Friday, November 2, 2012

Hurricane Sandy

Based here in Brazil, I only found out about Sandy on Tuesday.  I got a good detailed description from the NY Times, along with its maps showing how Sandy left wreckage and death in Cuba, and Haiti too it seems, and then moved by sea until it landed with its eye in New Jersey. impressed me with their coverage of Nuclear Plants and Climate Change discussions, as well as the impacts of inequality in the market fundamentalist capitalist stew.  The final two articles here are about an ex-climate skeptic.  I find particularly amusing his comments on how we can teach the Chinese to use better technology to get away from coal, to natural gas, of course.  Oh, how people love the fresh, clean water from fracking.....  Moreover, what he does not know of decentralized and hybrid power generation.  Unfortunately, Bill McKibben doesn't mention decentralized hybrid generation either.  One day, I want to make a big splash talking about the history of wind power in Danish anti-nuclear protests and co-operative enterprise in Scandanavian social democracy.  The Germans followed the Danes, and show it at an even larger level, with incredible hybrid developments.  Minnesota and Vermont, and some other local areas like Gainesville, Florida have made some modest advances, while net metering at least has a pretty broad presence in the US.

After the Devastation, a Daunting Recovery

Shannon Stapleton/Reuters
Keith Klein and Eileen Blair among homes destroyed by fire in the Breezy Point section of Queens. More Photos »
Published: October 30, 2012

The New York region began the daunting process on Tuesday of rebuilding in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, a storm that remade the landscape and rewrote the record books as it left behind a tableau of damage, destruction and grief.

The toll — in lives disrupted or lost and communities washed out — was staggering. A rampaging fire reduced more than 100 houses to ash in Breezy Point, Queens. Explosions and downed power lines left the lower part of Manhattan and 90 percent of Long Island in the dark. The New York City subway system — a lifeline for millions — was paralyzed by flooded tunnels and was expect to remain silent for days.

Accidents claimed more than 40 lives in the United States and Canada, including 22 in the city. Two boys — an 11-year-old Little League star and a 13-year-old friend — were killed when a 90-foot-tall tree smashed into the family room of a house in North Salem, N.Y. An off-duty police officer who led seven relatives, including a 15-month-old boy, to safety in the storm drowned when he went to check on the basement.

On Tuesday, the storm slogged toward the Midwest, vastly weaker than it was when it made landfall in New Jersey on Monday night. It delivered rain and high winds all the way to the Great Lakes, where freighters were at a standstill in waves two stories tall. It left snow in Appalachia, power failures in Maine and untreated sewage pouring into the Patuxent River in Maryland after a treatment plant lost power.

President Obama approved disaster declarations for New York and New Jersey, making them eligible for federal assistance for rebuilding. “All of us have been shocked by the force of mother nature,” said the president, who plans to visit New Jersey on Wednesday. He promised “all available resources” for recovery efforts.

“This is going to take some time,” he said. “It is not going to be easy for these communities to recover.”

There was no immediate estimate of the losses from the storm, but the scope of the damage — covering more than a half-dozen states — pointed to billions of dollars. Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey called it “incalculable.”

Rescuers looked for survivors in the wet rubble in places like Atlantic City, and state and local officials surveyed wreckage. Utility crews began working their way through a wilderness of fallen trees and power lines. And from Virginia to Connecticut, there were stories of tragedy and survival — of people who lost everything when the water rushed in, of buildings that crumbled after being pounded hour after hour by rain and relentless wind, of hospitals that had to be evacuated when the storm knocked out the electricity.

The president spoke with 20 governors and mayors on a conference call, and the White House said the president would survey damage from the storm with Mr. Christie on Wednesday. Mr. Obama’s press secretary said the president would join Mr. Christie, who has been one of his harshest Republican critics, in talking with storm victims and thanking first responders.

Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg said Mr. Obama had also offered to visit the city, “but I think the thing for him to do is to go to New Jersey and represent the country.”

