global warming

"It's in my book!" Mitt Romney's Robo-Response to Climate Change and Hurricane Sandy

  • Posted on: 2 November 2012
  • By: Connor Gibson

Romney Dodges Climate Change Question, Again

With the election at hand, Greenpeace has been particularly concerned about the lack of action to address global warming from President Barack Obama as well as his challenger, Governor Mitt Romney. Both candidates have been asked for months to break the climate silence, yet we have heard very little from either candidate even after hurricane Sandy, the "Frankenstorm," wrought havoc on the U.S. east coast (see pictures).

If you missed the first two times Mitt Romney was asked on camera about how he plans to address the global crisis of climate change now that superstorm Sandy has, check out the video in our previous blog. Asked three times about global warming, Governor Romney seems to have deferred to the instructions of his campaign managers and public relations advisers: tell 'em to read your book!

Beyond dodging questions from attendees at his recent campaign events, governor Mitt Romney also bit his tongue during a speech in Virginia Beach yesterday, when a protester holding a "End Climate Silence" banner for CNN's camera's interrupted Romney's speech, asking "Romney! What about climate? That’s what caused this monster storm! Climate change!" That video is available here:

Check out this interactive graph of how both candidates positions and actions have been notably inconsistent on solutions to climate change, or even its scientific basis.

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VIDEO: Romney Wants to Play Dodgeball in a Hurricane

  • Posted on: 1 November 2012
  • By: Connor Gibson

Romney Dodges Hurricane Sandy Climate Change Question

For the second time today, Mitt Romney dodged a question about Hurricane Sandy and climate change.

After standing by as his supporters drowned out a question about climate change with chants of “USA! USA!”, Mitt Romney was confronted again at a rally today in Virginia about his climate silence. An audience member on the rope line asked Mitt Romney “Given Hurricane Sandy, how would you address climate change as president?”

The opportunity to connect the dots was there for the second time today, but once again Romney dodged.

“Take a look at my book,” he said, “there’s a whole section on it.”

He then makes a gesture as if he’s writing a book (or asking for the check at a restaurant) and moves on to shake more hands.

What does his book have to say about climate change?

In No Apology, Romney lays out, in very careful language, the case both for and against human-caused global climate change. Some believe in it, he writes, some don’t. And then, in what has become his go-to move, the former governor comes to this fork in the road and takes it:

“Whether or not you agree that the climate is changing and that human beings have something to do with it, assume for the sake of argument that both positions are accurate.”

Which he has done, saying the expedient thing at different times: In New Hampshire, he is open to human beings having something to do with climate change: “Do I think the world is getting hotter? Yeah, I don’t know that, but I think that it is. I don’t know if it’s mostly caused by humans. . . “

In Pittsburgh, he isn’t: “My view is that we don’t know what’s causing climate change on this planet. And the idea of spending trillions and trillions of dollars to try to reduce CO2 emissions is not the right course for us.”

In both cases, he says he won’t change his energy policy based on climate change. He dodges.

Hurricane Sandy has shown that the time for taking both sides of this issue is over. Climate change is real. It’s here. We need our leaders to address it, not dodge it.

New York City’s mayor Michael Bloomberg knows this. Just today, Bloomberg cast his lot with Barack Obama in an op-ed with the headline, “A Vote For A President to Lead on Climate Change”: "Our climate is changing. And while the increase in extreme weather we have experienced in New York City and around the world may or may not be the result of it, the risk that it may be — given the devastation it is wreaking — should be enough to compel all elected leaders to take immediate action.”

Sandy didn’t dodge New York, and Romney can’t dodge climate change.

Sandy Forces Obama Endorsement from Bloomberg

  • Posted on: 1 November 2012
  • By: Connor Gibson

Both presidential candidates have persistently avoided talking about global warming during their election campaigns, but are now under heavy pressure to end the silence in the wake of superstorm Sandy.

Today, President Obama received the coveted endorsement of New York City’s Mayor, Michael Bloomberg, and the Mayor highlighted climate change as a big reason why Mitt Romney should not get his endorsement.

