July 2010

Hands Across the Sand July 1, 2010 : 3:44 PM

Last weekend thousands of Americans joined together for a great event:

“On Saturday, June 26, thousands joined Hands Across The Sand in protest against offshore drilling all across the world. At 12 noon, people joined hands for 15 minutes on beaches and in cities, rain or shine, to show their solidarity against our dirty dependence on oil and bring attention to the urgency with which we must convince our politicians to adopt policies that pursue clean and renewable energy.”

See pictures from Hands Across the Sand by clicking here.

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Oil Industry Fights Climate Law July 2, 2010 : 4:31 PM

Voters in California will be presented with a choice in November, oil companies or clean energy:

“The measure, launched six months ago by Texas oil giants Valero Energy Inc. and Tesoro Corp., comes as the industry has fallen under intense scrutiny in the wake of the Gulf of Mexico oil spill disaster.”

“Under California's law, known as AB 32, the state is setting limits on greenhouse gas emissions from automobiles, oil refineries and other industries, and will probably require that a third of the state's electricity come from renewable sources by 2020, up from about 15% today. New rules under the law would encourage sales of more fuel-efficient cars.”

“Supporters of the law say it has spurred a large market for solar, wind and other clean energy sources.”

“But backers of the ballot effort, who are calling their measure "the California Jobs Initiative paint the climate law as "an energy tax." Their initiative would halt enforcement of the law until unemployment in the state, now over 12%, sinks to 5.5% for at least a year.”

With oil gushing into the Gulf of Mexico, dirty energy companies are showing an unprecedented level of hubris to believe voters should support them at the polls.

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Sunday Times Retracts Claim About IPCC July 6, 2010 : 5:37 PM

Remember back in the fall when the Sunday Times attacked the IPCC claiming their data on Amazon Rainfall was false. The claim was aired in hundreds of publications, pedaled by those with an interest in keeping the status quo in place. Well the Times has admitted their error:

“The article "UN climate panel shamed by bogus rainforest claim" (News, Jan 31) stated that the 2007 Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report had included an "unsubstantiated claim" that up to 40% of the Amazon rainforest could be sensitive to future changes in rainfall. The IPCC had referenced the claim to a report prepared for WWF by Andrew Rowell and Peter Moore, whom the article described as "green campaigners" with "little scientific expertise." The article also stated that the authors’ research had been based on a scientific paper that dealt with the impact of human activity rather than climate change.”

“In fact, the IPCC’s Amazon statement is supported by peer-reviewed scientific evidence. In the case of the WWF report, the figure had, in error, not been referenced, but was based on research by the respected Amazon Environmental Research Institute (IPAM) which did relate to the impact of climate change. We also understand and accept that Mr Rowell is an experienced environmental journalist and that Dr Moore is an expert in forest management, and apologise for any suggestion to the contrary.”

“The article also quoted criticism of the IPCC’s use of the WWF report by Dr Simon Lewis, a Royal Society research fellow at the University of Leeds and leading specialist in tropical forest ecology. We accept that, in his quoted remarks, Dr Lewis was making the general point that both the IPCC and WWF should have cited the appropriate peer-reviewed scientific research literature. As he made clear to us at the time, including by sending us some of the research literature, Dr Lewis does not dispute the scientific basis for both the IPCC and the WWF reports’ statements on the potential vulnerability of the Amazon rainforest to droughts caused by climate change.”

“In addition, the article stated that Dr Lewis’ concern at the IPCC’s use of reports by environmental campaign groups related to the prospect of those reports being biased in their conclusions. We accept that Dr Lewis holds no such view – rather, he was concerned that the use of non-peer-reviewed sources risks creating the perception of bias and unnecessary controversy, which is unhelpful in advancing the public’s understanding of the science of climate change. A version of our article that had been checked with Dr Lewis underwent significant late editing and so did not give a fair or accurate account of his views on these points. We apologise for this.”

“The original article to which this correction refers has been removed.”

I am pleased to see the retraction.