Connecticut, New Jersey and New York reopened many closed roads and bridges, and the New York Stock Exchange made plans to resume floor trading on Wednesday after a two-day shutdown, its first because of weather since a blizzard in 1888.

There were no traffic signals on the walk from Fifth Avenue to the East River. Police officers were directing traffic; here and there, bodegas were open, selling batteries and soft drinks. In Times Square, a few tourists walked around, though some hotels still had sandbags by the doors.

Mr. Bloomberg said 7,000 trees had been knocked down in city parks. “Stay away from city parks,” he said. “They are closed until further notice.”

The mayor also said that trick-or-treating was fine for Halloween, but the parade in Greenwich Village had been postponed. The organizers said it was the first time in the parade’s 39-year-history that it had been called off.

New York’s subway network, which suffered the worst damage in its 108-year-history, faced one of its longest shutdowns because the problems were so much worse than expected, said Joseph J. Lhota, the chairman and chief executive of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, the agency that runs the subways and several commuter railroads.

Water climbed to the ceiling of the South Ferry subway station, the end of the No. 1 line in Lower Manhattan, and debris covered tracks in stations up and down other lines after the water rushed in and out. Mr. Lhota said that seven subway tunnels between Manhattan and Brooklyn were flooded.

He also said that the Metro-North Railroad had no power north of 59th Street on two of its three lines, and that a 40-foot boat had washed up on the tracks in Ossining, N.Y.

The Long Island Rail Road’s West Side Yards had to be evacuated, and two railroad tunnels beneath the East River were flooded in the storm. The railroad had not restored power on Tuesday and had no timetable for restoring service. The Brooklyn-Battery Tunnel, officially the Hugh L. Carey Tunnel, and the Queens-Midtown Tunnel also remained impassable, he said.

Airports, too, took a beating. More than 15,000 flights were canceled, and water poured onto the runways at Kennedy International Airport and La Guardia Airport, both in Queens. Officials made plans to reopen Kennedy, the larger of the two and a major departure point for international flights, on Wednesday. Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo said La Guardia would remain closed “because of extensive damage.”

The flooding in the tunnels in Lower Manhattan was so serious that the Federal Emergency Management Agency asked specialists from the Army Corps of Engineers to help. The “unwatering team,” as it is known — two hydrologists and two mechanical engineers from the corps with experience in draining flooded areas — flew to the airport in White Plains because it was one of the few in the area that was open.

Buses began running again on Tuesday afternoon, and the mayor ordered a ride-sharing program for taxis. He said more than 4,000 yellow cabs were on the streets by Tuesday afternoon.

From southern New Jersey to the East End of Long Island to the northern suburbs in Connecticut, power companies spent Tuesday trying to figure out just how much damage the storm had done to their wires, transformers and substations.

The work will take at least a week, possibly longer, because the damage was so extensive, and utility companies called in thousands of crews from all around the country to help out. Consolidated Edison reached to San Francisco to bring in 150 workers from Pacific Gas and Electric.

Even with the additional manpower, Con Edison said it could still take more than 10 days to complete the repairs. Con Edison had more than 285,000 customers in Manhattan who were in the dark on Tuesday, and more than 185,000 in Westchester.

Things were worse east of New York City, where nearly one million customers of the Long Island Power Authority did not have power on Tuesday and Mr. Cuomo made clear he wanted the authority to restore power faster than it had in the past. He said it was “not O.K.” for it to take two weeks to repair lines brought down by tree limbs.

In New Jersey, Public Service Electric and Gas said it had 1.3 million electric customers in the dark, including 500,000 without power because a surge in Newark Bay flooded substations and other equipment. Another New Jersey utility, Jersey Central Power and Light, whose territory covers many shore towns, said almost all of its customers had lost power in some counties, including Ocean and Monmouth. More than one-third of Connecticut Light and Power’s 1.2 million customers had no electricity, either.

