Today marks the passing of one of the greatest leaders and visionaries in the history of our world, Nelson Mandela. President Mandela has already been immortalized as an enduring symbol of compassion and courage. I had the honor of working with Madiba often during my time as co-chairman of the U.S.-South Africa Binational Commission. Each and every time I was with him, I was awed by his commanding yet graceful presence.
Along with hundreds of millions, I still vividly remember the day Madiba was released from Pollsmoor Prison just outside of Cape Town. My son and I were home in Nashville; the only ones awake early on a Sunday morning. We sat on the couch and watched as Madiba was set free. I remember thinking that whatever important milestones my children and grandchildren witness in the coming century, few will rival this one.
Madiba once wrote, "I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear."
We should take a moment today to bow our heads and pay our respects to an extraordinarily courageous man who truly changed the world for the better and, in the process, inspired us all.
The latest report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change is an important milestone in the study of climate science. It reaffirms the overwhelming consensus that global warming is occurring and is caused by humans. I commend the authors of this important study on their dedication and hard work.
The climate crisis is the greatest challenge humanity has ever faced. From not only the warming of the earth with higher global temperatures, but also from strengthening storms and expanding droughts to melting ice and rising seas, the costs of carbon pollution are already being felt by governments, corporations, taxpayers and families around the world. The climate crisis will affect everything that we love and alter the course of our future.
Now, more than ever, we must come together to solve this global crisis. We must act decisively, rise to the occasion and solve this monumental challenge.
It is time -- indeed overdue -- to put an economic price on carbon and a political price on denial.
Today's announcement by EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy is an important step forward for our nation and our planet. From now on, future coal- and gas-fired power plants must take responsibility for their global warming pollution by reducing or capturing their overall emissions.
This is a critical achievement for President Barack Obama and his administration. In the face of an intransigent and inactive Congress, the President has made halting the climate crisis a priority. The policies announced today, combined with the rest of the President's Climate Action Plan, will put us on the path toward solving the climate crisis, but Congress must also soon face the reality of the situation.
Three years ago, Congress failed to put a price on carbon and, in doing so, allowed global warming pollution to continue unabated. We have seen the disturbing consequences that the climate crisis has to offer—from a drought that covered 60% of our nation to Superstorm Sandy which wreaked havoc and cost the taxpayers billions, from wildfires spreading across large areas of the American West to severe flooding in cities all across our country—we have seen what happens when we fail to act. We need a price on carbon. We need it now.
Today, my dear friend and ally Lois DeBerry passed away after a long battle with cancer. A tireless public servant, Lois served the people of Tennessee with integrity and dedication for over four decades. Lois was highly-respected by her peers for her ability to forge consensus amongst ideologically divided political communities.
During my first Senate campaign, Lois became a trusted friend and adviser. Years later in 2000, I was honored when Lois agreed to deliver one of the speeches for my nomination during the Democratic National Convention. It is a moment I will never forget.
With Lois's passing, Tennessee lost one of its great leaders and visionaries. I will miss her tireless efforts on behalf of Tennesseans, her steadfast support and our longtime friendship.
This was a terrific and historic speech, by far the best address on climate by any president ever.
I applaud the new measures announced by President Barack Obama this afternoon to help solve the climate crisis – particularly the decision to limit global warming pollution from existing as well as new power plants.
Following the important pledges he made in both his inaugural address and State of the Union speech earlier this year, and the historic gains in renewable energy and fuel efficiency that the President delivered in his first term, the policy changes he announced today represent important steps forward in the battle to halt catastrophic climate disruption. Most importantly, President Obama has directed the Environmental Protection Agency to establish regulations on the amount of global warming pollution existing fossil fuel plants can pour into our atmosphere.
This action – if followed by skillful and thorough execution of the plan – has the potential to fundamentally alter the course of our nation’s energy infrastructure development and help to promote a sustainable future. On the international front, this action will bolster U.S. credibility and moral authority in negotiations with other countries.
After the country’s hottest year on record, the record melting of the arctic ice cap and disruption of the Northern Hemisphere jet stream and storm track, a crippling drought and hundreds of billions of dollars worth of damage from climate-related extreme weather events over just the past two years, we are already paying the price of carbon pollution. It is clear that bold and comprehensive action is needed now.
President Obama’s proposals are in keeping with the current political reality; inaction and denial have consumed Congress. But the climate crisis requires a new political reality: one marked by a willingness to accept solutions commensurate with the challenge.
I hope the President's speech will be followed up by a decision to make this challenge a centerpiece of his leadership during his remaining three and a half years in office. The hard truth is that the maximum that now seems politically feasible still falls short of the minimum necessary to actually solve the climate crisis. Continued and constant use of the bully pulpit, determined follow-through on the steps announced today, and additional steps in the months ahead can change the political reality and build a bipartisan consensus for the broader changes that are needed urgently.
As President Obama said today, history will judge the present generation by our success or failure in meeting and surmounting this existential challenge.
