The Beacon

Blog Tags: Climate Change

Blog Action Day: The (Offshore) Winds of Change

Today is Blog Action Day, and this year’s theme couldn’t be more relevant to us and all you fantastic ocean activists: water.

Water is also an especially poignant theme given the timing. Next Wednesday is the six-month anniversary of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. The spill dominated the news -- and this blog -- for several months, and nobody’s sure what the long-term effects will be on gulf ecosystems.

And yet, just a few days ago, the Obama administration lifted the moratorium on deepwater oil drilling several weeks earlier than planned, and several months before the release of studies about the effects of the oil spill on the gulf.

As Oceana’s pollution campaign director Jackie Savitz said of the decision, “This is an incredibly disconcerting and unjustified move, that could open the door for the next great oil disaster. Oil spills are common. The question is not whether there will be another spill but when.”

But not all the news the past few months has been negative. Yes, the gulf has endured the worst environmental crisis in our nation’s history, but there are signs of hope. Momentum on offshore wind power is building, for one thing.


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Walruses Forced Ashore by Melting Sea Ice

As DailyKos and the New York Times reported yesterday, melting sea ice has forced more than 10,000 walruses ashore in the Alaskan Arctic. Normally they rest on ice floes in the summer, periodically diving for food.

And this isn’t the first time. In fact, this is the third time in the last four years that the walruses have alarmingly turned into landlubbers.

The future isn’t looking good for this ice-loving lumberer, unless we take action to stop climate change and protect the Arctic from further catastrophic warming.


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Climate Bill Wilts; Planet Gets Hotter

For those of us who had been holding out hope for a comprehensive bill that would curb U.S. climate emissions and promote renewable energy, disappointment and frustration have officially set in.

The Senate has scrapped plans for an attempt to push through a climate bill this summer.

This is especially disturbing because the proposals being considered were designed to meet the industry halfway by using market-based solutions that allow companies to reduce emissions in the way that they believe is most cost-effective. This approach diverges from the approaches used before in the Clean Water and Clean Air Acts, for example. But industry still shot it down. 

Sadly, this is a classic example of “political reality” versus “real reality”.


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Oil Spill Quote of the Day

From today’s Washington Post:

"People's outrage is focused on BP," [Anthony] Leiserowitz said. The spill "hasn't been automatically connected to some sense that there's something more fundamental wrong with our relationship with the natural world," he said.

 [Leiserowitz tracks public opinion on environmental issues at Yale University.]


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Senate Rejects 'Dirty Air Act'

Today, the Senate stood up for our environment, clean air and scientific decision-making by beating back a resolution from Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) that would have undercut the Environmental Protection Agency’s authority to regulate greenhouse gases.  

As oil continues to gush into the Gulf of Mexico, this resolution would have given Big Oil free reign to continue polluting while tying EPA’s hands from taking any action. 


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New Climate Bill Bribes States, Risks Coastlines

Yesterday, Senators John Kerry and Joe Lieberman unveiled their climate change bill. As you know, the U.S.’s consideration of any climate change legislation is historic – but in the light of the Deepwater Drilling Disaster, the senators’ proposal leaves me dismayed.

The “American Power Act” trades away our oceans to the oil industry even as at least 5,000 barrels of oil continue to gush from the broken Deepwater Horizon pipeline every day.  Here’s the first released video of the broken pipeline spewing oil:


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Sam Waterston Testifies on Ocean Acidification

Oil isn’t the only pollutant pouring into the oceans these days. There’s another big one, only it’s much more insidious and widespread: carbon dioxide.

Today Oceana board member and actor Sam Waterston will be on Capitol Hill urging Congress to take action to stop ocean acidification.

Last year, Congress passed the Federal Oceans Acidification Research and Monitoring Act, which created an ocean acidification program in the federal government. Waterston will call on Congress to fully fund and implement the program.


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Aaron Peirsol Joins Climate Rally

aaron peirsol

On Sunday, amid performances by the Roots, Passion Pit and John Legend, Oceana spokeswimmer Aaron Peirsol spoke at the Earth Day Climate Rally on the National Mall here in Washington.

Ocean acidification is a real threat, as is overfishing,” he told the crowd. “New drilling must be forestalled while other invaluable, sustainable alternatives such as wind energy adopted. Today, I'm helping here by speaking and partnering with the ocean conservation group Oceana.

Together, we created Race for the Oceans, an open water swimming event that raises money and awareness toward ocean conservation. We also created Racefortheoceans.org, an online forum for swimmers and conservationists alike.”


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Offshore Drilling at Any Cost?

The latest accident on the Deepwater Horizon offshore drilling rig couldn't have come at a more significant time for the efforts to pass comprehensive climate change and energy legislation. With Senate plans to expand and even incentivize offshore drilling, this accident serves as a reminder of how costly offshore drilling truly is.

Despite advances in drilling technology and all of the precautions made, drilling is a high risk business and even the newest technology cannot prevent all spills. Fires, explosions and accidents are more common than they would like you to believe. New technology advances have pushed the envelope for drilling efforts. Expanding drilling activities into these “frontier” areas only increases the risk.

Take away for the moment the immediate danger to personnel on the rigs and look at the potential environmental and economic costs to coastal towns relying on fishing and tourism. Oceana's federal policy director, Beth Lowell discussed the dangers last night on NBC Nightly News:

Visit msnbc.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy


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Gulf Coast Dodges a Bullet... for Now

Deepwater Horizon rig fire

Battling the fire on Deepwater Horizon. Photo: US Coast Guard

A sad and ironic post for the day after Earth Day – the Gulf of Mexico offshore oil rig that caught fire on Tuesday and sank yesterday is still a serious concern for  the Coast Guard, NOAA and potentially for dozens of endangered species.

The Coast Guard continues to search for the missing 11 crew members while cleanup efforts have begun. An oily sheen covers the water where the rig used to stand, probably related to the fire and onboard activity as the rig sank. While it is contained for now, BP Vice President David Rainey said "it certainly has the potential to be a major spill." BP PLC operates the license on which the rig was drilling.


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