Al Gore has no apologies for his climate campaign

Well, kids, the good news is that KUOW did squeeze in one of the questions I had for Al Gore today.

The bad news is that it was my least-favorite question for the VP-turned-green-crusader. But still, it's apparently the one on many journalists' minds, as my friends and colleagues Tim Wheeler of the Baltimore Sun and Matt Preusch of The Oregonian both wondered about it. Here's what I asked Gore in a pre-recorded question for his live appearace on The Conversation with Ross Reynolds:

Polls recently have shown increases in the number of Americans who don’t climate change is a problem, and those who don’t think it’s a serious problem. Could you be partly at fault? What do you say about the criticism that by becoming such a lightning rod for criticism from the industries that seek to downplay the threat of climate change, you may be doing more harm than good to your cause?

I thought my other proposed questions were more important, but this one made the cut. Here's a slightly shortened version of Gore's really, really long answer:

Well I hope not... My last book on this subject was "An Inconvenient Truth"  and the truth about the climate crisis is (that) it is seen as inconvenient by the big carbon polluters.

I think the net benefit of telling the truth as best I can and arousing public concern and raising public awareness of what is at stake, it is a useful way for me to spend my time and I am doing the best job I can at it...

I do think that the recent poll you talked about may be something of an outlier and it does depend on how you ask the question.

This is a topic we could spend a lot of time on  and we don’t have enought time to do it justice. But very briefly, Ross, if you ask people about the climate crisis -- Are you concerned about it? Do you think it’s real (and) manmade? Should we do something about it? -- very solid majorities, approaching two-thirds, always respond yes.

U.S.-China climate pact: Why so late? We try to ask Al Gore (with a little help from KUOW)

The news today on the climate front is a pretty big honkin' deal: President Obama, on a visit to China, signed an agreement with China calling for the United States to offer a proposal for near-term cuts in greenhouse gases. In return, China will say what it plans to do about not frying the planet to kingdom come.

(I know: It doesn't sound earth-shattering. But it's a big enough deal that it's currently topping Google News. You have to realize that China and America are No. 1 and No. 2 in the list of the world's biggest emitters of greenhouse gases.)

If you want more on today's developments, I recommend Jake Schmidt's piece over at grist.org.

But here at Dateline Earth, I can't help but ask: Why didn't the Clinton-Gore administration convince China to show such good faith? At the time of the signing of the Kyoto Protocol, even some members of the U.S. delegation to the climate talks knew that selling the deal to the U.S. Senate meant convincing senators it would spawn expanding alternative-energy industry that would make money for Americans.  (At least in part by selling the stuff to China.)

Yes, the global political and economic scene was different then. But it seems the idea that Americans might benefit to some degree had to be sold. And then an R&D rampup had to happen. But it wasn't. And it didn't.

In fact, I may actually get to ask Al Gore about this, courtesy of the good folks at KUOW, the public radio news-and-information station. Gore, the leader of the American delegation to the 1997 Kyoto talks, is appearing from noon to 1 p.m. Wednesday on The Conversation with Ross Reynolds. (It's at 94.9* FM if you're here in Rain City.

Feds dump mine waste in Idaho flood plain

The Northwest News Network produced this fantastic story for KUOW News about how the federal stimulus package has sped up the disposal of arsenic- and lead-contaminated mine spoils on a flood plain off I-90 in Northern Idaho.

The East Mission Flats Repository is a Superfund site designated by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to receive the remains of Idaho's toxic mining history despite being in a floodplain inundated just last year.  Community groups are concerned that the area will flood again, spreading more toxic metals into state waters.

The pile of waste will stand up to 34 feet high within view from where Idaho's oldest building stands in the Old Mission State Park, sacred to both the Coeur d'Alene Indians and the Jesuits.

Public lands swapped for private profit

KUOW 94.9 FM recently aired a story -- reported by yours truly -- about a controversial land exchange in Port Ludlow on the Olympic Peninsula. 

The Washington state Department of Natural Resources wants to trade thick forests  around Port Ludlow for Pope Resources clearcuts in the Olympic foothills. 

The story spotlights the Port Ludlow exchange, which is one small part of a larger DNR strategy under fire from conservationists and citizens, as detailed by a longer Web version of the KUOW story.

The Washington state DNR manages 5.6 million acres of public property, including forests, grasslands, croplands, aquatic and commercial land.   But the agency also gets rid of public forests via land exchanges with private companies. 

The DNR's state-wide strategy pulls public ownership -- and protection --from scattered lowland forests at risk of redevelopment due to nearby urban or highway sprawl.  In return, the DNR accepts swathes of timberland higher up in the mountains;  the buffers between the land and development pressures make it easy for the DNR to create big parcels of land for future timber harvests.

While the trades reduce the DNR's management costs, they also allow older growth public forests to be rezoned and redeveloped for private profit -- at a time when school, state and county budgets are hurting.  The state's Constitution mandates that the DNR revenues produced by selling the public's natural resources -- such as timber or shellfish -- support public schools, state institutions, and county services. 

Though the DNR's land has belonged to the public since sta