Coal, Electric Industries Big Winners in Climate Bill Deal

By
Friday, May 15, 2009 at 1:29 pm
Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) and Rep. Edward Markey (D-Mass.) (WDCpix)

Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) and Rep. Edward Markey (D-Mass.) (WDCpix)

Even as House Democrats are celebrating their deal with conservative-leaning colleagues on climate change legislation, the real winners under the compromise have been the coal, electric and auto industries, who are largely the source of the nation’s carbon emissions to begin with.

Details of the compromise are still emerging, but already the chief sponsors of the measure — Reps. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) and Edward Markey (D-Mass.) — have been forced to lower carbon-reduction targets, cut renewable fuel standards and dole out billions of dollars in benefits to the nation’s largest polluting industries. Many environmentalists say the compromise comes at the too-high cost of undermining the bill’s very purpose, which is to slash emissions dramatically enough to prevent a warming planet from heating further. Some are asking Democrats either to bolster the environmental protections or to scrap the proposal altogether.

Illustration by: Matt Mahurin

Illustration by: Matt Mahurin

“We are not prepared to ‘give away the farm’ just so that we can say that we helped to get legislation passed,” Janet Keating, executive director of the West Virginia-based Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition, said in a statement Friday. “There are some costs that are too high to pay when it comes to the environment, clean air and clean water. We urge Congress to either fix the Waxman-Markey bill or dump it and start over.”

The saga highlights the thorny congressional climate change debate, where partisan politics takes a backseat to regional interests, and the influence of the energy lobby is king. Indeed, the concessions from Waxman and Markey to this point have been made to satisfy Democrats representing regions heavy with coal, oil and automaker interests.

The resulting dynamic is one of multi-layered tension that pits industry against environmentalists, regional interests against national and global interests, and congressional lawmakers against emission reforms that might help the planet, but could also cost jobs in their districts.

“I’m just trying to take care of the principal concerns that would impact my region, in particular my district,” Rep. Charles Gonzales, a Houston-based Democrat who’s pushing for more benefits for oil refineries in the House bill, told Politico Thursday.

In the eyes of many environmentalists, that brand of regional protectionism might yield short-term gains for some areas of the country, but will come at the cost of a deteriorating globe. They’re asking what good is it to protect polluters in a world where you can’t drink the water or breath the air, and the oceans are swallowing the coasts?

Erich Pica, director of domestic policy programs at Friends of the Earth, said the moderate Democrats are “holding hostage” the reforms necessary to tackle the problem in a way that reflects its urgency. “They have every right to protect their constituents,” Pica said. “But as members of Congress they also represent the entire country, and they should know when to sacrifice their regional interests for the sake of the larger common good. All they see is protecting oil or protecting coal. That’s not helpful.”

Indeed, the United Nations issued a report Thursday indicating that the world’s poorest countries, which are expected to suffer the brunt of the floods, draughts and storms associated with climate change, already require as much as $2 billion to adjust to the warming conditions. The UN is asking for donors to raise the funds.

Faced with similar reports, Waxman and Markey introduced a draft climate change bill in March — diluted significantly in the more recent compromise. And from an industry perspective, there’s something in there for nearly everyone.

For the coal and electric utility industries, for example, the compromise bill requires that U.S. emissions be reduced 17 percent by 2020, down from the 20 percent reduction promoted in the initial draft. The new bill also tamps down an earlier provision that states get at least 25 percent of their electricity from renewable sources by 2025, instead dropping that floor to 15 percent.

Additionally, although President Barack Obama had campaigned on a platform of selling 100 percent of so-called pollution permits to industry — a strategy he said would generate $646 billion to fight global warming over the next decade — the House compromise gives all but 15 percent of those permits away for free.

The changes were enough to gather the support of several key members of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, including Rep. Rick Boucher (Va.), a coal-country Democrat who had threatened to oppose the stronger draft. But the bows to industry also bring into question whether lawmakers resigned to shield their provincial industries are even capable of passing the reforms scientists say would be required to stem America’s contributions to the warming planet.

The changes, said Tyson Slocum, director of the energy and climate program at Public Citizen, “threaten to render this bill ineffective for a long period of time.”

