Former New York Army Corps of Engineers Commander Warns Sandy Survivors To Stop Ignoring Climate Change
At a May 16 televised forum on the recovery from Superstorm Sandy, a former top military infrastructure official called on Americans to “stop ignoring” climate change and “realize it’s the new reality.” At the Sandy town hall organized by public television stations NJTV and WNET, John Boulé, the former commander of the New York District, Army Corps of Engineers, warned New Yorkers to stop ignoring climate change and start preparing for higher sea level rise and more frequent and more powerful storms:
First of all, we’ve got to realize it’s the new reality. Climate change is real. It’s more than sea level rise that’s going to happen over the course of the next 100 years. It’s greater storm intensities, it’s greater storm frequencies. We’ve got to stop ignoring it and start planning and building to reduce the risk to the public. That’s where we are.
Like Boulé, other panelists, including PSE&G president Ralph LaRossa, recognized the “new reality” of rising seas and extreme weather. Although these words are welcome, the most important element of facing the reality of climate change is understanding that it’s caused by human activities — something no-one at the forum did. In fact, Richard Ravitch, the real-estate scion and former Democratic lieutenant governor of New York, blamed “forces of nature” on sea level rise.
At no point during the two-hour forum did any panelist or reporter discuss the manmade causes of climate change or recommend opposing the threat to civilization posed by the fossil-fuel industry. The words “fossil fuels,” “carbon”, “greenhouse,” “pollution,” and “oil” were never mentioned. Also not mentioned was David Koch, the carbon pollution billionaire and richest man in New York, who was on the board of WNET from 2006 until the day of the forum. At the WNET board meeting on the morning of May 16, Koch’s resignation was accepted.
In the wake of Superstorm Sandy, New York City’s flagship public television station, WNET, has dropped the richest man in New York, carbon pollution billionaire David Koch, from its board of trustees. Days before the monthly board meeting on May 16, Koch’s name was removed from the WNET website. Koch had been a board member since 2006. Koch has been funding WNET since 1986.
The severance of Koch’s longstanding relationship with WNET — which not only serves the New York City area but also produces national programs such as Charlie Rose, Nature, and Great Performances — comes at a time of increasing tension between Koch’s anti-regulatory, climate-polluting industrial empire and the educational mission of public television.
The inherent conflict between Koch’s conspiratorial, anti-science ideology and the public interest with has come under attention in recent months. After Superstorm Sandy struck, WNET’s Charlie Rose and Bill Moyers ran shows on the tragic consequences and threat of greenhouse pollution for the New York region. More recently, reports of Koch Industries’ interest in the newspaper holdings of the Tribune Company have spurred nationwide protests.
Koch also was featured in the November 2012 PBS documentary Park Avenue, which contrasted the extreme wealth of Koch’s residence at 740 Park Avenue with the stark poverty less than a mile north in East Harlem. In the documentary, a former doorman noted that Koch, with a net worth of about $45 billion, gives only $50 holiday tips.
Just after Koch left the WNET board, the station ran a major live town hall on Superstorm Sandy. Broadcasting from New Jersey and New York City, the NY/NJ/Long Island affiliates under WNET management broadcast a two-hour show that talked repeatedly about the major threat posed by climate change in rising sea levels and more frequent storms of increased intensity—threats which Koch’s Cato Institute denies.
By a 3-2 vote on Monday, May 6, the New Mexico State University Board of Regents selected Garrey Carruthers, who questions the science of climate change, to be the next president of the land-grant institution in drought-plagued Las Cruces, despite widespread concern from faculty, students, alumni, and local legislators.
After news reports that Carruthers chaired a tobacco-industry front group in the 1990s and is a global warming skeptic, four New Mexico state representatives sent a letter to Board of Regents chair Mike Cheney questioning the wisdom of his candidacy. Last weekend, over 300 New Mexico residents signed a Forecast the Facts petition to the Board of Regents, saying: “Don’t select Garrey Carruthers, who rejects the science of climate change, to be the next president of New Mexico State University.” The petition was delivered to the board by an NMSU student.Board of Regents Chair Mike Cheney, a local businessman and one of the three supporters of Carruthers, told reporters that he did not speak with the legislators concerned with Carruthers’ ties to Phillip Morris and his questioning of climate science:
On Monday, Cheney said he had not talked to Carruthers about his involvement in TASSC and still hoped to speak to several of the legislators about their concerns about Carruthers’ work on behalf of Philip Morris.“When we began the search process, we realized immediately that our next president must clearly understand the environment,” Cheney said without a sense of irony.
