February 2013

A Bleak Future February 1, 2013 : 6:59 PM

Strong words from World Bank President Jim Yong Kim in the Washington Post:

“If there is no action soon, the future will become bleak. The World Bank Group released a reportin November that concluded that the world could warm by 7.2 degrees Fahrenheit (4 degrees Celsius) by the end of this century if concerted action is not taken now.”

“A world that warm means seas would rise 1.5 to 3 feet, putting at risk hundreds of millions of city dwellers globally. It would mean that storms once dubbed “once in a century” would become common, perhaps occurring every year. And it would mean that much of the United States, from Los Angeles to Kansas to the nation’s capital, would feel like an unbearable oven in the summer.”

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Get the facts February 2, 2013 : 2:18 PM

Media Matters assembles the myths and facts about solar energy:

“Conservative media have denigrated solar energy by denying its sustainability, ignoring its successes, and arguing the U.S. should simply cede the solar market to China. Yet this booming industry has made great strides, and with the right policies can become a major source of our power.”

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A Good Sign February 3, 2013 : 2:36 PM

Representative Henry Waxman and Senator Sheldon Whitehouse have joined together to focus Congressional energy on the climate crisis forming a Climate Change Task Force that will hopefully lead to action:

"The Task Force will be co-chaired by Rep. Waxman, the Ranking Member of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, and Sen. Whitehouse, the Chairman of the Subcommittee on Oversight for the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee. It will be dedicated to focusing Congressional and public attention on climate change and developing effective policy responses, and will be open to all other Members of Congress interested in collaborating on this issue."

“Congress and the public need to understand that climate change impacts are turning out worse than expected and our window to act is closing,” said Rep. Waxman. “This threat is not waiting until we are ready to deal with it. That is why I am pleased to join with Senator Whitehouse to work to educate our colleagues and all Americans about the magnitude of the problem and the urgency of the threat we are confronting.”

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A Warning February 6, 2013 : 1:03 PM

During his time in office, Steven Chu did a tremendous job in his role as Secretary of Energy. Fighting against strong headwinds, Chu helped to lay the groundwork for major advancements in our nation’s renewable energy infrastructure. Thank you, Secretary Chu.

I encourage everyone to read Secretary Chu’s final memo. It is an important reminder of the challenges we face.

From Time:

"Chu ended his characteristically detailed final memo with a reminder of the ethical need to fight climate change:"

“Ultimately we have a moral responsibility to the most innocent victims of adverse climate change. Those who will suffer the most are the people who are the most innocent: the world’s poorest citizens and those yet to be born. There is an ancient Native American saying: “We do not inherit the land from our ancestors, we borrow it from our children.” A few short decades later, we don’t want our children to ask, “What were our parents thinking? Didn’t they care about us?”

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Politicians Pay Attention February 7, 2013 : 2:58 PM

Public opinion favors action to solve the climate crisis:

"Public opinion in the United States has shifted in favor of doing something about climate change, and politicians who want to get elected need to take note of it, according to a new study by the Yale Project on Climate Change Communication."

"A nationwide survey conducted before the November election found that concern about the effects of global warming is high across political groups, with most Democrats and Independents expressing concern about global warming and its potential harm for people today as well as to future generations. A clear majority of registered voters, 58 percent, said they would consider a candidate's position on global warming when deciding how they will vote."

Source: Discovery News

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Wind power overtakes nuclear in China February 9, 2013 : 5:25 PM

The Chinese government has made major investments in renewable energy technology over the last few years. Now, one group reports that wind power generates more electricity than nuclear. More from OilPrice.com:

"According to data from the China Wind Energy Association (CWEA), wind energy capacity has now surpassed nuclear power to become the third largest source of electricity in China, after coal, and large-scale hydro-electric plants."

"In 2012 wind power generation totalled 100.4 billion kilowatt hours, an increase of 0.5% from the years before, and enough to send it past nuclear power generation."

"Wind energy capacity has grown rapidly over the years, fuelled by ambitious renewable energy targets, and strong government support of wind energy manufacturers. By the end of 2012 China had 60.83GW of installed capacity, and targets aim to see a total of 100WGW by the end of 2015."

