February 2010

Want to See the Effects of Climate Change? February 1, 2010 : 1:00 PM

Recently the Huffington Post published a photo feature titled “Seeing the Effects of Climate Change."

“Sometimes as we go about our daily lives, climate change can seem abstract, and not something we think we are experiencing on a daily basis. However, our planet is rapidly being altered and the physical signs of this shift can't be ignored. These photos reveal how the world has already been impacted and what kind of changes we can expect in the future if we continue with our carbon-intense ways.”

The post contains photos of coastal erosion, the bleaching of coral reefs, melting glaciers and other catastrophes occurring around the globe. I urge you to send this to anyone who doubts that even minor changes in temperature have a huge effect on our planet.


China in the Lead? February 7, 2010 : 4:55 PM

This is why we need the Senate to pass a clean energy, climate and green jobs bill now:

"China vaulted past competitors in Denmark, Germany, Spain and the United States last year to become the world's largest maker of wind turbines, and is poised to expand even further this year."

"China has also leapfrogged the West in the last two years to emerge as the world's largest manufacturer of solar panels. And the country is pushing equally hard to build nuclear reactors and the most efficient types of coal power plants."

"These efforts to dominate renewable energy technologies raise the prospect that the West may someday trade its dependence on oil from the Mideast for a reliance on solar panels, wind turbines and other gear manufactured in China."


Miliband Fights Back February 8, 2010 : 3:56 PM

Ed Miliband, the U.K. Climate Secretary, had some tough words for climate crisis deniers:

"Miliband declared a "battle" against the "siren voices" who denied global warming was real or caused by humans, or that there was a need to cut carbon emissions to tackle it."

"It's right that there's rigour applied to all the reports about climate change, but I think it would be wrong that when a mistake is made it's somehow used to undermine the overwhelming picture that's there," he said.

"We know there's a physical effect of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere leading to higher temperatures, that's a question of physics; we know CO2 concentrations are at their highest for 6,000 years; we know there are observed increases in temperatures; and we know there are observed effects that point to the existence of human-made climate change. That's what the vast majority of scientists tell us."

Deniers have been grasping at straws, attempting to make the case that there is no climate crisis. But the evidence is simply too overwhelming. As we learned a few weeks ago, 2000-2009 was the warmest decade on record.

The fact is, the media has been complicit in these efforts, often giving equal voice to those attempting to distort the truth for political or financial gain. Ed Miliband is exactly right to take them head-on.


Get Angry - Take Action February 8, 2010 : 8:12 PM

John Kerry recently told climate bill supporters:

"I want you to go out there and start knocking on doors and telling people this has to happen," Kerry said during a conference hosted by labor, farming, military veteran and environmental groups. "You know if the Tea Party folks can go out there and get angry because they think their taxes are too high, for God's sake, a lot of citizens ought to get angry about the fact that they're being killed and our planet is being injured by what's happening on a daily basis by the way we provide our power and our fuel and the old practices we have. That's something worth getting angry about."

We can’t only get angry – we need to let the Senate know that inaction is simply not an option. A great way to spread that message is by adding your voice to the Repower Will by clicking here.


Worse Than We Thought February 12, 2010 : 7:08 PM

More evidence of the climate crisis is unfolding before our eyes. The situation in the Arctic is worse than data from satellite pictures have told us:

"For scientists studying the health of Arctic sea ice, satellite observations are absolutely essential for providing the big picture. It was satellites that revealed in September 2007 a record minimum ice coverage in the region -- the result of a massive summer melt. And it was satellites that showed in 2008 and 2009 the modest recovery of late-summer Arctic ice that suggested to some that the specter of a totally ice-free polar ocean might be somewhat less imminent than feared."

"But those high-altitude observations need occasional reality checks from scientists down on the surface. It was during one such on-the-ground research expedition last fall that David Barber, an Arctic climatologist at the University of Manitoba, got an unwelcome surprise."

"Barber was aboard the Canadian research icebreaker Amundsen, checking on ice in the Beaufort Sea north of Alaska and Western Canada. The ship was well inside a region the satellites said should be choked with thick, multiyear-old ice. "That's pretty much a no-go zone for an icebreaker of the Amundsen's size," says Barber. But the ship kept going, at a brisk 13 knots -- its top speed in open water is 13.7 knots -- and even when it finally reached thick ice, he says, "we could still penetrate it easily.""

"In short, as Barber and his colleagues explain in a recent paper in Geophysical Review Letters, the analysis of what the satellites were seeing was wrong. Some of what satellites identified as thick, melt-resistant multiyear ice turned out to be, in Barber's words, "full of holes, like Swiss cheese. We haven't seen this sort of thing before.""


