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Environment: Climate S.O.S.

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JULY 6, 2007 by Faiz Shakir, Nico Pitney, Amanda Terkel, Satyam Khanna, and Matt Corley
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ENVIRONMENT

Climate S.O.S.

This summer’s concert season is about more than just impressive displays of live music. It will also push individuals, corporations, and governments to address global warming. This Saturday, Al Gore’s Live Earth, the biggest concert in history, will last twenty-four hours on all seven continents and feature more than 100 music artists such as Madonna, Snoop Dogg, and Kanye West. Gore will kick off the event Saturday morning with a 10 a.m. concert in Washington, D.C. at the Smithsonian Museum of the American Indian. “The Live Earth concerts represent an unprecedented opportunity to ask for the world’s attention long enough to deliver an S.O.S. and then to begin delivering information about the solutions to every single person,” said Gore. This year “is on track to be the second warmest since records began in the 1860s,” and unless global carbon dioxide emissions fall at least 60 to 80 percent by 2050, the planet will heat up more than two degrees Celsius. Increasingly, people worldwide view climate change as the greatest threat facing the earth. Yet just like it did before the Iraq war, the Bush administration is waging an assault on reason, manipulating the facts and “staying the course” on a policy of environmental destruction. Sign the Live Earth Pledge and demand that your country cut global warming pollution by 90 percent by 2050.

HEADING TOWARD CATASTROPHE: In Aug. 2001, President Bush ignored the dire warning, “Bin Laden determined to strike inside the US.” Four days after Hurricane Katrina, Bush claimed, “I don’t think anybody anticipated the breach of the levees” in New Orleans. But evidence shows that he and his administration were warned repeatedly about that possibility. The same thing is currently happening with climate change. As Gore writes in Assault on Reason (pp. 208-9), “Now, the scientific community is warning us of the worst catastrophe in the history of human civilization. … The president says he is not sure humans are responsible for the threat of global warming. … He tells us that he believes the science of global warming is in dispute. This is the same president who said after the devastation of New Orleans, ‘Nobody could have predicted that the levees would break.’” Just as his administration relied on Ahmed Chalabi for flawed intelligence about the Iraq invasion, Bush has now turned to ExxonMobil for policies on global warming that will benefit no one but the oil industry. Most recently at the G-8 summit in May, the United States rejected German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s global pact on carbon emissions, which would have reduced global emissions “50 percent below 1990 levels by 2050.” But instead of mandatory emission reductions, Bush pushed for “aspirational goals.” “Countries would work independently for the next ‘ten to twenty years’ to develop strategies to ‘improve energy security, reduce air pollution and also reduce greenhouse gases.’”

CHENEY’S MANIPULATION: On global warming, as on the war in Iraq, the Bush administration’s policy outcomes have been “predetermined, in spite of the voluminous evidence that it would lead to catastrophe.” New reports show that Vice President Cheney took “full advantage of the president’s cluelessness” on climate change and dominated the policies. On Sept. 29, 2000, Bush pledged, “We will require all power plants to meet clean-air standards in order to reduce emissions of…carbon dioxide within a reasonable period of time.” In February and March 2001, then Environmental Protection Agency administrator Christine Todd Whitman urged the White House to take steps to combat global warming, but she was overruled. Instead, Cheney armed the White House Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) with industry heavyweights. Thereafter, “a CEQ memo concluded Bush’s promise to regulate CO2 ‘did not fully reflect the president’s position’ and that ‘it would be premature at this time to propose any specific policy or approach aimed at addressing global warming.’” The authors of the memo stated that “the current state of scientific knowledge about causes of and solutions to global warming is inconclusive.” CEQ chief of staff Philip Cooney, who worked for the oil industry before joining the White House and then joined Exxon in 2005, repeatedly censored government reports to play down the links between global warming and human activities. In March, Cooney admitted to the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, “My objective was to align these communications with the administration’s stated policy” of climate skepticism. Evidence also shows that the Vice President’s office was in regular contact with CEQ. Kevin O’Donovan, an aide in Cheney’s office, wrote a memo to Cooney suggesting they try to “reinvigorate debate on the actual climate history of the past thousand years.”