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The Politicization of Science July 9, 2010 : 12:32 PM

This past spring, Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli filed a civil investigative demand (essentially a subpoena) requiring the University of Virginia to produce 10 years worth of documents related to the research of climate scientist Michael Mann.

This assault on academic freedom was an affront to the scientific process and I was pleased to read last week that UVA is fighting the request. According to the Washington Post:

“The University of Virginia told a court today that Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli's request for information about a former university scientist is so sweeping that it bears no relevance to an investigation of whether the scientist violated a Virginia fraud statute Cuccinelli used to issue the demand.”

Coincidentally, this week the Penn State University cleared Mann of any wrongdoing. It is time for Cuccinelli to end his witch-hunt.

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Whatever It Takes July 11, 2010 : 1:20 PM

John Kerry shows real leadership in Foreign Policy:

“But there is one area where I know we have to stand firm: Whatever we pass has to include a price on carbon pollution. This will determine whether we're going to get serious about our oil addiction this year, or whether we're only willing to pass a stopgap "energy-only" measure that will at best kick this problem down the road for another few years.”

“We've passed "energy-only" measures before -- most recently in 2005 and 2007 -- and they've failed to deliver the transformative shift our energy policy needs. China and Germany have surged ahead and built thriving markets around green technologies that our country invented. And we haven't pushed back against the daunting threat that climate instability poses for our planet.”

“A comprehensive bill with a price signal on carbon is the only way to really address the environmental, economic, and national-security challenges we face. It will send a clear signal to the market that it's time to develop alternative fuel sources so we can finally sever our dependence on distant nations and regimes that don't share our values.”

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2010 Appears to be Setting Records July 13, 2010 : 3:30 PM

Scientists at NASA-GISS have confirmed that the first six months of 2010 have set a global temperature record.

In the meantime, according to the National Snow and Ice Data Center, Arctic sea ice continues to decline. They report:

“Average June ice extent was the lowest in the satellite data record, from1979 to 2010. Arctic air temperatures were higher than normal, and Arcticsea ice continued to decline at a fast pace. June saw the return of theArctic dipole anomaly, an atmospheric pressure pattern that contributed to the record sea ice loss in 2007.”

As Bradford Plummer smartly notes in his blog:

“One hot year doesn't, on its own, prove that humans are warming the planet any more than one cold year disproves it. That said, there's a clear upward trend here, and reams of evidence that the planet is heating up. It's not just the thermometer record, either as a recent EPA report noted, there are dozens of indicators, from the changing length of the growing season to
shifting species habitats.”

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Climategate Scientists Vindicated July 15, 2010 : 11:17 AM

Over the past few weeks, the lies and distortions surrounding the Climategate scandal have largely been debunked.

"An independent report into the leak of hundreds of e-mails from one of the world's leading climate research centers on Wednesday largely vindicated the scientists involved, saying they acted honestly and that their research was reliable."

"But the panel of inquiry, led by former U.K. civil servant Muir Russell, did chide scientists at the University of East Anglia's Climatic Research Unit for failing to share their data with critics.

"We find that their rigor and honesty as scientists are not in doubt," Russell said. "But we do find that there has been a consistent pattern of failing to display the proper degree of openness."

It's time to stop debating settled science and work together to solve the climate crisis. As The New York Times wrote on Friday:

“Perhaps now we can put the manufactured controversy known as Climategate behind us and turn to the task of actually doing something about global warming.”

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27,000 Potential Leaks July 16, 2010 : 1:20 PM

This is incredible:

“More than 27,000 abandoned oil and gas wells lurk in the hard rock beneath the Gulf of Mexico, an environmental minefield that has been ignored for decades. No one — not industry, not government — is checking to see if they are leaking, an Associated Press investigation shows.”

“The oldest of these wells were abandoned in the late 1940s, raising the prospect that many deteriorating sealing jobs are already failing.”

“The AP investigation uncovered particular concern with 3,500 of the neglected wells — those characterized in federal government records as "temporarily abandoned."”

