We Are the Cavalry

CCL 2013 DC

Late last month, under a sweltering DC sun, President Barack Obama wiped his brow, as if to emphasize a glaring truth; it’s getting hotter. In the absence of Congressional leadership, Obama promised to slow global warming, in part, by using the EPA to limit the amount of carbon dioxide that power plants may produce.

At the time of the president’s address, I was a few miles away in a Capitol Hill office. As part of a delegation of concerned citizen-volunteers, I was meeting with an aide who worked for a Kansas Republican House member. Our group, from Kansas, New Mexico, Wisconsin, and Toronto, asked for the Congressman to support a transparent, market-based solution to limit carbon emissions, the revenue-neutral carbon tax.

In total, almost 400 volunteers from the Citizens Climate Lobby (CCL) made 439 congressional office visits that week. This citizen advocacy organization has been taking its asks directly to Congress for the past four years, and the number of volunteers asking has doubled each successive year.

“Politicians don’t create political will, they respond to it,” says CCL’s executive director Mark Reynolds. “It’s always easier to take the cynical view of politics. But if you actually say, ‘I’m a citizen. This is a citizen problem,’ it gives you an entirely different world to deal with.”

CCL’s work is based on the principles of non-violence and the work of Gandhi on behalf of the Indian community in South Africa a century ago. Gandhi’s chief adversary at that time was General Smuts, head of the South African Government in the Transvaal.

In a now historic meeting, Gandhi told Smuts, “I’ve come to tell you that I am going to fight against your government.

Anything more?” Smuts replied incredulously.

Yes, Gandhi answered, “I am going to win.”

Smuts laughed,“How?

Gandhi responded back, “With your help.”

Ultimately, with the help of Smuts, Gandhi prevailed. South Africa is often called the birthplace of Gandhi’s Satyagraha (“insistence on truth”) movement.

CCL’s bipartisan approach of appealing to others shared humanity, reaching across table, and forging alliances with people you wouldn’t normally regard as your allies is gaining support. The organization is now comprised of over 110 grassroots groups across the country and adding more members weekly.

Likewise, a revenue-neutral carbon tax has widespread support from economists on both sides of the political spectrum as the most efficient, easiest and most transparent way to regulate greenhouse gas emissions.

CCL proposes placing a rising fee on carbon at the point where it enters the market- at the wellhead, at the coal mine, or as an adjustment at the border to encourage trading countries to adopt similar measures. To take the bite out of the rising costs associated with the carbon fee, and to appeal to conservatives who do not like taxes, CCL proposes giving 100% of the revenue back to households. The revenue-neutral aspect of this proposal is critical to gain Republican support.

So how did our meeting go with the Kansas Republican’s office? What started out as a very tense situation, ended with the young aide smiling, thanking us and asking us to keep the dialogue open.

“I don’t see anybody else coming. You know, when you get into a dire situation, the cavalry shows up, ” CCL’s founder, Marshall Saunders told volunteers participating in the week’s activities. “We are the cavalry. And we are going to win and there is no choice about it.”

Perhaps, Obama said it best in his address, “What we need in this fight are citizens who will stand up, and speak up, and compel us to do what this moment demands.” The world is getting hotter, our window of opportunity to change course is closing. Politicians will not act unless we, collectively, compel them to do so.

Maria Rotunda is the Santa Fe Citizens Climate Lobby group leader. You can contact her at santafe@citizensclimatelobby.org.

 

Citizens Climate Lobby from SandDreams on Vimeo.

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Obama All-of-the-Above Energy Policy Lacks Moral Urgency

English: Speech of Barack Obama at KSC.

A lot of my friends are still on a high about Obama’s recent discovery of the words climate change. He broke his climate silence after Hurricane Sandy. And climate change took prominent place in his inaugural address. In Tuesday’s the State of the Union, he brought it up again.

“But for the sake of our children and our future, we must do more to combat climate change. Now, it’s true that no single event makes a trend. But the fact is, the 12 hottest years on record have all come in the last 15. Heat waves, droughts, wildfires, floods, all are now more frequent and more intense. We can choose to believe that Superstorm Sandy, and the most severe drought in decades, and the worst wildfires some states have ever seen were all just a freak coincidence. Or we can choose to believe in the overwhelming judgment of science and act before it’s too late.”

But Obama’s message lacked the moral fortitude and urgency that he brings to the issue of gun violence. He’s still talking about climate change as if it will affect our children in a distant future and not furiously bearing down on us now with little time to right our course. And his policy choices reflect this disconnect.

Expanded drilling for oil, fracking and coal mining on public lands have created a surplus of domestic energy, but at what cost? As US CO2 emissions, decline, they raise globally, in part due to Obama’s increased rate of coal exports to Asia.

