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Tom Turner's blog

The current issue of the venerable Columbia Journalism Review has a fascinating cover story that goes some way toward explaining why people's understanding of climate change is so, well, skimpy, if not downright biased or wrong. It all has to do with your local TV weatherman or –woman.

This is just too delicious. The Utah House of Representatives has just passed a resolution (by 56 to 17), which declares that global warming science is a conspiracy and urges the Environmental Protection Agency to halt any and all carbon-reduction activities it may have underway and withdraw its recent “endangerment finding,” which declares that carbon dioxide is harmful to humans.

SolveClimate, where a report and commentary on this development appears, reveals that Utah gets 90 percent of its electricity from burning coal, and suggests this may not be a coincidence.

But thanks, Utah, for doing a Wizard of Oz number for us, wishing the problem away. The resolution was sent to the state senate for consideration.

Last November I blogged (blog isn't even a word and now it's a verb?) about the treadmill that Roundup and other agricultural chemicals represent. That is, no matter how slick your latest miracle chemical fix, nature will find a way around it, will evolve, in this case, better weeds to fend off the effects of the new poison.

Now a new study (heavy going unless you're a chemist), ironically funded by Monsanto itself, has confirmed the earlier findings. The Organic Center has translated the findings into English. It all seems to come down to the lesson that it's better to consider nature our friend and find ways to work cooperatively rather than think of nature as the enemy and find better ways to do battle.

Robert Byrd, the patriarch of the United States Senate, has been the champion and defender of the coal industry for decades, a staunch ally who could be depended on to look out for the interests of his constituents, many of whom work for or own coal operations.

But a massive sea change took place in early December with a statement issued by the senator, urging the coal industry to face the future, to stop blaming regulatory hurdles for its woes, to acknowledge the reality of climate change, and to get busy preparing for a lower-carbon future.

The senator, who has served nearly 57 years in the Congress, seemed particularly miffed that the coal industry had tried to persuade him and other coal-state legislators to block health-care reform unless coal got a free ride in any climate legislation, an idea the senator called "morally indefensible." He also suggested that support for mountaintop removal mining is evaporating in Washington, It's quite a statement, well worth reading, maybe saving. It's a turning point. You can read the statement, or listen to the senator reading it, here.

I just received two copies of a newsletter called Cool Foods: Countdown to Copenhagen & Beyond from the Center for Food Safety. The purpose of the effort is to remind negotiators and the public that industrial agriculture accounts for between 13.5 percent and as much as 32 percent of greenhouse gas emissions. "Particularly alarming," they write, "is that industrial agriculture is responsible for 60 percent of total global nitrous oxide emissions, largely from nitrogen fertilizer. Nitrous oxide is the deadliest of the three major GHGs, approximately 300 times more potent than carbon dioxide." And on in the same vein. Scary but vital information.

Lester Brown's Earth Policy Institute has a somewhat different take on the subject, but also provides compelling evidence and argument that climate change and agriculture are intimately linked.

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