“Regulations for temporarily abandoned wells require oil companies to present plans to reuse or permanently plug such wells within a year, but the AP found that the rule is routinely circumvented, and that more than 1,000 wells have lingered in that unfinished condition for more than a decade. About three-quarters of temporarily abandoned wells have been left in that status for more than a year, and many since the 1950s and 1960s — even though sealing procedures for temporary abandonment are not as stringent as those for permanent closures.”

These are 27,000 potential environmental catastrophes waiting to happen. We need action now - not only to make sure these wells are safe, but also to move away from fossil fuels, so no more wells need to be drilled.

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Go See Inception July 16, 2010 : 4:27 PM

I have never recommended a movie before on algore.com, but I am making an exception this weekend for a movie that I had an opportunity to see when it premiered in Los Angeles last Tuesday: "Inception".

Do yourself a favor and see it! It is, in my opinion, a real work of genius by the writer and director, Chris Nolan, with brilliant performances -- especially by my friend and fellow environmentalist, Leo DiCaprio -- incredible special effects, and a truly great musical score by Hans Zimmer.

Warner Brothers devoted the proceeds from the "Benefit Premiere" to the Alliance for Climate Protection -- so you could say I am biased.

But this movie really is one of the best, most entertaining, and most thought-provoking I can ever remember seeing. And I am far from alone in that assessment.

Here are a couple of quotes from the reviewer for the Washington Post, Ann Hornaday:

"'Inception' is that rare film that can be enjoyed on superficial and progressively deeper levels, a feat that uncannily mimics the mind-bending journey its protagonist takes..."

"Nolan exemplifies the best kind of filmmaking, unchained from the laws of time, space and even gravity, but never from the most basic rules of narrative. Even at its most tangled and paradoxical, "Inception" keeps circling back to the motivation that has driven films from "The Wizard of Oz" to "E.T.": Cobb, finally, just wants to go home."

"This aim, in its simplicity, manages to make comprehensible even the most preposterous layers-upon-layers of "Inception," and gives what could easily have been a chilly, impenetrable exercise a surprisingly strong emotional core. At its most audacious and enterprising, "Inception" provides just the kind of fully imagined escapism that adventurous filmgoers wish movies aspired to more often. But it's the story's most recognizable human struggles -- to let go, forgive and move on -- that make "Inception" worth puzzling over, long after its most transporting sensations have washed away.”

Kenneth Turan, film critic for the Los Angeles Times, describes the film as "mind-bending, intelligent, exciting and disturbing sci-fi extravaganza, starring Leonardo DiCaprio, (which) blends the best of traditional and modern filmmaking.”

In any case, I highly recommend it. And it opens today across the country. It is a thriller that is not only riveting but also will keep you thinking long after you walk out of the theater. I hope you get a chance to see it and I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.

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Exxon Violates Law July 18, 2010 : 2:51 PM

It's not just the water in the gulf being polluted by oil. Everyday, our air is being poisoned as well:

“The largest U.S. oil refinery violated federal air pollution laws thousands of times during the last five years, releasing 10 million pounds of illegal pollution, including cancer-causing toxins, without facing proper fines or being forced to fix equipment, environmental groups claim.”

“Exxon Mobil Corp., which owns the refinery, is the latest target of Sierra Club and Environment Texas, which recently forced Shell into a $5.8 million settlement over its Clean Air Act violations and has filed a lawsuit against Chevron Phillips.”

“The environmental groups have not yet sued Exxon but have notified the Irving-based company, the Environmental Protection Agency and the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality of plans do so — a requirement under the Clean Air Act.”

“The Associated Press obtained copies of the groups' two 60-day notices, which outline violations Exxon measured and reported itself. Among other complaints, the notices accuse Exxon of violating emissions limits on sulfur dioxide, one of the components of acid rain; hydrogen sulfide, a toxic, flammable gas characterized by a rotten egg smell; cancer-causing agents such as benzene and butadiene; carbon monoxide; and the smog-causing agent nitrogen oxide.”

