In 1957, Climate Scientist Warned Congress That Fossil-Fueled Global Warming Could Turn California Into A Desert

Posted by Brad Johnson Thu, 10 Sep 2020 17:18:00 GMT


Dr. Roger Revelle (seated, far right) testifies before Congress, May 1, 1957. (Roger Revelle papers, UCSD)

Unprecedented heat and wildfires driven by fossil-fueled global warming are ravaging the forests of California and the Pacific Northwest – in line with scientific predictions to the U.S. Congress from the 1950s.

Over sixty-three years ago, physical oceanographer Roger Revelle testified to Congress that fossil-fueled climate change could turn southern California and most of Texas into “real deserts.”

On May 1, 1957, Dr. Revelle testified at the hearing on appropriations for the International Geophysical Year, Independent Offices Subcommittee, House Committee on Appropriations:

The last time that I was here I talked about the responsibility of climatic changes due to the changing carbon dioxide content of the atmosphere and you will remember that I mentioned the fact that during the last 100 years there apparently has been a slight increase in the carbon dioxide because of the burning of coal and oil and natural gas.

If we look at the probable amounts of these substances that will be burned in the future, it is fairly easy to predict that the carbon dioxide content of the atmosphere could easily increase by about 20 percent. This might, in fact, make a considerable change in the climate. It would mean that the lines of equal temperature on the earth would move north and the lines of equal rainfall would move north and that southern California and a good part of Texas, instead of being just barely livable as they are now, would become real deserts.

Atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations in 1957 were 315 parts per million. It reached 378 ppm, Revelle’s cautioned 20 percent increase, in 2004. As of September 2020, the planet is now at 410 ppm, a 30 percent increase.

Revelle’s testimony in the previous year in support of federal funding to monitor atmospheric and oceanic carbon dioxide levels was the first time that manmade global warming was discussed in the Congressional record.

“We are making perhaps the greatest geophysical experiment in history,” he said on March 8, 1956, “an experiment which could not be made in the past because we didn’t have an industrial civilization and which will be impossible to make in the future because all the fossil fuels will be gone.”

Revelle also noted that regional shifts in climate in the past led to “the rise and fall and complete decay of many civilizations.”

In response to questions from Rep. Sydney Yates (D-Ill.) and Rep. Albert Thomas (D-Texas), Dr. Revelle elucidated further:

People talk about making fresh water out of sea water. God does that for them far better than any man ever could. He evaporates three feet of water on every square foot of the ocean every year. The problem is that the distribution system is bad. The water coming from the ocean moves over the land but mostly over the northern and southern parts of the land, and this circulation pattern, or transport of water vapor from the sea to the land and the precipitation on the land, apparently shifts with the temperature; at least we think it does, and there seems to be a broad belt called the horse latitudes between the equatorial regions and the belt of cyclonic storms where the precipitation is minimal.

If you increase the temperature of the earth, the north latitude belt, which covers most of the western part of the United States and the Southwest, would move to the north.

“Only God knows whether what I am saying is true or not,” Revelle concluded. But his understanding of the science of fossil-fueled global warming has now been proven correct. The climate of southern California has undergone a phase shift to a persistently hotter, drier regime — a permanent shift if action is not taken to end the burning of fossil fuels and reduce the concentration of industrial greenhouse pollution in the atmosphere.

Top Hurricane Scientist: ‘Katrina Would Not Have Been As Intense In 1980′

Posted by Brad Johnson Thu, 27 Aug 2020 13:35:00 GMT

Originally published September 5, 2008 on the ThinkProgress Wonk Room.

Massachusetts Institute of Technology climatologist Kerry Emanuel says that he would be “surprised” if global warming “were not a big factor” in intensifying Hurricane Katrina’s destructive power. Katrina, the costliest and third deadliest hurricane in United States history, intensified to Category Five strength, with peak sustained winds over 170 mph, over extremely warm waters in the Gulf of Mexico before its record storm surge devastated the Gulf Coast.

