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Collin Peterson

Hot enough for ya?

Yeah, it’s really hot out there.

Houston’s relentless heat wave prompted the National Weather Service today to declare a “Heat Emergency,” a designation that air temperature and humidity is a potential health threat for all people and is particularly dangerous for high-risk groups.

The emergency designation is expected to last through Friday, said Houston health department spokeswoman Kathy Barton.

Barton said the health department has accordingly invoked its heat emergency plan, which involves working with Metro to bring people to designated cooling centers, such as libraries, and generally urging people to take extra precautions to stay inside.

It is not uncommon for the weather service to declare a heat emergency in Houston, though it didn’t happen last summer. Such an emergency is declared when the heat index, a computation of air temperature and humidity, reaches 108 degrees on two more consecutive days.

The index reached 108 Wednesday and is expected to reach that level today and Friday. Houston’s actual temperature hit 104 degrees Wednesday, the hottest it’s ever gotten in June.

It’s pretty much a given that any time there’s an extra cold winter day somewhere, the global warming deniers point to it as evidence that it’s all a hoax. Here’s a recent example of that, from someone who unfortunately was in a strong position to emasculate the just-passed climate change legislation. This kind of thinking is stupid on many levels, not the least of which is that if a bit of unseasonably cold weather means global warming is a myth, then what does a record heat wave imply? Not that logic is a strong suit for the head-in-the-sand crowd, but you’d think this sort of thing might have occurred to them. Ah, well. At least so far there’s no evidence that this means a worse hurricane season is in store. I’ll take my silver linings where I can find them.

Did Tom DeLay do us a favor on climate change?

Via Yglesias, I see that one of the biggest impediments to a real solution for climate change is Minnesota Democrat Collin Peterson, who is the chair of the Agriculture Committee. This has Chris Bowers thinking outside the box.

Here is how you pressure Peterson if you are a non-partisan green group: overtly target the left-wing voters in his district during a general election. Run ads that highlight Peterson’s terrible record on climate change and the environment, with a goal of pushing left-wing voters to either stay home or vote third-party (the latter is particularly viable in Minnesota, which is one of the most pro-third party states in the entire country). Make it clear that not only don’t you care if this results in Peterson’s defeat by an even more anti-climate change candidate, but that having an even more anti-climate change candidate defeat Peterson is actually your goal.

From the perspective of a non-partisan climate change organization, a relatively powerless, more conservative anyone is preferable to a very powerful, conservative, committee-chairing Collin Peterson. This is even the case if Peterson is replaced with an even more anti-climate change member of Congress. Given the wide Democratic majority in Congress, and given the specific case of Collin Peterson, exchanging a ten-term committee chair with a freshman member of the minority party results in a net loss of conservative power over climate change legislation. Further, such a radically aggressive act of pressure would demonstrate to the new Agriculture Committee chair that environmental groups are willing to take out anyone who fraks with climate change legislation.

It’s certainly provocative, and given that Peterson’s likely successor as Ag chair is someone with a better record on environmental issues, it’s at least something to contemplate. I’m not saying I endorse this idea – there are some pretty good arguments in the comments for why this could backfire, and for why there may be better alternatives – but it does get one thinking.

What it made me think about is the alternate reality in which Tom DeLay’s redistricting scheme never happened, and Texas’ Charlie Stenholm had ascended to the Ag Committee chair after the Democratic takeover of 2006. Would Stenholm be any better on the issue than Peterson has been? One can’t say for sure, and whatever Stenholm did in the past it’s entirely possible he’d be less obstinate and in denial than Peterson has been, but his voting record doesn’t offer a whole lot of hope. Given how much ground had to be ceded to the relatively much more liberal Gene Green and Charlie Gonzalez to get them to support Waxman-Markey, it’s not hard to imagine that Stenholm would have been a fairly large obstacle as well.

If that’s the case, then my alternate reality is a more hostile place for climate change legislation, in that two powerful members of the Ag Committee could stand in its way. To effect the kind of change Bowers advocates, you’d need to remove both of them, as simply removing Stenholm would leave Peterson in place. But DeLay’s re-redistricting power play has already done the trick of taking out Stenholm, which means that however formidable Peterson is, he’s the last impediment to a better Ag Committee, and thus the task at hand is that much easier. Kind of weird to think about it that way, isn’t it? Now I’m not going to send Tom DeLay a thank-you note – even if I were inclined to actually give him credit for this, he’d never accept it. But I think it does go to show how unintended some consequences can be. Just a thought.