While Exxon should face sanctions for these violations, the only way to stop this pollution is to end our dependence on carbon based fuel.

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Climate and Deficit Reduction July 19, 2010 : 12:19 PM

Not only will the Kerry-Lieberman bill help to reduce our dependence on fossil fuels, it will also reduce the deficit:

“Senate backers of a long-shot bid to pass legislation with greenhouse gas caps got some fresh help Wednesday when the Congressional Budget Office reported that one high-profile proposal would help curb the federal deficit by about $19 billion over the next decade.”

“The CBO analysis of the American Power Act, championed by Sens. John Kerry (D-Mass.) and Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) found that government revenues would grow by about $751 billion from 2011 to 2020 if the bill became law. By contrast, the legislation would create direct spending of $732 billion over the same 10-year period.”

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Mourning the loss of a friend July 19, 2010 : 4:04 PM

I was saddened to learn today of the passing of my good friend, Steve Schneider. A prolific researcher and author, co-founder of the journal Climatic Change, and a wonderful communicator, his contributions to the advancement of climate science will be sorely missed. My heart goes out to his wife, Terry, and to his family, colleagues, and staff.

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What Anwar Ibrahim's Trial Means for Asia July 20, 2010 : 2:19 PM

Anwar Ibrahim is one of the most enlightened and visionary political leaders in Asia and yesterday former U.S. Ambassador John Malott argued persuasively that the US should stand with Anwar Ibrahim. I could not agree more. Malott writes in the Wall Street Journal (July 19, 2010):

“Already convicted by the government-controlled media, Mr. Anwar and his defense team have been denied access to the evidence that the government possesses, including police and medical reports, surveillance tapes, and even the witness list. Malaysia does not have a jury system. The verdict will be rendered by one judge, appointed by the same government that wants to remove Mr. Anwar from the political scene."

"While a handful of human rights groups and some Australian parliamentarians have condemned the trial, there has been little interest at the broader international level. The Obama administration has been silent."

"When I visited Malaysia last month, it was clear that Mr. Anwar and most observers expect a guilty verdict in August. At that point, the question is whether he remains free on bail during his appeal or is jailed immediately."

"A charismatic campaigner, Mr. Anwar led his coalition to near victory in Malaysia's last parliamentary elections in 2008, when the opposition took 47% of the popular vote and gained 62 seats. The government's new political game plan seems to be to put Mr. Anwar in jail and the opposition in disarray, call snap elections, and ride to victory.”

This is an important issue that deserves more coverage and attention at all levels. Mr. Malott’s conclusion rings true to me:

“In 1998, Mr. Anwar said, "If this can happen to me, it can happen to anyone." That is no less true today. If Mr. Anwar is denied his freedom, then Malaysians will continue to be denied their freedom and the country its promise.”

To read the entire op ed, (subscription required) click here.

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Stand with Michael July 22, 2010 : 12:22 PM

Michael Carter from Akron, Ohio came to Washington:


Join Michael and over 68,000 other citizen co-signers of the Alliance for Climate Protection's letter to the Senate demanding strong climate and clean energy legislation. Grassroots advocates will deliver your letter during their meetings with Senators.

With a vote coming soon, your voice has never been more important. Take action today.

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Jakobshavn Glacier July 24, 2010 : 9:00 PM

A few weeks ago, over a 24-hour period, a huge chunk of the Jakobshavn glacier in Greenland broke up. The piece was so big it moved the glacier one mile inland in a single day.

“Seven-square miles of a Greenland glacier broke up on July 6 and 7, moving the edge of the glacier a mile inland in one day, the furthest inland it has ever been observed. While such calving of glaciers isn't rare, seeing it happen at high resolution by satellite in almost real time is.”