On Friday, the City of New York allocated $294 million of Superstorm Sandy recovery funds for resiliency projects to respond to the threat of fossil-fueled climate change. The announcement was part of the unveiling of NYC’s plan for $1.77 billion in Sandy recovery initiatives by Mayor Michael Bloomberg, Housing and Urban Development Secretary Shaun Donovan, and Sen. Charles Schumer (D-NY) at New York City Hall:
The City has set aside $294 million for resiliency investments to be detailed in a report issued by the Special Initiative for Rebuilding and Resiliency later this month.
“HUD’s approval of our comprehensive Action Plan enables us to take the next critical step toward recovery – launching the programs for home rebuilding and business assistance that will rejuvenate the neighborhoods Sandy hit hardest,” said Deputy Mayor for Operations Cas Holloway. “We’ll also take the first steps toward making the City more resilient to the impacts that we know climate change will bring.”
On Monday at 4 pm, the New Mexico Board of Regents is prepared to hold a public vote to choose the next president of New Mexico State University (NMSU), the major land-grant institution in Las Cruces, NM. One of the top candidates is Garrey Carruthers, a former Republican governor. Carruthers is also a climate-change denier who ran a tobacco-industry front group for years.
From 1993 to 1998, Carruthers was the chairman of The Advancement of Sound Science Coalition (TASSC), a tobacco industry-funded lobby group that claims that the health risks of smoking and the threat of global warming are “junk science.”
Questioned last week by NMSU scientist Dr. Gary Roemer at an on-campus meeting on his candidacy to become university president, Carruthers asserted that there is not a scientific consensus on climate change. He continued: “I don’t know. I’m an economist. I don’t do global warming. It’s a scientific judgment that I can’t make.”Dr. Roemer responded:
I think it’s pretty appalling that a presidential candidate for this university does not have a vision for dealing with the most serious environmental crisis that humanity and our Earth have ever faced.
In a telephone interview, Dr. Roemer confirmed that he finds fossil-fueled climate change to be a fundamental crisis.
Although Carruthers rejects the science of climate change, he has disavowed TASSC’s position on smoking. “I’m four-square against second-hand smoke,” Carruthers said in a recent interview with the Albuquerque Journal. “I don’t think people should smoke, and second-hand smoke is detrimental to other people’s health.”
State Reps. Phillip Archuleta, Nate Cote, Bill McCamley, and Jeff Steinborn have written to the Board of Regents opposing the selection of a climate-change denier as New Mexico faces global-warming-fueled drought.
In response, the climate-science accountability group Forecast the Facts has launched a petition effort to mobilize against the selection of Carruthers. The signatures will be delivered at the open vote on Monday.
On Thursday, March 7, President Barack Obama met with energy industry executives, cleantech entrepreneurs, and influential Obama supporters to discuss an approach to energy policy that emphasizes fracking, renewables, and energy efficiency.
The White House described the meeting as such: “During the meeting, the president reiterated his commitment to a cleaner and more secure energy future. The discussion covered a variety of topics including the important role of natural gas in our domestic energy portfolio, new opportunities for renewables like wind, solar and advanced biofuels, the importance of clean energy research and development, as well as the promise and potential of increased energy efficiency in our homes and businesses.”