So I urge the nation to follow President Obama’s lead and take the positive steps he announced today, but to keep fighting. We’ve got a lot more work to do.
The climate crisis brought to a local level: As temperatures rise and ice melts, local communities are being forced to adapt to a new reality. Conditions and environments that could once be considered constant are now unpredictable. New York Times
This weekend’s meeting between President Obama and new Chinese President Xi Jingping is an important step forward for both countries. The two will have plenty to discuss including the state of the global economy, recent high-profile cyberattacks from Chinese government backed organizations and, of course, the climate crisis. It is crucial for both parties that progress be made to halt the rise of global temperatures. Recent announcements from China that they will initiate a carbon-pricing scheme are an important step in the right direction, but it is only a first step. Washington Post
An incredible discovery in China has altered our understanding of primate history. An ancient primate skeleton has been discovered to be 55 million years old, 8 million years older than the previous record holder. The discovery is further evidence that primates emerged shortly after the dinosaurs and originated in Asia, not Africa. The discovery brings scientists one-step closer to understanding the origins of humanity. Fascinating. NY Times
You have to see it to believe it! Scientists at the University of Minnesota have controlled a mini drone helicopter with their mind. The controller puts an EEG cap over his or her head and electrodes translate brain activity into electrical signals that control the helicopter’s flight. The potential applications are boundless: rescue drones, precision agriculture, and military reconnaissance, just to name a few. Discover Magazine
After years of exciting developments and advances, 3D printing is starting to hit the mainstream. Specifically, Ford and General Electric have integrated additive manufacturing into their manufacturing processes. By "printing" components, these companies have been able to cut their costs by saving on material inputs and labor, while also allowing greater customization. Brings up profound questions for the future of labor. Wall Street Journal
America lost a great leader this week in Senator Frank Lautenberg. At the time of his death, Senator Lautenberg was leading the charge on reforming the Toxic Substances Control Act of 1976. Surprisingly, and disturbingly, the United States's current regulatory framework on toxic chemicals is woefully inadequeate. While Americans are exposed to thousands of potentially toxic chemicals on a daily basis—even in the womb—the Environmental Protection Agency regulates only five! Senator Lautenberg’s proposal included a provision to require companies to prove that a chemical is safe before it can be sold. The United States Congress should honor the memory of Senator Frank Lautenberg by passing this long overdue, commonsense regulatory reform. Houston Chronicle
Big polluters are trying to shirk their responsibility and block efforts to make them pay for their reckless pollution of the atmosphere. With stronger storms, bigger droughts, widespread flooding and scorching wildfires, we’re already paying the price OF carbon. Now it’s time to put on a price ON carbon. Guardian
Thousands forced to flee their homes as flooding surges across Central Europe. Unless we act immediately to slow the rise of global temperatures, this type of event will become more frequent. Climate Progress
Fascinating presentation from Mary Meeker at Kleiner Perkins on the state of global Internet trends. Presentation
It was with great sadness that I learned of the passing of my dear friend Senator Frank Lautenberg. A stalwart of the Senate, Frank's dedication to his country and his constituents was unparalleled. Frank was a champion of the middle class, a relentless warrior for all those in need. As a fearless defender of our environment, Frank helped bring the climate crisis into the mainstream while simultaneously promoting clean energy for a sustainable future. He was a source of wisdom and guidance to all, no matter their side of the aisle.
My heart and prayers are with his family today. May he rest in peace.
New study finds that the climate crisis is critically endangering the habitat of 57% of plant species and 34% of animals. The good news? We can prevent this catastrophic loss of habitat and species by promptly reducing our emissions.
In 2004, Naomi Oreskes conducted a landmark survey that showed near unanimous agreement among scientists that humans were the cause of global warming. Just this week, a new paper was published that confirms this finding. 97% of surveyed papers confirm that recent global warming is human caused. The Guardian
Global warming is already affecting fish catch around the world. While the United States is currently insulated from these changes due to our vast import market, it’s only a matter of time before we see the change in our supermarkets, and feel the pain in our pockets. NPR
Senator Sheldon Whitehouse continues to be a powerful and important voice for environmental protection in an otherwise unproductive Congress. Please take a moment to watch his speech: Huffington Post
In reverse of a 60-year trend, people (especially young people) are driving less. There are multiple drivers of this change, but it is an important shift on the path towards reducing our carbon emissions. Change is coming. New York Times
Scientists and medical researchers are in the early stages of understanding the microbiome—the complex network of microbial species that live on and within our bodies that encode 99 percent of our DNA. Microbial cells outnumber human cells ten to one in the human body and regulate several aspects of human health. A medical revolution is sure to follow as we begin to understand human health as “a collective property of the human-associated microbiota.” New York Times
For the first time, scientists have succeeded in creating embryonic stem cells by cloning human cells. The technique will allow scientists to create replacement tissues that are a genetic match to patients, potentially revolutionizing the treatment of many diseases. New York Times
The world’s next global pandemic could arrive sooner than you think, says National Geographic’s David Quammen. Tremendous, yet unsettling opinion piece. New York Times
The Internet of Things is becoming reality—powered by smaller and more powerful computer chips and increased Internet connectivity. Billions of devices are already communicating with each other and sharing data to improve performance—without any help from human beings. Businesses and consumers must prepare for a radical economic transformation as physical objects in our world become increasingly connected and autonomous. Wired
The Department of Homeland Security has warned that cyberattacks against U.S. corporations are increasing, especially attacks on critical infrastructure like energy companies. While most of the recent cyber attacks have focused on stealing valuable, confidential information, newer attacks have focused on taking control of critical energy systems. New security issues will continue to be one of the biggest risks associated with the economy’s increasing reliance on the Internet. New York Times
More sophisticated and intelligent robots are allowing businesses and factories to automate more of their labor. Routine high-skilled labor is being robosourced to automated processes and factory work is increasing performed by robots. The abilities of automation are progressing so quickly that a large portion of the human labor force faces possible replacement by cheaper, automated processes as early as 2030. The robosourcing revolution has many potential benefits, but these benefits will only be realized if governance tackles human labor issue sooner rather than later.
