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Sent: Tuesday, February 16, 2010 12:06 PM
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THE PROGRESS REPORT
February 16, 2010

by Faiz Shakir, Amanda Terkel, Matt Corley, Benjamin Armbruster, Zaid Jilani, Brad Johnson, and Alex Seitz-Wald

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GLOBAL WARMING

Snowmageddon

Snowmageddon.” “Snowpocalypse.” “SnOMG.” These popular depictions of the record snowstorms that crippled the Mid-Atlantic region in recent days demonstrate that the American public knows the weather is disastrously out of control. Instead of galvanizing Congress to take action to stop the man made disruption of our climate, political pundits are using these storms to justify inaction. According to the Washington Post’s Dana Milbank, the “back-to-back snowstorms in the capital were an inconvenient meteorological phenomenon for Al Gore.” Fox News host Sean Hannity argued “the most severe winter storm in years” would “seem to contradict Al Gore’s hysterical global warming theories.” “Where’s Al Gore when we need him?” quipped Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY). Before the storm hit, the Virginia GOP launched a web ad mocking “12 inches of global warming,” attacking Democrats who had voted in favor of climate and clean energy legislation. After hundreds of thousands of people lost power, several people died, and states of emergency were declared in West Virginia, Pennsylvania, Virginia, Maryland, and Delaware, Sen. Jim Inhofe’s (R-OK) family joined in the mockery, building an igloo on the National Mall and calling it “Al Gore’s New Home.” The Washington press dutifully reported the “climate-change debate.”

WARMING FUELS WINTER STORMS: “The last few years have brought several unusually heavy snowstorms as warmer and moister air over southern states has penetrated further north, colliding with bitter cold air masses,” National Wildlife Federation climate scientist Amanda Staudt explains. Even as winters have been getting shorter — spring arrives 10-14 days earlier than it did 20 years ago — many areas are seeing bigger and more intense snowstorms. “The fact that the oceans are warmer now than they were, say, 30 years ago,” top climate scientist Kevin Trenberth told NPR, “means there’s about on average 4 percent more water vapor lurking around over the oceans than there was, say, in the 1970s.” As the Global Climate Change Impacts in the United States report issued by the federal government describes, warmer oceans and shifting atmospheric circulation mean “strong cold season storms are likely to become stronger and more frequent.” A 2006 scientific paper by Chagnon et al. found that “most of the United States had 71% — 80% of their snowstorms in warmer-than-normal years,” so that “a future with wetter and warmer winters” will “bring more snowstorms.” This season’s extreme weather is also influenced by natural oscillations in oceanic and atmospheric circulation, including El Nino — unusual warmth in the equatorial Pacific Ocean that climate researchers expect may become permanent if global warming continues to rise. “Like it or not,” says scientist Daniel Richter, “we live in the Anthropocene age.”

KILLING THE MESSENGER: Even as right-wing allies of the fossil fuel industry cite snowstorms to attack Al Gore, a more concerted campaign has been launched against the credibility of climate scientists. After hacked e-mails from climate researchers surfaced last November, conspiracy theorists and conservative operatives have used the “Climategate” e-mails to falsely assert malfeasance by the scientists. Based on the claims of bloggers and right-wing journalists, Fox News host Glenn Beck argued that members of the Nobel Prize-winning Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) should commit suicide because they had “so dishonored themselves.” The mainstream press now agrees that the IPCC is compromised by “steady drip of unsettling errors” in its landmark reports on climate science. The New York Times ran a front-page story about the IPCC facing a “siege on their credibility,” quoting Chris Monckton, a global warming denier who has called some climate activists “Hitler Youth.” Not to be outdone, the Washington Post claimed that a “series of missteps by climate scientists” threatens the “climate-change agenda.” Despite the effectiveness of the right-wing noise campaign in getting journalists to blame the victims, the IPCC’s work, done by unpaid volunteers, remains utterly sound. A review of the claimed errors found “so far only one — or at most two — legitimate errors” in the entirety of the 3,000 page IPCC 2007 report. However, the IPCC report has been found to be overly conservative with respect to sea level rise and greenhouse gas emissions — meaning its warnings are insufficiently strong.

THE WARMEST WINTER: Global warming, while exacerbating both warm and cold weather, necessarily increases warmth more often than it does cold. After the hottest decade on record, we are in the hottest winter in the satellite record, and this past January was one of the hottest Januaries on record for the planet. Vancouver’s Winter Games “are quickly earning a reputation as the Rain Games,” since “the warmest January in Vancouver history” is forcing the organizers of the 2010 Winter Olympics to helicopter in snow to cover mountains. Increased warmth and changing weather patterns have led to glacial retreat and unreliable snowfall across the globe, putting the future of alpine sports and the Winter Olympics in jeopardy. Israel is in its “longest winter heat wave” in 38 years, and intense heat is scorching Malaysia. Nations south of the equator are likewise suffering from a sweltering summer. Record heat and drought in Australia is causing massive crop loss, and “fire authorities are expecting the state’s worst fire conditions in five years.” A heat wave in Brazil has killed 32 people, and South Africa is experiencing a “crippling bout of heat and humidity.” Until action is taken to reduce greenhouse gas pollution, the destruction of our climate will continue, just as scientists have been warning for decades.