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Conservatives look to old playbook to promote climate denial February 10, 2013 : 4:35 PM

Just as anti-science forces have attempted to hamstring science education by mandating evolution be taught as a contentious debate, conservative groups are doing the same with the climate crisis:

"Last month, Arizona, Colorado, and Oklahoma all introduced bills that would make teaching about climate change in public schools less a science and more a political debate. The bills — based on model legislation from the supremely evil American Legislative Exchange Council — would require schools to teach that climate change is “controversial” and not widely accepted scientific fact."

Source: Grist

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The State of the Union February 12, 2013 : 4:19 PM

Tonight’s State of the Union Address represents an excellent opportunity for President Obama to build upon his actions in his first term to solve the climate crisis and reclaim American leadership on this most crucial challenge. During his first four years, President Obama oversaw unprecedented investments in clean energy, improved energy efficiency standards in automobiles, and crucial carbon pollution regulations for new coal plants. While President Obama’s success in these areas exceeds those of his predecessors, much more, obviously, must be done. We are facing a rapidly closing window of opportunity to avert the worst consequences of the climate crisis and steer our country and—with U.S. leadership—the world, on a path of sustainability.

In 2012, it became clear that the global warming pollution we spew into the atmosphere at a rate of 90 million tons per day is already fueling dirty weather right here in the United States. From a drought that parched more than 60% of our nation to soaring temperatures that made 2012 the hottest year ever recorded in the history of our country, to the massive fires in the West, to the worst outbreak of West Nice Virus in our history, to the melting of half of the North Polar Ice Cap last summer, to billions in climate-related disaster damage, to Superstorm Sandy, we must heed our planet’s warning.

President Obama has already spoken eloquently on this issue in his masterful Inaugural Address – now he must act boldly. It is essential that the President continue to discuss the climate crisis and its impacts, and it is even more important that he take all possible actions to solve this existential threat. Even with Congressional inaction, President Obama has many avenues of change open to him and I encourage him to pursue them all without delay.

Unfortunately, even though public opinion now firmly supports the scientific consensus that dirty energy causes dirty weather, too many of our politicians continue to treat this topic as merely a political issue. In a recent interview, Senator Marco Rubio – who will deliver the Republican response to the State of the Union – denied the reality of the climate crisis, stating that “the climate is always changing” and that there is “reasonable debate” on the nature of humanity’s contribution to global warming. I hope that Senator Rubio and his ideological allies will reconsider these views, especially considering the threat posed by strengthening storms and rising seas to Florida and many other states across America.

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Earth Inc. February 13, 2013 : 6:52 PM

Check out my new video.

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False Spontaneity of the Tea Party February 14, 2013 : 3:12 PM

A new study by the National Cancer Institute of the National Institute of Medicine reveals that the Tea Party Movement was planned over a decade ago by groups with ties to the tobacco and fossil fuel industries. The movement was not a spontaneous populist uprising, but rather a long-term strategy to promote the anti-science, anti-government agenda of powerful corporate interests.

The two organizations mentioned in the report, Americans for Prosperity and Freedomworks, used to be a single organization that was founded by the Koch brothers and heavily financed by the tobacco industry. These organizations began planning the Tea Party Movement over ten years ago to promote a common agenda that advocated market fundamentalism over science and opposed any regulation or taxation of fossil fuels and tobacco products.

The disturbing history of links between market fundamentalists, the tobacco industry and the Tea Party movement is part of an even larger trend that I describe in my new book, The Future: Six Drivers of Global Change. Following the era of Progressive and New Deal reforms that restrained corporate influence in American politics following the infamous Robber Baron Era, market fundamentalists were once again motivated and radicalized by the social turbulence of the 1960s. In 1971, a prominent lawyer for the tobacco industry, Lewis Powell, wrote a memorandum for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce that presented a comprehensive plan aimed at shifting the balance of political power in favor of corporations. President Nixon appointed Powell to the Supreme Court just two months later.

