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Climate Change

Oil-Fields-19a-Belridge-California-USA-2003Big Oil’s profits are down, because of low crude prices. I’m having trouble even typing this, what with barely being able to see through the copious, bitter tears that I’m weeping about that. But I’m able to note that it’s American consumers in general who could well have reason to cry, if a plan to lift the decades-old ban on exporting American crude gets much further. In addition to other very serious matters.

Since 1975, the U.S. has restricted the export of crude oil in the name of energy security, and somehow that dirty protectionism even managed to make it through the Reagan era. But perhaps no longer. Republicans in Congress are pushing to allow oil companies to export crude to overseas refineries, and they could put the issue to a vote as soon as next month.
Ending the crude oil export ban would represent one of the largest tweaks in U.S. energy policy in decades, and, from an environmental perspective, not a positive one.
On Friday, the Center for American Progress (CAP) released an analysis pleading for congressional consideration of the broader risks at play, especially as they relate to the environment. The authors argue that the policy change would lead to more oil drilling in the U.S., resulting in an increase in annual carbon and methane emissions, the loss of open lands and wildlife habitats, and risks related to production and transportation like increased prevalence of crude oil train derailment and air quality problems for those living near drilling operations. This is to say nothing of the need to keep fossil fuels in the ground if we’re to fight off climate change.

According to Bloomberg, this is still a little short of Senate votes, and they may not be looking to touch it any time soon anyway. I wouldn’t count on that. It’s also unclear, at this time, what President Obama would do with this if it gets that far.
Once they learn about it, poll respondents of all ideologies are horrified. (On top of all the taxpayer-funded government giveaways they already wallow in, now they want this?!) Which makes it unsurprising that my online search this morning showed minimal coverage of the issue in major corporate media. So I suppose that it’s up to us to do what we can to get the word out.
Comment below fold.

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HD49B Barb Sutter has unique definition of independent

by Eric Ferguson on November 3, 2014 · 1 comment

HD49B Barb Sutter lit

Barb Sutter lit in HD 49B

HD49B GOP candidate Barb Sutter says at the top of her campaign lit “Barb Sutter is an independent voice for our community” (click the image to enlarge). I suppose “independent” sounds good in a swing district, if appealing to voters inclined to split tickets. It sounds like someone who isn’t beholden to a party or any big donors or special interests. Yep, sounds good. And sounds funny, given that before becoming the candidate, Sutter was, no kidding, the SD49 GOP chair. Independent enough to make up a new definition of independent I guess.

She mentioned being the chair before becoming the candidate in an interview a few months ago on Republican Roundtable, a local public access program. This wasn’t the only instance where she’d showed interesting understandings of things. In that same interview, she agreed that schools increase the number of students labeled “special needs” just to get more money. The interviewer was the one who said it, and she replied, “There’s truth to that”. Embedding is disabled on this video, so you’ll have to follow the link. Scroll ahead in the video to 14:30.


“There’s truth to that”. So you know this, do you? It’s fraud, so you’ve reported the schools doing this, right? No? Are you countenancing fraud, or just making up what you’re saying? Basically, the whole interview is some variation of:
INTERVIEWER: Government sucks and everyone is dishonest.
Sutter: Yep.

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The Courage of Still Being Hopeful

by Grace Kelly on October 26, 2014 · 1 comment

Many of you know that I had frequently styled myself as the Curmudgeon. A friend of mine challenged me on this referring to the definition of curmudgeon as “ill tempered”. It is bad branding. Sadly I do agree. But I am going to miss that title. When no one wanted to listen to my voice, the branding of Curmudgeon allowed me to speak. A curmudgeon is not shushed, is not scared off and does not just go away. But yes, there is that “ill tempered” branding. And yes, people who have met me are surprised that I am a nice person.


More over I think in taking on the branding of curmudgeon, it allowed me to give up hope. If everything is all bad anyway, then one can give up hope and just make snarky comments. All that the bad guys need to win, if the good guys to give up hope and stop trying. Staying in for the long haul is the discipline that wins in politics. And I am always going to be doing something to make a difference.


Yet I must admit that my friend calling me on the name of curmudgeon, was a case of application of


How can you think of saying to your friend, ‘Let me help you get rid of that speck in your eye,’ when you can’t see past the log in your own eye?


All this time, I had complained of the greens and peacemakers who simply have meetings among themselves making snarky comments about others, especially Democrats. See if one believes there is no hope then one is relieved of the burden of being politically active. While I am certainly politically active, I must admit the hope is running on empty. Climate change is my challenge to hope. It takes more discipline to believe and hope in times of adversity.


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Democrats need to watch their language

by Eric Ferguson on June 30, 2014 · 3 comments

Don’t be linguistically hoist by your own petard.

