We noted years ago when the Kyoto Protocol was pending that right-wing entities like the Competitive Enterprise Institute were pushing the line that climate change is inevitable and that the correct response is to "adapt to it." Since then, a hubristic agenda for what its advocates call "geo-engineering" has emerged. Environmentalists have dismissed the notion as a "dangerous distraction" or even as counter-productive. Now it appears that this agenda may be winning some sympathy in high places From AFP, June 18 (links added):
Extreme weather events—such as the heavy rains that have flooded towns along the Mississippi River and the tornadoes that ripped through an unprecendented 300-mile swath in Alabama—are extremely likely to occur more frequently in the future, according to climatologists. Urban planners and the insurance industry are among those that took part in a telephone press conference held May 19 by the Union of Concerned Scientists. "Climate change is about more than warming. What we're really seeing is global ‘weirding,'" said climate scientist Katharine Hayhoe of Texas Tech University. "It is altering the character and conditions of the places we know and love. For many places around the world, what we are likely to see could be feast or famine—more frequency of weather at the extremes, from intense storms to prolonged droughts. We can't attribute any one event to climate change, but we do know that every event that happens is already superimposed on very different background conditions than we had 50 years ago."
President Barack Obama announced May 14 that he is ordering the Interior Department to conduct annual lease sales in Alaska’s National Petroleum Reserve, and speed up seismic work that is a precursor to drilling off the South and mid-Atlantic coasts. In his radio address, Obama said he would also extend oil company leases in both Alaska and the Gulf of Mexico—where work was delayed by the drilling moratorium imposed during last year's devastating Deepwater Horizon oil spill. He said he is also ordering the Interior Department to hold a Gulf of Mexico lease sale this year and two in 2012, thereby completing the department’s five-year plan for the area. (WP, May 14)
Two oil line ruptures in as many weeks may jeopardize a planned Alberta-to-Texas tar-sands pipeline that Calgary-based TransCanada is currently seeking approval for. The 1,702-mile, $12 billion Keystone XL line could get the go-ahead from the US State Department by year's end. But on May 7, a valve broke at a pumping station near near Cogswell, North Dakota, along the first leg of the Keystone pipeline system. The breach released some 500 barrels of Canadian heavy crude inside the facility and set off a geyser of oil that reached above the treetops in a nearby field. Just ten months ago the pipeline began transporting bitumen from Alberta's oil sands mines to refineries in Patoka, Illinois. A recent study by the Natural Resources Defense Council and other environmental groups said that because tar-sands pipelines carry a highly corrosive and acidic mix of diluted bitumen and volatile natural gas liquid condensate, they raise the risk of spills. The study found that internal corrosion has caused more than 16 times as many spills in the Alberta pipeline system than the US system because of bitumen.
The US on May 11 approved a Royal Dutch Shell plan to drill for oil in five locations deep under the Gulf of Mexico. The proposal, for drilling in the so-called Appomattox discovery, was the second exploration plan submitted by Shell to win approval from the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement (BOEMRE) since the agency introduced stricter criteria for new drilling following last year’s Macondo disaster. The company’s Cardamom discovery in the Garden Banks area of the Gulf was approved in March. At least six other deep-water plans are now pending for the Gulf. Companies apply for permits to actually exploit oil after receiving approval for an exploration plan. The government lifted a moratorium on deep-water Gulf drilling in October. Shell runs the Appomattox venture and holds an 80% stake, with Nexen Inc. holding the remaining 20%. (WSJ, Upstream Online, May 11)
A group of Nobel Peace laureates called in an open letter April 21 for all countries to pursue safer forms of renewable energy rather than going ahead with plans for nuclear development in light of the current disaster in Japan. "It is time to recognize that nuclear power is not a clean, safe or affordable source of energy," said the letter written by laureates Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Adolfo Pérez Esquivel, José Ramos Horta, Betty Williams, Mairead Maguire, Rigoberta Menchu Túm, Jody Williams, Shirin Ebadi and Wangari Maathai. "We firmly believe that if the world phases out its current use of nuclear power, future generations of people everywhere—and the Japanese people who have already suffered too much—will live in greater peace and security," said the letter which has been sent to 31 heads of state whose countries are currently heavily invested in atomic power production, or are considering investing in nuclear power. (Indian Express, April 21)
Celebrating Earth Day in their heart-warming way, more and more and more right-wing and climate-denialist websites are seizing upon a 2005 report from the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) predicting that climate change would create 50 million "climate refugees" by 2010—and gloating that it hasn't come to pass. This is essentially a replay of last year's controversy over the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change's accidental reversal of two digits in its prediction of when the world's glaciers would disappear. We've often warned against putting too much credence in the crystal ball set who think that making dire near-future predictions is a winning way to achieve political aims. But again, the critics are getting away with spinning it as "this whole global warming thing is a bunch of propaganda."
One year after the Deepwater Horizon disaster in the Gulf of Mexico, the world is witnessing the new horror of the Fukushima nuclear disaster. While last spring the world held its breath for weeks wondering when BP technicians could get the Gulf gusher under control, the world has now been similarly in grim suspense for weeks wondering when TEPCO officials can get the Fukushima radiation leaks under control. Yet, amazingly, nuclear energy's boosters are continuing even now to portray it as a viable alternative to fossil fuels. The Obama administration has pledged no retreat from (oxymoronic) "clean nuclear power" plans—even as it takes the energy industry's side in litigation seeking to hold it liable for global warming.