According to The Hill, the only climate scientist in the room was Dr. John Holdren, the White House science adviser. There were no representatives of environmental organizations.Participants:
- James T. Hackett, executive chairman, Anadarko, gas and oil
- Jeffrey W. Shaw, chief executive, Southwest Gas
- Lew Hay, executive chairman, NextEra (low-coal utility); chairman, Edison Electric Institute
- Debra Reed, chief executive, Sempra, natural-gas
- Frederick W. Smith, chairman, president, and chief executive, FedEx
- Terry Royer, president and chief executive, Winergy, wind-power company
- Cynthia Warner, president, Sapphire Energy, biofuel entrepreneur
- Alex Laskey, president and founder, Opower, smart-grid entrepreneur
- Walter Isaacson, president and chief executive, Aspen Institute, author of Steve Jobs biography, Chairman of the Broadcasting Board of Governors
- Dr. Shirley Ann Jackson, president, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, nuclear physicist
- Dr. Eric Lander, professor, Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Harvard, PCAST, biologist
- Bill Ritter Jr., director, Center for New Energy Economy, Colorado State University, former Democratic Colorado governor
- Dr. Cass R. Sunstein, professor, Harvard Law School, former Obama OMB OIRA administrator
- Susan F. Tierney, managing principal, Analysis Group, director, World Resources Institute, Policy Subgroup Chair of the National Petroleum Council’s study of the North American natural gas resources, Bipartisan Policy Center, Obama transition team
- Heather Zichal, White House energy and climate adviser
- Dr. John Holdren, White House science adviser
- Cecilia Muñoz, Domestic Policy Council Director
Obama is scheduled to visit the Argonne National Laboratory near Chicago next Friday for a public speech on energy policy.
State Department: Keystone XL Pipeline 'Would Be Buried Deep Enough To Avoid Surface Impacts of Climate Changes' It Would Help Cause
During the operations period, climate change projections suggest the following changes:
- Warmer winter temperatures;
- A shorter cool season;
- A longer duration of frost-free periods;
- More freeze-thaw cycles per year (which could lead to an increased number of episodes of soil contraction and expansion);
- Warmer summer temperatures;
- Increased number of hot days and consecutive hot days; and
- Longer summers (which could lead to impacts associated with heat stress and wildfire risks). The pipeline would be buried deep enough to avoid surface impacts of climate changes (freeze-thaw cycles, fires, and temperature extremes).
As Secretary of State John Kerry said six years ago, “we’re on an urgent clock” to confront fossil-fueled climate change, which he compared to the threat of nuclear weaponry as a “man-made” and “uncontrolled” weapon with “the ability to change life as we know it on this Earth.” Kerry’s recognition of the scientific necessity to keep global concentrations of carbon dioxide below 450 ppm should preclude the possibility of building a pipeline designed to pump 7 gigatons of carbon dioxide worth of tar sands crude over decades. In one of his first speeches as Secretary of State, Kerry said that the United States is in “this moment of urgency to lead on the climate concerns that we share with our global neighbors.”
Why then, does the State Department’s draft impact statement ignore Kerry’s clear understanding of the threat posed by the Keystone XL pipeline? Perhaps it’s because the statement is literally bought and paid for by Keystone XL’s maker, the foreign tar sands company TransCanada.
The impact statement was written by a TransCanada contractor, not by State Department officials. The “sustainability consultancy” Environmental Resources Management was paid an undisclosed amount under contract to TransCanada to write the statement, which is now an official government document.
The impact statement did not take into account the predicted political instability that is already starting to occur because of global warming, however. As Kerry said in 2009, “catastrophic climate change represents a threat to human security, global stability, and
- yes - even to American national security.” As economist Sir Nicholas Stern said, “the cost of inaction” on climate change is a “serious risk of global war.”
New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg has announced an allocation plan for the $1.77 billion in federal Community Development Block Grants that are part of the Sandy disaster relief bill HR 152. It is not clear if mitigation of climate pollution is part of planned investments in housing, business, and infrastructure resiliency.
- Housing Recovery – $720 Million
- Single-Family Rehabilitation: $350 million to establish a grant program for up to 9,300 homeowners whose residences were sustained damage as a result of Hurricane Sandy and need additional funding to restore their homes, implement resiliency measures and remediate mold. Will assist up to 1,000 low-, moderate- and middle-income one- and two-family homeowners whose primary residences were destroyed or had major damage, and 8,300 low-, moderate- and middle-income homeowners whose primary residences were damaged but not destroyed.
- Multi-Family Rehabilitation: $250 million to fund programs to enhance the resiliency of up to 12,790 units of housing for low-, moderate- and middle-income New Yorkers damaged by Sandy that still require significant resources to permanently address damage and resume sustainable operations. The City’s program will provide grants and low-interest loans, depending on need and scope.
- Public Housing: $120 million to address initial resilience measures for public housing developments, such as permanent emergency generators at key buildings to provide backup power to critical building systems.