My good friend Sir Alex Ferguson just announced his retirement from Manchester United. He leaves an unparalleled legacy, 13 Premier League trophies and two Champions League trophies in his 27-year tenure. Truly incredible. Grantland
Congratulations to the Memphis Grizzlies for reaching the Western Conference Finals for the first time in franchise history! It's been such an exciting season and I can't wait to see them "grit and grind" their way to the NBA finals. Go Griz! AP
Yesterday, for the first time in human history, concentrations of carbon dioxide, the primary global warming pollutant, hit 400 parts per million in our planet's atmosphere. This number is a reminder that for the last 150 years -- and especially over the last several decades -- we have been recklessly polluting the protective sheath of atmosphere that surrounds the Earth and protects the conditions that have fostered the flourishing of our civilization. We are altering the composition of our atmosphere at an unprecedented rate. Indeed, every single day we pour an additional 90 million tons of global warming pollution into the sky as if it were an open sewer. As the distinguished climate scientist Jim Hansen has calculated, the accumulated manmade global warming pollution in the atmosphere now traps enough extra heat energy each day to equal the energy that would be released by 400,000 Hiroshima-scale atomic bombs exploding every single day. It's a big planet -- but that is a LOT of energy. And it is having a destructive effect.
Now, more than ever before, we are reaping the consequences of our recklessness. From Superstorm Sandy which crippled New York City and large areas of New Jersey, to a drought which parched more than half of our nation; from a flood that inundated large swaths of Australia to rising seas affecting millions around the world, the reality of the climate crisis is upon us.
Our food systems, our cities, our people and our very way of life developed within a stable range of climatic conditions on Earth. Without immediate and decisive action, these favorable conditions on Earth could become a memory if we continue to make the climate crisis worse day after day after day.
With any great challenge comes great opportunity. We have the rare privilege to rise to an occasion of global magnitude. To do so, our communities, our businesses, our universities, and our governments need to work in harmony to stop the climate crisis. We must summon the very best of the human spirit and draw on our courage, our ingenuity, our intellect, and our determination to confront this crisis. Make no mistake, this crisis will demand no less than our very best. I am optimistic because we have risen to meet the greatest challenges of our past.
So please, take this day and the milestone it represents to reflect on the fragility of our civilization and and the planetary ecosystem on which it depends. Rededicate yourself to the task of saving our future. Talk to your neighbors, call your legislator, let your voice be heard. We must take immediate action to solve this crisis. Not tomorrow, not next week, not next year. Now.
We are witnessing the emergence of many exciting technological innovations that hold the potential to disrupt health care as we know it, providing better outcomes at substantially reduced costs, as detailed by Jonathan Cohn in the cover story of March's issue of The Atlantic. From artificial intelligence like IBM's Watson to robotics, genetics, Big Data, and other technologies, this may be the beginning of a revolution in the way health care is delivered. The Atlantic.
The decision to invade Iraq was a strategic blunder, a failure of democracy and informed deliberation. It must never happen again. Paul Krugman sums it up well in his piece this week. New York Times.
China's environmental crisis
From polluted waterways to smog-laden skies to a rapidly growing carbon footprint, China is a facing a monumental environmental crisis. Unfortunately, actions to solve it are being stalled by the nation's powerful oil and gas industry. New York Times.
Danny Hillis on Internet vulnerability
Our highly interconnected world has brought about tremendous advancements for our civilization, but at what cost? Many experts now suggest that our increasing interdependence has also led to incredible vulnerability to cyber-attacks. Internet-pioneer Danny Hillis thinks we need a "Plan B," a backup system that will allow critical functions to continue, even if a large-scale attack disables the Internet. Watch his TED talk here.
Good news from the green economy
The green economy continues to gain momentum. A new Bureau of Labor Statistics report shows that between 2010-2011, the number of green jobs grew "at a rate 4 times faster than all other industries combined." More from HuffPo.