There were other concessions as well. To satisfy Rep. John Dingell (D-Mich.), another powerful member of the committee, Waxman and Markey have agreed to give 3 percent of pollution permits to the nation’s automakers to fund research for more fuel efficient vehicles.

The compromise also waters down the so-called cash-for-clunkers program*, which ostensibly encourages drivers to turn in their gas guzzlers in exchange for a federal subsidy on more fuel efficient models. Yet under the compromise proposal, the new fuel efficiencies are hardly dramatic. For example, drivers trading in trucks between 6,000 and 8,500 pounds would be eligible for a $3,500 voucher for purchasing the same-sized vehicle that’s more efficient by just 1 mile per gallon.

Daniel Becker, director of the Safe Climate Campaign, said the program does much more to help struggling automakers sell large, unpopular models than it does to reduce greenhouse emissions.

“It’s a $4 billion giveaway to move gas guzzling vehicles that nobody wants off the lots,” Becker said.

Also, to get oil-friendly Democrats like Gonzales on board, the House compromise will give 2 percent of the pollution permits to oil refineries.

And these changes have arrived before the amendment process begins. House Republicans have vowed to dilute the environmental protections even further during debate in the Energy and Commerce Committee or on the House floor. Indeed, Sen. Joe Barton (Tex.), the senior Republican on E&C, has predicted that Republicans will succeed in altering the bill to consider nuclear energy and so-called “clean coal” renewable fuels.

“The president and his allies have decided that man-made carbon dioxide is a witch’s brew that’s killing the planet,” Barton said in a statement, “and they think that just because the cap-and-trade cure stings doesn’t mean we shouldn’t have to swallow it.”

The Energy and Commerce Committee, headed by Waxman, is expected to take up the bill next week, with House Democratic leaders hoping to pass the bill before the August recess.

Influencing the debate, the nation’s largest carbon emitters have contributed enormous sums of money to lobby Congress this year. The oil and gas industries, for example, have already spent $44.6 million and the electric utilities have tallied an additional $34.4 million, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. By contrast, the renewable energy sector has spent only $14.4 million on lobbying over the same span, and environmental groups have tallied just $4.7 million.

It’s not just Waxman and Markey who are struggling against the current of regional protectionism in the fight against climate change. The Environmental Protection Agency last week proposed new renewable fuel standards that, for the first time, would factor things like worldwide deforestation when calculating the environment impacts of biofuel production. The proposal was hailed by environmentalsist who have long argued that production of ethanol, for example, has depleted global food supplies, forcing farmers elsewhere to clear forests — a major source of carbon emissions — to make up the difference.

Yet, after eight years of Bush-era regulators who didn’t believe in regulation and environmental protection officials who didn’t believe in environmental protection, congressional lawmakers on both sides of the aisle are suddenly feeling the sting of an EPA living up to its name.

Indeed, since the EPA unveiled its proposal, Sen. Charles Grassley (R-Iowa) has blasted the proposal as “very detrimental to ethanol.” Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.) charged that the changes “would effectively kill renewable fuels in South Dakota and across the country because of environmental extremism within the EPA.” And Rep. Collin Peterson (D-Minn.), who heads the House Agriculture Committee, has already introduced legislation to prevent the so-called “indirect land use” provision from ever taking hold.

The message is clear: If climate change reforms are ever to clear Congress, they can’t confront industry too severely — even if those industries are responsible for same carbon emissions creating the problem.

Some lawmakers appear to recognize that probable reality. Next week the Senate environmental panel will host a hearing entitled “Business Opportunities and Climate Policy.”

*Cash for clunkers was not in the original proposal, but attached during committee debate a few days later.

Comments

50 Comments

FadingFast
Comment posted May 15, 2009 @ 12:30 pm

Seems to me we're spending money we don't have on regulations that will be of no benefit for a problem that doesn't exist.


Coal industry celebration due « Later On
Pingback posted May 15, 2009 @ 1:40 pm

[...] the result, as reported Mike by Lillis in the Washington Independent: Even as House Democrats are celebrating their deal with [...]


SocratticGAdfly
Comment posted May 15, 2009 @ 12:49 pm

Fading, the first one-third of your comment is questionable, the second third is true only as to the watered-down nature of the bill, and the final third is totally untrue.