100,000 New Jobs February 16, 2010 : 3:37 PM

Investments in green technology can pay off in a big way – including the creation of 100,000 new jobs in the Midwest:

"The report, "American Innovation: Manufacturing Low Carbon Technologies in the Midwest," which uses economic research from Deloitte, estimates that climate and energy policies could create up to 100,000 new jobs in the Midwest, and generate additional market revenues of up to $12 billion, boosting state and local tax revenues by over $800 million by 2015. These gains were estimated from policy-assisted growth in the wind turbine component, hybrid powertrain, and advanced battery manufacturing sectors in the Midwest."

"The report considers the impact of three climate and energy policies: a $17 per ton price on carbon in 2015, resulting from a cap on emissions; a national renewable electricity standard (RES) of 20% by 2020; and a green economic stimulus package. It compares job and revenue growth in Michigan, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio and Wisconsin with these policies in place, and without."

These areas have been hit hardest by the recession, and green technology could be the key to leading them back to economic prosperity. However, if we continue on the current path, China will end up leading the way.


Exxon Backs Away From Pledge February 18, 2010 : 6:11 PM

In 2008, under pressure from shareholders including the descendants of Standard Oil Founder John D. Rockefeller, Exxon made the pledge to stop funding climate crisis deniers, writing:

“In 2008 we will discontinue contributions to several public policy research groups whose position on climate change could divert attention from the important discussion on how the world will secure the energy required for economic growth in an environmentally responsible manner.”

Now it seems they have backed away from that pledge. According to Mother Jones:

“Free-market, anti-climate change think-tanks such as the Atlas Economic Research Foundation in the US and the International Policy Network in the UK have received grants totaling hundreds of thousands of pounds from the multinational energy company ExxonMobil. Both organizations have funded international seminars pulling together climate change deniers from across the globe.”

Exxon needs to be honest with its shareholders and consumers. It's time for them to once again live up to the pledge they made in 2008.


A Great LTE February 19, 2010 : 5:27 PM

Paul Epstein, Associate Director of the Center for Health and the Global Environment at Harvard Medical School, wrote an exceptional letter to The New York Times last week:

“That fossil fuel industry-financed forces are continuing their campaign to undermine the United Nations' Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and its chief scientists should not distract us from what we know about our climate.”

“Two physical findings stand out. In the last 50 years the world ocean has accumulated 22 times as much heat as has the atmosphere (data provided by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration of the Department of Commerce). It is this repository of heat -- through processes like evaporation and ocean overturning -- that drives the changes in weather we are experiencing: heavier precipitation events, sequences of large storms, bitter cold spells and prolonged droughts in some regions.”

“The I.P.C.C. 2007 report also found that winds have changed -- specifically circumpolar westerly winds (those blowing from the west) in both hemispheres. This ominous sign means that weather fronts and weather patterns are less stable.”

“Our society, security and the health of the global economy depend upon a stable climate. Getting off fossil fuels is the first, necessary step toward achieving climate stabilization.”


Repower America Reports the Facts February 23, 2010 : 2:46 PM

With all the climate deniers spreading lies about the climate crisis in the media, it's vital we arm ourselves with the facts. Thankfully, Repower America put together a great fact sheet explaining the relationship between the climate crisis and extreme weather:

"Fact: Climate change causes more frequent and severe snowstorms
Record snowstorms need two things: temperatures below freezing, and very high humidity. On a planet warmer by a few degrees on average, the Northeast US will still have plenty of days below freezing; the big difference will be warmer seas producing higher levels of moisture in the air — and therefore more severe cold-season storms."

"Fact: We can expect more extreme weather
Scientists tell us that climate change has already led to more extreme weather in the United States and we can expect stronger hurricanes, more wildfires, heatwaves and droughts, to name a few."

"Fact: The world is warming at a quickening pace
Weather in one region over days or months should not be confused with climate or the patterns of weather over decades and centuries. And the science is clear here: the last decade was the hottest on record. And to put this year’s weather in perspective, January was warmer than average for the continental United States"


We Can't Wish Away Climate Change February 27, 2010 : 6:52 PM

My Op-ed in today's New York Times:

"It would be an enormous relief if the recent attacks on the science of global warming actually indicated that we do not face an unimaginable calamity requiring large-scale, preventive measures to protect human civilization as we know it."

"Of course, we would still need to deal with the national security risks of our growing dependence on a global oil market dominated by dwindling reserves in the most unstable region of the world, and the economic risks of sending hundreds of billions of dollars a year overseas in return for that oil. And we would still trail China in the race to develop smart grids, fast trains, solar power, wind, geothermal and other renewable sources of energy — the most important sources of new jobs in the 21st century."

"But what a burden would be lifted! We would no longer have to worry that our grandchildren would one day look back on us as a criminal generation that had selfishly and blithely ignored clear warnings that their fate was in our hands. We could instead celebrate the naysayers who had doggedly persisted in proving that every major National Academy of Sciences report on climate change had simply made a huge mistake."