CNBC host Joe Kernen marked the one-year anniversary of Superstorm Sandy by questioning the wisdom of investing to protect utility customers from extreme weather. In an interview with Steve Holliday, the CEO of utility company National Grid, Kernen cited Bjorn Lomborg’s recent global warming denial op-ed in the Washington Post, “Don’t Blame Climate Change for Extreme Weather.”
Kernen’s repeated dismissal of global warming and attacks on climate scientists and activists as the “eco-taliban” have spurred a 45,000-signature petition drive organized by climate accountability group Forecast the Facts.
Reading from Lomborg’s op-ed, Kernen rebuked Holliday for investing in resilience to damages from extreme weather, which have been rapidly rising. In particular, both extreme precipitation and sea level are increasing in the Northeast, both due to fossil-fueled global warming.
Kernen claimed that his dismissal of the well-known connection between global warming and extreme weather was backed by prominent climate scientist Gavin Schmidt, of NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies.
Hill Heat contacted Dr. Schmidt about Kernen’s use of his words, which he called a “red herring.”
“My statement in no way implies that no extremes are changing,” Dr. Schmidt retorted, “and certainly not that electricity companies shouldn’t invest in increased resilience, which, as Holliday rightly notes, is prudent regardless.”
How did Kernen’s confabulation come to pass?About a month ago, E&E News interviewed Dr. Schmidt about a paper that found that increases in weather extremes are concentrated in North America and Europe:
The study noted that the greatest recent year-to-year changes have occurred in much of North America and Europe, something confirmed by a separate study last year. The result, according to several scientists, is a misperception across the West that the weather extremes occurring there are occurring everywhere. . . . “General statements about extremes are almost nowhere to be found in the literature but seem to abound in the popular media,” Schmidt said. “It’s this popular perception that global warming means all extremes have to increase all the time, even though if anyone thinks about that for 10 seconds they realize that’s nonsense.”Lomborg then misleadingly contrasted Dr. Schmidt’s quotation with comments from President Obama:
President Obama has explicitly linked a warming climate to “more extreme droughts, floods, wildfires and hurricanes.” The White House warned this summer of “increasingly frequent and severe extreme weather events that come with climate change.” Yet this is not supported by science. “General statements about extremes are almost nowhere to be found in the literature but seem to abound in the popular media,” climate scientist Gavin Schmidt of the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies said last month. “It’s this popular perception that global warming means all extremes have to increase all the time, even though if anyone thinks about that for 10 seconds they realize that’s nonsense.”Kernen then used Lomborg’s article to argue that climate change has no influence on extreme weather:
I’m looking at a Washington Post piece, Steve. It’s the Washington Post. “Don’t blame climate change for extreme weather.” It goes on to say that in popular — um — well, you see that is in the popular media, but the science does not support it at all. . . . Gavin Schmidt of NASA Goddard Institute: “General statements about extremes are almost nowhere to be found in actual scientific literature but abound in popular media. It’s a popular perception that global warming means that all extremes have increased although anyone who thinks about that for ten seconds realizes is nonsense.”
Kernen’s comments ironically appeared with the chyron “SUPERSTORM SANDY: LESSONS LEARNED.”
KERNEN: I’m looking at a Washington Post piece, Steve. It’s the Washington Post. “Don’t blame climate change for extreme weather.” It goes on to say that in popular — um — well, you see that is in the popular media, but the science does not support it at all. He’s quoting people from — you’re just — is it a given for you now that climate change is—you’re taking corporate actions based on more extreme weather based on climate change?
HOLLIDAY: I would not get into the scientific debate — I’m not qualified to do that.
KERNEN: But you used to work at Exxon. You used to be in the hydrocarbon industry. You caused all this global warming at some point, didn’t you, when you worked for Exxon? Now you’re preparing for that. You’re getting it coming and going, Steve.
HOLLIDAY: Let’s put the science just to one side. It is crystal clear to me in my company that we have to prepare to protect our customers with their energy supplies, with the expectation that we’re going to have more storms, more frequently, of higher intensity.
