Tuesday, December 09, 2014

The GOP Holy War: James Inhofe unsheathes his rhetorical battle axe against climate change … by gimleteye

One consequence of the November election in the U.S. was to return environmental policy back to the Dark Ages; the George W. Bush terms as president when industry lobbyists gained important political appointments in key environmental agencies like the US EPA. Although a lame duck Democratic president will block that backsliding in human resources, the assumption of Republican control of the US Senate promises that James Inhofe, the 80 year old Senator from Oklahoma, will again head the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee.

Inhofe believes that climate change is a conspiracy either hatched by Barbra Streisand or by the United Nations. You don't need to look much further than his regular tirades -- he once compared the EPA to the Gestapo -- to see visible evidence why the moral standing standing of the U.S. has plummeted. This, from today's Boston Globe:

Noah Bierman, GLOBE STAFF DECEMBER 09, 2014 WASHINGTON — Starting in January, Inhofe, the bane of climate scientists, is in line to become one of the world’s most powerful voices on climate change, when he is expected to chair the Senate Committee on the Environment and Public Works.

In his new role, the 80-year-old Oklahoman has pledged to use every lever of his power to block President Obama’s climate agenda, a major focus of the president’s final two years in office and a core international goal for Secretary of State John F. Kerry. Inhofe began his campaign this month, arguing in a letter to the Environmental Protection Agency that Obama’s proposed power plant emissions rule is illegal.

"That’s the biggest job killer in history, is what the president’s trying to do with the greenhouse gas regulations. Some are arguing the ozone is even a bigger one,” Inhofe said in an interview last week. “I will do everything I can to keep that from being a reality."

During a walk through a Senate corridor to his office, he asserted that “we know the United Nations is what’s behind this whole thing,” referring to what he calls the global warming conspiracy.

That's right: in the Republican world view, the United Nations is behind the evidence that the Kennedy Space Center is threatened by climate change. This is from the University of Florida, last week:

GAINESVILLE, Fla. --- The effects of climate change are already showing up in places from Miami to Alaska, scientists say, but two University of Florida geologists are focusing their attention on one especially noteworthy and vulnerable piece of waterfront real estate: Kennedy Space Center.

What’s more, they say, the problem could affect operations at the space center within the next decade.

“We were a little blind to it, like pre-Katrina New Orleans,” said one of the researchers, assistant professor Peter Adams of the UF Geological Sciences department. “Now that we’ve seen it, we’re sensitive to it.”

Adams and associate professor of geology John Jaeger, who have been studying Cape Canaveral’s dunes and beach since 2009, say the impacts became most apparent after Hurricane Sandy.

“Sandy got a lot of press up north, but it really did a tremendous amount of damage at Cape Canaveral,” Jaeger said. “Areas that had previously been relatively stable for decades … suddenly they were gone.”

Adams said a combination of climate change-related sea-level rise and increased wave energy is almost certainly to blame.

“Certainly it’s occurring now,“ he said. “Is it affecting NASA infrastructure? The answer is yes.”

Among the already apparent evidence:

Dunes that historically protected Kennedy Space Center from high seas even during the worst storms were leveled during Tropical Storm Fay in 2008, Hurricane Irene in 2011 and Hurricane Sandy in 2012.

A stretch of beachfront railroad track built by NASA in the early 1960s that runs parallel to the shoreline has been topped by waves repeatedly during recent storms. Though idle now – one vulnerable section has even been removed to make room for protective manmade dunes the track serves as a useful yardstick for the Atlantic Ocean’s growing incursions. One 2010 NASA report predicts it will be permanently breached by 2016.

After Sandy, one washed-out section of shoreline was so close to a launch pad at adjacent Cape Canaveral Air Force Station that a fence surrounding the pad was left teetering and near collapse.

Nancy Bray, director of center operations for Kennedy Space Center, said NASA is taking the situation seriously and has plans for dealing with it. A similar plan has been prepared for NASA’s Wallops Island Flight Facility in Virginia, though Wallops has not yet seen the effects that have shown up at Kennedy.

“We do consider sea level rise and climate change to be urgent,” she said.

The research came about after NASA partnered with the U.S. Geological Survey and UF to figure out why chronic erosion was happening along a roughly 6-mile stretch of beach between launch pads 39A and 39B – the ones used for Space Shuttle and Apollo missions. The problem had been occurring for years but seemed to be growing worse, beginning with the spate of hurricanes that struck Florida in 2004.

Jaeger said he, Adams and doctoral students Shaun Kline and Rich Mackenzie determined the cause was a gap in a near-shore sandbar that funnels the sea toward that section of beach. Faced with the question of what was causing the increased vulnerability in that part of the shoreline, they soon came to the conclusion that the culprits were sea-level rise and wave climate change.

As for what could be at risk next, the first item on the list is a two-lane road the runs parallel to and slightly inland from the railroad track. Buried beneath it are electrical power lines and pipelines used to transport liquefied gasses.

In the short term, NASA has built new dunes to replace the natural ones that were lost on the threatened section of shoreline. Visitors on tour buses can look out over one of the new dunes from an elevated mound on the beach.

“Without that secondary dune line, we could have saltwater intrusion at the launch pad,” Bray said.

Looking further into the future, the agency is taking an approach it calls “managed retreat.” That means if sea-level rise becomes insurmountable, Bray said, it may eventually have to move roads, utilities and perhaps even launch pads – a costly and complex possibility.

“When you put immovable infrastructure right next to a dynamic environment,” Jaeger said, “something has to give.”

Last May, the Republican-controlled US House of Representatives attempted to write climate change denial into the budget of the US Department of Defense. The military, unsurprisingly, has been walking point on climate change issues since its experts see evidence throughout the world, in far-flung places insulated from extremists and right-wing conspiracy theorists. Its October 2014 report, "Climate Change Adaptation Report", included the following: "The impacts of climate change may cause instability in other countries by impairing access to food and water, damaging infrastructure, spreading disease, uprooting and displacing large numbers of people, compelling mass migration, interrupting commercial activity, or restricting electricity availability… These developments could undermine already-fragile governments that are unable to respond effectively or challenge currently-stable governments, as well as increasing competition and tension between countries vying for limited resources. These gaps in governance can create an avenue for extremist ideologies and conditions that foster terrorism."

So there you have it: Republicans agitating for a stronger space exploration program, to counter a muscular effort by Russia, are undermined by rising seas at Kennedy Space Center which its leading voice assures is a hoax. Plus, Republicans want to throttle the US military.

Yes, Republican senate leaders march to the drumbeat of the GOP money machine and funders like the Koch Brother billionaires, but do we all have to ride to the future on their bicycle with cardboard wheels?

Protesters against the militarization of domestic police need to understand the appropriate context for their anger is an economic order that is determined to prevail through the age of scarcity imposed by climate change. That's what the national security state is designed for and mouthpieces like James Inhofe, Mitch McConnell and Marco Rubio are interchangeable emojis; symbols to guide voters too scared, anxious or gullible to parse their own interests from Beltway snake oil salesmen. Demonization is a key tactic for the GOP and works quite well, thank you Barbra Streisand and the United Nations. Democrats, despair not: tomorrow is just a day away.


Anonymous said...

The key is for Americans to wake-up from their slumber and start voting again. These kinds of people prevail when the majority of the people don't care and don't vote. We have a 'Noah and the Ark" situation here. You can ignore all the scientists all you want, but it is coming.

Anonymous said...

PR of climate change politics is very screwed up. The extreme right says climate change (global warming) environmentalism has become a religion and therefore it is evil, at the same time some religious fanatics believe it is good to create more emissions and waste because that may speed up the return of their respective messiah.