Let’s be clear though. It took a Superstorm Sandy to force an endorsement of Obama for another term. As Mayor Bloomberg noted, both candidates have run administrations implementing policies to reduce pollution. What damns a Romney endorsement is not Obama’s fantastic record but the fossil industry-crazed climate denialism that has come to rule the Republic platform and Romney’s overt positions.

The climate policy record of Obama’s first term is dismal if you consider the scale of the problem. In the context of international negotiations, other governments have asked the Obama government to describe emissions reduction policies as a percentage of the country’s pollution, but the Obama negotiators have no number to provide. The only policies implemented in the last four years to make a significant dent economy-wide are the new car standards, which, optimistically, reduce pollution by a few percent.

If we are going to have any hope of avoiding runaway climate change, developed countries must cut about a third of greenhouse gas emissions in less than a decade.

The US federal government should be leading at home, and advocating strongly that other countries do the same. Far from being a climate leader, the Obama administration has dragged its feet on all fronts. We have no limits yet on current stationary sources of pollution, such as coal-fired power plants. We have no limits on climate pollution from aviation, which Obama has been fighting internationally. We have no limits on climate pollution from agriculture. And Obama’s team in the international climate talks has continuously attempted to stall and confuse the negotiations. The President has ceded political debate on climate to Fox News and friends, which has made climate politics in America even more backward.

There is little doubt that President Obama wants to deal with climate change, but so far that has not translated into him making it a priority for the country. Quite the contrary, the President has gone out of his way to please the fossil fuel industry. This pandering has been painfully obvious in the recent presidential campaigns, but the Obama administration has also been a fossil friend of substance.

For instance…

The Department of Interior has energetically scaled up fire sales of publicly-owned coal. This coal is sold under the auspices of satisfying domestic demand, although it is often to foreign buyers who fully intend to export. The climate doesn’t know the difference. Despite one of the worst human-caused environmental disasters ever, the BP blowout in the Gulf of Mexico, the Obama administration opened up new areas to dangerous ultra-deepwater drilling on the outercontinental shelf and signed an historic agreement with Mexico to drill the deepest wells ever even further offshore. The administration hasn’t ruled out the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline, and continues to move forward with drilling in the fragile Arctic Ocean. Leaving unanswered a letter from 68 organizations calling on Obama to stop fracking in the absence of regulations and adequate knowledge of impacts, the administration seems intent to both allow fracking on public lands and to possibly approve exports of high carbon-footprint fracked gas.

In effect, the Obama administration is actively increasing supply of carbon polluting sources of energy, while dillydallying on policies and advocacy to reduce carbon pollution.

Mayor Bloomberg also criticized both candidates for failing to cite the “hard decisions” they would take to get the economy back on track. We should be asking the same regarding runaway climate disruption. The problem with endorsing Obama for his overt position on climate is that just as many, if not more, of his hard decisions have benefited climate polluters.

mitt romney president barack obama climate change silence hurricane sandy

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Coal Utility CEO dismisses link between Hurricane Sandy and Climate Change

  • Posted on: 31 October 2012
  • By: Connor Gibson

Image source: Knoxville News Sentinal

Duh. That's probably what you thought to yourself when you read my headline.

Yes, as American families on the east coast are reeling from an unprecedented weather disaster, Southern Company CEO Thomas Fanning told CNBC:

“I don’t think the data supports that the storms are more frequent or unusual than they have been in the past. But the point is right now that we are not dedicated to getting into an ancillary argument.” (h/t The Hill)

Fanning probably considers the much-needed conversations considering Hurricane Sandy and climate change as "ancillary" because Southern Company plays a very central and very inconvenient role in creating global warming. Apparently, Fanning's home and livelihood weren't damaged by superstorm Sandy, although his birthplace of Morristown, NJ was hit by the storm. Lucky him--out of sight, out of mind! Apparently there's no need to talk about the deeper issue of global warming. (Greenpeace photos of damage from Sandy).

