My Grandfather was a Coal Miner

My grandfather was a coal miner. He was also an American immigrant from southern Italy. As a US citizen, he served in the US Army. He was very proud to be able to participate in democracy. My mother remembers her dad putting on his best suit and walking for miles to cast his vote.

Back in his mountain origin of Bocchigliero, he was a contadino; a peasant farmer. Like so many others, he came to America to pursue a dream– a better life for himself and his family. Once he whispered to his young bride, my grandmother, “Filomena, in America the roads are paved with gold.”   scarnato-young-sam-version-2

My grandfather spoke out for better conditions for the men who worked alongside him in the coal mine. As you can imagine, in the absence of modern day laws, laboring in a coal mine in the early-to-mid 20th century wasn’t a pleasant or healthy experience.

During times when I was unhappy in my own job, my thoughts would inevitably go to my grandfather. Although he had died before I was born, his story was memorable. I’d say to myself, “if he could go down into a coal mine everyday, then you can do this.” That definitely put my white-collar employment woes into perspective.

Believing in the American dream, my grandfather knew that the ticket to a better future was to work hard and focus his children on education. You might say he sacrificed himself-as an immigrant with no formal education but a strong work ethic-so that his children could get educated and have a better life. And they did.

Health related disease like black lung and the perils of mining accidents still loom large for coal miners worldwide. Negative externalities for the larger society are also pronounced; increased asthma rates, acid rain, and the perpetual elephant in the room–climate change.

But there is another human dimension that is often overlooked. Propping up a fossil industry in decline, creates a stale state where people are always looking down and under valuing their human potential. Someone looking down will never look up to advance their education and upgrade their employment skills to join a new renewable energy economy.

Let’s give today’s coal miners access to the tools they need to enter the 21st century economy with good paying clean energy jobs. Politicians need to quit using these coal miners as pawns to bolster an industry in it’s last death spiral. The quicker we make efforts to move forward, the sooner the American dream can be realized by all.

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Courtesy of: Visual Capitalist

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A Fool with a Plan Will Go Farther Than a Genius with No Plan

“A fool with a plan will go farther than a genius with no plan.”

It was late 2008 and everyone in the room laughed as billionaire T. Boone Pickens retold this story from his college years. His father was concerned with Boone’s lack of direction in choosing a major. Dad came to visit his son and said;

“Listen son, a fool with a plan can beat a genius with no plan. And your mother and I have a concern that we have a fool with no plan. So you’re getting ready to get a plan and get out of school and that’s it.”

At the time I saw him, Pickens was promoting his energy plan, which involved alternative energies- like wind and solar- and large scale use of LNG as a transport fuel to reduce America’s dependence on fossil fuels. A self-proclaimed “environmentalist“, the Texas billionaire thought that Obama was the man with the plan.

Flash forward two Obama Administrations, and although use of renewable energy has been on the rise globally, and the Administration created a Clean Power Plan that set targets for states (now stayed by the Supreme Court pending judicial review); a large part of the Obama plan was let’s use all-of-the-above energy to meet our needs.

13227755_10153585850135808_7322232879040725686_oAs our climate spirals out of control, it’s obvious now more than ever that we need a plan. Enter the Citizens Climate Lobby (CCL). (They’re no fools!) They have a plan and it’s one that conservatives and progressives and everyone in between, including those without labels, can agree on.

It’s called carbon fee and dividend. And here is how it works:

  • Place a steadily rising fee on fossil fuels (coal, oil and gas).
  • Give all of the revenue from the carbon fee back to households.
  • Use a border adjustment to discourage business relocation.
  • It’s good for the economy AND even better for the climate.

With 332 chapters (and growing!) around the globe, CCL members are creating change with their solution to how to effectively price carbon in the market. Families live within a household budget; it’s time to put a price on carbon so that we can live within our global carbon budget.

Soon, over 800 CCL members will descend on Washington DC for both their international conference and to lobby on Capitol Hill. The Conference runs from June 19-21st and is both inspiring and solution-oriented.

“With your help,” Gandhi responded to General Smuts, as Smuts inquired how he intended to prevail in South Africa. It’s part of CCL’s creation story and strategy for success. And, it’s just as relevant today as it was in Gandhi’s time.

You can take part in a few ways.

 

The Anthropocene and the Fierce Urgency of Now

“We are now faced with the fact that tomorrow is today. We are confronted with the fierce urgency of now. In this unfolding conundrum of life and history, there “is” such a thing as being too late. This is no time for apathy or complacency. This is a time for vigorous and positive action.”– Martin Luther King Jr.

pieterz / Pixabay

 

I’m horrified when I read about the annihilation of entire species. I can’t steel myself against our Anthropocene and the sixth great mass extinction we are currently experiencing on the planet. I wonder how other people can.  I read this story in the Washington Post, In pitiful animal die-offs across the globe — from antelopes to bees to seabirds — climate change may be culprit and it terrified me.

And I wonder how the collective we can have time for everything else except the elephant sitting beside us in the room.

We blame it on elected officials who have their hands in the pockets of big oil and say they must feel pretty lonely. But is calling them out action? We blame our municipalities for not putting in proper mass transit or recycling programs as if those we elect to serve are somehow going to do this without our political pressure.

And still the average person drives to work, shuffles their kids to music or soccer practice, volunteers at bake sales, and sits on their yoga mat. All while the problems get larger; species drop off in record numbers, more people die, the methane is still leaking, it no longer pays to recycle plastic.

“That’s awful,” then return to eating dinner or sitting on their mat. “I wish someone would do something about that.” And the world around them continues to fly off the rails.”Hmm, the price of oil has been really low for a while now, let’s go buy an SUV.”