Guided by the Powell Memo, market fundamentalists have pursued a comprehensive strategy to dramatically increase corporate influence in American politics. Powell himself worked with other pro-corporate justices to interpret laws in ways that were favorable to corporate interests, most importantly expanding the precedent of corporate personhood. As a direct result, corporate lobbying exploded, increasing from $100 million in 1975 to $3.5 billion in 2010. Corporations also used increasingly voluminous campaign contributions to promote the election of pro-corporate politicians at all levels of government. Wealthy donors founded conservative think tanks to influence public opinion in favor of market fundamentalism. The Tea Party is a clear extension of Powell’s strategy to promote corporate profit at the expense of the pubic good.

Our democracy has been hacked by this expansion of corporate power, preventing meaningful action on several crucial issues. The climate crisis is an instructive example. The strategic goal of the market fundamentalists to "reposition global warming as theory not fact" has created enough false doubt around the issue to hinder progress. The potential consequences of climate change have never been clearer than they are today. Consider what we saw in America just last year. 2012 was the hottest year in American history and 60% of America experienced drought. Extreme weather events, like Superstorm Sandy, caused over $110 billion of damages. Yet Congress remains paralyzed, with many lawmakers even refusing to acknowledge the validity of climate science. The future of our planet demands that we put the sustainability of our planet before corporate profit.

We must reclaim control of our destiny. Reducing corporate influence in American politics and reinvigorating reason-based decision-making is vital to the sustainability of our democratic system.

Original study: http://bit.ly/WrwSzA

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Cheaper than Coal February 15, 2013 : 2:51 PM

Globally, the price of renewables continues to drop relative to the price of coal:

“According to the latest research from Bloomberg New Energy Finance, electricity from wind power can now be supplied more cheaply in Australia than power from either coal or natural gas — and solar and other forms of renewable energy aren’t far behind.”

“Older coal-fired power plants from the 70s and 80s still compete at lower prices than renewables — but only because their construction costs have depreciated. For the deployment of any new power generation in Australia, renewables now appear to be the way to go.”

Source: Climate Progress

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We Have the Tools February 16, 2013 : 1:24 PM

Take a second to read my friend Amory Lovins’ article on how our country already has the tools to rapidly and permanently reduce our carbon emissions:

“In his recent New Republic interview, President Obama said we "need some big technological breakthrough" to tackle climate change. Mr. President -- our nation already has the technologies to protect the climate while advancing prosperity. Here's how.

"Your National Renewable Energy Laboratory showed just last June how to produce 80 to 90 percent of America's electricity from proven, reliable and increasingly competitive renewable sources like the sun and wind.

"That confirmed the findings of Rocky Mountain Institute's peer-reviewed study Reinventing Fire, introduced by the heads of Shell Oil and Exelon and endorsed by President Clinton. RMI showed how to run a 2.6-fold-bigger U.S. economy by 2050 with no oil, coal, or nuclear energy, one-third less natural gas, a $5 trillion dollar net savings, 82-86 percent lower carbon emissions, and no new inventions, with the transition led by business for growth and profit.“

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Boston Underwater February 17, 2013 : 7:03 PM

Here’s the effect of rising sea levels on Boston:

"Coastal cities are now living in what Brian Swett calls a “post-Sandy environment.” In this new reality, there is no more denying the specter of sea-level rise or punting on plans to prepare for it. And there is no more need to talk of climate change in abstract predictions and science-speak. We now know exactly what it could look like."

"In this environment, The Boston Harbor Association is somewhat fortuitously releasing today a major scientific report, long in the works, on what coming sea-level rise could mean for the city. And if Sandy had any silver living, says Swett, Boston’s Environment and Energy Chief, it is that residents are now as ready as ever to listen."

Source: TheAtlanticCities.com

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Secret network of conservative billionaires fuel climate disinformation campaign February 19, 2013 : 10:19 PM

A new investigation by the UK Guardian reveals that conservative billionaires have poured more than $100 million into a multi-year effort to cast false doubt on the certainty of the climate crisis:

"Conservative billionaires used a secretive funding route to channel nearly $120m (£77m) to more than 100 groups casting doubt about the science behind climate change, the Guardian has learned."