“NASA-funded researchers have been monitoring Greenland's Jakobshavn Isbrae using satellite images from the Landsat, Terra, Aqua and DigitalGlobe's WorldView 2 satellites. The breakup was detected hours after it happened by Ian Howat of the Byrd Polar Research Center at Ohio State University and Paul Morin, director of the Antarctic Geospatial Information Center at the University of Minnesota.”

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Great Lakes are "Canary in the Coal Mine" July 26, 2010 : 1:22 PM

According to Cameron Davis the senior adviser to the U.S. EPA on the Great Lakes, "The Great Lakes in a lot of ways have always been a canary in the coal mine”

At a meeting of the Interagency Climate Change Adaptation Task Force last week it was reported by Climatewire that:

-Total ice cover on the lake has shrunk by about 20 percent over the past 37 years

-The waters in Lake Superior are on track to reach -- and potentially exceed -- the lake's record-high temperatures of 68 degrees Fahrenheit, which occurred in 1998. Davis went on to say, “"This year is just tremendously anomalous," he said. "This year ranks up there with the warmest water we have ever seen, and the warming trend appears to be going on in all of the Great Lakes."

To read the entire article, click here.

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What's Next? July 28, 2010 : 4:42 PM

Last week we learned the Senate would not proceed with comprehensive climate and energy legislation to solve the climate crisis before the August recess.

As I said in my statement, “The need to solve the climate crisis and transition to clean energy has never been more clear. The oil is still washing up on the shores of the Gulf Coast and we’ve just experienced the hottest six months on record. Our troops are fighting and dying in the Middle East and our economy is still struggling to produce jobs. I continue to urge the President to provide leadership on this issue and urge the Senate to make this issue a priority for the remainder of this Congress. Ultimately—and sooner rather than later—these issues simply must be dealt with. Our national security, our economic recovery and the future of the United States of America—and indeed the future of human civilization on this Earth—depends on our country taking leadership. And that, in turn, depends on the United States Senate acting. The truth about the climate crisis—inconvenient as ever—must be faced.”

Our campaign to build the political will to solve the climate crisis continues and I urge you to work with us.

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Canadian Environmentalists Take on Oil Sands July 29, 2010 : 5:43 PM

From Solve Climate:

“It was one of the biggest news stories in the Canadian media last week, and it barely registered in the U.S. press: an unorthodox ad campaign by environmental groups out to punish Alberta for its development of energy from its vast deposits of oil sands.”

“For over a week now, images of dead ducks in oil sands tailings pond have been plastered on billboards in Denver, Portland, Seattle and Minneapolis. Next to them is a picture of an oil-drenched brown pelican at the site of the Deepwater Horizon spill.”

“"Alberta: The Other Oil Disaster," the billboard reads. ”Thinking of visiting Alberta, Canada? Think again," it continues.”

“The aim is to curb tourism interest in a province that gets five million visitors a year.”

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We're Gonna Be Sorry July 30, 2010 : 6:05 PM

Tom Friedman is 100% correct:

“Alas, so are the rest of us. I could blame Republicans for the fact that not one G.O.P. senator indicated a willingness to vote for a bill that would put the slightest price on carbon. I could blame the Democratic senators who were also waffling. I could blame President Obama for his disappearing act on energy and spending more time reading the polls than changing the polls. I could blame the Chamber of Commerce and the fossil-fuel lobby for spending bags of money to subvert this bill. But the truth is, the public, confused and stressed by the last two years, never got mobilized to press for this legislation. We will regret it.”

“We’ve basically decided to keep pumping greenhouse gases into Mother Nature’s operating system and take our chances that the results will be benign — even though a vast majority of scientists warn that this will not be so. Fasten your seat belts. As the environmentalist Rob Watson likes to say: “Mother Nature is just chemistry, biology and physics. That’s all she is.” You cannot sweet-talk her. You cannot spin her. You cannot tell her that the oil companies say climate change is a hoax. No, Mother Nature is going to do whatever chemistry, biology and physics dictate, and “Mother Nature always bats last, and she always bats 1.000,” says Watson. Do not mess with Mother Nature. But that is just what we’re doing.”

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