, but this example is costly. Coal power plants are the top source of man-made pollutants that contribute to climate change. Now, the impacts of climate change will make it more difficult to ship coal.
The long drought across the Midwest is causing an extended period of exceptionally low levels along the Mississippi River. Barge operators are worried that river traffic will continue to slow or come to a stop. Much of the barge traffic along the Mississippi and its tributaries is transporting coal.
Any shipment delays or increased costs will make it more difficult for coal to compete with the low price of natural gas, and of course, the cost of delivering more wind to existing wind farms is zero.
A superstitious person could interpret this as the Mississippi protecting itself. Burning more coal will result in even worse droughts in the future. The river is taking smarter action than the fossil fuel politicians.
This is one more example of how the coal industry acts as an economic cannibal. The act of mining and burning coal destroys other forms of economic development; in this case, barge traffic. It’s a larger-scale version of strip-mining land until it can’t be used for any other purpose.
What about agriculture?
The drought is doing even more damage to agriculture, which is being hit twice. First, during the growing season, and now again since grain is shipped by barge. That’s why it’s so disappointing to see some ag groups like the Farm Bureau frequently attack any attempt to deal with climate change. Spreading nutty EPA conspiracy theories in farm publications doesn’t help. Continue reading Impacts of burning coal make it harder to burn more coal: Drought hits barge traffic
I was disappointed during the election when many environmental writers downplayed the role of Environmental Protection Agency regulation on coal. It was a timid response to the “war on coal” hype.
Sure, there’s not exactly a war on coal. There’s a war to save modern civilization as we know it from climate change disasters. The coal industry just happens to be on the pro-ending-modern-civilization side.
The argument downplaying EPA action bothered me. First, because I think it was somewhat disingenuous. You can’t honestly go from bragging one week about how many proposed coal plants activists have stopped, often by using EPA regulation as a tool, and the next week pretending the movement doesn’t exist. It’s the kind of defensive, weak-kneed messaging that gives tree-huggers and liberals a bad reputation. The low price of natural gas may be the bigger factor in determining the future of coal, but compliance with regulation is an important part of the cost/benefit analysis companies do when making decisions about building or retiring coal plants.
That rhetorical retreat was troubling because EPA may be our last best hope of dealing with carbon pollution during the next 2-4 years. The climate change movement will be forced to rediscover their conviction to cheer EPA action as a positive.
It’s not hard to see why. The House is still controlled by a Republican majority in the pockets of oil and coal. Even though most of them campaigned on being bipartisan, they made similar promises in 2008. We saw how that turned out.
The Senate has a small Democratic majority, but the Democratic caucus still includes fossil fuel Senators like Mary Landrieu and Joe Manchin. Plus, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid seems uninterested in exposing oil and coal Democrats to controversial votes. He refused to bring cap-and-trade to the floor two years ago because it didn’t have 60 votes to pass, but then allowed three failed votes on stripping EPA authority to limit carbon emissions.
So, a big legislative solution like cap-and-trade is about as realistic as “clean coal.” I’ve seen suggestions about a carbon tax. As much as Congressional Republicans hate the idea of any tax increase, I can only imagine the category 5 hissy fit they would throw over a tax increase to deal with a problem they won’t even admit exists. I’d be happy to see someone try, but I won’t hold my breath.
What I’ll hold out small hope for in Congress is another jobs bill focused on energy efficiency, improving the grid, and promoting renewables. That was the best part of the stimulus bill, and we need another big round of green jobs spending in term II. Preferably, they should target spending in coal regions to offset job losses.
That leaves us with the authority a previous, more functional Congress already granted EPA to limit air pollutants. Obama moved forward with expanded EPA protections after Congress failed to act during his first two years in office. Some regulations have been stalled, like CSAPR. That needs to be completed along with better rules on mountaintop removal, coal ash, and air emissions like carbon.
My number one hope for Obama’s second term is that he moves forward much more aggressively with EPA limits on deadly coal pollution. Continue reading Help me, EPA, you’re my only hope!
How did I miss this whopper?! Republican Congressional candidate Rodney Davis claimed during a radio interview that climate change stopped sixteen years ago.
Clearly, you can tell that’s true because over the last several years we definitely haven’t had an unusual degree of extreme flooding along the Mississippi, no extreme droughts, and no Frankenstorms. Oh yeah, wait, those things are happening more often and it’s exactly what scientists told us to expect as a result of climate change.