The fire in Breezy Point, Queens, leveled scores of houses, among them one that belonged to Representative Bob Turner, who was riding out the storm at home despite the mayor’s order to evacuate low-lying areas. Mr. Turner’s spokeswoman, Jessica Proud, said he and his wife made it out safely after flames reached their house. Michael R. Long, the chairman of the state Conservative Party, had a home nearby that also burned down, she said.

Flooded streets in the area prevented firefighters from reaching the blaze, a Fire Department spokesman said, and the mayor, who toured the area on Tuesday afternoon, said the neighborhood was devastated.

“To describe it as looking like pictures we have seen at the end of World War II is not overstating it,” the mayor said.

The off-duty officer who drowned in his basement was identified as Artur Kasprzak, 28, who was assigned to the First Precinct in Manhattan. He had led seven relatives upstairs to the attic as the water rose in his house on Doty Avenue on Staten Island. He said he was going to check the basement and would be right back. About 20 minutes later, one of his relatives called 911 and said he was missing.

A rescue team with boats and motorized water scooters tried to answer the call but could not reach the house at first because power lines were in the water. His body was found shortly before sunrise.

AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now!,, The War and Peace Report. I’m Amy Goodman. We’re broadcasting from Freeport, Illinois. But on the East Coast, one million people remain without power across 15 states following Hurricane Sandy, one of the most devastating storms to ever hit the eastern United States. Storm’s death toll has reached 55 in the United States and is expected to rise. The storm also killed at least 69 people in the Caribbean, including 51 people in Haiti.

In New York state, 90 percent of Long Island remains in the dark, as does Lower Manhattan and other parts of the city. Democracy Now!'s studio in Manhattan has been without power for 36 hours. In New Jersey, 65 percent of homes and businesses are without power. Large sections of the Jersey Shore have been destroyed. New York City's subway shutdown remains shut down after suffering its worst-ever disaster. The chair of the Metropolitan Transit Authority said, quote, "The New York City subway system is 108 years old, but it has never faced a disaster as devastating as what we experienced." The storm also caused one of the worst fires in New York City’s history. A hundred eleven homes were destroyed and 20 more were damaged in the neighborhood of Breezy Point, Queens.

The storm also forced three nuclear reactors offline: Nine Mile Point unit 1 near Syracuse, New York; Indian Point unit 3 just north of New York City; and the Salem plant’s unit 1 on the Delaware River in New Jersey. Meanwhile, officials declared an alert at Oyster Creek in New Jersey.

The Appalachian Mountains, the storm produced massive amounts of snowfall. Parts of West Virginia are now under two feet of snow.

We’re going to, in a few minutes, go to Suzanne Goldenberg, the environment correspondent of The Guardian newspaper. She’s been reporting on the storm from New Jersey. But first we’re going to Washington, D.C., where we are joined by Brenda Ekwurzel. We urge you to keep on listening and watching. Brenda Ekwurzel is the assistant director of climate research and analysis at the Union of Concerned Scientists.

Brenda, welcome to Democracy Now! Can you talk about this storm, what it means and the significance of climate change when it comes to this superstorm?

BRENDA EKWURZEL: Sure. What was very important with this storm, Sandy, is it was charting through waters heading north in above-normal sea surface temperature conditions, and that allowed it to thrive as a hurricane. So by the time it made landfall on New Jersey, it was still a Category 1 hurricane, which means warm waters are fueling this hurricane so that it has much higher wind potential, which is far more damaging to people who have structures that are in the path of the hurricane.

AMY GOODMAN: You know—

BRENDA EKWURZEL: The other factor is that the warmer atmosphere can hold more water vapor, and so there’s vast tracts of the United States on the Eastern Seaboard and all over, all the way up to Chicago and other places up to Maine, Florida, that had torrential rainstorms that were sustained. So that means that you can uproot trees, and they are more easily to be blown over, because you’ve saturated the soils, and they increase the water levels. What’s different from Hurricane Irene is, luckily, in some parts of the United States, we have less soil saturation compared to the situations with Hurricane Irene, which caused massive flooding in Vermont and other places. And so, there are some places like Pennsylvania where the conditions were wet, but other parts of the United States that were a little drier and needed some rain. But this is such a situation where the warmer atmosphere, the warmer oceans, are something that helped power this particular hurricane.

