January 2012

Iowa Caucus Coverage on Current January 3, 2012 : 3:53 PM

I'll be participating in live coverage of the Iowa Caucus beginning at 7PM Eastern on Current TV. Follow us on Twitter at #politicallydirect.


An Efficient New Year January 6, 2012 : 2:09 PM

This year's ball drop in Times Square was a little different:

“Today’s Ball benefits from unmatched investment in LED technology, with its modules lasting about 30,000 hours and using just 22 watts of electricity. This is an 88% reduction in energy use and 573 tons less of CO2 then its previous lighting source. And the same technology being used in the Ball is now available to consumers for use in their homes and businesses.”

Source: Phillips


100 Years of Natural Gas? January 8, 2012 : 12:21 PM

Many proponents of fracking claim there is 100 years worth of natural gas beneath the United States ready to be extracted. This seems to be a bit of an exaggeration.

“Assuming that the United States continues to use about 24 tcf per annum, then, only an 11-year supply of natural gas is certain. The other 89 years' worth has not yet been shown to exist or to be recoverable.”

“Even that comparably modest estimate of 11 years’ supply may be optimistic. Those 273 tcf are located in reserves that are undrilled, but are adjacent to drilled tracts where gas has been produced. Due to large lateral differences in the geology of shale plays, production can vary considerably from adjacent wells.”

Source: Slate


Clean Energy Technology Saves You Money January 11, 2012 : 5:43 PM

From the Climate Reality Blog:

"Here’s the plain and simple fact – clean energy technology can actually save you money. Chances are you know this, but there’s a lot of misinformation out there – so here’s a quick fact check for when you hear claims that clean energy isn’t worth the cost."

"I’m going to start with the easy stuff – energy efficiency. Experts have long said that ignoring energy efficiency is like walking on a sidewalk littered with cash and waving away money that’s yours for the taking. Even though energyefficiency is such a clunky term, it’s actually a really cool concept — doing all the same things you’re currently doing and enjoying all the comforts you currently have (heating, cooling, lighting, power etc.) but with less energy."


Top Climate Stories of 2011 January 12, 2012 : 8:13 PM

The Washington Post’s Capital Weather Gang names the top climate stories of 2011:

“For Earth’s climate system, 2011 was an extraordinarily turbulent year. The United States saw a series of record-busting extremes, from a devastating tornado season to an epic drought in a vital agricultural region. The fusillade of extreme events kept global warming in the public conversation even as it slipped to the bottom of the public’s list of concerns in the face of a grim economy, and as “climate” became a four-letter word in Washington.”

“Scientists made tangible progress in the emerging area of extreme event attribution, which aims to answer whether extreme weather events can be attributed to climate change, with two studies that shed new light on how a warmer world is already shifting the odds in favor of heavy precipitation events. These studies, and the push to develop the capabilities necessary to rapidly distinguish global warming’s role in extreme events soon after they occur, top the list of the top climate change stories of 2011:”


The Real Jobs January 14, 2012 : 2:14 PM

An excellent editorial from The New York Times:

“The Republicans’ claim that the pipeline will create tens of thousands of new jobs — 20,000 according to House Speaker John Boehner and 100,000 according to Jon Huntsman — are wildly inflated. A more accurate forecast from the federal government, one with which TransCanada, the pipeline company, agrees, says the project would create 6,000 to 6,500 temporary construction jobs at best, for two years.”

“The country obviously needs more jobs. Mr. Obama needs to lay out the case that industry, with government help, can create hundreds of thousands of clean energy jobswithout incurring environmental risks — by upgrading old power plants to comply with environmental laws, retrofitting commercial and residential buildings that soak up nearly 40 percent of the country’s energy (and produce nearly 40 percent of its carbon emissions) and promoting growth in new industries like wind and solar power and advanced vehicles.”


The End of Illness January 19, 2012 : 6:24 PM

My friend Dr. David Agus has written a brilliant new book titled, The End of Illness, which asks:

"Can we live robustly until our last breath? Do we have to suffer from debilitating conditions and sickness? Is it possible to add more vibrant years to our lives? In The End of Illness, David B. Agus, MD, one of the world’s leading cancer doctors, researchers, and technology innovators, tackles these fundamental questions, challenging long-held wisdoms and dismantling misperceptions about what “health” means. With a blend of storytelling, landmark research, and provocative ideas on health, Dr. Agus presents an eye-opening picture of the human body and all of the ways it works—and fails—showing us how a new perspective on our individual health will allow each of us to achieve that often elusive but now reachable goal of a long, vigorous life."

The book is really fantastic and full of insights that will help improve your life.


Interesting New Report on the Use of Solar at Military Bases January 20, 2012 : 4:22 PM

A Department of Defense consultant released a report this week which calculated that installing solar on just nine military bases in the Mojave and Colorado Deserts could generate 7,000 megawatts of power.

"Depending on which yardstick you prefer, that amounts to the output of seven average nuclear plants or six large coal-fired plants. It would also amount to 25 percent of the renewable energy that California will require its utilities to produce by 2015, according to the 13 authors of the report, prepared by the consultancy ICF International."