HOLLIDAY: That would be the prudent and sensible thing to do. What’s causing those storms is slightly, in this discussion, irrelevant. They are clearly here, and we need to protect against them. So that’s why we’re making investments we’re making. We’re making $2 billion of investment of hardening our systems, replacing old infrastructure in the US this year. That’s crucial to make sure that we have the reliability of energy supplies we need.
KERNEN: Gavin Schmidt of NASA Goddard Institute: “General statements about extremes are almost nowhere to be found in actual scientific literature but abound in popular media. It’s a popular perception that global warming means that all extremes have increased although anyone who thinks about that for ten seconds realizes is nonsense.” Anyway, we appreciate it. I don’t want you to be doing all this stuff for your company if it’s not necessary.
At a Sandy anniversary panel organized by Forecast the Facts, Center for American Progress senior fellow Bracken Hendricks described how society needs to not only divest from climate-polluting fossil fuels but also invest in a sustainable, equitable future.
“The fight against the bad stuff and pulling that money back has to happen. I want to really drive home a second piece of this: We need to know what we want. Because it’s not enough to know what we don’t want. And we need to get very busy building it, and we need to demand it.”
“Demand that people focus on the pain and demand that people focus on what we need instead.”
“We need to be smart enough and insistent enough to demand a vision of a future we want to live in. It’s not enough to oppose what we know is going to hurt us.”
“The anniversary of Sandy in lower Manhattan is really a time to look at Wall Street, and how we can come together as people and have our collective voice be strong enough to make a difference in the face of very large pools of capital that, without us, are going to make a very grave mistake.”
Bracken Hendricks (@HendricksB) is a Senior Fellow at the Center for American Progress and works at the interface of global warming solutions and economic development. Hendricks was an architect of clean-energy portions of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. He was founding executive director of the Apollo Alliance and has served as an energy and economic advisor to the AFL-CIO, Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell’s Energy Advisory Task Force, and numerous other federal, state, and local policymakers and elected officials.
The Forecast the Facts forum, “Turning the Tide: The Challenge And Promise Of Carbon Divestment for a Post-Sandy Wall Street,” took place on Sunday, October 29, at Cooper Union’s Rose Auditorium in New York City, with panelists from the Center for American Progress, Next Generation, and NYU Divest.
It is one year since Hurricane Sandy ravaged the east coast. The mainstream media continues to use the storm to push a global warming agenda.
Varney’s guest, the conservative Media Research Center’s Dan Gainor, complained that of the 32 segments in network news his group found that mentioned Sandy and global warming, only two questioned the overwhelming science that the increasing greenhouse effect from the combustion of fossil fuels is accelerating sea level rise and making weather more extreme and chaotic. Despite numerous scientific attribution studies on wildfires, heat waves, droughts, and storms that have found global warming fingerprints, Gainor falsely claimed that “we cannot link climate change or global warming to a specific event.” He furthermore dismissed the decades of work by thousands of scientists in all earth-science disciplines that provide our understanding of climate change as “stuff” and “guesswork.”
Gainor did not emphasize that his organization found only 32 mentions of climate change and Sandy in an entire year of network news coverage. (In contrast, for example, there were 52 segments on Iran’s nuclear program in five months of network news coverage from November 2011 to March 2012.)
Climate denial is rampant in the financial press, not just the media organs owned by Murdoch like Fox and the Wall Street Journal. Forbes regularly publishes climate-denial columns, and Reuters editors are openly hostile to climate science. And Comcast’s CNBC features hosts such as Joe Kernen, who argues that the findings of climate science are a plot concocted by a “bonafide cult” of “enviro-socialists” and the “eco-taliban.”
Varney and Gainor also bemoaned the public stand the Los Angeles Times has taken against global warming denial in its opinion pages. Over 25,000 people have signed a petition from climate accountability organization Forecast the Facts calling on the nation’s other major papers, including the New York Times, USA Today, and the Washington Post, to follow suit.
On Sunday, Forecast the Facts hosted a forum held in downtown New York City looking at the role of Wall Street in financing the climate change that threatens New York’s future prosperity. The panelists of the Turning the Tide forum, including Center for American Progress senior fellow Bracken Hendricks, Tom Steyer advisor Kate Gordon, and New Economy Lab’s James Slezak, discussed how the financial industry needs to reject the anti-scientific arguments pushed by Murdoch’s media properties and David H. Koch’s network of think tanks and advocacy groups.