AMY GOODMAN: Yet, Brenda, why is it, with the 100 percent coverage of the—of the hurricane on the networks—I mean, as it should be—we almost never hear reference to the words "climate change"? Brenda, if you—did you hear my question, the question of why we never hear reference to the words "climate change"?

We are talking to Brenda Ekwurzel. She is with the Union of Concerned Scientists. I’m actually speaking to you from Freeport, Illinois, from an encampment set up by workers across the street from their plant that will soon be closing, their jobs being sent off to China. The company, Sensata, is owned by Bain Capital. And for the second half of the broadcast, we’re going to be bringing you that information.

AMY GOODMAN: We continue our coverage of Hurricane Sandy. The Nuclear Regulatory Commission has acknowledged the massive storm could impact coastal and inland nuclear plants. At least 16 plants are in the storm’s projected path, including North Anna and Surry in Virginia; Calvert Cliffs in Maryland; Hope Creek and Salem in New Jersey; Indian Point in New York; Millstone in Connecticut. So far, there have been no reports of reactors shutting down, despite operating under licenses that require them to do so if weather conditions are too severe.
The Nuclear Regulatory Commission met on Sunday to discuss the precautions needed to secure vulnerable plants during the storm. Spokeswoman Diane Screnci said, quote, "They’re all designed to withstand the natural phenomena, including hurricanes and what comes with hurricanes—high winds, high water, that kind of thing."
Well, for more, we go now to Burlington, Vermont, to speak with Arnie Gundersen, former nuclear industry senior vice president who has coordinated projects at 70 nuclear power plants around the country, now chief engineer at Fairewinds Associates.
Arnie Gundersen, welcome to Democracy Now! Talk about what you’re concerned about.
ARNIE GUNDERSEN: Yeah, thanks for having me. The key here is that when a uranium atom splits, that only gives off about 95 percent of the power, so when these plants shut down, 5 percent of the power is still going to come out of the power plants after they’re shut down. I think the industry should preemptively shut down plants in the storm’s wake, but it’s not going to solve the entire problem. It’s really likely that the grid, the electric grid that’s out there, will collapse, and these plants will become islands, electric islands, and they’ll have to rely on their diesel generators to provide power. A bunch of these plants are in refuelings right now. And when you’re in a refueling outage, you are not required to have all your diesels running. You can be tearing apart one and only have one diesel available. So the concern is that, should they lose offsite power, all of this heat needs to be removed, and you’re relying on just one diesel to keep the nuclear reactor cool.
AMY GOODMAN: Can you talk about what you feel needs to happen right now? And talk about nuclear power plants in Connecticut, in Vermont, your main concern.
ARNIE GUNDERSEN: Yeah. The biggest problem, as I see it right now, is the Oyster Creek plant, which is on Barnegat Bay in New Jersey. That appears to be right about the center of the storm. Oyster Creek is the same design, but even older than Fukushima Daiichi unit 1. It’s in a refueling outage. That means that all the nuclear fuel is not in the nuclear reactor, but it’s over in the spent fuel pool. And in that condition, there’s no backup power for the spent fuel pools. So, if Oyster Creek were to lose its offsite power—and, frankly, that’s really likely—there would be no way cool that nuclear fuel that’s in the fuel pool until they get the power reestablished. Nuclear fuel pools don’t have to be cooled by diesels per the old Nuclear Regulatory Commission regulations. I hope the Nuclear Regulatory Commission changes that and forces the industry to cool its nuclear fuel pools, as well.