Emanuel compared the meteorological conditions in which Hurricane Katrina developed in 2005 to the existing conditions twenty-five years earlier in 1980. Using his model of tropical storm potential intensity, which uses at determining factors such as sea and air temperature and wind shear, he found that Katrina would have been significantly weaker twenty-five years earlier. When asked how to characterize his findings, Emanuel replied:

I think it is correct to say that Katrina would not have been as intense in 1980. What part of that to attribute to global warming is tricky, but I would be surprised if it were not a big factor.

Katrina potential intensity chart
NCEP/NCAR Re-analysis potential intensity for 1980 and 2005 (Emanuel, 2008)

Dr. Emanuel, one of Time Magazine’s 100 Influential People of 2006, is the author of dozens of influential papers on tropical meteorology and climatology, including the 2005 Nature paper, “Increasing destructiveness of tropical cyclones over the past 30 years.” Dr. Emanuel has authored the popular science books Divine Wind: The History and Science of Hurricanes and What We Know About Climate Change, and is profiled in ScienceProgress editor Chris Mooney’s book, Storm World: Hurricanes, Politics, and the Battle Over Global Warming.

Senate Democrats Release Agenda For "Net-Zero Emissions" Clean Economy By 2050

Posted by Brad Johnson Tue, 25 Aug 2020 19:54:00 GMT

The Senate Democrats’ Select Committee on the Climate Crisis has released a 263-page report detailing a “clean economy” agenda with “bold climate solutions.” Entitled “The Case for Climate Action: Building a Clean Economy for the American People,” the report, which repeatedly emphasizes economic growth and job creation, was developed by the ten-member committee chaired by Sen. Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii).

Legislation must now be developed to meet the overarching goals of the committee:
  • Reduce U.S. emissions rapidly to help achieve 100 percent global net-zero emissions no later than 2050.
  • Stimulate economic growth by increasing federal spending on climate action to at least 2 percent of GDP annually—and ensure that at least 40 percent of the benefits from these investments help communities of color and low-income, deindustrialized, and disadvantaged communities.
  • Create at least 10 million new jobs.

The report, while largely in the spirit of the Green New Deal platform – in particular in the listing of recommendations from environmental justice leaders – avoids any mention of that phrase. Several of the photographs in the report are of rallies and marches of Green New Deal advocates.

Unlike most Green New Deal advocates, the report makes space for “safer nuclear power” and “fossil generation paired with carbon capture and storage.” “Carbon capture and removal technologies are an essential supplement to decarbonization,” the report argues in an extended section.

An entire chapter of the report is dedicated to “Dark Money” – specifically, the “undue influence from the leaders of giant fossil fuel corporations” who “used weak American laws and regulations governing election spending, lobbying, and giving to advocacy groups to mount a massive covert operation” to “spread disinformation about climate change and obstruct climate action.”
In order to advance bold climate legislation, we must expose the covert influence of wealthy fossil fuel executives, trade associations, and front groups that have done everything possible to obstruct climate action.

The report credits the U.S. Supreme Court’s Citizen United decision with allowing “fossil fuel political power to effectively capture Republican elected officials nationwide.”

In addition to ten hearings, the committee held twelve in-depth hearings with advocates, four of which were exclusively with corporate executives (utilities, health care, insurance, and banks). Two meetings were held with international representatives (a United Nations representative and European central bankers). Two meetings were with union officials (one included environmentalists); two were with environmental justice activists and mainstream environmentalists; one was with youth climate activists. The last meeting was with surfers and surfing industry representatives.

Notably, the committee did not meet with any climate scientists in academia.

Download the report here.

Sunrise Movement Launches "Wide Awake" Campaign Confronting Politicians At Their Doorsteps

Posted by Brad Johnson Tue, 18 Aug 2020 18:58:00 GMT

The youth climate activist collective known as the Sunrise Movement has begun protesting outside the homes of politicians they hold responsible for the “death economy” of rising climate, racial, and economic injustice. The “Wide Awake” campaign is inspired by the Wide Awakes, a militant youth abolitionist organization in the years leading into the Civil War.

We are Wide Awake. And, for the next hundred days, the architects of this death economy will be too.