This Sunday, thousands of people will be in DC protesting the Keystone XL Pipeline. It is anticipated that Obama may approve the Keystone XL project, a Canadian export pipeline that will transverse the US to deliver one of the dirtiest forms of fossil fuel energy to an international market. NASA’s most imminent climate scientist James Hansen has called the burning of tar sands fossil fuel “game over for the climate.”

 If we continue to approve pipelines bringing in the dirtiest of fuels like tar sands he said, “there is no hope of keeping carbon concentrations below 500 p.p.m. — a level that would, as earth’s history shows, leave our children a climate system that is out of their control.”

In the State of the Union, the president did urge Congress to pursue market-based solutions.

“Now, the good news is, we can make meaningful progress on this issue while driving strong economic growth. I urge this Congress to get together, pursue a bipartisan, market-based solution to climate change, like the one John McCain and Joe Lieberman worked on together a few years ago.”

Here, we agree. If Congress ends dirty energy subsidies and places a carbon tax on fossil fuel polluters, while investing in clean energy, we can shift our power to a green energy future; one that reflects the moral urgency of what must be done.

In fact, the very next day, Senators Boxer and Sanders announced plans for “comprehensive” legislation, that will include a carbon tax.

From Sanders’s office:

“Under the legislation, a fee on carbon pollution emissions would fund historic investments in energy efficiency and sustainable energy technologies such as wind, solar, geothermal and biomass. The proposal also would provide rebates to consumers to offset any efforts by oil, coal or gas companies to raise prices.”

Get Involved:

Citizens Climate Lobby: http://www.citizensclimatelobby.org/

Forward on Climate Rally: http://act.350.org/signup/presidentsday

 

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How the GOP can answer Obama’s climate challenge

By Mark Reynolds

If you’ve been waiting with great frustration for our government to address climate change, President Obama’s second inaugural speech last week was both stunning and exhilarating.

In his most forceful language to date, the President made it clear he intends to devote much of his energy in his second term to “reduce the threat of climate change, knowing that failure to do so would betray our children and future generations.”

If legislative action is not forthcoming, it appears Obama will reach for every tool at his disposal, using executive authority to circumvent a recalcitrant Congress.

One way or another, America will respond to the threat of climate change. The question is whether that response is through expansion of government regulations or through the power of the marketplace. Republicans, who abhor the former, should embrace the latter with a revenue-neutral tax on carbon.

The President’s newfound initiative is being cheered by much of our nation, which awoke last year to the harsh reality of climate change after a series of events influenced by rising temperatures:

  • Horrific wildfires raged out West, where drought, heat and insects thriving in warmer winters combined to turn forests into kindling.
  • Devastating drought in the Plains and Midwest decimated crops, producing shortages reflected in higher food prices.
  •  Heat waves shattered high-temperature records across the country and led to 2012 being the warmest year ever recorded in the contiguous U.S.
  • Superstorm Sandy slammed into the Northeast last fall and caused tens of billions of dollars in damage, from which residents are still recovering.

Sandy was the loudest of the alarms to go off, and President Obama won’t be hitting  the snooze button this time around.

As quickly as Obama issued his challenge, speculation emerged about the means he’ll use to reduce greenhouse gas emissions heating up the planet. It’s likely that his Feb. 12 State of the Union address will define a course of action. The expectation in nearly every quarter is that he’ll use the Environmental Protection Agency’s authority under the Clean Air Act to ramp up regulations on carbon-dioxide and other greenhouse gases.

Is this what Republicans – the party that eschews government regulation – really want?

Rather than wage a futile battle with Obama over EPA’s authority to regulate greenhouse gases – for which the Supreme Court has already ruled in favor – the GOP could answer the President’s climate challenge with a free-market solution embraced by a number of conservative economists: A revenue-neutral tax on carbon that gives proceeds back to consumers.

Here’s how it works: Place a steadily-rising tax on the CO2 content of coal, oil and gas at the first point of sale. Start at $15 per ton of CO2 and increase the tax $10 a ton each year. As a result, the cost of energy will go up. To prevent the tax from being a drag on the economy, return the revenue to consumers, preferably as direct payments.

This clear and predictable price on carbon, which begins to reflect society’s true cost of carbon-based energy, will motivate investors to shift away from fossil fuels and toward clean sources of energy like wind and solar. The need for government subsidies to prop up renewables will eventually disappear.

The appeal for Republicans here is a solution that does not expand the size and role of government. Instead, it utilizes the power of the free market to solve one of humanity’s greatest problems.