You can listen to his comment after the 42:00-minute mark during a Focus interview on WILL public radio. A caller asked Davis how he plans to deal with climate change (no, it wasn’t me this time). Davis answered by claiming that, according to recent reports, “global warming stopped about sixteen years ago.”
Then he launched into his usual repetition of the Exxon/Koch Brothers talking point that there’s still a debate about whether man-made pollution is causing the crisis. It’s the argument climate change deniers have retreated to now that it’s impossible to ignore the change that’s already happening. As always, he dodged saying where he stands on whether man-made pollutants are the problem. He has gone through the entire campaign refusing to tell which side of that debate he’s on.
The caller interrupted Davis to tell him “that’s absolutely wrong” about climate change stopping, and challenged him to talk to a Nobel Prize winner at the University of Illinois about the scientific reality. That guy deserves a gold star. He may have been referring to a Professor of Atmospheric Science, Don Wuebbles, an outspoken, internationally recognized expert on climate issues who’s right here in central Illinois.
I googled the wacky claim about global warming stopping sixteen years ago and discovered it has been making the rounds on right-wing blogs and talk radio shows like Glenn Beck’s. It started with discredited writer Davis Rose publishing an article in a conservative British tabloid, which claimed there’s a report showing global temperatures stopped rising in 1996. The original report came from the British Met office.
The Met Office is the British version of the national weather service. They wrote a brutal, detailed response to what they describe as “misleading information” in the article. Here’s my favorite part: Continue reading Rodney Davis makes wacky claim that climate change stopped 16 years ago (IL-13)
Just to make sure people remember and are clear where the candidates stand on things: This is Romney’s attitude about having Frankenstorms become the new normal.
So Romney, how about helping the families hit by climate . . . → Read More: Romney laughs off Frankenstorm
I always felt Candy Crowley focused on the frivolous, like most of CNN, so she exceeded my expectations moderating the Presidential debate. She mostly did an acceptable job, but her decision to focus the energy discussion on gas prices rather than climate change was a massive failure.
Crowley chose the question on gas prices and asked two follow-up questions to keep the focus there. It’s a way of framing the energy debate that ignores a far more important issue. If a person’s home or workplace is destroyed by a catastrophic flood, hurricane, or wildfire, or if their crop is destroyed by drought, then suddenly gas prices aren’t the most important problem. I can only guess about whether Crowley’s misguided focus is due to a lack of understanding of the enormity of the problem or because of CNN’s reliance on massive advertising revenue from the fossil fuel industry. The press is still part of the problem.
It’s disappointing that Obama didn’t raise climate change himself, but keeping the focus on gas prices is a way to put politicians who want to deal with climate change on the defensive. Obama did the right thing by investing heavily in clean energy and efficiency. But, the smaller stimulus investments in clean coal have largely been a failure and pandering to coal is gaining Obama nothing politically. The coal industry will continue spending millions to fight him, no matter how much he increases coal mining production or throws subsidies at them. Continue reading Debate Moderator Fail: Does anyone worry about gas prices when their home is destroyed by disaster?
I sometimes hear people say they wish Barack Obama had created more New Deal style programs to create jobs like the WPA or CCC. It would be even better if he did it to build clean energy projects and deal with climate change.
I often think, that’s a great idea! I liked it even better the first time when it was called the federal stimulus bill! Then I try to remember not to be such a sarcastic jerk and politely point out that Obama funded a lot of projects like that when he decided to make energy the main focus of the stimulus bill. Many forget or never knew.
Part of the trouble is that Obama didn’t advertise stimulus jobs with catchy acronyms like CCC or WPA. Sure, there were signs at some public works projects but it wasn’t mandatory. The vast majority of jobs saved or created by stimulus funding didn’t arrive with a sign to let people know where the money came from.
For example, energy efficiency and weatherization funding. I learned at Climate Progress that, after getting $5 billion in the stimulus bill, the Weatherization Assistance Program has weatherized 1 million homes as of September 27, 2012. Woohoo!
The program is a triple win. It creates jobs, helps deal with climate change by lowering energy use, and lowers monthly utility bills. The post at Climate Progress points out that “state governments have been using a network of over 1,000 local agencies and more than 4,000 private contractors while employing an average of more than 12,000 workers per quarter to perform weatherization services across the country.”
The Weatherization Assistance Program not only created jobs desperately needed in the construction industry, it also provided a boost for American manufacturing and small businesses. More than 89 percent of the materials used in home retrofits are made right here in America. In all cases, except refrigerators (which are 62.3 percent domestically produced), retrofitting homes exceeded the national average for domestic share of all manufactured products used in the United States of 76.5 percent. Recovery Act funding went through these channels to stimulate local economies, employ thousands, and create demand for American-made supplies.