Why don't you go finish fading yourself?


Waxman Deal in Place? | GlobalWarming.org
Pingback posted May 15, 2009 @ 5:08 pm

[...] and electric have been declared the “big winners,” but the refinery permits do not appear to be enough (see 5/15 entry) for “Big Oil:” [...]


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Pingback posted May 15, 2009 @ 6:05 pm

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Pingback posted May 15, 2009 @ 6:59 pm

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daveinboca
Comment posted May 15, 2009 @ 11:51 pm

Sorry, Sens Grassley and Thune, ethanol is a ginormous hoax as far as energy conservation is concerned. It may be renewable, but it takes as much energy to turn corn into useable ethanol as ethanol emits in propelling an auto forward. When broken clock Pelosi replaced Dingell with the little Marxist cadres Waxman and Markey, all sorts of uneconomic hysterics were to be expected. Anthropogenic Global Warming falls into the category of “Cargo Cult Science” that Nobel Physicist Richard Feynman warned us about three decades ago.

The agenda behind AGW is indirect taxation and enlarging the public sector's hold on the economy. Pure and simple. Science has nothing to do with it.


Brian Cricket Rakita
Comment posted May 16, 2009 @ 2:17 am

Democrats = Republicans


kim
Comment posted May 16, 2009 @ 5:45 am

A simple transfer of wealth from the poor and powerless to the rich and powerful. Carbon encumbering is highly regressive, very probably completely unnecessary, highly expensive, and dangerous. This is an example of horrifying policy, which does not follow the science, which demonstrates that the globe is cooling and that the role of CO2 in climate has been exaggerated. Why do the Democrats hate poor people, and why have the Democrats declared war on science?
===========================================================


PABill
Comment posted May 16, 2009 @ 6:45 am

As usual, a Congressional committee that has a solution based on bad information and is looking for a problem.


TomT
Comment posted May 16, 2009 @ 6:57 am

You have to love the tone of this article. Textbook example of how the news manilulates the story to present their favored side in a positive light. The energy and auto companies in this country have provided great wealth and increased the living standards of everybody in this country, but they are presented as the special interest. If anything, it is the environmentalist who are trying to get special interest legislation passed. This article should at least recognize that both sides have valid interest. Cheap energy is what will fuel any recovery we have from this current economic downturn.


bubarooni
Comment posted May 16, 2009 @ 7:00 am

this is nothing but cover for congress, basically saying 'it's so watered down it ain't even got teeth anymore so it's safe to vote for'.

even this compromise bill will have disastrous economic consequences. the enviro loons will not be content until we are all living a stone age existence where we are in 'harmony' with nature.

fading is right on the mark.


woodgas
Comment posted May 16, 2009 @ 7:30 am

Burning Woodgas from BioMass gives off about 1/4 of pollution that Gasoline does. Veg based fuels also run extremely clean compared to Fossil Diesel. My '82 diesel Jetta gets 45 mpg without a computer, there were cars in the mid 80's getting 50 mpg. A plug in hybrid diesel will get 150 mpg and you could run it on Wesson for less emissions, charge it with carport solar panels. Then there is Stan Meyer and possibly suppressed WaterCar technology($1,500 WaterFuelCells so your car can run on Water and X4+ it's range) . Less efficient Hydrogen Boosters are here now, just check out the H2GO real time Hydrogen Injection System of the Ronn Motors Scorpion SuperCar (200 mpg, 40 mpg, made in USA). It's time to stop being a Cantankerous Dinosaur of the past. http://www.ronnmotors.com/cms/


Rich
Comment posted May 16, 2009 @ 7:46 am

Global temperatures haven't risen in 10 years and, yet, these 'science-driven' idiots in Congress and their whacko supporters in the enviro movement want to shut the economy down by raising taxes on low and middle income folks. Shows how much the Dems really care about the little.

Buy a gallon of ethanol and starve a kid in Africa.


NoFadingAtAll
Comment posted May 16, 2009 @ 8:01 am

Stung, dinnit? Little wannabe GAdflies jump on the rip-roaring 1848 manifesto and think they're hotcha rebels. What's the problem–was the correct spelling of “Socratic” already taken?