Gordon cited the Risky Business initative, led by Steyer, Michael Bloomberg, and former Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson. The initiative, Gordon explained, is meant not only to provide an economic assessment of the risk exposure different companies and industries have to manmade global warming, but also to change the culture of the financial sector. With that goal in mind, influential Republicans and conservatives who accept the basic science of climate change have been courted.
Wall Street is at a crossroads, all the panelists agreed. On the path of fossil-fuel companies and climate deniers like New York City’s richest man, carbon financier David H. Koch, lies accelerating sea level rise and intensifying storms that will swamp the islands of New York City. But the investors and analysts can choose another path, recognize the science, and invest in a sustainable future that will save their city.
Fox Business Network Transcript:
VARNEY: It is one year since Hurricane Sandy ravaged the east coast. The mainstream media continues to use the storm to push a global warming agenda. Dan Gainor from the Media Research Center is here. He’s done the study. Dan, I think first of all you have some numbers on the stories run by the broadcast networks on Sandy. Go.
GAINOR: A year after we have seen all of this devastation, what we find is that every single time in the stories where they talk about Sandy and global warming or climate change, they are linking the two. Yet we have seen experts for years telling us that we cannot link climate change or global warming to a specific event. It is okay when they do it.
VARNEY: Hold on. Wait a second. Was there any counter opinion offered on the story? You looked at 32 stories. 100 percent of them linked climate change to Hurricane Sandy. Did anyone come on and say, hold on a second, hold on a second, it is not that clear-cut, there’s another point of view? Did anybody?
GAINOR: No. They did not have anyone on. and in only two of the stories, 6 percent of the time, that they even had the most casual mention. That is the extent. They never had anyone on who would disagree, and there are a lot of people who disagree, obviously.
VARNEY: I want you to listen to what the Los Angeles Times said, an editorial, I think it’s from the editor of Los Angeles Times: “Simply put I do my best to keep errors of fact of the letters page.” Saying, “There is no sign humans have caused climate change is not stating in opinion, it’s asserting a factual inaccuracy.” The L.A. Times will no longer accept letters from global warming skeptics. What do you say to that, Dan?
GAINOR: It is more media censorship. At least they are honest about it, they’re honest that they will not let anybody have a counter opinion. All of this stuff is based on predictions. The predictions thus far have been consistently wrong. And yet they’re saying, “We’ve been wrong, we are wrong, we are wrong. But next time down the road, then you can expect we will be right.” They’re expecting anywhere from one to 3% of world GDP to be spent on climate change. They’re doing it based on guesswork.
In the New York City region, Sandy helped to mobilize a very necessary, overdue conversation on climate survival, but the politics and economics of ending climate pollution — specifically divesting from the fossil fuel industries — has still largely been ignored.
The forum, webcast live, will confront the challenge that Wall Street faces in its financing of the pollution that is threatening New York City’s future. We will also tackle this thorny question: Why is David H. Koch, NYC’s richest man, one of the people most responsible for blocking US climate action?
- Moderator: Brad Johnson, Forecast the Facts - James Slezak, founder of the New Economy Lab - Kate Gordon, VP and Director, Energy and Climate, Next Generation - Bracken Hendricks, Senior Fellow, Center for American Progress - Sophie Lasoff, founder of NYU Divest
This forum follows the afternoon’s Turn the Tide on Sandy! rally at City Hall, organized by the Alliance for a Just Rebuilding.