See, not only is Southern Co one of the nation's largest coal-burning utilities, but it creates more carbon pollution than any other utility in the country and ranks #7 in global power company carbon emissions. Southern Co is responsible for dumping over 145 million tons of carbon dioxide into our atmosphere each year, making it a key culprit in the global climate crisis.

In turn, global warming creates conditions that can make cyclones like Hurricane Sandy more intense than they naturally would be, not to mention increasing the likelihood of other extreme weather events like droughts, floods, and heavy storms. If you live in the U.S., you know this year was particularly suspicious in terms of climate-related disasters.

Suspicious unless you have your head in the sand, as Mr. Fanning appears to. What's worse is how much Thomas Fanning's company has paid money to stuff other people's heads in the sand with them.

While aggravating global warming through its immense greenhouse gas emissions, Southern Company has also been a key manipulator in our national dialog over global climate change:

  • Funding shill groups: Southern Co. is a member of the Electric Reliability Coordinating Council, a front group run by coal utility lobbyists at the law firm Bracewell & Giuliani. Through ERCC lobbyists Scott Segal and Jeff Holmstead, Southern Co and other dirty utilities bitterly opposes any requirements for coal companies to reduce their pollution or greenhouse gases causing global warming. Southern Co is also a member of the American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity (ACCCE), another front group opposing strong environmental standards for coal pollution. You may be familiar with ACCCE for its multimillion dollar ad buys around the election, or for its involvement in a scandal where forged letters were sent to Congress to oppose climate legislation in 2009.
  • Buying politics: Since 2008, Southern Co. has spent over $61 million lobbying our federal government, much of which was to block environmental laws and legislation addressing climate change. Southern Co. has spent over $10 million each year on federal lobbying since 2004. To support its lobbying expenditures, Southern Co. has also sent over $1.6 million to federal politicians and registered political groups since the 2008 election cycle.
    • In the 2012 presidential election, Southern Co. has sent $46,650 to Republican candidate Mitt Romney and $8,580 to President Barack Obama (OpenSecrets).

Unfortunately for the climate and those who are now suffering from weather disasters, Southern Company is just one of many companies funding our politicians and then paying lobbyists, setting up front groups and financing hack scientists to push politicians even farther into an anti-science fantasy-land. Along with Southern are other key bad actors like Duke Energy, Peabody, ExxonMobil, Chesapeake Energy, Koch Industries and other fossil fuel interests that also want to stomp any mention of global warming out of politics, protecting billions in profit and limiting their liability over pollution problems.

Understanding how these behemoths operate and coordinate makes it less surprising, though no less offensive, that we didn't hear about climate change in the first presidential debate series in over 20 years.

It doesn't matter if global warming is an "ancillary" issue to Southern Company after disasters like Hurricane Sandy, or if the presidential contenders won't be honest with Americans about the problem. Our changed climate is only going to keep changing.

VIDEO: Democracy Now on Hurricane Sandy and US Nuclear Plants

  • Posted on: 31 October 2012
  • By: Connor Gibson

Nuclear Power Plants from Virginia to Vermont Could Be Impacted from Massive Hurricane Sandy

Check out Democracy Now's clip on how U.S. nuclear power plants along the east coast are threatened by extreme weather events like Hurricane Sandy, which are made more likely to occur and intensified by global climate change.

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VIDEO: Superstorm Sandy: destruction in New York and New Jersey (from the Guardian)

  • Posted on: 31 October 2012
  • By: Connor Gibson

Check out this video (available here from the Guardian of London) for an overview of Hurricane Sandy's damage to the U.S. east coast, statements from NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg, President Obama and New Jersey Governor Chris Christie:

GREENPEACE EXCLUSIVE: Hurricane Sandy aftermath

  • Posted on: 31 October 2012
  • By: Connor Gibson

Aerial views of damage caused by Hurricane Sandy along the New Jersey coast on October 30, 2012.

Written by Mitch Wenkus, crossposted from Greenpeace blogs.