"The report says that electricity generated annually from such solar installations would be equivalent to two-thirds of what the Department of Defense consumes nationwide each year."

"Perhaps as much to the point, the report also notes that the military could earn as much as $100 million annually from such solar installations, from rental payments to discounts on power. “Private developers can tap the solar potential with no capital investment required from the D.O.D.,” it adds."

"What is more, full development of this solar capability would mean avoiding emissions of millions of tons of greenhouse gases and other pollutants, the report said."

Source: New York Times


Climate Deniers Control Congress January 21, 2012 : 10:55 AM

AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka speaks the truth:

“[I]t is clear that as long as Congress is effectively controlled by climate change deniers, all of us — investors, companies, workers and the broader public — must take action ourselves,” Trumka said.

"In a wide-ranging speech in New York at the Investor Summit on Climate Risk & Energy Solutions, Trumka made the case for creating jobs with the build-out of low-carbon infrastructure."

Source: Climate Progress


Who is dumping global warming pollution into our atmosphere? January 22, 2012 : 11:54 AM

The EPA has a great new tool:

“The Environmental Protection Agency releases an interactive online tool for identifying major sources of greenhouse gas emissions in the United States. The database and map allow residents and governments to learn about the biggest polluters in their neighborhoods and get the broad picture as well.”

You can find the new EPA website by clicking here.

Source New York Times


The Keystone Myth January 23, 2012 : 6:03 PM

President Obama made the right call last week when he decided to reject the tar sands pipeline.

The State Department, in its Congressional Report debunked the myth that this disastrous project would benefit the US:

“Regarding economic, energy security, and trade factors, the economic analysis in the final EIS indicates that, over the remainder of this decade, even if no new cross-border pipelines were constructed, there is likely to be little difference in the amount of crude oil refined at U.S. refineries, the amount of crude oil and refined products such as gasoline imported to (or exported from) the United States, the cost of crude oil or refined products in the United States, or the amount of crude oil imported from Canada. . . .”

“The analysis from the final EIS, noted above, indicates that denying the permit at this time is unlikely to have a substantial impact on U.S. employment, economic activity, trade, energy security, or foreign policy over the longer term.” Source: Climate Progress

This is an important win not only for the thousands of activists who risked arrest—and for the hundreds who went to jail--but for all of us who want to try and role back the effects of the climate crisis, not magnify them.

Many have noted the continuing risk that advocates of the pipeline will come back with a modified proposal backed by lobbying and campaign contributions—and that following the election this fall this issue may yet resurface in the first part of 2013. As a result opponents of the Keystone pipeline must remain engaged and prepared to beat this proposal again when and if it resurfaces.


Living on thin ice January 25, 2012 : 1:29 AM

Last September, millions of you joined us for 24 Hours of Reality, when we connected the dots between the extreme weather events happening all over the world and the reality of the climate crisis. Together, we saw that we don’t need to travel far to see the impacts of climate change. Most of us are already feeling those impacts close to home.

Yet the climate crisis is also causing momentous changes in remote regions far from major population centers, in places like Antarctica, Greenland and the North Polar Ice Cap. Some of the most dangerous changes in our climate system are the ones that often receive the least attention.

Consider that Antarctica, the massive continent at the southern tip of our planet, holds 90% of the Earth’s ice. It is a frozen desert, covered in ice that at some points is two miles thick. What happens to the rest of the world as that frozen water is released, at ever increasing rates, as a result of the rising temperatures caused by climate change?

Even though Antarctica is thousands of miles distant from the rest of the world, the melting ice on this continent should be of paramount concern to all of us. As our planet’s ice melts, sea levels are rising steadily. This increases the risk of storm surges, coastal floods, diminished supplies of drinking water for billions of people, and hundreds of millions of climate refugees.

I first traveled to Antarctica in 1988. At the time, it was already clear that our southernmost continent stood at the frontier of the global climate crisis. Scientists expected that as climate change accelerated, Antarctica would be one of the fastest warming areas of the planet. This prediction has proven true: Today, the West Antarctic Peninsula is warming about four times faster than the global average. In many ways, it is the biggest “canary in the coal mine,” signaling one of the largest impacts of climate change for the entire world.

To better understand the changes taking place near the South Pole and the impacts those changes will have around the world, I will be returning to Antarctica this month with The Climate Reality Project. A large number of civic and business leaders, activists and concerned citizens from many countries on this voyage will be joined by many of the world’s leading climate scientists and Antarctica experts to see firsthand and in real time how the climate crisis is unfolding in Antarctica.

In parallel with this expedition, we are encouraging our partners and supporters to organize their own expeditions closer to home. Over the next few weeks, The Climate Reality Project will document how the melting of the world’s ice is impacting us everywhere from Brooklyn to Bangladesh and from Ecuador to the Arctic. To follow these expeditions, I encourage you to keep checking our website, Living on Thin Ice.