UNDER THE RADAR

ECONOMY — REPUBLICAN LAWMAKERS WHO OPPOSED THE STIMULUS SEEK FEDERAL FUNDS FOR THEIR DISTRICTS: At the House GOP retreat last month, President Obama called out the hypocrisy of Republican opponents of his stimulus plan who had “gone to appear at ribbon-cuttings for the same projects that [they] voted against.” While all but three Republicans in both chambers of Congress voted against the economic recovery bill, many more of them have sought funds from the legislation for their home districts and taken credit for projects funded by the Recovery Act. The Wall Street Journal reported today that “more than a dozen Republican lawmakers” wrote letters supporting “stimulus-funding requests submitted to the Department of Labor, the Environmental Protection Agency and the Forest Service.” The list includes some of the most outspoken stimulus critics. Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) called the bill a “wasteful spending spree” but then “wrote to Labor Secretary Hilda Solis in October in support of a grant application from a group in his district which, he said, ‘intends to place 1,000 workers in green jobs.'” National Republican Senatorial Committee Chairman Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX) sent two letters to the Environmental Protection Agency “asking for consideration of grants for clean diesel projects in San Antonio and Houston.” The Wall Street Journal’s report follows a similar piece published last week by the Washington Times, exposing another dozen Republicans who sent letters requesting “stimulus money for home-state pork” to the Department of Agriculture. Melanie Sloan, director of Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, summed up the hypocrisy: “It’s not illegal to talk out of both sides of your mouth, but it does seem to be a level of dishonesty troubling to the American public.”
 

THINK FAST

Writing on the Tea Party movement, the New York Times observes, “It is a sprawling rebellion, but running through it is a narrative of impending tyranny.” The Tea Party movement will play a central role at the Conservative Political Action Conference that kicks off in Washington, D.C. on Thursday.

About 50 Tea Party leaders will “discuss campaign strategies and conservative principles” with RNC Chairman Michael Steele in Washington today, the first time that “a broad coalition” of the activists will meet with GOP leaders. One of the Tea Party organizers said they will also set up a meeting with the DNC, although she admitted that they “agree with more of the Republican platform.”

In an interview with the Financial Times, Center for American Progress President and CEO John Podesta asserted that the current state of the U.S. political system “sucks.” Podesta also strongly encouraged the Obama team to use their Cabinet officials in a way that the White House is now not doing.

Defending the stimulus on its first anniversary, President Obama “is dispatching his Cabinet across the country” to highlight programs that are putting people back to work under the $787 billion recovery bill. “In all, senior administration officials are scheduled to visit 35 communities before Friday to counter Republican claims the massive deficit-spending program has failed.”

American and Pakistani intelligence forces captured the Taliban’s top military commander, Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, several days ago in Karachi, Pakistan. U.S. officials said Baradar — the second in command to Taliban leader Mullah Muhammed Omar — is “the most significant Taliban figure to be detained” since the start of the war in 2001.

Jane Lubchenco, the head of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, “struck back at climate skeptics who claim that record snowstorms this winter have undercut evidence of global warming.” “It is important that people recognize that weather is not the same thing as climate,” said Lubchenco on NPR yesterday, adding that snowy weather “is not a contradiction and it is not really unexpected.”

The country’s largest banks have ramped up their spending on lobbying “to fight off some of the stiffest regulatory proposals pending in Congress.” Lobbying expenditures “jumped 12% from 2008 to $29.8 million last year among the eight banks and private equity firms that spent the most to influence legislation.”

“At least four major trade associations are looking to hire” new leaders, positions that will likely be filled by retiring lawmakers. With salaries in excess of $1 million a year, the “revolving door” is “troubling to some government watchdogs.”

And finally: If you can’t make it to the White House for a photo-op with the President, you can now instead visit the Madame Tussauds wax museum at The Venetian in Las Vegas. In fact, the Obama figure is “the most popular in Las Vegas” and has twice been “removed for maintenance because of manhandling.”
 

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Under the Radar
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BLOG WATCH

IPCC errors: facts and spin.

Obama’s engagement with Iran has worked.

People trust the government when the economy is good.

Reserve officers association rescinds previous call to maintain DADT.

Fox News scolds WellPoint VP for giving health reform advocates “red meat.”

California health-insurance rate hike is not the only steep cost increase in the U.S.

Like Palin, Cheney calls the Vice President “O’Biden.

Liberty University dean self-plagiarizes in Valentine’s Day anti-gay speech.
 

DAILY GRILL

“[W]hat we’re doing [with Iran] is, in fact, not doing the other thing that we did in Poland and we did with the Soviet Union, which was to go out and condemn the regime for being evil and persecuting their people.”
— Former Republican senator Rick Santorum, 2/12/10

VERSUS

“The United States joins with the international community in strongly condemning the violent and unjust suppression of innocent Iranian citizens.”
— President Obama, 12/28/09
 


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