So now what? An open letter to the environmental community after the midterm elections 2014

To my environmentally minded friends:

Clearly we are in deep trouble and truly meaningful legislative progress in the near term is no longer a reasonable expectation. Expecting progress on climate change and sustainability from Congress is off the table, now and possibly for the extended future. Compromise and wonky engagement continue to fail. With Obama we elected Miles Davis, but we got Kenny G. Continue reading “So now what? An open letter to the environmental community after the midterm elections 2014”

My political rite of passage

This was originally posted on 20.02.2011 and it describes events that occurred in March 2007.  It was written a few months after the events.  I post it again here because recent events make it clear that the political circus remains alive and well.  It is as germane today as it was when it was written.


“If one judged solely by recent [U.S.] media coverage, one would think that the deniers have a point.  In an embarrassing display of political gullibility and scientific illiteracy, news organizations have repeatedly played into the deniers’ hands: by implicitly endorsing the deniers’ unfounded accusations of fraud against scientists whose emails were stolen, by portraying a single error within a thousand page report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change as reason to question the entirety of mainstream climate science, and then by abandoning the climate story over the past twelve months, even as mainstream scientists were turning out one landmark study after another clarifying the extreme peril facing civilization.” – Mark Hertsgaard in Politico

The following is my amateur attempt at literary journalism.  This was written a few months after the events described in an effort to purge myself of toxins acquired through my work. The IPCC Fourth Assessment Report had been published in February 2007, and the events described below occurred in March, early in my tenure as science advisor to the Florida state commission on sustainability.  My little story is a very minor saga in the climate wars, but I offer it here for whatever instruction it may provide.  Continue reading “My political rite of passage”

Strange logic on the Keystone XL

As the end game on the Keystone XL pipeline approaches, various pundits and editorial boards have argued that we should move forward with the pipeline.  The Keystone XL extension of an existing pipeline would carry oil from the Canadian tar sands to Gulf Coast refineries. Obama is likely to make a decision on whether or not to allow the pipeline to be built within the next month or so.  These arguments make a few key points, which I will review here by focusing on two recent editorials.  The twisted logic in these leaves me wondering if the authors really think that their audience is incapable of parsing the truth.   I find it inconceivable that thoughtful readers can endorse this pipeline while simultaneously knowing how important it is that we address climate change. Continue reading “Strange logic on the Keystone XL”

Climate lessons from Sandy and the political economy of mitigation

There is compelling evidence that certain features of Sandy can be linked to climate change, and it is clear that scientific studies of this linkage will be undertaken over the next few months and years.  That said, as a scientist I am increasingly impressed with the emphasis that many folks place on weather as an indicator of human caused climate disruption. Continue reading “Climate lessons from Sandy and the political economy of mitigation”

The case for leaving the carbon in the ground

Jim Hansen has used the phrase “essentially game over” when referring to the greenhouse gas emissions that would ensue from the use of Tar Sands oil as an energy source.  To be sure, there is one heck of a lot of carbon in this one source, and Bill McKibben has referred to the proposed pipeline as the “fuse to the biggest carbon bomb on the planet.” Continue reading “The case for leaving the carbon in the ground”

A time for courage and action

Stephen Mulkey

From Stephen Mulkey, PhD, president, Unity College

It seems to be unusual for a college president to step into what appears to be a political event such as the Tar Sands Action that will take place on 6 November.   Indeed, some of my colleagues at other institutions think that I must be quite mad to join the group that will circle the White House.  As president of Unity College, a liberal arts institution with an environmental mission and a history of activism, it is not only appropriate, but also quite necessary for me to make my voice heard. Continue reading “A time for courage and action”