8 PM at Cooper Union’s Rose Auditorium in New York City. RSVP here.
Today, Mayor Michael Bloomberg presented the city’s long-term plan to prepare for the impacts of a changing climate in the wake of Superstorm Sandy. “We haven’t waited for Washington to lead the climate change charge,” Bloomberg said at the Duggal Greenhouse in the Brooklyn Navy Yard. “If we did, we’d still be waiting.”The adaptation plan he presented, the work of the Special Initiative for Resilience and Rebuilding, which was established by the mayor in December of last year, is an important step for New York City in the right direction. Most impressively, the plan has a comprehensive approach for reducing the risk of catastrophic flooding through multiple initiatives from surge barriers to improved building codes from Staten Island to Far Rockaway, from Red Hook to lower Manhattan. The plan looks not just to the regions devastated by Superstorm Sandy but uses projections developed by top climate scientists for the rising threat of man-made global warming in the coming decades, Bloomberg said:
In fact, we expect that by mid-century up to one-quarter of all of New York City’s land area, where 800,000 residents live today, will be in the floodplain. If we do nothing, more than 40 miles of our waterfront could see flooding on a regular basis, just during normal high tides.
Unfortunately, there are major flaws.
The report asserts it is making the city “resilient,” but there is no climate resilience without divestment from fossil fuels and pollution barons like David Koch, New York’s richest man.
Furthermore, the report’s authors seemed uninterested in how New York’s communities survived the storm’s aftermath. In particular, the crucial achievements of Occupy Sandy in responsive, community-based disaster relief and recovery are buried, if not ignored.
Most importantly, basic realities of economic and social inequality are not sufficiently addressed. For example, even though over the report recognizes that over half of the Rockaways’ residents live in public or low-income housing, only two of 13 building initiatives address that population.
In sum, this report comes far closer to recognizing the reality of our carbon-polluted future than has been achieved on the national stage, but that is a very low bar. Existing infrastructure – physical, social, economic, and political – is built upon fossil-fuel dependence. Only a dedicated and full-scale effort to fight the polluters who profit at the expense of the very existence of cities such as New York will offer us a fighting chance.
Most of the nation is far less prepared for the ravages of fossil-fueled global warming than Mayor Bloomberg’s New York City. Unfortunately, it appears even Bloomberg is unprepared to take the necessary steps to turn back the rising tide of our polluted climate.
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.”
The New York City Special Initiative for Rebuilding and Resiliency (SIRR) was established by Bloomberg in November, 2012, with an explicit mission to address global warming:
When it comes to climate change, New York City has long been considered a leader in long-term sustainable planning, but Hurricane Sandy was a wake-up call to all New Yorkers.
Seth Pinsky, NYC Special Initiative for Rebuilding and Resiliency director
The report “will present policy recommendations, infrastructure priorities, and community plans, and identify sources of long-term funding” in addition to the $294 million in emergency federal funds.
SIRR’s climate-resiliency plan is being developed in consultation with the New York City Panel on Climate Change, co-chaired by climate scientist Cynthia Rosenzweig and urban environmental scientist William Solecki. The climate panel has previously estimated that by 2050, New York City will face seven to 29 inches of sea level rise caused by man-made global warming. According to Pinsky, the city is also “working with McKinsey and SwissRe to quantify the cost that climate change is likely to impose on the city in the future.” In a recent public presentation, Pinsky said that global warming is a “very serious challenge” for the entire planet:
We’re facing a very serious challenge, not just as a city, but as a planet. And that challenge cannot just be counted in terms of inches of sea level rise, but also in terms of dollars and cents.
The initiative’s team spent the month of March holding public community meetings across the areas of the city hit hardest by Superstorm Sandy. SIRR has also held close, private consultations with New York City’s powerful real estate developers, many represented by former Bloomberg officials.
Reports indicate that the Pinsky plan is unlikely to recommend the construction of tidal barriers or a directed retreat from vulnerable coastlines, in line with Bloomberg’s desire to reject pessimistic implications of catastrophic and rapid sea level rise for the city.
It is unclear whether Pinsky’s plan will address the primary cause of global warming, the burning of fossil fuels. In addition to New York City’s direct carbon footprint, the global financial capital plays a central role in financing the carbon extraction industry, personified by New York City’s richest man, carbon billionaire David H. Koch. Any investment in climate resilience to protect New York City will be for naught if the city does not divest itself from the likes of Koch.
The $294 million in federal funds allocated by New York for climate resilience is equivalent to one-third of one percent of Koch’s personal fortune.