This time of year, there’s a lot of power plants in refueling outages. And all of those plants will be in a situation where there’s no fuel in the nuclear reactor; it’s all in the fuel pool. Systems have been shut down to be maintained, including diesels, perhaps even completely dismantled. And in the event that there’s a loss of offsite power from the high winds from this hurricane, we will see the water in the fuel pools begin to heat up.
AMY GOODMAN: Neil Sheehan, a representative of the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, said, "These plants have to be able to withstand all sorts of natural phenomena: earthquakes, severe flooding, tropical storms, lightning storms, tornadoes. They need to be able to deal with all of that. We like to say they’re very robust structures, they can deal with a lot of punishment, but at the same time they have procedures in place to guide them through this." So then, Arnie Gundersen, what is your concern?
ARNIE GUNDERSEN: You know, this isn’t like—like the Big Bad Wolf. They can huff and puff, and they won’t blow this plant down, especially a hurricane that’s only 85-mile-an-hour winds. It’s not a question of the winds from this hurricane blowing the plant down. It’s a question of the loss of offsite power. That’s exactly what happened after Fukushima Daiichi. The earthquake destroyed the offsite power. At that point, the nuclear plant relies on its diesels. And my big concern is diesel reliability and the fact that nuclear plants don’t have to cool their nuclear fuel pools off their diesels per NRC regulations. I think those are the two big concerns for Hurricane Sandy.
AMY GOODMAN: Tell us what’s happening in Vermont. Tell us what’s happening with Vermont Yankee, Arnie Gundersen, a plant you know well.
ARNIE GUNDERSEN: Yeah. Irene hit Vermont Yankee pretty hard. And we are expecting a little less rain from Sandy than we were from Irene. What was interesting—talk about the law of unanticipated consequences—there was so much flooding in Vermont that large gas canisters that people had in their backyard to heat their homes or heat their trailer parks or to heat their barbecues went floating down the Connecticut River and bumped into a hydroelectric dam, which is just south of Vermont Yankee. And the state police actually blocked off the road heading into Vermont Yankee because they were afraid all the hydrogen in those canisters was likely to explode. Now, that’s not in the design bases of a nuclear plant. Nobody ever thought that we’d have to worry about explosive gases floating down rivers by our nuclear plants and potentially causing damage. Here in Vermont, I think we’ll have a less severe event near our nuclear plant than we had last year, but it really depends on the degree of the flooding.
AMY GOODMAN: What are the most important issues we can learn from Fukushima right now in the United States? And how does climate change fit in with both, Arnie Gundersen?
ARNIE GUNDERSEN: Well, climate change has affected nuclear plants this year. Quite a few had to reduce power in the summer because river flow rates had dropped and there wasn’t enough water to cool them. And that happened in France and around the world, as well. So we portray nuclear power as a way to eliminate climate change, but in fact we need to solve climate change before we can have nuclear power plants, because there’s just not enough cooling water to cool these plants in the event of hot summers.
Well now, in the fall, and the lesson from Daiichi, is that the nuclear fuel pools are a major liability. There’s more nuclear—more cesium in the fuel pool at Vermont Yankee than was ever exploded in all of the 700 above-ground bomb testing. I think the most important lesson we can take out of the Fukushima Daiichi and climate change, and especially with Hurricane Sandy, is that we can’t expect to cool these fueling pools. We need to remove the fuel. We need to put it in dry casks and get it down from these high fuel pools, get it down onto the ground in dry cask storage. The Nuclear Regulatory Commission is not insisting on that, because it’s going to cost a couple billion dollars for the industry.
AMY GOODMAN: Arnie Gundersen, I want to turn south for a moment to Patrick Elie.