- Business Recovery – $185 Million
- Business Resiliency Investments: $100 million to provide grants to up to 1,300 businesses. $100,000 per company will go to small- and mid-sized companies, and $1 million per company will go to large companies in vulnerable areas. Program will require companies to commit to reinvest in their New York City presence.
- Expanded Loans and Grants: $80 million to provide loans and grants to as many as 1,000 businesses. This program will provide expedited low-interest loans of up to $150,000 on similar terms to the City’s existing emergency loan program; provide expedited grants of up to $60,000 to affected businesses; and invite community development finance institutions to compete in a business plan competition to solicit ideas for additional loan and grant programs which would then be funded on a pilot basis, with the best program(s) then funded at scale.
- Innovations in Resiliency Technologies Competition: $5 million to allocate, through “Race-to-the-Top”-style competitions, grants to the most innovative and cost-effective ideas for demonstration projects featuring resiliency products and technologies that can be replicated citywide.
- Infrastructure Resiliency – $140 Million
- Neighborhood Game-Changer Investment Competition: $100 million to jump-start economic activity in the five Business Recovery Zones by allocating, through “Race-to-the-Top”-style competitions, grants to the most innovative and effective investment ideas for spurring long-term economic growth. Possible ideas could include attraction of growing companies and/or companies of significant size, attraction of companies that serve the needs of underserved populations, or other transformative investments in key corridors.
- Critical Utility Infrastructure Resiliency Competition: $40 million to allocate, through “Race-to-the-Top”-style competitions, grants to the most innovative and cost-effective resiliency measures identified by the utilities for their critical networks. Grants will be allocated to utilities in one or more of the following categories: i) liquid fuel networks; ii) other energy networks (power, steam, natural gas); and iii) telecommunications networks (wires and wireless).
President Barack Obama embarked on his second term with his inspiring inaugural promise to “respond to the threat of climate change” lest we “betray our children and grandchildren.” He can begin to turn ambition into action at this year’s State of the Union on February 12, the birthday of Abraham Lincoln.
Of all the bold political moves made by Obama, few are as audacious as his deliberate invitations to be compared to our nation’s greatest president Obama announced his candidacy for president at the site of Abraham Lincoln’s “House Divided” speech and was sworn into office on Lincoln’s Bible. Like Lincoln, President Obama is a great orator. But Lincoln is revered not for his great speeches, but for his actions at the moment of America’s greatest crisis. For President Obama to be remembered as a great leader, he must act decisively on the existential threat of our era, climate change.
It thus makes sense to look to Lincoln for guidance. In the decades before the Civil War, Americans struggled to reconcile deep qualms about slavery with the wealth it brought to the young nation. The country’s political class was dominated by the entrenched power of the wealthy southern “slaveocracy” committed to the preservation and the expansion of their “peculiar institution.” Failing to challenge the power of King Cotton, weak presidents instead accommodated the slave power. James Monroe ratified the Missouri Compromise, Millard Fillmore agreed to the Compromise of 1850, Pierce and Buchanan dithered as Kansas bled – until Lincoln drew a hard line against slavery’s expansion into the West.
In the wake of Superstorm Sandy, there is renewed energy on Capitol Hill and in the White House to take action against the fossil fuel industry’s destruction of our climate. President Barack Obama startled pundits with his emphasis on fighting climate change in his inaugural address. Furthermore, “Senate Democrats will push a bill to help areas vulnerable to climate change prepare for extreme weather events,” the HuffPost Hill newsletter reports.
As it turns out, Obama’s inauguration ceremony was funded in part by $260,000 from Exxon Mobil, and the HuffPost Hill newsletter is sponsored by the American Petroleum Institute, Big Oil’s lobbying arm.
Exactly three months earlier, the HuffPost Hill mocked Change.org for changing its policies to accept any corporate sponsors with the headline “CHANGE.ORG WILL SEE YOU NOW, AMERICAN PETROLEUM INSTITUTE.” HuffPost Hill editorialized that Change.org had “decided to reject its founding progressive principles and embrace corporate advertising, Republican party solicitations, astroturf campaigns, pro-life or anti-union ads and other sponsorships that its liberal base of users may object to.”