Cowardly Climate Report Urges Business as Usual

- by Shannon Wilson, Eco Advocates Northwest
[[{"type":"media","view_mode":"media_large","fid":"214","attributes":{"alt":"","class":"media-image","height":"272","style":"width: 222px; height: 126px; margin-left: 10px; margin-right: 10px; float: left;","title":"Photo: Bellona.org","width":"480"}}]]The National Climate Assessment Report released by the Obama administration in May revealed some harsh truths about the climate chaos our species is facing. However, a studious reading of the report will show that it merely provides cover for business as usual, greenwashes the Democratic Party, and promotes destructive solutions such as turning our remaining natural forests on public lands into bioenergy feed lots for industry.
The Obama Climate Assessment asserts that current worldwide emissions of 34 billion tons of carbon dioxide per year can be allowed to peak at 44 billion tons by 2045. This is counterintuitive — and many scientists might say it’s outright insane, based on the information that the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and other scientists reveal in peer-reviewed research from around the world.

The Climate Assessment notes that 50 percent of the CO2 released takes up to 100 years to be cycled out of our atmosphere, and the remaining 50 percent can take upwards of 1,000 years. Based on that fact alone, emissions must be reduced from the current 34 billion tons starting today if we expect the biosphere to continue to sustain humans over the next 50 years.
It seems that the Obama administration and the Democratic Party expect endorsements from national environmental organizations for merely admitting that global climate chaos is occurring. However, the report makes it clear the administration and Democratic Party have little or no intention to implement tangible plans to actually reduce emissions.
Case in point: In 2010 Obama’s Department of Energy could have adopted the highest energy efficiency standards for residential water heaters — which use the second-highest amounts of energy, after space heating, of any devices in single-family household — but declined to do so.
The highest- and second-highest water heater standards could have saved approximately 16.7 and 10 quadrillion British thermal units of energy, respectively (a quad is the energy equivalent of about 36 million tons of coal). These standards could have prevented an estimated 1 billion and 700 million tons, respectively, of CO2 from entering the atmosphere by 2045. However, one of the least stringent standards was adopted instead — a standard that could save approximately 2.5 quads of energy and prevented just 154 million tons of CO2 from entering the atmosphere by 2045.
Tellingly, the Obama administration and Democratic Party sided with the industries that manufacture and sell standard electric and gas water heaters. The industry argued that it would cost too much profit to retool their factories. However, Chinese and Japanese factories are making new ultra-efficient heat pump water heaters. In fact, at least three American-owned companies — A.O. Smith, GE, and AirGenerate — are manufacturing these heat pump water heaters in China.
That’s just one example. The administration has clearly sided with the coal, rail, utility, nuclear power and natural gas industries because those corporations complained about losing future profits.
Even more outrageous, the climate report tells Americans that the United States will make up for its failure to adopt the best and most energy-efficient technologies by cutting down and incinerating our nation’s remaining natural forests for energy. The report espouses turning our remaining forests into biofuel feedstocks, pandering to the timber and forest biomass extraction industries, stating that “Forest resources potentially could produce bio-energy from 504 million acres of timberland and 91 million acres of other forested land.”
Not only should our forests be left unmolested as carbon and biological reserves, but they should be restored via the removal of logging roads and stream restoration by a new Civilian Conservation Corps like the one created by President Roosevelt during the 1930s. We must protect the ecosystem services provided by our natural forests — clean water, carbon storage and sequestration, clean air, erosion control, fisheries, recreation, game habitat, and mitigation of weather extremes. These benefits accrue to communities across North America and are worth trillions upon trillions of dollars.
With a climate report that advocates business as usual, the Obama administration is steering the Titanic toward icebergs with engines at full speed. Democratic politicians who say they accept the science of climate change but take no real action to slow it are being cowardly. Real mitigation solutions are available to reduce impacts on the climate and ecosystems — but there is no time left for Obama and Democrats to pander while the human species races toward the abyss of extinction.
Shannon Wilson of Eugene is director of Eco Advocates Northwest (www.ecoAdvocates.org), a project of the League of Wilderness Defenders