Since my first trip to Antarctica more than 22 years ago, much has changed. The rate of ice melting has increased. However, there are many positive changes as well: The solutions to this crisis — clean energy technologies like wind and solar, and solutions for improving the efficiency of businesses and industry — have become exponentially cheaper and more widely available than ever before. The science has become even more robust, and the impacts have become far more immediate and severe. What hasn’t changed, however, is that many of our political leaders around the world still lack the courage to solve the defining crisis of our age. Most significantly, a global movement to build and sustain the political will necessary is growing stronger every day.

I hope you will join me and The Climate Reality Project as we explore how changes on a remote continent are part of our shared climate reality. And I hope you’ll take the time to explore the impacts climate change is having on your own community, whether through one of our expeditions or through one of your own. I’ll be updating this blog soon with observations from Antarctica, and I invite you to check back on this page for more.


Another $300 Million January 26, 2012 : 1:04 PM

After an unprecedented year just passed, when the United States experienced a record 12 major disasters --most of them climate related-- costing more than a billion dollars the fiscal impact on the US continues to grow. For example the Department of Agriculture has just allocated another $300 million to respond extreme weather related disasters:

“The U.S. Department of Agriculture is adding more than $300 million to the massive amount of financial assistance federal agencies have doled out in response to an unusually intense year of natural disasters, officials announced Wednesday.”

“The money, from three emergency funds administered by the USDA’s Natural Resource Conservation Service and Farm Service Agency, is more than double the $136.6 million paid from the funds a year ago. It will go toward repairing farmland and associated property damaged by flooding, tornadoes, hurricanes and wildfires.”

Source: Associated Press


From Antarctica to Bangladesh: The story of rising seas January 31, 2012 : 12:37 PM

Cross Posted At the Climate Reality Blog

After crossing the legendary Drake Passage, we came in sight of the Antarctic continent. It is a majestic, otherworldly place. The Antarctic Peninsula, which juts northward toward South America, is lined with ice-covered mountains and surrounded by abundant wildlife in the sea. But even on this continent that looks and feels pristine, a troubling process is underway because of global warming.

The ice on land is melting at a faster rate and large ice sheets are moving toward the ocean more rapidly. As a result, sea levels are rising worldwide. Most of the world’s ice is contained in Antarctica – more than 90 percent. The West Antarctic Ice Sheet, which lies south of the Peninsula, contains enough water to raise sea levels worldwide by more than 20 feet. Part of the ice sheet, the Pine Island Glacier ice shelf, is among the many in Antarctica that are shrinking at an accelerating rate. This has direct consequences for low-lying coastal and island communities all over the world – and for their inland neighbors.

In analyzing the relationship between melting ice and sea level rise, it is important to distinguish between two kinds of ice: the ice on land and the ice floating on top of the sea. When floating ice melts, sea level is not affected, because its weight has already pushed the sea level upward. But the melting of glaciers and ice sheets resting on land does increase sea level rise. So far, the melting of small mountain glaciers and portions of ice sheets in Antarctica and Greenland has been the main contributor to sea level rise from the loss of ice. (As the oceans warm up, their volume naturally expands, and this too has been a contributor to a small portion of the sea level rise that has occurred in the age of global warming).

Scientists aren’t yet sure precisely how much sea levels will rise over the next century. What we do know is that sea level rise is occurring already, with real consequences for human beings who live near the coasts. In the world’s largest port cities, 40 million people are now already at risk of severe coastal flooding. That number could well triple within the next half-century or so.

Even wealthier countries are not immune to the impacts. In the United States, for example, particularly vulnerable areas are: Miami Beach, the Chesapeake region, coastal Louisiana, and coastal Texas. In some of these areas, the land is sinking even as the oceans rise. This will have implications that extend right up to the steps of our nation’s Capitol. A recent study found that sea level rise of only a tenth of a meter would lead to $2 billion in property damage and affect almost 68,000 people in Washington, D.C. In addition, the enhanced threat of storm surges was illustrated last year when tropical storm Irene led to warnings that the New York City subway system and tunnels into the city could be flooded.
But the most vulnerable regions lie in developing countries, where populations are still rising fast and there is little money to shore up infrastructure. The cities most threatened by sea level rise are places like Calcutta and Mumbai in India; Guangzhou, China; and Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. And of course, there are more than a few low-lying island nations – like the Maldives – that are already in imminent danger.

Then there is Bangladesh. A one-meter sea level rise – which could happen as soon as 2050 according to some Antarctic specialists – could result in between 22 and 35 million people in Bangladesh relocating from the areas in which they now live and work. Two-thirds of this nation is less than five meters above sea level. For the nation’s 142 million people packed into a small space, climate change poses a nearly unimaginable challenge. The threat of sea level rise is not simply flooding, but saltwater intrusion that hurts the production of rice, the country’s staple crop. Increased damage to rice farmers could soon put 20 million farmers out of work and force them into crowded cities.

Here in Antarctica, it’s easy to feel isolated from the rest of the world. But as I look at this exquisite continent buried deep under the ice, it’s troubling to think about what will happen as this ice melts ever more rapidly.