LIVE EARTH: The ten Live Earth concerts will be broadcast to 2 billion people in more than 100 countries. Even Antarctica will have a performance by the indie rock band Nunatak, which is “made up of five scientists aged 22 to 28 who are stationed on the generally unpopulated continent.” Recognizing that large concerts often have damaging environmental footprints, the organizers of Live Earth are striving to make the events as ecofriendly as possible. Each artist has been given “a ‘Green Handbook’ of touring tips, such as where to get biodiesel for their trucks and how to offset carbon emissions.” Electricity to power the concerts will come from renewable energy sources, and greenhouse gases from the “stars’ jets or by the audience’s travel will be offset by investments in renewable energy and by safeguarding forests. Concert props may live on long after stars such as Madonna, Shakira and Bon Jovi have left the stage — old tires and oil drums used in the New York set will be re-used while some concert signs in Johannesburg will be used as roofing.” The seven-point Live Earth Pledge asks individuals to demand that their countries “join an international treaty within the next two years that cuts global warming pollution by 90 percent in developed countries and by more than half worldwide.” It also “asks people to cut their own pollution, to make their homes, business, schools and transport more energy efficient, and to plant new trees and preserve forests.” “We have to get all nations involved, but in order to accomplish that we have to bring about a sea change in public opinion,” said Gore. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) both signed the pledge in June.


UNDER THE RADAR

ETHICS — SNOW DISTORTS HISTORY OF INVESTIGATIONS INTO PRESIDENT CLINTON’S PARDONS: In his USA Today op-ed yesterday defending the commutation of I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby’s two and a half year prison sentence, White House spokesman Tony Snow referenced former President Bill Clinton’s issuance of pardons in the final hours of his administration, calling it “a mad rush to push through pardons with dizzying haste.” Asked at the White House press briefing yesterday if he was trying to justify the President’s extraordinary clemency for a former aide by saying “two wrongs make a right” due to some of Clinton’s questionable pardons, Snow responded “no,” adding, “I think what is interesting is perhaps it was just because he was on his way out, but while there was a small flurry, there was not much investigation of [Clinton's pardons].” Snow is dishonestly misrepresenting the facts. Less than two weeks after Clinton issued his pardons, the House Government Reform Committee, headed by Rep. Dan Burton (R-IN), initiated hearings into the issue. A week later, the Senate Judiciary Committee, led by Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT), launched its own investigation. The following day, Manhattan U.S. Attorney Mary Jo White, in conjunction with the FBI, launched a criminal investigation into Clinton’s pardons. A week later, White announced that she was also investigating commutations that Clinton had issued. After Clinton waived executive privilege, three of his top aides, including Center for American Progress President and CEO John Podesta, testified before the House Government Reform Committee about the pardons. After all this, then-Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott (R-MS) pledged to continue investigations, saying Congress must not “walk away” from the work left to be done. Over a year after the investigation began, federal prosecutors concluded “it wasn’t appropriate to bring charges” in the case.

ENVIRONMENT — BUSH GUTS WETLAND PROTECTION POLICIES AFTER HEAVY INDUSTRY LOBBYING: In 2004, President Bush announced that ”[i]nstead of just limiting our losses, we will expand the wetlands of America,” proposing to “create one million acres of wetlands and restore another million damaged by development” by the end of the decade. Wetlands are a crucial part of America’s ecosystems, providing biological hubs for “an immense variety of species of microbes, plants, insects, amphibians, reptiles, birds, fish, and mammals.” But the New York Times reports today that Bush has reneged on that promise after “a concerted lobbying effort by property developers.” In particular, the administration is scaling back guidelines for enforcing a 2006 Supreme Court decision that would have brought thousands of small streams and wetlands under the protection of the Clean Air Act of 1972. “But just before the new guidelines were to be issued last September, they were pulled back in the face of objections from lobbyists and lawyers for groups concerned that the rules could lead to federal protection of isolated and insignificant swamps.” Last month, the administration again issued new guidelines, “which environmental and recreational groups said were much more narrowly drawn.” Environmental groups have long been concerned about Bush’s wetland policies. In 2005, the Sierra Club noted that the administration was pursuing policies preventing “massive numbers of wetlands from protection under the Clean Water Act.” Today, it notes a worsening trend: “There are definitely waters that will not be protected because of this latest guidance. … The final guidance is clearly weaker than what we saw in the September guidance,” said Navis Bermudez of the Sierra Club.