This is not just an uprising, it’s a mothafucking haunting. We will march to their homes at midnight so they understand that we are wide awake to their role in crafting this nightmare. When they try to dine at restaurants we’re forced to work at — despite the risk of COVID — because our unemployment is ending, we will not serve them. When they do nothing to stop federal agents from snatching us off the streets, when they force us to go back to school in unsafe conditions, when they do nothing to stop our democracy from crumbling, we will bang on their doors from dusk until dawn and make them hear us. We will make their lives a waking nightmare until they stand with us or give way to the power of the people and the vision we have for a new world.

“Wide Awake” actions so far include:

Biden Campaign Forms Climate Advisory Council

Posted by Brad Johnson Fri, 03 Jul 2020 18:02:00 GMT

The Biden campaign has formed a new advisory council for engaging climate voters. The members of Biden for President’s Climate Council include:
  • Billionaire Tom Steyer, former presidential candidate
  • Dr. Cecilia Martinez, co-founder and executive director, Center for Earth, Energy and Democracy
  • Lonnie R. Stephenson, International President, International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW)
  • Rep. Deb Haaland (D-N.M.)
  • Carol M. Browner, chair, League of Conservation Voters
  • Harold Mitchell, Jr., former South Carolina state representative and founder, ReGenesis Community Development Corporation

None are allies of or endorsers of Bernie Sanders, Biden’s closest rival, or of Gov. Jay Inslee, who ran as a climate candidate.

Martinez is a long-time environmental justice policy leader. She was also a research professor at the Center for Energy and Environmental Policy, University of Delaware, Biden’s home state, and a senior research fellow at the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy, a progressive think tank. Martinez worked with John Podesta and the Center for American Progress to organize a multi-organization national environmental and climate justice platform in 2019.

Stephenson’s union, IBEW, opposes the elimination of the fossil fuel industry, a prerequisite for ending climate pollution. He opposes the Green New Deal.

Haaland, who is also on the Democratic National Convention platform drafting committee, endorsed Sen. Elizabeth Warren for president. She has signed the No Fossil Fuel Money pledge.

Mitchell was the Steyer campaign’s Senior Advisor for Environmental Justice.

Browner was one of Hillary Clinton’s representatives on the 2016 platform drafting committee. She worked to kill several key environmental priorities of the Sanders campaign, including planks that would have opposed fracking and fossil-fuel extraction projects and supported a carbon tax. Her organization endorsed Biden on April 20, 2020.

Draft Text of Coronavirus Bailout Bill: "This Is A Robbery In Progress."

Posted by Brad Johnson Wed, 25 Mar 2020 23:45:00 GMT

Senate leadership is nearing completion of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act, a staggeringly large stimulus and bailout package that is intended not to protect the American people during the COVID-19 pandemic but to transfer even more money and power to the corporate elite.

David Dayen writes: “This is a robbery in progress. And it’s not a bailout for the coronavirus. It’s a bailout for twelve years of corporate irresponsibility that made these companies so fragile that a few weeks of disruption would destroy them. The short-termism and lack of capital reserves funneled record profits into a bathtub of cash for investors. That’s who’s being made whole, financiers and the small slice of the public that owns more than a trivial amount of stocks. In fact they’ve already been made whole; yesterday Wall Street got the word that they’d be saved and stocks and bonds went wild. BlackRock, the world’s largest asset manager, is running these bailout programs for the Fed, and could explicitly profit if the Fed buys its funds, which it probably will.

This is a rubber-stamp on an unequal system that has brought terrible hardship to the majority of America. The people get a $1,200 means-tested payment and a little wage insurance for four months. Corporations get a transformative amount of play money to sustain their system and wipe out the competition.”

Jeff Hauser: “Democratic leaders acceding to a Mnuchin managed slush fund reveal themselves to be too tired and spineless to be entrusted with power.”

Matt Stoller: “Not one political leader is standing up against the Schumer-McConnell shift of power to Wall Street. No one on the populist left, neither Bernie Sanders or Elizabeth Warren. No one on the populist right, not Josh Hawley or Tom Cotton. This was their moment.”

More Stoller, from his newsletter BIG: “Here’s why the bill goes up in value to $6-10 trillion:

  • An additional $4 trillion from the Federal Reserve in lending power to be lent to big corporations and banks.
  • Authorization to bail out money market funds, multi-trillion dollar unregulated bank-like deposits for the superrich.
  • Authorization for the the government through the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation to guarantee trillions of dollars of risky bank debt.”

