June 2013

Senator Frank Lautenberg June 3, 2013 : 10:52 AM

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.


My Top Reads of the Week June 7, 2013 : 3:30 PM

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


Statement on President Obama's Remarks on the Climate Crisis June 25, 2013 : 2:01 PM

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.