Southern California environment news and trends

"An Inconsistent Truth" features Newt Gingrich (but probably not Gingrich's inconsistent global warming truth)

So I saw this trailer the other day for a new film from radio host Phil Valentine about global warming: An Inconsistent Truth.

The blurb from the film's site seems to indicate that a carbon conspiracy may be afoot: "Many people believe in man-made global warming but they don’t know why. This is one of the most important issues of our day yet the average American knows so very little about what’s really going on. Is that by design? Who stands to make billions off cap-and-trade legislation? Why do those who raise their voices the loudest lead the most wasteful lifestyles? Is carbon dioxide really a pollutant or is it a harmless gas that’s essential to life here on Earth?"

What's interesting to me is that Newt Gingrich is in the trailer. He says in a quick clip, "This has been a very effective opportunity to get your tax money to pay for his car company." (I can't find the comment in a Nexis search, but I'm going to make a clue-like guess that it was Mr. Gingrich outside a hearing about Tesla talking about Department of Energy grants.) The star of the film is this guy Phil Valentine. A guy named Shayne Edwards directed; he runs a digital media company in Tennessee that makes a lot of electronic press kits.. 

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"Tipping Points" for global warming: Mike Farrell as a pioneering climate scientist at Hollywood's The Blank

leahleaf/Flickr

Mauna Loa Observatory.

Once upon a time, scientists didn't know how to measure atmospheric carbon dioxide. Which is a strong and alarming signal that the atmosphere is changing. Then in the fifties a guy figured it out, using Big Sur trees that have served as California's lungs for centuries. That scientist set up some instruments at Mauna Loa Observatory in Hawaii, the best place the US could think of at the time to measure undisturbed air. Over decades he was able to show the progressive buildup of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, and his observations yielded a noticeable curve. In 1958, he measured 315 parts per million of carbon in the atmosphere. In December, Mauna Loa Observatory measured 391 parts per million. 

Charles David Keeling died on my birthday in 2005, and when he did, Scripps Institute of Oceanography hailed him as a pioneer. To a climate reporter like me, he's something of a legend. The Keeling Curve is iconic. Scripps articulates the reasons why pretty well: 

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Californians (& their carbon market) help keep the beat at Durban

The US climate change envoy Todd Stern g

STEPHANE DE SAKUTIN/AFP/Getty Images

I don't know the US climate change envoy Todd Stern, but I'd guess he's had a tough couple of weeks in Durban at COP17.

When an ex-Governator shows up at COP-17 in Durban, is that a celebrity sighting, or is he just another policy wonk?

Well, nobody's seen Schwarzenegger yet. But even as the United States, China and India engage in baller blocking a climate-policy deal at Durban, California's current political luminaries are making their presence known in South Africa.

In theory, the United Nations' Conference of the Parties to the Framework Convention on Climate Change has been breathlessly awaiting Arnold Schwarzenegger for more than a week now. And sure, California Senator Barbara Boxer didn't go, but she sent people with press releases to talk to the rest of the world about what remains the hottest mainstream topic in climate change policy in the Untied States: whether or not climate deniers have a point. KPCC's Kitty Felde rightly covered that as a political story; this message isn't meant for convention delegates:

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Song of the Week, for Keystone XL & the tar sands: U2's "MLK"

Various Activist Groups Protest Outside Obama Fundraiser

Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Hundreds of protestors from a wide variety of activist groups staged protests outside of the W Hotel where President Obama was holding a $7,500 per person fundraiser.

Yesterday the U.S. State Department said it would delay a decision on the Keystone XL pipeline in order to seek more information about it. " As a result of this process, particularly given the concentration of concerns regarding the environmental sensitivities of the current proposed route through the Sand Hills area of Nebraska, the Department has determined it needs to undertake an in-depth assessment of potential alternative routes in Nebraska."

Back in August, when more than a thousand people got arrested protesting this decision in front of the White House, I wrote about a group of people from California who joined that protest. I found it unusual and intriguing that so many people would take such a specific protest action with a clearly articulated goal. Environmentalists in the US have often had strong opinions. They haven't often succeeded in getting a large and mainstream chunk of people to do something about it. (And cite MLK in the process.) 

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KPCC's Vilsack story needs some climate reality

thesquidkid/Flickr

Almond tree blossom petals scattered along Interstate 5. I was raised on California tree nut snacks.

Our Woman in Washington, Kitty Felde, sought out Tom Vilsack for his thoughts about Golden State ag

Vilsack calls these good times for farmers. Agricultural income is the highest it’s been in 40 years. Unlike the housing industry, with so many homes under water, farm debt has dwindled by half since the 1980s debt crisis.

It seems worth levelling out Vilsack's reported rah-rah view, to start with, environmentally. Nowhere noplace in that story are mentioned the words "climate change." If farmers are in clover now, they may not be for long, and it's not like they're shy about saying that.

Studies from California's Energy Commission predict diverse consequences for farm profits because of climate change.  Sure, hay farmers will make more money. But grape farmers will make less, and since grape farmers make more per acre than hay farmers, between those two crops California farming starts seeing a net loss in profits. My dad's beloved tree nuts, almonds and others, can expect changing winter temperatures to change the ranges where those trees do best, according to no research from UC Davis

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