IRAQ — DOOLITTLE: IRAQ IS A ‘QUAGMIRE,’ U.S. FORCES SHOULD BE OFF FRONT LINES ‘BY THE END OF THE YEAR’: Speaking Thursday at a town hall meeting with constituents, Rep. John Doolittle (R-CA), who is currently under investigation for his “association with disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff,” called the war in Iraq a “quagmire.” Doolittle argued, “We’ve got to get off the front lines as soon as possible. … [I]n my mind, that means something like the end of the year.” “I am increasingly convinced that we never are going to succeed in actually ending people dying [in Iraq]. I think it’s going to be a constant conflict…and if that is going to happen…it needs to be the Iraqis dying and not the Americans,” he said further. Noting the growing number of prominent conservatives — including Sen. Richard Lugar (R-IN), and Sen. Pete Domenici (R-NM) — who have rejected the Bush administration’s failed stay-the-course strategy in Iraq, Doolittle said, “My belief is that the majority of my colleagues on the Republican side have become skeptical of all of this. … And that’s a big change.” Further, Doolittle predicted that the “anticipated September report by Gen. David H. Petraeus, commander of U.S. forces in Iraq, will indicate that a long-term U.S. presence is needed despite the recent troop surge.” Despite his supposed commitment to ending the war, Doolittle was careful to remind the Sacramento Bee that he — like Lugar — “opposes setting a timetable to withdraw forces from Iraq.” Further, despite Lewis “Scooter” Libby lying to a grand jury during an investigation of a key aspect of the Bush administration’s justification for the war in Iraq, Doolittle remarked, “I thought the commutation was the president’s right to do. I don’t know why he didn’t just pardon him outright.”




THINK FAST

Global warming is radically changing the face of Mount Everest, the sons of the men who first reached its summit 54 years ago said.” The sons of Sir Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay say “their fathers would no longer recognise the world’s highest mountain,” noting the base camp is now 132 feet lower than it was 53 years ago.

Triple-digit temperatures are expected to set records in parts of the West. Forecasters predicted a high of 107 in Boise, ID, and 125 in Baker, CA. Residents in some states were warned “that outdoor activities could be dangerous except during the cooler early morning hours.”

Eighteen people died in Baghdad “after a car bomb blew up outside a photo shop here as members of a wedding party waited Thursday night for the newlyweds to get their pictures taken.”

“The bald eagle may be soaring back from near-extinction, but hundreds of other imperiled species are foundering, as the federal agency charged with protecting them has sunk into legal, bureaucratic and political turmoil.”

Nearly half of the National Hurricane Center’s employees urged the Bush administration to replace their boss. “The staff of the National Hurricane Center would like nothing more than to return its focus to its primary mission of protecting life and property from hazardous tropical weather,” they wrote, “and leave the political arena it now finds itself in.”

“An exodus of highly trained mid- and upper-level firefighters” from the U.S. Forest Service has left “swaths” of flammable national forests protected by little more than luck. “On any given day, about 40 of 271 U.S. Forest Service engines remain in firehouses rather than on patrol, idled by a shortage of supervisors.”

The New York Times writes, “There is no better measure of the power of the health care issue than this: Sixteen months before Election Day, presidential candidates in both parties are promising to overhaul the system and cover more — if not all — of the 44.8 million people without insurance.”

And finally: Today is President Bush’s birthday. The Houston Chronicle’s Julie Mason writes that Bush’s 61 years old physique is showing the demands of the office. “For Bush, his cumulative burden, with perhaps the Iraq war being most prominent — takes a heavy toll that is showing on his face and also in his demeanor, which is less jokey and more testy than previously. Some days, Bush looks exhausted.”

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GOOD NEWS

“The Live Earth concert in Rio de Janeiro was expected to go ahead after organizers overcame security concerns and a judge lifted a ban on the climate change awareness event on Thursday.”

STATE WATCH

CALIFORNIA: Sen. Barbara Boxer (D) pushes to save California’s crops from a massive honeybee shortage.

VIRGINIA: State’s second largest county is moving to enact “some of the toughest measures in the nation” targeting undocumented immigrants.

COLORADO: Denver decides against a “green remodeling” plan for homes in order to protect real estate industry.

BLOG WATCH

THINK PROGRESS: Suspected Hamas operative references Libby commutation precedent to seek reduced jail time.

BOING BOING: Texas screening of SiCKO inspires health care activism.

BOB GEIGER: Senators who favored President Clinton’s impeachment are silent on Scooter Libby’s clemency for same crime.

RAW STORY: “Conservative bloggers try to link Michael Moore to UK terror attempts.”

DAILY GRILL

“After evaluating the facts, the President came to a reasonable decision and I believe the decision was correct.”
— Former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, 7/2/07, commenting on President Bush’s “quickly made” decision to commute Scooter Libby’s prison sentence

VERSUS

“According to Associate Attorney General Rudolph W. Giuliani, executive clemency involves a great number of people and a complex, yearlong procedure.
— New York Times, 12/25/82, reporting on clemency procedures under Giuliani

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