What's your next world-saver, one wonders. Swallowing goldfish? Bobby socks? Maroon.


dc-guy
Comment posted May 16, 2009 @ 9:28 am

This 932 page bill, released on Friday, May 15, is scheduled for committee amendments and votes beginning Monday, May 18. This is transparency and openness?
The article talks mainly about cap+trade, but there are dozens of other provisions in this bill. How many Congressmen know that there is a requirement for a new national building energy code, that will allow lawsuits against builders, and building owners, and homeowners,if their home or building does not meet stringent energy efficiency goals. These goals are not just a little more insulation, they will cost thousands for every house and hundreds of thousands for commercial buildings. Do even members of the committee know all the provisions in this huge bill? The answer is clearly “no”. And why rush it through committee with no opportunity for review?
The only reason to rush the bill through without reveiw, is that the authors, Mr. Waxman and Mr. Markey know that the public would never support these provisions, if they knew about them, and the very expensive consequences.
Do people really want to allow lawsuits against homeowners and building owners, if their homes and buildings aren't “green” enough to satisfy environmentalists?
Why the rush?– Congress needs to look carefully at such major legislation. This kind of behind closed doors legislation is not the “change” we voted for. This bill was written by 25 year old staffers, industry lobbyists from favored industries, and a few environmental lobbyists.
Members of Congress who vote for this bill before reading and being aware of all its provisions, will have to answer to angry voters down the road.


Bill
Comment posted May 16, 2009 @ 10:40 am

One note of correction. Congressman Charlie Gonzalez represents the 20th District of Texas (San Antonio) , not Houston. Although both Valero and Tesoro are headquartered in San Antonio, neither is exactly in his district.


america
Comment posted May 16, 2009 @ 10:56 am

BIG LOSERS………..THE TAX PAYERS


Garry
Comment posted May 16, 2009 @ 11:04 am

Welcome to the wonderful world of incompetence, featuring utter corruption!

See what wonders can be accomplished when you combine the staggering ignorance of Waxman with the utter corruption of Obama! Gaze in awe at the scintillating ignorance of Biden, and the frozen-faced corruption of Pelosi!

See how the voters squirm under the relentless assualt of buyer's remorse! Watch in utter incomprehension at the complete degeneracy of the American political class!

Welcome to Rome-on-the-Potomac, where everything is for sale!


One Penny Sheet » Coal, Electric Industries Big Winners in Climate Bill Deal
Pingback posted May 16, 2009 @ 12:57 pm

[...] via The Washington Independent » Coal, Electric Industries Big Winners in Climate Bill Deal. [...]


Bob
Comment posted May 16, 2009 @ 11:58 am

Look at the Temperature graph, Einstein.
1998 is *not* the hottest year on record anymore, 2005 beat it, 2007 tied it, and 2002 and 2006 were very close. Notice the trend from 1980, genius ?
http://data.giss.nasa.gov/gistemp/graphs/Fig.A2…

And here's what's causing it:
http://www.esrl.noaa.gov/gmd/webdata/ccgg/trend…

If Wingnuts understood Science, they wouldn't be Wingnuts.


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Pingback posted May 16, 2009 @ 1:10 pm

[...] UPDATE: Coal, Electric Industries Big Winners in Climate Bill Deal [...]


Larry
Comment posted May 16, 2009 @ 1:19 pm

The US isn't ready to significantly cut its carbon usage. As this article describes, effective legislation, even under a filibuster-proof Democrat majority, is unpassable.

The only way to substantially cut carbon is to go with renewables that are cheaper than carbon. The closest in time and scalability appears to be next-gen nuclear. The others are a few breakthroughs away. Washington should be dumping a lot more money into research. My favorite project that could use a lot more money is the Polywell fusion research that's living on crumbs, even though it might (or might not, TBD) allow us effectively unlimited energy with 0 pollution of any kind.


Larry
Comment posted May 16, 2009 @ 4:03 pm

While it's true that temps since the late 90's have not reverted to their long-term average, it's also true that they haven't continued to increase. That seems bizarre, given that the level of GHG emissions has exploded since then, significantly exceeding the IPCC's pessimistic hypothesis. It's also true that the error bars on GCM's are so broad that even a ten-year long kink in the curve doesn't disprove the AGW hypothesis. However, it does raise the question – what data WOULD it take to disprove AGW?