I woke up yesterday morning in DC, jumped in a 4-wheel drive truck and headed north to gather video of Hurricane Sandy's destruction. As a documentary cinematographer, I can get hyper-focused on composition, exposure, and all that stuff that's important for telling a story, but I can forget I'm dealing with people's lives. These are people's homes and memories I'm flying over. A lightning bolt of emotion came through the viewfinder, through my eyes, down my spine to my entire body when I saw a person. A person standing amongst the hundreds of destroyed homes. That one person put the rest of the wreckage into perspective for me. My sympathies go out to the families whose lives were effected by Hurricane Sandy.

Below are visuals capture by our visuals team who traveled to regions in New Jersey devastated by Hurricane Sandy.

 

Aerial views of damage caused by Hurricane Sandy along the New Jersey coast on October 30, 2012.

Global warming = Sandy. Which politicians get it, which don't

  • Posted on: 31 October 2012
  • By: Connor Gibson

Written by David Pomerantz, crossposted from Greenpeace blogs.

Meet Hurricane Sandy, brought to you by global warming.

That's a tough message to swallow right now. It means that the devastating scenes we are seeing from the Northeast are not a freak coincidence, but a reflection of our new reality on a hotter, less stable planet, and a reality that will get much worse if we don't do something about it.

Fortunately there are things we can do, both to better prepare ourselves for more extreme weather events like Sandy, and to slow down the global warming at their root.

But whatever we do won't matter until our politicians start getting honest about the problem.

Some are doing so. New York Governor Andrew Cuomo connected the dots in his briefing this morning:

“There has been a series of extreme weather incidents. That is not a political statement. That is a factual statement. Anyone who says there’s not a dramatic change in weather patterns, I think is denying reality ... I said to the president kiddingly the other day we have a 100-year flood every two years now."

Michigan Governor Jennifer Granholm sees the obvious too:

“There’s a clear link to climate change. And, yet, for the first time in over a quarter century, climate change was not brought up even once at the presidential debates.”

President Clinton may have drawn the sharpest, clearest connection so far, in a critique of Gov. Romney earlier today:

Clinton gets the facts slightly wrong in his scathing take-down of Gov. Romney (he made his "rising seas" joke at the RNC, not in a debate) but his point stands that Romney's campaign has completely ignored the looming thread of climate change, and even flirted with denying it. Perhaps even worse than Romney's joke that Clinton mentioned - one that is likely to become infamous in the post-Sandy world - is the fact that Romney's budget proposal would cut FEMA funding by 40 %. That's not exactly a smart resilience policy for a hotter planet with more extreme weather events.

Despite President Clinton's praise, President Obama has also been mostly silent on the climate discussion for some time. While Obama has made strides on clean energy in his presidency, he has run a campaign almost entirely devoid of any mentions of climate change, instead trying to out-embrace Gov. Romney for who could better endear himself to the fossil fuel industry responsible for the problem in the first place.

It may feel funny to talk about politicians right now, but if we are serious about steeling ourselves for the next disaster and slowing down the global warming that's putting these hurricanes on steroids, then part of picking up the pieces means finding out which politicians we can trust to be honest about what's exacerbating these disasters.

That starts with the next president. Pres. Obama and Gov. Romney will likely both be talking about Sandy this week: it's a good chance for them to show they'll be one of the politicians who gets it.

Aerial views of damage caused by Hurricane Sandy along the New Jersey coast on October 30, 2012.

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And what of nuclear reactors after a superstorm?

  • Posted on: 31 October 2012
  • By: Connor Gibson

Written by Jim Riccio, crossposted from Greenpeace blogs.

Several nuclear reactors in New Jersey and New York shutdown as Hurricane Sandy slams into East Coast.

The morning after Hurricane Sandy struck the eastern seaboard several nuclear reactors in New Jersey and New York are now shutdown and information on their status is sparse if available at all.

Greenpeace has been able to paste together the following from the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s licensee event reports. But as of 11:30 AM there has been no information provided to press or the public by the agency since 9 pm last night. And what has been provided is now outdated and inaccurate.