AMY GOODMAN: "Global Warming’s Terrifying New Math." That’s the name of a Rolling Stone piece that’s written by Bill McKibben. He is the co-founder and director of He joins us now from Vermont.
Bill, welcome to Democracy Now! Talk about global warming, where it stands today, what needs to be done.
BILL McKIBBEN: Well, look, we’re really seeing this summer, around the world, despite what Dr. Muller was peddling a minute ago, what climate change looks like in its early stages. And it’s been a pretty scary summer, not just here in this country, where we’re seeing epic heat and drought, but up on Greenland, maybe the most important place in the world where the science and the actualities of what’s going on are sort of clearer day by day by day. We’re seeing record melt. We’re seeing snow turning to water and soaking up more of the sun’s heat. It’s been a ragged summer.
And the point of this piece in Rolling Stone, which, oddly enough, though it’s fairly mathematical, has gone kind of viral, the point of it is we now know enough to know what the future holds unless we change fast. The piece points out that scientists have long told us that if we want to stay below two degrees warming, which is what the—every government in the world, even the most conservative, have adopted as the bottom line, we can only burn 565 more gigatons of carbon. Unfortunately, a new analysis by a bunch of U.K. financial analysts showed that the fossil fuel industry and those countries that kind of operate like the fossil fuel industry—you know, Venezuela or Kuwait—have in their reserves 2,795 gigatons of carbon in their coal and gas and oil. That’s still below ground, but economically it’s essentially above ground. They’re borrowing money against it. Their share prices are based on it. Unless we change things very dramatically, it’s going to get burned, and we are going to overwhelm the climate system. And so—
AMY GOODMAN: Bill McKibben, your—
BILL McKIBBEN: —we’re going to need to stand up to that industry. I mean, that’s the bottom line.
AMY GOODMAN: Your assessment of Dr. Muller’s "conversion," as he describes it, now saying that global warming is human-caused, and what he said?
BILL McKIBBEN: It’s scientifically not very interesting, because, you know, most scientists figured it out 20 years ago, and all he’s done is confirm their work. Politically, it’s interesting because we’re reaching the point where even the kind of industry-funded deniers can’t, with a straight face, say that it’s not warming. In fact, CEO—Exxon CEO Rex Tillerson, two weeks ago, probably more importantly, said, "Yes, forget all the things that my predecessors have said about how global warming was a hoax. Global warming is real, and we’re causing it."
He then went on to say, "But it’s an engineering problem with engineering solutions." And the example that he gave was, if we need to move our crop production areas, we will. By crop production areas, I think he means what the rest of us call farms. And if you look at an atlas, there’s really not a lot of room to move them. You can’t take an Iowa cornfield, where we’re not going to grow any corn this year because of the heat and drought, and somehow transplant it up to the melting Arctic tundra, because when you get up there, there is no soil. What needs to be adapted is not our crop production areas. What needs to be adapted are the business plans of the fossil fuel industry. They need to stop exploring for more hydrocarbons. They need to stop warping our democracy by buying off the House and the Senate. And instead, we need to put a—I mean, the most obvious thing to do, what every economist now for 20 years has been saying—
AMY GOODMAN: Five seconds.
BILL McKIBBEN: —is put a stiff price on carbon to reflect the damage that it does. And that’s one of the things we work on at
AMY GOODMAN: We want to thank you very much, Bill McKibben, for being with us. We’ll link to your piece at Rolling Stone.