John Yoo
Comment posted May 16, 2009 @ 5:45 pm

On your first graph, the last two data points are going down, suggesting that the planet isn't heating but rather cooling…

As far as your second graph: With CO2 emissions raising every year, one would expect each year to get successively hotter but the observations don't bear out this theory. We therefore must conclude that CO2 and raising earth temperatures are not linked…

I am more prone to believe the evidence that sunspots have more to due with our perceived higher temperature than CO2.


Bob
Comment posted May 16, 2009 @ 7:15 pm

Yes, they have increased.
http://data.giss.nasa.gov/gistemp/graphs/Fig.A2…

Except for 1998, which was unusually warm because of “the El Nino of the Century”, note that all the temperatures in this decade (2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008) have been warmer than all the temperatures of the 1990's. Can you follow along so far ?

The CO2 levels, which are the bulk of GHG's, are rising inexorably. They only exceed the IPCC's 'worst case scenario' because the IPCC thought the planet would react more rationally to the problem and start to limit the increase by now, not *increase* the rate of increase. The science remains solid: more CO2 will inexorably force warming of the climate. Which is measured, every decade. Arctic ice cover: measured, every decade, melting away. The models are just there to predict what *will* happen so we have time to take corrective action.

If you plot your annual average of the time it takes you to run 1 mile, vs. your age, it does not necessarily rise linearly, smoothly. One year you might be injured, you have to limp. Another year, you might be training every week, it goes down. But make no mistake, you are getting older every year, your times will rise, and when you hit your 60's, 70's, 80's they will get longer and longer. Eventually you will die. But the curve need not be smooth and linearly rising; that doesn't change the underlying *facts*. Welcome to the messy world of data.


Bob
Comment posted May 16, 2009 @ 7:55 pm

Nice try: you're reading the graph wrong. The high point is 2005, then it goes down for 2006, then up for 2007, then down for 2008. The rising curve of global temperature was never expected to be smooth and simple.

If you want to zoom in on the data to see it more clearly:
http://data.giss.nasa.gov/gistemp/graphs/Fig.A2…
2006 and 2007 are very close together.

Scientists realize the planetary climate is not a simple model: there are cycles within cycles, and feedback loops, and human effects which all interact. Don't expect a simple rising curve. Things like El Nino, La Nina, sunspots, volcanoes, forest fires all have some short term effects. The long term trend, though,is temperatures up, up, up.

Misunderstand that at your children's peril.


Swami_Binkinanda
Comment posted May 16, 2009 @ 9:27 pm

Wrong Richard. But you don't really care if you're wrong, and you are too ignorant to understand the magnitude of the consequences, so your ignorance is the kind of denial that junkies and alcoholics use to hide from unpleasant truths. It is heating up and the consequences are accruing faster than the most dire predictors on the IPCC could have imagined. Doing nothing now is a disaster that short sighted conservatives who are the prostitutes to big coal and oil johns are bringing upon us all. When the entire coastal area of the US is suddenly a vulnerable New Orleans, then you can blame Obama for not doing enough back when it was cheap.


Swami_Binkinanda
Comment posted May 16, 2009 @ 9:33 pm

How is having improved technology that is clean, quiet, and less expensive losing anything? Are you nature haters just completely committed politically and spiritually to cutting off your noses to spite your faces?


Swami_Binkinanda
Comment posted May 16, 2009 @ 9:34 pm

Why do YOU hate America? That pesky democracy getting you down?


Swami_Binkinanda
Comment posted May 16, 2009 @ 9:51 pm

You don't know what you are talking about. You are so crazy with partisan hatred you will ignore measurable facts. What you refuse to see is that the private sector is going to own the public sector thanks to people like you. When the private sector owns the public sector, human rights go out the door and the ownership class tells you what to do, like in Fascist Italy and Nazi Germany. Who supplied the Nazi war machine? Ford and GM. Who kept track of the trains filled with Jews, Poles, Gypsies and gay people? IBM with their punch card Hollerith machine. Who kept the LUftwaffe flying with their patented Tetraethyl Lead, so they could bomb London during the Blitz? Standard Oil of New Jersey.
Who will be there to charge us extra for staples when the coasts are flooded, the grain basket of America is in a 500 year drought from Anthropogenic Global Warming, and food costs exceed housing and fuel?