Download the draft text here.

Mike Bloomberg's Climate Chair Opposes The Green New Deal

Posted by Brad Johnson Tue, 04 Feb 2020 22:20:00 GMT

Rep. Scott Peters (D-Calif.) is Mike Bloomberg’s campaign climate chair.
On Monday, January 27th, Rep. Scott Peters (D-Calif.) endorsed billionaire Michael Bloomberg for president, becoming the campaign’s “national chairman for climate, energy and environment.” Peters, a member of the powerful House Energy and Commerce Committee and vice-chair of the corporate-friendly New Democrats, opposes the Green New Deal, dismissing it as a “fiery speech.” In 2019 he explained his refusal to endorse the resolution calling for a Green New Deal agenda:
“I’m totally on board with getting to net-zero by mid-century. But the Green New Deal is not bold in that it doesn’t bring anyone else in. It is the easiest thing in the world to go talk to a bunch of people you agree with and do a fiery speech.”
Peters has reiterated his complaint that the Green New Deal lacks Republican support. In September, he told the San Diego Herald Tribune:
“I’ve explained it so many times. There’s not a Republican on it. It doesn’t even have a majority of Democrats. It got voted down in the Senate. So why people keep asking me about the Green New Deal is beyond me.”

He went on to attack the Green New Deal’s economic provisions, which are some of its most popular among Americans. “That just makes saving the planet a lot harder,” he said. “Now you’re talking about remaking the economy. I think we have a hard enough problem now.”

Peters is facing primary opponent Nancy Casady because of his opposition to the Green New Deal.

Peters’ former chief of staff, MaryAnne Pintar, is working on the Bloomberg campaign in California.

Politico’s Christopher Cadelago reports:
{eters is a vice chair of the pro-business group New Democrats, whose members huddled with Bloomberg on his recent visit to Capitol Hill. Peters, whose longtime chief of staff, MaryAnne Pintar, is a regional political director for Bloomberg in California, has warned Democrats against nominating a progressive like Sens. Bernie Sanders or Elizabeth Warren, saying their policies would make them more vulnerable to Trump in November.

“I do believe we need an alternative to Sen. Sanders and Sen. Warren. I don’t think that those are candidates who will win a general election. And I also disagree with them more on policy.”

Like Peters, Mike Bloomberg himself opposes the Green New Deal, saying the ambitious agenda “stands no chance” of passage in the Senate. Several of the Republicans in the U.S. Senate who oppose the Green New Deal have been supported for election by Bloomberg.

(Politico is paid by the fossil-fuel industry to promote their interests.)

Sunrise's Democratic Presidential Scorecard: Sanders A-, Warren B-, Biden F

Posted by Brad Johnson Tue, 10 Dec 2019 00:28:00 GMT

The youth climate activist group Sunrise Movement has published a 200-point climate leadership scorecard on the top three Democratic presidential candidates, with Bernie Sanders leading Elizabeth Warren and Joe Biden far behind.

Sanders earned 91.5% of the possible points; Warren 82.5%; and Biden a strikingly low 37.5%.

The careful scoring process is broken into four sections: “How they talk about it,” “How much they talk about it,” “Plan to win,” and “Green New Deal vision.”

Sanders and Warren earned identical scores for “How they talk about it” and “Plan to win”- reflecting their similarity in rhetoric about the urgency of the climate crisis and the need for comprehensive action that directly confronts the fossil-fuel industry. Both campaigns have laid out comprehensive plans for action that are built around principles of climate justice.

However, Sanders has talked about climate change significantly more than Warren on the campaign trail and in the presidential debates—a difference reflected in the metric used by the Sunrise Movement, which is the frequency with which climate change is discussed on the campaign Twitter feeds.

The Green New Deal section was a 100-point analysis of the candidate’s climate plans, representing half of the full score. Sanders received an A (95 points) compared to Warren’s B (85 points) for his clear plan for a phase-out of fossil-fuel extraction and for more detailed and ambitious plans for sustainable agriculture, forestry, climate refugees, energy democracy, public infrastructure, renewable energy investment, and public transportation.