AMY GOODMAN: We turn now to a story making headlines in the science world. One of the country’s most prominent global warming skeptics has openly admitted he was wrong. Over the weekend, Richard Muller, a professor of physics at the University of California, Berkeley, wrote an op-ed for the New York Times titled "The Conversion of a Climate-Change Skeptic."
Dr. Muller began the piece by writing, quote, "Call me a converted skeptic. Three years ago I identified problems in previous climate studies that, in my mind, threw doubt on the very existence of global warming. Last year, following an intensive research effort involving a dozen scientists, I concluded that global warming was real and that the prior estimates of the rate of warming were correct. I’m now going a step further: Humans are almost entirely the cause."
Richard Muller’s admission has gained additional attention because some of his research has been funded by Charles Koch of the Koch brothers, the right-wing billionaires known for funding climate skeptic groups like the Heartland Institute. Richard Muller is the author of the newly published book, Energy for Future Presidents: The Science Behind the Headlines.
Welcome to Democracy Now!, Professor Muller. Talk about your change.
RICHARD MULLER: Well, I felt there were legitimate issues that had not been addressed. There’s the whole issue of climate change and whether hurricanes are increasing and so on, but the most solid evidence was the temperature data, and questions had been raised. The stations that were used were of poor quality. Could that be addressed? Could you use such data? There were issues that prior groups had highly selected the data—in the U.K., using only 5 to 7 percent of the data, here in the U.S., only 20 percent of the stations. It was a concern whether they had picked stations that showed warming and not the others. There were other issues, too, about the influence of urban heat islands. Cities get warmer, but that’s not the greenhouse effect. So, is that—how do we estimate the greenhouse effect? And there was the data adjustment and then the huge computer programs that they used to make the attribution to humans. All of these things deeply concerned me, and I could not get the answers in a satisfactory way.
As a scientist, on such an important issue, I felt it was my duty to be what I would call properly skeptical. And the only way to answer this was to put together a program. So, we gathered together a group of truly eminent scientists, so people who are really good at analyzing data. These include Art Rosenfeld, who’s a hero in the energy conservation field, and Saul Perlmutter, who actually last December, after working on our project for a year, over a year, was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics, not for work he was doing for us but for prior work he had done in astrophysics.
So, it began to come together about a year ago. We were able to show that the poor station quality, although it affected the temperature measurements, didn’t affect the temperature changes. We were able to use 100 percent of the data, not the 20 percent that others had used. We found that data selection bias didn’t affect things. We looked at the urban heat island. It came together. We concluded that global warming was indeed real.
But then, about three to six months ago, thanks largely to the effort of a brilliant young scientist named Robert Rohde, who we hired to do and use the best possible statistics in order to be able to use all the data, he was able to push our record back to 1753. That’s before the American Revolution. That’s back when the measurements in the U.S. were being made by Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Jefferson. With that long record, we could look for the fingerprints. We could see how much was due to volcanoes, how much was due to ocean currents, how much was due to the variability of the sun. We could do this much better than people had done before.
And I’ve got to admit, I was shocked when I saw the results. There was short-time—short-term variability that was due to volcanoes, essentially nothing due to the solar variation. Theoretically, that’s not too surprising, but I was surprised nonetheless. But the remaining curve, the rise in that curve, was dead on to human production of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases. At that point, the data had led me to a conclusion I would not have expected a few years earlier.
AMY GOODMAN: And what has been the response of your colleagues, those who, like you, have been skeptical for so long?
RICHARD MULLER: Well, I don’t expect people to say, "Oh, Muller has changed his mind, therefore I do." What we’ve done is, I think, an exceptional level of transparency. We have five detailed scientific papers, which we have placed online. These have all been submitted to peer-reviewed journals. We have put all of the data online. We’ve put all of our computer programs online, along with a lot of supplemental information that your watchers and listeners might like. If you go to, you’ll find—you can look up the temperature record in your hometown or your home state. But by putting this online, we have a transparency where people who think we did something wrong can find, well, this is your assumption right on this line here, this is what we don’t like. And our responses is, OK, change it, see if it makes a difference, or we can change it for you and see if it makes a difference. So, this is, I think—the wonderful thing about science is that it’s that narrow realm of knowledge on which we expect to achieve universal agreement.
I believe that some of the—most of the skeptics—there were some deniers who refuse to pay any attention to the science, but many of the skeptics recognized there were valid problems with the data. And we have now directly addressed those. So my hope is that as they study our work, that they will recognize that we did address these in the proper way, and that now the—now we can agree on the science. How you address this, what you do on the international arena, is a separate question.
AMY GOODMAN: I want to ask you about the role of Congress in the climate debate, Dr. Muller. On Wednesday, the Senate held its first hearing on the topic in more than two years. The Republican-controlled House has turned down 15 requests from Democrats for a similar hearing. Senator Barbara Boxer, of course Democrat of California, your state, who chairs the Environment and Public Works Committee, opened the session.
SEN. BARBARA BOXER: Colleagues, climate change is real. Human activities are the primary cause, and the warming planet poses a significant risk to people and the environment. I believe to declare otherwise is putting the American people in direct danger. The body of evidence is overwhelming. The world’s leading scientists agree, and predictions of climate change impacts are coming true before our eyes. The purpose of this hearing is to share with the committee the mountain of scientific evidence that has increased substantially over time—time that I believe we should have used to reduce carbon pollution, the main cause of climate change.