Larry
Comment posted May 17, 2009 @ 3:16 pm

Trends are trends, and the 10 year trend matches what I wrote. And whatever the economy has been doing (until the last 6 months) it wasn't limping! Note that I'm not denying AGW, just not happy with the recent data. You didn't answer my question, however: what data would constitute a falsification?


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Pingback posted May 17, 2009 @ 6:16 pm

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Michael Tobis
Comment posted May 18, 2009 @ 9:04 am

Anthropogenic greenhouse warming is not properly a hypothesis, it is an estimated sensitivity. We know that greenhouse gases warm planets. The question is how much *these* greenhouse gases will warm *this* planet. That's a matter of estimation, not of theory. You need to be more specific about the hypothesis before one can be specific about the falsification. This is usually stated as a sensitivty to doubling. The conventional wisdom is near or a little shy of 3 degrees C per doubling of CO2.

So you could talk about evidence refuting a hypothesis that the true sensitivity exceeds 2 C, for instance. Because it is early in the warming process, it would take many years for statistically compelling evidence to emerge if it were true. See:

http://initforthegold.blogspot.com/2008/05/fals…

In particular, the ten year record starting in 1998 is simply cherry picked. A fair look at the data rather than one based in wishful thinking shows that the “cooling phase” is simply an artifact. The world warmed from 1997-2007 in exactly the sense that it “cooled” from 1998-2008; this shows that ten year intervals are not a good way to look at the data. See:

http://initforthegold.blogspot.com/2009/03/and-…


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Pingback posted May 18, 2009 @ 10:34 am

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Michael Tobis
Comment posted May 18, 2009 @ 4:04 pm

Anthropogenic greenhouse warming is not properly a hypothesis, it is an estimated sensitivity. We know that greenhouse gases warm planets. The question is how much *these* greenhouse gases will warm *this* planet. That's a matter of estimation, not of theory. You need to be more specific about the hypothesis before one can be specific about the falsification. This is usually stated as a sensitivty to doubling. The conventional wisdom is near or a little shy of 3 degrees C per doubling of CO2.

So you could talk about evidence refuting a hypothesis that the true sensitivity exceeds 2 C, for instance. Because it is early in the warming process, it would take many years for statistically compelling evidence to emerge if it were true. See:

http://initforthegold.blogspot.com/2008/05/fals…

In particular, the ten year record starting in 1998 is simply cherry picked. A fair look at the data rather than one based in wishful thinking shows that the “cooling phase” is simply an artifact. The world warmed from 1997-2007 in exactly the sense that it “cooled” from 1998-2008; this shows that ten year intervals are not a good way to look at the data. See:

http://initforthegold.blogspot.com/2009/03/and-…


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louis vuitton handbags
Comment posted August 5, 2010 @ 10:35 am

The only way to substantially cut carbon is to go with renewables that are cheaper than carbon. The closest in time and scalability appears to be next-gen nuclear. The others are a few breakthroughs away. Washington should be dumping a lot more money into research. My favorite project that could use a lot more money is the Polywell fusion research that's living on crumbs, even though it might (or might not, TBD) allow us effectively unlimited energy with 0 pollution of any kind.


Laurentmiller
Comment posted September 23, 2010 @ 2:51 am

hahaha…. you don't understand this at all. our climate IS changing, worldwide. Records have been repeatedly broken. and the places with the MOST warming? guess what…its not HERE in on the Northern Polar Ice Cap. There is a place is Alaska that is averaging 8 DEGREES warmer than before. and you know who is going to pay for the damage from climate change? POOR PEOPLE!


Laurentmiller
Comment posted September 23, 2010 @ 2:53 am

you are wrong. plain and simple. where did you find global temps havent changed in 10 years?? the WORLD is talking about this because its real. the temperate regions wont see the dramatic shifts that are already happening near the poles. please, stop embarassing yourself and America.


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