No, that title doesn’t mean Democrats need to stop swearing. Ever been to a DFL meeting? You could broadcast those without a seven second delay; not with much audience except the five Republicans hoping something stupid will be said, but certainly without fear of FCC fines. I’m referring to our actual verbiage. The way we communicate.

Yes, I know, you’ve heard about messaging and framing, and semantics, and your head just swims as the concepts fade from your brain. You don’t need any theoretical understanding as long as you get it empirically; say X and not Y. So my intention here is to look at specific word choices. I’ve been delaying posting as I give time for examples to accumulate, not that I’m not bound to miss a bunch. Feel free to disagree of course, but also feel free to add. You might well have better ones than I came up with.

Let’s just dive in. In order basically as they occurred to me, not alphabetical or topical or ranked by importance:
“Photo ID”, not “Voter ID”: They’re not the same. We’re playing into the hands of the voter suppressors every time we say “voter ID”. The problem isn’t getting an ID; the problem is getting an ID with a photo on it. We already have voter ID for registering, when you need something with your address on it; bank statements, rental agreements, or utility bills. If a voter could vote with a utility bill, showing ID to vote would still be a pointless step given the scarcity of impersonation, but at least the requirement wouldn’t be disenfranchising. Getting the photo ID is the hard part for many people, especially when what people have is disallowed, like states that sent confirmation cards to registered voters stopped accepting those cards at the polls because they don’t have photos. Saying “voter ID” grossly understates the difficulty many voters have in getting acceptable ID, and the voter fraud invention industry depends on the majority for whom photo ID is no big deal giving it no thought. At least “photo ID” gets us part way to making the point that people do have ID, but new laws won’t accept it. As we learned in Minnesota when we beat back the photo ID constitutional amendment, public support is broad but shallow, and quite amenable to factual arguments (how rarely that happens unfortunately).


So long and thanks for all the fish

by Grace Kelly on June 6, 2014 · 1 comment

CarbonEmissionsWe are facing the destruction of everything so that oil oligarchs can extract more money for another decade or two.  Never mind that there is no happiness left for the oil oligarchs left to buy. If we allow the oil oligarchs to burn the carbon reserves they currently own, total warming in 300 years would lead to 2.75 doublings of CO2, or a global temperature rise of about 12 °C. One more study says 12 °C would cause too much heat stress for humans to survive. Even if we could shelter humans under such conditions, the problem is that our main staples of food will not grow.
hot temps not good for corn

I grew up with the threat of nuclear annihilation, but that was expected to be quick. We have so far avoided a nuclear war. Now we face a certain threat of the slow pain of climate change. While President Obama recent moves are encouraging, it is no where close to stopping the climate change. Now that we are in a doom scenario, will conservatives finally admit climate change since they can now justify ignoring it as it is too late anyway. What I want to know is what conservatives will say to their children and grand children when it becomes really obvious. Like “Hey, I sold your future for a gas guzzling car, more oil profits on my 401K and for the pleasure of politically beating up liberals. ”
Maybe all that is left is the Hitchhiker Guide to the Galaxy message:

The last ever dolphin message was misinterpreted as a surprisingly sophisticated attempt to do a double-backwards-somersault through a hoop whilst whistling the “Star Spangled Banner”, but in fact the message was this: So long and thanks for all the fish.

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 Imagine my surprise when I saw the Pioneer Press admit to climate change on the front page. Maybe business has finally figured out that what is good for the oil business and the Koch brothers is not good for anyone else. Gosh even the Obama administration has figured what a bully pulpit is. Will wonders never cease? Before us is now the summary of climate change impacts on our lives. Will business actually even admit that maybe we should do something? Let me catch my breath from the shock.


Here is what the White House said about Minnesota:


Climate: “The rate of warming in the Midwest has markedly accelerated over the past few decades. Between 1900 and 2010, the average Midwest air temperature increased by more than 1.5°F. Since 1991, the amount of rain falling in very heavy precipitation events has been significantly above average.” (NCA, Ch. 18: Midwest, Ch. 2: Our Changing Climate)

Flooding: “Large-scale flooding can also occur due to extreme precipitation in the absence of snowmelt (for example, Rush Creek and the Root River, Minnesota, in August 2007 and Selected Findings and Information from the Third U.S. National Climate Assessment Relevant to MINNESOTA multiple rivers in southern Minnesota in September 2010). These warm-season events are projected to increase in magnitude. Such events tend to be more regional and less likely to cover as large an area as those that occur in spring, in part because soil water storage capacity is typically much greater during the summer.” (NCA, Ch. 18: Midwest)

More after the fold:

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Science and the 114th Congress

by gregladen on March 13, 2014 · 5 comments

Screen Shot 2014-03-12 at 12.00.48 PMScience, and in particular, climate change science, has been as Daphne Wysham of the Institute for Policy Studies likes to put it, the broccoli on the plate in American politics, and little more. Last election, climate science was a factor, though probably not a deciding factor, in a handful of elections. Over the last year, the issue has increased in importance. President Barack Obama actually saw fit to note that the Earth is not flat, but rather, a big round thing, and that science is a central organizing body of information on which we need to base better policy, especially with respect to energy and climate change. Three nights ago, over 30 US Senators, all Democrats of course, camped out for a night on the Senate floor talking about climate change, and among them were our own Senators from Minnesota. Word on the street is that there is a handful of Republican Senators and Representatives who hold the party line — the anti-science party line — against admitting that science is a thing and climate change is real, but who wish they were not doing that. What I’ve heard is this: The day after the first Republican goes down in flames against an explicitly pro-Science Democrat, the GOP survivors will bolt.
The 2014 election is the election in which politics in this country will turn around, because that is going to happen. If it goes far enough, the 114th Congress will have a Democratic majority and the last two years of President Obama’s term can be spent actually doing something about climate change.
How do I know this? Well, I admit this is partly wishful thinking, but there are indicators, as already mentioned. Plus, there is this. Billionaire hedge fund manager, philanthropist, and environmentalist Tom Steyer has indicated that he is willing to put as much as 100 million dollars into congressional campaigns that highlight climate change as a top tier issue.
In other words, it is time to make Climate Change the meat and potatoes, and not just the Broccoli, in this November’s mid term election. We are 17 reps away from a majority in the House. 100 million divided by 17 is a large number. Just sayin’


Stop fighting about global warming

by Eric Ferguson on March 12, 2014 · 9 comments

typhoon-philippines-haiyanLet me be clear as possible about that headline. No, don’t stop fighting global warming. Don’t stop trying to do something about it. Yes, stop fighting about it. Stop wasting time with science deniers. That means stop arguing with the crazy uncle at family gatherings and the dittohead at the watercooler. Don’t let the trolls hijack the comment threads and cause you to frustrate yourself trying to convince the unconvincible.

Why stop? Did the urgency of global warming suddenly go away like a melting glacier in a time lapse film? No. Not a bit. The urgency is actually an argument to stop trying to persuade those who have required us to learn terms like epistemic closure, motivated reasoning, and debunking blowback effect. We don’t have time to waste on the minority that will never be convinced even if the prairies become home to cacti and the lizards who served as monsters in early 50’s schlocky sci-fi. The keyword there is “minority”. That’s right, in terms of getting the public to accept that global warming is real, we’ve already won. True, it’s a minority with loads of fossil fuel industry money and a major political party under its thumb, but we already have the sort of majority that usually means you’re going to win politically. Clearly that majority hasn’t been enough, which means we have to change something we’ve been doing, like, say, spinning our wheels in pointless arguments with deniers.


minnesota climate changeMinnesota is the most livable state during climate change. Now of course, all of this depends on what you value. Here are my criteria:


1) Food -The ability to grow food is important. While Minnesota will be impacted by storms, hail, drought and higher temperatures, it starts with so much more growing capacity that I think Minnesota will always be able to feed its own state. Food is so important that I gave it double weight in the ranking.

2) Water -Having enough water is essential for drinking, growing food and business. Minnesota is ranked 38th among the states. If Minnesota is careful with its water, it should have enough.


3) Avoid Permanent Flooding – The middle expectation for sea level rise is 3.3 feet. I ruled out any coastal state impacted by sea level rise. Even if only a portion of the state is affected, I expected the economic costs and social turmoil will impact the whole state. Hurricanes are also a risk for these same states.


4) Avoid Toxicity -Toxic Environmental conditions are difficult to evaluate. I did my ranking based on total environmental releases. However, Montana is affected by shale activities just north in Canada so this ranking may have put Montana too high in the scoring.


5) Avoid Tornadoes – Tornadoes have gotten so harsh in Tornado Alley, that I think it would be too dangerous to live in these areas.


6) Community – Some communities work together, plan ahead, and protect civil rights. I would never want to be a black person in Florida for example. I used the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index with a double weight.


Based on the above criteria, here are the top states, with Minnesota ranked number one.

top ten states climate change

After the fold, the discussion gets more interesting.


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Climate Change Kills Kittens

by Grace Kelly on February 28, 2014 · 1 comment

kittenClimate change does kill kittens as well as threaten most living things. But why is it important that climate change kills kittens? It is about the human ability to respond to a threat.


Humans respond well to immediate danger but we do not respond well to distant dangers. This us true even when the distant danger is far more likely. Harvard psychology professor Daniel Gilbert says that  “we take alarm at terrorism, but much less to global warming, even though the odds of a disgruntled shoe bomber attacking our plane are, he claims, far longer than the chances of the ocean swallowing parts of Manhattan.”


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