An argument continually made against U.S. efforts to reduce CO2 emissions is that other big emitters, like China and India, will thwart our initiatives to curb greenhouse gases. If, however, a carbon tax is coupled with border adjustments on imports from countries that lack a comparable policy, we accomplish two things:

  1.  Protecting American businesses from unfair competition.
  2.  Providing a strong incentive for other nations to follow the U.S. lead (Why enrich the U.S. Treasury when they can keep carbon tax revenues in their own countries?).

So, Republicans, is it going to be regulations or free market?

This isn’t an issue where one party has to claim victory over the other. If we succeed in saving the world, there will be plenty of credit to go around for everyone.

Mark Reynolds is the executive director of Citizens Climate Lobby.

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As Obama Embarks on Second Term, He Heralds Citizens’ Obligations

Judging from the chatter on Facebook and twitter, Obama’s inaugural rhetoric was a success. He used the words climate change. (We’ve really set the bar low in our expectations there.)397508_10151405408554238_1157804940_n

“We, the people, still believe that our obligations as Americans are not just to ourselves, but to all posterity. We will respond to the threat of climate change, knowing that the failure to do so would betray our children and future generations. (Applause.) Some may still deny the overwhelming judgment of science, but none can avoid the devastating impact of raging fires and crippling drought and more powerful storms.

The path towards sustainable energy sources will be long and sometimes difficult. But America cannot resist this transition, we must lead it. We cannot cede to other nations the technology that will power new jobs and new industries, we must claim its promise. That’s how we will maintain our economic vitality and our national treasure — our forests and waterways, our crop lands and snow-capped peaks. That is how we will preserve our planet, commanded to our care by God. That’s what will lend meaning to the creed our fathers once declared.”

But for me, the best part was when he talked about citizens’ obligations and duties. Obama opened with a call to action; “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”

Today we continue a never-ending journey to bridge the meaning of those words with the realities of our time. For history tells us that while these truths may be self-evident, they’ve never been self-executing; that while freedom is a gift from God, it must be secured by His people here on Earth. (Applause.)

And closed with a call to action. “You and I, as citizens, have the power to set this country’s course. You and I, as citizens, have the obligation to shape the debates of our time — not only with the votes we cast, but with the voices we lift in defense of our most ancient values and enduring ideals. (Applause.)

Let us, each of us, now embrace with solemn duty and awesome joy what is our lasting birthright. With common effort and common purpose, with passion and dedication, let us answer the call of history and carry into an uncertain future that precious light of freedom.”

We’ve seen how government can be co-opted by special interests and money and that process aided by a media focused on infotainment. Democracy isn’t perfect or easy. And above all, democracy isn’t a spectator sport. We, in the collective sense, get the government we choose by both voting, our action and our inaction.

For this day, I’ll agree with President Obama and say, “you and I as citizen’s have the power to set this country’s course.

Where can you start?

350.org is sponsoring a demonstration on Feb 17th in Washington DC. If 20,000 people show up, that will certainly get noticed. Click here to join 350.org in DC: act.350.org/signup/presidentsday

Join the Citizens Climate Lobby. They have an introductory call every Wednesday, 5 PM PST/ 8PM EST at  1-866-642-1665.  The pass code is 440699# .

Jump in and join the movement.

 

 

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Mitt Romney’s Inconclusive Declarations on Climate Change

Mitt Romney Steve Pearce event 057Mitt Romney got a good laugh out of the climate deniers in his audience at the GOP Convention in Tampa, a city already planning for sea level rise, as he mocked President Obama’s promise to address climate change.

“President Obama promised to begin to slow the rise of the oceans…(pause to allow for laughter) and to heal the planet.  My promise … is to help you and your family.”

It could be that Republicans have a secret plan to transport American families to another planet, something they are keeping hidden from the rest of us. Perhaps in a parallel universe,  but we can’t be sure.

Romney’s statement got a lot of people upset. Notably Paul Douglas, a Republican meteorologist, who published this in the Huffington Post,
“But denying climate change won’t help any American family or our fledgling economy. And looking at the world with carbon-colored glasses, or using Solyndra as an excuse to snub renewables and clean-tech, is not only short-sighted, but makes America less competitive on the world stage. According to the World Economic Forum, America’s global competitiveness fell from 1st to 7th place since 2007. Should we just accept that most breakthrough energy technologies are originating in China and Europe, where there is no more “debate” about climate trends? Why is America still questioning the science? For political entertainment? Something tells me Mother Nature may get the last laugh.”
A facebook friend of mine commented, “I wish that he would publish his thoughts in some media that the Republicans follow.” Agreed.

Mitt moved forward with his not-gonna-fix-the-ocean-or-the-planet mantra on Meet the Press with David Gregory (September 9, 2012). Gregory let Romney ramble on without questioning him the on fact that the science tells us urgent action to curb emissions is necessary to preserve a liveable planet. It felt more like free ad time than an interview. This continued silence by the mainstream media to the true science of climate change is more than a lapse in journalistic integrity. It is willfully allowing this global train wreck to proceed unhindered.