"The funds, doled out between 2002 and 2010, helped build a vast network of thinktanks and activist groups working to a single purpose: to redefine climate change from neutral scientific fact to a highly polarising "wedge issue" for hardcore conservatives."

"The millions were routed through two trusts, Donors Trust and the Donors Capital Fund, operating out of a generic town house in the northern Virginia suburbs of Washington DC. Donors Capital caters to those making donations of $1m or more."

"Whitney Ball, chief executive of the Donors Trust told the Guardian that her organisation assured wealthy donors that their funds would never by diverted to liberal causes."

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Cap and Trade February 22, 2013 : 2:17 PM

The climate crisis is not an insurmountable political challenge—indeed, some US states are already tackling it head on. Just recently, the ten northeastern states of the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative agreed to continue cutting their emissions for the next ten years:

“Remember cap-and-trade? Back in 2010, Democrats in Congress had a proposal to set a nationwide limit on U.S. greenhouse-gas emissions and let businesses trade pollution permits. But the climate bill died, and cap-and-trade mostly vanished from discussion.”

“Except in the Northeast. For the past decade, ten states stretching from Maine to Maryland have been experimenting with their own modest cap on carbon pollution from electric power plants. And, this week, the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) announced that it would continue to cut emissions by tightening the cap between now and 2020.”

Read the rest of the article by clicking here.

Source: Washington Post WonkBlog

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Small Businesses Support President Obama on Climate February 23, 2013 : 5:19 PM

Groups representing 150,000 small business band together to support President Obama’s tough stand on the climate crisis that he took during the State of the Union:

"A coalition of groups representing over 150,000 American businesses and $9.5 trillion in collective assets signed a letter yesterday praising President Obama for his strong stance on climate policy in the State of the Union address."

"In the letter, the business organizations Environmental Entrepreneurs, the American Sustainable Business Council, Ceres, and Green America Coming Together endorsed Obama’s new energy efficient and renewable power targets, as well as his commitment to “reduce carbon pollution, absent Congressional action, through existing federal authorities.”

Source: Climate Progress

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The Climate Cliff February 24, 2013 : 6:56 PM

With all the talk of deficits in Washington, it should be noted that the U.S. Government Accountability Office recently released a report showing that the climate crisis puts our nation in financial peril:

“As climate change leads to more frequent and destructive natural disasters and threatens crop yields, bridges and other infrastructure, the federal government faces big financial risks that it is poorly positioned to address, auditors said Thursday.”

“These risks, along with the threat of gaps in critical weather forecasting satellites that could last years, topped a biennial list released Thursday of federal programs at high risk of waste, fraud, abuse or financial loss.”

Source: Washington Post

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Secretary of State John Kerry February 26, 2013 : 1:25 PM

Our new Secretary of State wasted no time in calling for action to avert the climate crisis:

"John Kerry used his first major speech as secretary of State to make that case that failing to confront climate change means missing big economic opportunities — and worse."

“If we waste this opportunity, it may be the only thing our generation — generations — are remembered for. We need to find the courage to leave a far different legacy,” Kerry said in a wide-ranging address Wednesday at the University of Virginia."

"Kerry again signaled that he hopes to use his role as top diplomat to promote green energy technologies, arguing they can provide a major boost to U.S. industries in the “next great revolution in our marketplace.”

"He also cited the prospect of new markets for “America’s second-to-none innovators and entrepreneurs.”

Source: The Hill

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The Global Mind February 27, 2013 : 10:38 AM

Check out my new video on The Global Mind. Thoughts? Reactions? Tweet at me using #TheFuture or post on my Facebook.

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The Drought Continues February 27, 2013 : 2:43 PM

Few signs of relief for the parched US:

“After enduring last summer’s destructive drought, farmers, ranchers and officials across the parched Western states had hoped that plentiful winter snows would replenish the ground and refill their rivers, breaking the grip of one of the worst dry spells in American history. No such luck.”

“Lakes are half full and mountain snows are thin, omens of another summer of drought and wildfire. Complicating matters, many of the worst-hit states have even less water on hand than a year ago, raising the specter of shortages and rationing that could inflict another year of losses on struggling farms.”

Source: New York Times

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