I’m sure workers in some of the factories making those materials know they won new orders because of the weatherization program. But, I wonder how many people are aware that a factory in their town was able to stay open or hire new employees because of orders generated by the program. Not many, I bet.
Consider how it was implemented in my community as a typical example. Federal money was given to the states and passed down to agencies with weatherization programs. It allowed Sangamon County to dramatically expand their program during a time of major budget cuts. I’ll be cynical and assume that the heavily Republican Sangamon County government probably operated by their usual buddy system and hired contractors they knew.
Neither Republican county leaders nor the friends they hire to do the work will go out of their way to credit Obama. In fact, many of them are the sort of people who nod their head when a politician says “government doesn’t create jobs” even if they’ve spent most of their lives working for the government.
One might read in the newspaper or on the county website that the program was expanded thanks to stimulus funds, but there’s nothing obvious to point that out when the work is being done. No one from the federal CCC or WPA came to work on their house. A contractor sent by the county did. It’s likely that many program participants are unaware or quickly forget about the connection to federal stimulus funding. Continue reading A hidden Obama success story: weatherization and energy efficiency
I have to give credit to Illinois Congressman Bobby Schilling and his campaign team. They’ve put in a great effort to transform his image from an ultra-conservative Tea Party Congressman to a sensible moderate. I’ve noticed the change of tone in his public statements and Facebook page, where he often posts about bipartisanship.
Of course, even the most bitterly partisan Republican members of Congress are touting bipartisanship this election season, as if they hadn’t spent the last two years making the defeat of Barack Obama their #1 priority over helping the economy recover. Schilling is running in a newly drawn Democratic-leaning district against Cheri Bustos.
Reading news about the campaign reminded me of a forum I attended last year with the old, unreformed Schilling. Back then, he still opposed high speed rail, and even the extension of Amtrak service to the Quad Cities.
When I spoke with Schilling afterward he denied the scientific consensus behind climate change. Then he suggested that he has a lower carbon footprint than me because he uses E-85 ethanol. I’m glad he’s thinking about that, but, well, I don’t think he knows how much I’ve done to lower my carbon footprint. When I brought up deadly pollution from coal plants he brought up cow farts. Seriously. You can read more at my blog post about the forum. Continue reading Remember when Bobby Schilling was a Tea Partier? (IL-17)
If you were watching Rodney Davis’ campaign Facebook page Sunday afternoon you would have seen a flood of questions from citizens asking where he stands on climate change. They’re still waiting for an answer.
I wrote about Davis ignoring my question and hurrying away when I asked if he thought floods and droughts are getting worse due to climate change. That’s not the only question he’s dodging. He attends very few public forums where he will have to answer questions from the public, and he won’t get specific about where he stands on many major issues. Would he respond to citizens on his campaign Facebook page asking about climate change, the great challenge of our time?
I repeated my own question about floods and droughts.
Mr Davis, you didn’t answer my question about whether you think floods and droughts in Illinois are getting worse because of climate change. It will be devastating to farmers, residents, and the regional economy if the extreme weather disasters we’ve had the last few years become the new normal. Do you acknowledge the scientific consensus that man-made pollutants are contributing to climate change and what would you do to solve the problem?
Dozens of questions by others were posted on his page.
My respectful questions were removed quickly and I was banned from commenting on his Facebook page again. That didn’t surprise me. After a while, every mention of climate change by anyone was deleted as quickly as it was posted. Even the most politely worded questions were removed, like this one:
Thank you for putting forth an energy policy but I’m unclear about your stance regarding climate change. Since I will likely not be able to attend one of your appearances, might you be able to respond in this forum? Thanks so much.
That got deleted.
Many more excellent banned questions can be viewed at my Flickr set. I captured many, but not all, before they were removed by the Davis campaign. My favorite was posted on a comment about a campaign sign in a soy field.
Wonder where he stands on climate change? Rodney are you going to answer ever? It might help out the bean field?
Questions in response to the energy plan posted on his main campaign website haven’t been removed yet. I’m sure they’ll get to those after they read this blog post so catch them while you can. A couple of voters there let Davis know they aren’t happy about their questions on Facebook being ignored and removed. Continue reading FaceMob Floods Congressional Candidate Rodney Davis with Climate Change Questions. Still No Answer. (IL-13)