We’d expect this sort of thing from the New York Times Magazine perhaps, but the New Yorker? Last week’s issue features an opinion piece by staffer David Owen titled “Economy vs. Environment,” in which he bemoans the apparent contradiction between our economy and the environment, and warns of the economic “abyss” that awaits us all if we keep encouraging/demanding that people stop buying gas-guzzlers and commuting 80 miles each way. With not a scrap of cited evidence, he discounts alternative energy with a flick of the hand:
American dependence on fossil fuels isn’t going to end any time soon: solar panels and wind turbines provided only about a half per cent of total U.S. energy consumption in 2007, and they don’t work when the sun isn’t shining or the wind isn’t blowing.
and poo-poos the entire green jobs initiative with an argument that makes little to no sense:
Creating “green jobs,” a key component of the agenda, is different from creating new jobs, since green jobs, if they’re truly green, displace non-green jobs—wind-turbine mechanics instead of oil-rig roughnecks—probably a zero-sum game, as far as employment is concerned.
Luckily, over at Grist, Joseph Romm, the editor of Climate Progress and a senior fellow at the Center for American Progress, has taken up the gauntlet, delivering a righteous smackdown that addresses many of the problems with the piece.
• Do humans have reproductive limits? And if not physical, how about ethical?
• Scientists give a big thumbs up to Obama’s environmental plan.
• A handy list of all the biggest “global cooling” hacks, now in bar graph form.
• Poor Tesla. The bad news just keeps on comin’.
• A universal flu vaccine nears completion—but will we have the cash to distribute it?
• Finally, some sliding profits news to be happy about. Oh no wait, never mind.
• Senate decides (thank goodness) that children and health insurance are two things that should really continue to go together.
• Happy Friday! Half the world’s population could face a global-warming-induced food crisis by 2100, according to a new study.
• And then there’s the floods…
• Need proof that evolution’s more than just a “theory”? Look no further.
• “Dear Obama: Please bring me cap and trade legislation this year.” A wish list from environmentalists.
• The U.S. isn’t the only tech sector getting slammed by the downturn.
• And now for a lesson in brutal honesty: How much does racism really bother you?
January 20 can’t come soon enough, but first let the crimes of the Bush administration be released and judged. Today’s chopping block head is Julie MacDonald, a former high-ranking official in the Interior Department’s Fish and Wildlife Service. According to a newly-released report from Interior Inspector General Earl Devaney, MacDonald successfully “tainted nearly every decision made on the protection of endangered species over five years” and even exceeded expectations by “exert[ing] improper political interference on many more rulings than previously thought.”
MacDonald’s priority, according to the report, was not so much the well-being of hurting species, but rather a particular political agenda (hmm, perhaps we see a pattern?) that led her to push through a host of rulings axing greater protection for endangered species. Seven of them were (thankfully) reversed by the department, but Devaney’s report found an additional 13 decisions that MacDonald skewed to fit her agenda, and two more that she “indirectly affected.”
MacDonald, a civil engineer with a master’s degree in management, resigned from her post in May of 2007 amid accusations that she’d “violated the Endangered Species Act, censored science and mistreated staff of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.”
• Don’t have ADD, or any conceivable medical need for prescription drugs like Ritalin? Take ‘em anyway, says a group of experts. Granted, whether the people who do need them really need them is still up for discussion.
• Next in this week’s “just what the health care system needs” news: Special guns for the elderly may be classified as medical tools.
• Ask Obama! The transition team launches a new site to take your questions for the president-elect.
• Christmas, green-style: solar gingerbread houses!
• And finally, the best global warming protest we’ve seen yet.
Mashing scientific evidence into a pulpy soup of agenda-laden misinformation seems to be a common theme for the modern GOP. The latest (and arguably most egregious) example is outgoing EPA Administrator Stephen Johnson, whose reign has been dominated by a poverty of factual information, with hard science routinely twisted to suit political designs.
In a scathing profile in the Philadelphia Enquirer (via ThinkProgress), writers John Shiffman and John Sullivan delve into the cult of mediocrity that dominated Johnson’s time at the agency. The piece is filled with forehead-slappers like the following:
Perhaps one of the best insights into Johnson’s vision for EPA can be found in written testimony he submitted to a Senate committee this year. In the document, Johnson laid out his top 11 goals.
No. 1 was clean energy, particularly approving drilling for “thousands of new oil and gas wells” on tribal and federal lands. No. 2 was homeland security.
Environmental enforcement and sound science ranked ninth and 10th.
And that’s not even the worst of it:
• It’s no surprise that Americans are losing sleep (though the label “sleep epidemic” is a bit extreme). So cue the comprehensive guide to insomnia treatments.
• Greening Mexico City? If it happens, color us impressed.
• Michigan legalizes medical marijuana, but patient’s can’t use it ’til April. Ah government bureaucracy.
• The Facebook virus is coming! The Facebook virus is coming!
• Is the Bureau of Land Management holding a “fire sale” for Utah’s oil-and-gas drilling leases?
• Um, duh. Seriously, is this even a question?
Mother Jones has jumped on Obama for what may be the first “reneged promise” of his campaign: assigning a windfall tax to the profits raked in by Big Oil. According to MJ blogger Nick Baumann, a transition team staffer:
The President-elect’s transition team hasn’t explicitly announced it will drop the windfall tax plan, but a transition aide, commenting on the condition he not be identified, backed off the promise in an email. “President-elect Obama announced the [windfall profits tax] policy during the campaign because oil prices were above $80 per barrel,” he said. “They are currently below that now and expected to stay below that.”
Advocacy groups like the American Small Business League—which noticed almost immediately when the discussion of windfall taxes was removed from Obama’s Web site—are bemoaning the fallen tax as a disappointment, while economists (and common sense) note that it now seems far less necessary given that it would bring in substantially less money today than four months ago.
Still, the fact that this debate has arisen at all, before Obama has even taken office, is a testament to the dangers (or maybe just necessary consequences) of using technology for increased government transparency.
• The New York Times advises us to approach the Thanksgiving meal “the way a CEO might.” Uhh, not even sure where to start on that one.
• Some good news this holiday: Cancer diagnoses are on the decline.
• The newest in medical technology: A barcode chip that tests your blood for disease.
• The latest in climate change research: A shrimp on a treadmill. Seriously.
• You know it’s bad out there when gaming companies are seeing their stock take a hit.
• And to top it off, the financial crisis hits Google. It’s official: No one is immune.
• Sketchy study finds that more people believe in aliens and ghosts than God. Or perhaps they just think God is an alien?
• And here’s a fun idea in the obesity era: health waivers for Thanksgiving dinner guests. More casserole, anyone?
Ever since global warming awareness rose to the international level, there’s been quiet but persistent tittering among experts over whether climate change might actually be good for some regions. Given that the biggest of these regions has always been Russia, it’s not a huge shock that Russia Today jumped on the recent U.S. intelligence report “Global Trends 2025: A Transformed World.” In particular, the Russian press loved the report’s claim that within the next 17 years, Russia’s profit from climate change will be the biggest in the world.
From the article:
One of the reasons is the expected lengthening of the sowing term, but the key factor would be an easier access to oil and gas fields in Siberia and in the North, including the Arctic shelf. This will be a great success for the Russian economy, according to the NSC report, and the Arctic waterway would also open huge prospects for Russia.
However, the authors of the study warn of the possible threats: the infrastructure of Russia’s Arctic territories may be destroyed, and also new technologies may be needed to exploit fuel fields in the area.
Yeah, there’s always that downside…