Is China finally waking up to its pollution crisis?

Expect the global warming issue to blow up again as the Obama Administration gears up to issue new EPA regulations. Conservatives have argued for years now that anything the US does is moot given China’s massive pollution problem. But as Jonathan Cohen points out, China is finally starting to move on these issues, as even hard-core dictators can be affected by choking pollution:

In recent years, the Chinese have imposed fuel mileage and appliance efficiency standards, similar in many respects to those in the U.S. Just this week, officials in Beijing announced that the government would be taking another 5 million aging cars off the nation’s road. China has also set up pilot versions of tradable pollution permits—in other words, “cap-and-trade” schemes—for various industries. Officials say they hope to make these nationwide soon. And one reason the Chinese government was so eager to sign that massive new deal with Russia, allowing the import of natural gas, was because it’s desperate to find alternatives to coal. “For a long time, opponents [of new regulations] said we’ll get hoodwinked, because China won’t do anything,” says David Doniger, director of the Climate and Clean Air Program at the Natural Resources Defense Council. “That’s just not true.”

This is a positive development, and hopefully it continues. If China gets more serious about this, then it can give political cover to those around the world trying to put a lid on carbon emissions.

Cohen points out that any new EPA regulations can put further pressure on China to act.

Expect to hear plenty of noise about this over the coming months.

Water wars are already here in California

Water has always been an issue in California, with competing interests from farmers, ranchers, fishermen and growing cities. But with the crippling drought that the state has experienced in recent years, all of these issues and battles are becoming more important. Unfortunately, with climate change, we may see more of these issues playing out around the world.

This article offers a compelling overview of the water issues facing California.

Rising waters threaten South Florida coastline and Everglades

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Spend some time in the harbors of beautiful Miami and you’ll quickly get a sense of how this region would be threatened by rising sea levels. The area is spectacular but incredibly vulnerable. Many experts are starting to sound the alarm:

In the most dire predictions, South Florida’s delicate barrier islands, coastal communities and captivating subtropical beaches will be lost to the rising waters in as few as 100 years.

Further inland, the Everglades, the river of grass that gives the region its fresh water, could one day be useless, some scientists fear, contaminated by the inexorable advance of the salt-filled ocean. The Florida Keys, the pearl-like strand of islands that stretches into the Gulf of Mexico, would be mostly submerged alongside their exotic crown jewel, Key West.

Read the entire article and you’ll see how little politicians in Florida are doing to prepare for this potential scenario. Climate change is just one of many polarizing issues we face today and battle lines are drawn. One side does not want to acknowledge the potential risk at all, which makes it hard to debate how we might address this threat. One harsh reality, however, is that at some point there is no amount of engineering that can help. If we ever get to the point of a two-foot rise in seas levels, the entire area would be at risk. It’s a sobering thought.

Tom Steyer dives into Virginia governor race

Tom Steyer has been making plenty of news as a philanthropist and environmental activist, but lately the billionaire has made it clear he is going to do his best to alter the political landscape by supporting politicians that share his concerns for global warming and sustainability.

He has been very vocal against the Keystone pipeline, and now he’s getting involved in the 2013 race for governor in Virginia.

Tom Steyer, the environmentalist billionaire who has mounted a national campaign opposing the Keystone XL pipeline, has directed his political operation to spend heavily in the Virginia governor’s race in support of Democrat Terry McAuliffe, POLITICO has learned.

Steyer, a California-based financier, instructed advisers on Friday to launch television ads starting this week. The paid-media blitz from his group, NextGen Climate Action, will be the opening salvo in what’s expected to be a much larger effort aimed at mobilizing and turning out climate-oriented voters in a key off-year gubernatorial race.

The enterprise will be a test both of Steyer’s individual influence in electoral politics, and of the impact of heavily-funded advocacy politics within the Democratic Party. The bet, for Steyer, is that making climate issues a prominent part of the Virginia election will nudge the center of national politics in a greener direction, shaping the political landscape for 2014 and 2016 and giving environmental interests a stronger hand to play in Washington policy debates.

McAuliffe has a good record on environmental issues, but the real motivation has to be his GOP opponent Ken Cuccinelli, who Steyer called an “environmental nightmare.” Cuccinelli seems to have backward views on everything, as he’s even tried to support Virginia’s old laws against adultery. So it’s no surprise that he’s against any real efforts to stem global warming, and he basically engaged in a which hunt against University of Virginia climate scientist Michael Mann according to McAuliffe and many commentators. Let’s hope Steyer is successful here.

Battle over environmental rules

There’s political stalemate in Washington between Democrats and Republicans on what to do about global warming. But now the issue of global warming and environmental regulations is also splitting some Democrats, as many on the left are being critical of the Obama administration for slow-walking new rules relating to things like appliances.

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