The U.S. House of Representatives, after nearly three months of delay, is finally voting to provide emergency federal aid for the survivors of Superstorm Sandy. House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) prevented a vote in the previous Congress, leaving millions of Americans in the cold and outraging Northeast Republicans such as Gov. Chris Christie (R-NJ) and Rep. Peter King (R-NY).
Responding to the public outrage, the House voted to approve $9 billion in flood insurance funding in the first week of January, overcoming the nay votes of 67 Republicans called “jackasses” by former Senator Al D’Amato (R-NY).
Yesterday afternoon, the House Rules Committee took up H.R. 152, the $50.7 billion Disaster Relief Appropriations Act of 2013, critical for the rebuilding of the regions affected by the freakish storm. In the meeting, Republicans argued against the emergency support, attacked labor protections for workers, and praised the “logic” of cutting services for the American people to pay for emergency relief from a fossil-fueled disaster. In the meeting, the committee laid out a progression of votes at the behest of Tea Party groups like Club for Growth and David Koch’s Americans for Prosperity, which have taken a hard line against disaster relief. Debate on the bill and amendments is limited to three hours, making it possible that all votes will take place today.
Below is a summary of the vote sequence:
: GOOD: Rep. Hal Rogers (R-KY) amendment. After an hour of debate, the House will consider $17 billion in emergency funding. This legislation is expected to pass, with only extreme conservatives voting against.
: BAD: Mulvaney (R-SC), McClintock (R-CA), Duncan (R-SC), Lummis (R-WY) amendment. Then the House will consider an amendment that demands $17 billion in mandatory cuts in services for the poor, young, and elderly. This amendment may garner significant Republican support and would set a dire precedent for Congressional disaster relief.
: GOOD: Rodney Frelinghuysen (R-NJ) amendment. After 20 minutes of further debate, the House will vote on the rest of the Sandy relief and rebuilding package, $33.7 billion “to cover current and anticipated needs in the wake of the devastating Hurricane Sandy.” This language is the other key vote. Only about 50 Republicans are expected to support this key legislation.
Following these three major votes, an additional 11 amendments will be considered in turn, with 10 minutes of debate for each. There are multiple “jackass” amendments that cut disaster preparedness and relief funding from extremist Republicans Reps. Paul Broun (R-GA), John Fleming (R-LA), Jeff Duncan (R-SC), Bill Flores (R-TX), and Rob Bishop (R-UT). Broun’s amendment deserves particular attention for its special degree of jackassery:
: Broun (R-GA) amendment: “Amendment to FRELINGHUYSEN: Strikes $13,000,000 in funding to ‘accelerate the National Weather Service ground readiness project.’”
There are two good amendments from Rep. Nydia Velázquez (D-NY) that provide much-needed funding for community development and veterans’ cemeteries damaged by Sandy. Other amendments, including a submission from Rep. Henry Waxman (D-CA) to consider man-made sea level rise, were ruled out of order.
Important provisions to help the many climate disaster victims of 2012 prepare for our dangerous future are being attacked as “pork.” The opposite is true. The Frelinghuysen bill already eliminates much-needed support for many climate disaster survivors around the nation. Tea Party activists are pushing for even further cuts.
Republicans have held up this emergency spending for nearly three months because they say the U.S. can’t afford to help victims of climate disasters – but they refuse to make Big Oil pay even a share for the damage their pollution has caused. These same legislators were willing to shut down the government to protect tax breaks for billionaires.
Of the 67 Republicans who voted against the initial disaster relief, only one, Rep. Steve Palazzo (R-MS), has publicly changed his vote after a visit to Long Island and New Jersey. The remaining “jackasses” include 18 freshmen and at least 36 Republicans who have previously demanded emergency disaster relief for their constituents, but are now obeying the heartless commands of carbon billionaire David Koch, the wealthiest man in New York City.
In his annual address to the state of New York, Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D-NY) raised an urgent alarm about climate change in the wake of the Superstorm Sandy. “Climate change is real,” he said. “It is denial to say each of these situations is a once-in-a-lifetime. There is a 100-year flood every two years now. It is inarguable that the sea is warmer and there is a changing weather pattern, and the time to act is now.”
President Barack Obama avoided such language in the days after Sandy struck. Obama’s second inaugural address is January 19, 2013.