In a recent interview with ScienceDebate.org, a science advocacy group, Romney had this to say,
“I am not a scientist myself, but my best assessment of the data is that the world is getting warmer, that human activity contributes to that warming, and that policymakers should therefore consider the risk of negative consequences. However, there remains a lack of scientific consensus on the issue — on the extent of the warming, the extent of the human contribution, and the severity of the risk — and I believe we must support continued debate and investigation within the scientific community.”
On a campaign stop in 2011 Romney stated,“We don’t know what is causing climate change on this planet and the idea of spending trillions and trillions of dollars to reduce CO2 emissions is not the right course for us.”

The above statements, carefully crafted to fuel the disinformation campaign on global climate change, are consistent with Romney’s energy plan which is all fossil fuels. It’s 2008’s “drill, baby drill” wearing new clothes, or maybe no clothes.

In my next post we’ll address some of the science of why this plan won’t work; why the point of no return and a runaway greenhouse (think Venus) effect are the probable scientific outcomes for future generations with this continued business-as-usual fossil fuel loving plan.

I tried to embed the Meet the Press video below but kept getting a restricted access message.

As Spring Begins, Record Heat Across the US Has Obama “a little nervous”

As spring is ushered in, a heat wave across the United States sends temperatures hovering 40˚F above normal in some places. In the Southwest, a snow and ice storm. And powerful tornadoes ripped through the Midwest.

According to Climatecentral.org,“On March 15 alone, 593 record daily high temperatures were set or tied, along with 445 record warm low temperatures. This compares to just 10 record cold high temperatures, and only 2 record cold overnight lows. In Chicago, temperatures have soared past 80°F four days in a row — the earliest that has ever occurred, breaking a record set in mid-April, 1896.”

Also in Chicago, President Obama made an appearance at a charity fundraiser hosted by Oprah Winfrey and said, “We’ve had a good day. It’s warm every place. It gets you a little nervous about what’s happening to global temperatures. But when it’s 75 degrees in Chicago in the beginning of March it gets you thinking…”

Finishing the president’s thought, Oprah interjected, “Something’s wrong.”

Yeah,” Obama agreed. “On other hand we really have enjoyed the nice weather.”

This ambivalence is the hallmark of the Obama presidency. His willingness to hold two contrary opinions in his head and balance them out without assigning any degree of urgency.

Global climate change and the extreme weather events it produces, fueled by the amount of CO2 and greenhouse gases that we dump daily into our atmosphere is only going to intensify with more extreme weather in the coming decades. At some point, one wonders if Obama will look nostalgically back to the balmy days of March 2012 and wonder if maybe he should have payed more attention to the science.

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Climate Deniers Make Presence At COP17 in Durban

While no elected member of the US Congress showed up in Durban this week for the COP17, Senator James Inhofe (R-OK) recorded a video message for a conference of climate change deniers at the summit. Heralding the “complete collapse of the global warming movement and the failure of the Kyoto process,” Inhofe went on to say he was “confident” that he was the only person in Washington DC left talking about global warming.
Earlier that day, Democracy Now interviewed Mark Morano, a fomer Inhofe staffer and publisher of the Climate Depot, who spoke at that conference of global warming skeptics. Referring to President Obama, Morano said, “His nickname is “George W. Obama.” Obama’s negotiator, Todd Stern, will be here today. They have kept the exact same principles and negotiating stance as President George Bush did for eight years. Obama has carried on Bush’s legacy. So, as skeptics, we tip our hat to President Obama in helping crush and continue to defeat the United Nations process. Obama has been a great friend of global warming skeptics at these conferences. Obama has problems, you know, for us, because he’s going through the EPA regulatory process, which is a grave threat. But in terms of this, President Obama could not have turned out better when it came to his lack of interest in the congressional climate bill and his lack of interest in the United Nations Kyoto Protocol. So, a job well done for President Obama.”

 

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NASA Scientist to President Obama: we must find someone who is worthy of our dreams

 

“We had a dream that the new president would understand the intergenerational injustice of human-made climate change. That he would recognize our duty to be caretakers of creation, of the land, of the life on our planet. And that he would exercise hands on leadership, taking the matter to the public, avoiding back-room, crippling deals with special interests.

But we will not give up. There can be no law or no regulation that stops us from acting on our dreams. Have no doubt that if the tar sands pipeline is approved, we will be back and our numbers will grow.

For the sake of our children and our grandchildren we must find someone who is worthy of our dreams.”…NASA Scientist James Hansen at the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline protest in Washington DC.

People Gather in front of White House

Image by tarsandsaction via Flickr

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