In all categories Biden lagged significantly.

Perhaps relatedly, the Biden campaign’s top climate staffer, Heather Zichal, is a former John Kerry and Barack Obama staffer who parlayed her years of service into highly lucrative positions in the natural gas industry.

When Biden has been confronted by climate activists at campaign stops, he has responded dismissively that he was involved in one of the first climate bills passed by Congress and if they’re still not happy, they should vote for someone else.

Politicians Need To Know Fossil Fuel Money Doesn't Make Good Climate Policy

Posted by Justin Guay Thu, 21 Nov 2019 19:09:00 GMT

A guest post by climate strategist Justin Guay. A prior version was published on Twitter.

I don’t know David Victor.

Not in the Trump sense, I literally have never met him. I can’t weigh in on him and don’t want to. But there is an underlying issue swirling around him and the Buttigieg campaign – taking money from those who actively sabotage climate efforts – that needs to be talked about, not hand-waved away.

No one would today, with the hindsight of history, suggest that Tobacco, Asbestos or other universally recognized “bads” should have been at the table designing regulations aimed at eliminating their industries. But fossil fuels, incredibly, are somehow different.

Don’t get me wrong. This is not black and white. There are friends, frenemies (I see you utilities, I see you), and enemies. Companies and actors can and do move amongst the categories. We can’t be ideologues because yesterday’s villain can be tomorrow’s hero. (There’s lots of this in finance.)

But there are, I believe, universal bad guys who will never move because their business model doesn’t allow it. Pure-play coal companies are one, which is why carbon-capture-and-sequestration coalitions should never, ever, allow the likes of Peabody to launder their reputation with their well-intentioned efforts.

And then there’s oil. We do have examples of shifting (Love you, Ørsted). But it’s the exception, not the rule, and it was achieved thanks to hefty state intervention and ownership. The reality is large, publicly traded oil companies today are not friends – they’re enemies and they’re powerful.

So when academics, politicians and other “very serious actors” take their money, they enable an incredibly insidious thing. They launder these companies’ reputations, enable their gaslighting, and generally squander power that is very, very difficult for climate hawks to build.

They do that in part by abstracting climate into a “carbon problem” as though carbon dioxide is not created by specific companies and industries for their own benefit at the expense of our future. Those are arguments the left internalizes, enabling an artificial narrowing of the political horizon.

It’s this, even more than billions spent directly lobbying that I find most troubling. It’s unseen limitations on the ambition of the left that DC refugees know all too well. It’s not “political reality.” It’s artificially generated both-sides-ism brought to you by money.

It’s then made visible by journalists who treat these paid shills as equals as they present counter arguments “in good faith.” That’s not an equal argument focused on what’s in the best interest of the public. That’s an industry fighting to survive at society’s expense.

So let’s be clear. We can not and will not, solve the climate crisis as long as we allow those actively sabotaging action to appear as though they’re not. We will look back and find it ridiculous that this needed to be said.

Fossil-Fuel-Funded Pete Buttigieg Climate Advisor David Victor Opposes Fossil-Fuel Divestment

Posted by Brad Johnson Thu, 21 Nov 2019 02:39:00 GMT

Pete Buttigieg climate advisor David G. Victor, a political scientist and recipient of millions of dollars from BP and other fossil-fuel companies, begrudged the recent decision of the University of California to divest its endowment from the fossil-fuel industry.

”’Divesting from all fossil fuel companies turns the climate problem into something that seems like a simple problem, and in fact it’s the opposite,” Victor told Cal Matters in September, when U of C’s decision was announced. “We should be shareholders in those companies, and we should be active shareholders, to make sure that they’re actually doing it.”

In lieu of divestment, Victor has advocated for drilling for natural gas, “clean coal,” and considering geoengineering in the name of climate action.

Of course, Victor is only one of Buttigieg’s climate advisors.

It is not clear what Buttigieg’s position on the climate divestment movement is. However, Buttigieg, like all of the Democratic candidates for president on the debate stage tonight. has signed the No Fossil Fuel Money pledge, committing to not accept campaign contributions from the fossil-fuel industry.

h/t Dr. Genevieve Guenther

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