AMY GOODMAN: What is your message, particularly to Republican lawmakers like Senator Inhofe? And were you consulting with them before your conversion?
RICHARD MULLER: Oh, yes, I’ve met with both the Republicans and the Democrats and explained things to them. I’ve been asked to come several times to Washington, D.C. The message, however, is not an easy one, and I find nobody really likes my message, neither the Republicans nor the Democrats.
My new message is there are two things that must be done if we’re going to stop this. There are many things you can do. We each can do our part. You know, we can get higher-mileage automobiles and all that kind of stuff. But from the world point of view, there are only two big things that can be done. One of them is an extensive program in energy conservation and energy efficiency. This is absolutely essential, and there are huge gains to be made. The fact is, energy efficiency and conservation are profitable. And that’s really important, because, unfortunately, most of the global warming, most of the carbon dioxide, is going to be coming not from the U.S. but from China. Anything we do must be something that can be emulated and followed in China. Electric cars, for example, don’t do any good. If a Chinese person switched from a gasoline car to an electric car, he would wind up producing more carbon dioxide, because that electricity is coming from coal, and that’s worse than gasoline. So, we have to do things that will have an impact.
The other thing we need to do is—and this is one where, unfortunately, a lot of my Democrat friends have a knee-jerk reaction against it, but I think it’s essential—we have to get the Chinese to convert, to move over, get away from coal into a natural gas economy. By the end of this year, China will be producing twice the carbon dioxide of the United States, and whereas our carbon dioxide is going down, their carbon dioxide is shooting up. So it will get worse and worse. Natural gas produces only one-third of the carbon dioxide that does coal. And the coal chokes their citizens, too. Now, in the U.S., a lot of people say, "Oh, fracking is bad. It’s dirty," which is true, "and it’s a fossil fuel." Well, China can’t afford—will not be able to afford massive solar and massive wind for several decades. In the meantime, soon they’ll be producing more carbon dioxide per person than we are. So, we have to help them, expedite them switch over to natural gas, that has one-third of the emissions of carbon dioxide. Anything we do in the U.S., if we ignore China, is not really addressing the problem.
AMY GOODMAN: That’s Marc Morano, publisher of Climate Depot, run by the website—the climate denier group Committee for a Constructive Tomorrow. Dr. Muller, your response?
RICHARD MULLER: Well, I think that in opposing any—joining the Kyoto agreement, President Obama recognized that the non-involvement of China made our participation—would not have done much. At Copenhagen, President Obama went there to try to get the Chinese involved. He insisted on having inspections, because the Chinese rate of growth, they’ve averaged 10 percent growth over the last 20 years. That growth is so enormous that they are going to dominate the global warming—global warming of the future. And if they wouldn’t even allow us to inspect, then we can’t do—if we were, in the United States, to cut back to zero—ridiculous, but let’s say we cut back to zero emissions—within three-and-a-half to four years, the emissions would be back where they were just from the growth of China. So I think President Obama has done the right thing in insisting that China must be involved.
In the proposed Copenhagen treaty, they were going to slow their growth to 6 percent per year rather than cut it to zero. And even at that, they would be surpassing us. So I think he’s done the right thing. Now, what we need to do, I believe, is to—we need a presidential program, a national program, in which we will share our technology. No, we don’t want dirty fracking in China any more than we want it here, but we can make it clean. It’s just a matter of using the technology to assure that it will be clean, that it won’t cause earthquakes and so on. That, as a technical problem, is not that difficult. We need to share our technology with them to help them switch away from coal, which is what is going to be responsible for the global warming of the future.

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