New Jersey:

  • Salem 1 reactor was manually shutdown from 100 percent power when it lost circulation in part of the plant due to storm complications caused by high water levels and hurricane debris.
  • Salem 2 reactor was already shutdown as was Oyster creek also in NJ. Oyster creek declared an unusual event and then an alert due to high water levels at the reactor.

New York:

  • Indian Point 3 located just 24 miles north of Manhattan was knocked of line due a disturbance to the electric grid providing power to the plant. But Indian Point 2 is still operating at 100 percent power.
  • Nine Mile Point 1 in upstate New York near Oswego automatically shut down when it could not feed its electricity to the grid. Nine Mile Point 2 lost offsite power due to high winds and emergency diesel generators are providing power to the plant.

Pennsylvania:

  • Both Limerick nuclear reactors near Philadelphia have reduced power significantly to 48 and 27 percent respectively.

Salem Nuclear Generating Station, New Jersey

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Call Hurricane Sandy a freak storm. Or call it what it is-climate change.

  • Posted on: 31 October 2012
  • By: Connor Gibson

Written by Cassady Sharp, crossposted from Greenpeace blogs.

Climate change is now changing the weather. All weather events are affected by climate change because the environment in which they occur is warmer and moister than it used to be [1]. The past few years have been marked by unusually severe extreme weather characteristic of climate change [2].

Hurricane Sandy grew to record size as it headed north eastwards along the US coast. Less than 48 hours before it was due to make landfall Sandy's tropical storm-force winds extended north eastwards 520 miles from the centre. Since records of storm size began in 1988, only one tropical storm or hurricane has been larger--Tropical Storm Olga of 2001 [3] . New York and New Jersey suffer the brunt of the damage and New York Governor Andrew Cuomo has certainly noticed the pattern in his state giving the below statement in press conference today.

"There has been a series of extreme weather incidents. That is not a political statement. That is a factual statement. Anyone who says there’s not a dramatic change in weather patterns, I think is denying reality."

September 2012 saw the second highest global ocean temperatures on record. During the same month, ocean temperatures off the mid-Atlantic coast were 1.3°C above average. These unusually warm ocean temperatures have carried on into October, enabling Sandy to pull more energy from the ocean than a typical October hurricane.

Hurricane Sandy could have been just some coincidental freak storm. A rare occurrence with impacts few infrastructures are prepared to handle. The same coincidence that caused the East Coast derecho this summer or the simultaneous Midwest drought. But aren't coincidences and freak storms supposed to be rare?

2012 has been packed with extreme weather, and the aftermath of these events has been devastating not only to individuals, but to the operation of our country. Although mum's been the word on climate change during this year's election overshadowed by a debate on which candidate is a better friend to coal, the issue is now at the feet of President Obama and Governor Romney. The latest reports claim Hurricane Sandy caused 16 U.S. deaths, 7 million without power and $10 billion in damages. That could make Hurricane Sandy the costliest natural disaster in U.S. history. What would Hurricane Sandy be beating out for that prestigious title? Hurricane Katrina whose devastation was so grave, it nearly led to the condemning of one of America's greatest cities.

Our country cannot afford the impact of climate change any longer.

The global scientific consensus makes it clear that the burning of fossil fuels is driving climate change and its impacts. It is up to our leaders in government and business to protect us from this growing threat. 

President Obama and Mitt Romney must articulate the scale of the global warming problem to the American public, and offer real plans to not only enhance US preparedness for extreme weather caused by climate change, but also to dramatically reduce the fossil-fuel emissions that are driving the worst effects of catastrophic climate change. 

American citizens are paying for climate change when they're left to clean up the mess after extreme weather events such as Hurricane Sandy. President Obama and Governor Romney have indicated a willingness to address taxpayer subsidies to the fossil fuel companies that are driving climate change. Both candidates should commit to prioritizing an end to these subsidies in the first days of their administration.

And we can all take part in an energy revolution.

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A satellite image provided by NASA of Hurricane Sandy, pictured at 11 a.m. EDT churns off the east coast as it moves north on October 28, 2012 in the Atlantic Ocean

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