Coal Tattoo


This just in, from NASA climate scientist James Hansen, in response to Massey Energy President Don Blankenship’s challenge to debate global warming, the coal industry and the West Virginia economy. I received this note from Dr. Hansen, who asked that I forward the information on to Blankenship … I’ve done that, and I’m sharing it with Coal Tattoo readers as well:

Dear Don,

Thanks for your offer to publicly discuss climate change, human-made global warming, and its implications for the coal industry in general and mountaintop removal in particular.  That is an excellent suggestion.  I would be glad to participate in a format that allows the public to become better acquainted with the science and its implications.

I had planned to return to a meeting in Washington immediately after the activities at your place on Tuesday, but to accommodate a public discussion, I will stay another day.  I expect that we will be able to find a school auditorium that would be well-suited for presentations and discussion.  I am scouting that out now and will get back to you with specific information.

Usually I spend close to an hour on a climate science discussion for the public, but I can shorten that to about 40 minutes, so that you can have a similar time to present your views, if you would like that much time.  You are welcome to speak either before or after me.  After we have both spoken, we can open it up for discussion with the public.

If for any reason you are unable to find time for this discussion on Wednesday, I will give my talk anyhow.  Hopefully the public will then be able to get back to you with information and questions about how your practices relate to climate, the environment, and the future that will be faced by young people and future generations.

Thanks again for your helpful suggestion.  I very much agree on the importance of reaching out to the public and increasing public understanding of scientific matters.

Jim Hansen

Stay tuned, folks … I’ll update Coal Tattoo as soon as we have any more information on how this debate is going to be worked into the schedule for tomorrow’s big protest down in the Coal River Valley.

Updated, 10:50 a.m.:

Hansen has a new commentary on Yale’s Environment 360 blog called “A Plea to President Obama: End Mountaintop Removal.”   He writes:

The Obama administration is being forced into a political compromise. It has sacrificed a strong position on mountaintop removal in order to ensure the support of coal-state legislators for a climate bill. The political pressures are very real. But this is an approach to coal that defeats the purpose of the administration’s larger efforts to fight climate change, a sad political bargain that will never get us the change we need on mountaintop removal, coal or the climate. Coal is the linchpin in mitigating global warming, and it’s senseless to allow cheap mountaintop-removal coal while the administration is simultaneously seeking policies to boost renewable energy.

Mountaintop removal, which provides a mere 7 percent of the nation’s coal, is done by clear-cutting forests, blowing the tops off of mountains, and then dumping the debris into streambeds — an undeniably catastrophic

We must make clear that we the people want a move toward a rapid phase-out of coal emissions now.

way of mining. This technique has buried more than 800 miles of Appalachian streams in mining debris and by 2012 will have serious damaged or destroyed an area larger than Delaware. Mountaintop removal also poisons water supplies and pollutes the air with coal and rock dust. Coal ash piles are so toxic and unstable that the Department of Homeland Security has declared that the location of the nation’s 44 most hazardous coal ash sites must be kept secret. They fear terrorists will find ways to spill the toxic substances. But storms and heavy rain can do the same. A recent collapse in Tennessee released 100 times more hazardous material than the Exxon-Valdez oil spill.

 If the Obama administration is unwilling or unable to stop the massive environmental destruction of historic mountain ranges and essential drinking water for a relatively tiny amount of coal, can we honestly believe they will be able to phase out coal emissions at the level necessary to stop climate change? The issue of mountaintop removal is so important that I and others concerned about this problem will engage in an act of civil disobedience on June 23rd at a mountaintop removal site in Coal River Valley, West Virginia.

… We must make clear to Congress, to the EPA, and to the Obama administration that we the people want mountaintop removal abolished and we want a move toward a rapid phase-out of coal emissions now. The time for half measures and caving in to polluting industries is over. It is time for citizens to demand — yes, we can.