But, truth be told, you won’t be able to meditate this away. Gandhi didn’t just sit on a mat. Leadership comes from within. What happens to the oceans is happening to you. The oceans are you. So are the trees and the antelope. When an entire species is extinguished we all languish.

And we don’t live in a time we can expect someone else fix this or being a nice person is enough. Get connected- get empowered – start working for a better world. You won’t get it unless you create it.

Here are some places to get you started:

Citizens Climate Lobby – create the political will for a livable world.

Climate Reality Project – become a leader.

 

Everything is Coming Together, As It All Falls Apart

If I had a theme for 2015, it would be movement building. 2015 was the year the Pope put climate front and center in his Encyclical, Laudato Si. Then he took his show on the road in America; visiting first the White House and then Congress.

“Accepting the urgency, it seems clear to me also that climate change is a problem which can no longer be left to a future generation. When it comes to the care of our “common home”, we are living at a critical moment of history. We still have time to make the changes needed to bring about “a sustainable and integral development, for we know that things can change” (Laudato Si’, 13). Such change demands on our part a serious and responsible recognition not only of the kind of world we may be leaving to our children, but also to the millions of people living under a system which has overlooked them. Our common home has been part of this group of the excluded which cries out to heaven and which today powerfully strikes our homes, our cities and our societies. To use a telling phrase of the Reverend Martin Luther King, we can say that we have defaulted on a promissory note and now is the time to honor it.”

2015 was the year we saw 12 Republican Members of Congress break ranks and call for action on climate change.

I mentored at the Climate Reality Leadership training in Miami in September. This was one of several trainings that the Climate Reality Project hosted in 2015. Over 1200 people from 86 countries came together to create a united force for people working to create the paradigm shift we need for a sustainable future.

Climate Leaders in Miami

The Canadian election in October shifted the course of that country’s climate change policy for the better.

In December, the Paris Accord at the UNFCCC COP21 was signed by representatives from 195 countries with a target to limit temperature rise to 1.5˚C. This came with no plan how to get to the target, but it was largely touted as a success for this inclusion.

A pretty good year, if we don’t take into account the climate disruption that is coming on much faster than originally predicted. 2015 was the hottest year on record; exceeding 2014’s brief tenure there. We’ve got rain at the north pole in the dead of winter, record heat across the eastern seaboard, and overall wicked weather. And we’ve only warmed the earth 1˚C to date.

Miami and Miami Beach, regularly flooding now, will probably be loss leaders for the movement. It seems logical that the area’s the inevitable fate will be surrender and retreat, even though valiant efforts to adapt by pumping the sea water back into the ocean are currently in full force.

The Republican presidential candidates seem to have missed the memo from their Congressional colleagues. Ted Cruz called climate change,“the perfect pseudoscientific theory for a big-government politician who wants more power.”

If you look at the science, it’s hard not to be depressed. We ponder if we’ve already passed irreversible climatic thresholds, but we haven’t hit a tipping point in our political will to create a livable future. Indeed Pope Francis said we were at “the limits of suicide” in advance of the COP21.

We keep doing the work to create a system change because we are close to the shift. In fact, as the shift is already happening, the voices for the status quo get louder.

How long will this shift take? As Mr. Gore noted at our recent training, quoting Martin Luther King Jr, Not long because no lie can live forever.”

How long? Not long, because the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.”

And, I’ll add the shift will happen a lot faster, with your help. This is an all hands-on deck moment in human history.

Check out the resources under climate action on this page and get involved with these two groups: Climate Reality Project and Citizens’ Climate Lobby.

 

 

Congress, Get With the Program, Enact a Carbon Tax

image_largeCongress- listen up; forty companies with annual revenues of $611 billion want you to take action on climate change- including GM, the world’s largest auto manufacturer. What are you waiting for?

This past month, GM joined a stellar group, including Starbucks, Adidas, L’Oréal & IKEA. These companies are urging federal lawmakers to go bold on climate while proclaiming this challenge “one of America’s greatest economic opportunities of the 21st century.”

At the Ceres Conference, General Motors became the first automaker to add it’s name to the Climate Declaration. Readers, you can also add your name as a business or individual here.

If all these companies agree, if Exxon Mobil supports a carbon tax, if conservative think tanks like the American Enterprise Institute and Energy & Enterprise Initiative concur with the economists and scientists; why are we letting climate deniers chair the House Science Subcommittee on Environment?

I’d say wake up and smell the coffee, but coffee also faces an uncertain future due to climate change.  It’s time to get with the program, Congress. Quit squandering the little time we have left to hedge the worst effects of climate change and pass a comprehensive climate package that includes a carbon fee on big polluters and rebate it to the American people.

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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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The Dirty Weather Report: Reality

24 Hours of  Climate Reality- The Dirty Weather Report is being livestreamed at The Climate Reality Project. The below musical montage of the project, called The Symphony of Science, was designed by John D Boswell.

A very cool interactive new tool from the Climate Reality Project is Reality Drop. Created to combat climate denial, disinformation, myths and lies, Reality Drop uses game dynamics to counter the confusion and spread scientific truth. The site aggregates climate-related content from hundreds of online media sites.  Users earn points from grabbing the content from the site and pasting it into comment boards and cooling the conversation. I’ll add it is super fun and addicting. Check it out at realitydrop.org.

 

Spread Truth. Destroy Denial. from Climate Reality on Vimeo.

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Munich Re on Climate Change in North America: NOT IF, BUT HOW

“Nowhere in the world is the rising number of natural catastrophes more evident than in North America. The study shows a nearly quintupled number of weather-related loss events in North America for the past three decades, compared with an increase factor of 4 in Asia, 2.5 in Africa, 2 in Europe and 1.5 in South America. Anthropogenic climate change is believed to contribute to this trend, though it influences various perils in different ways. Climate change particularly affects formation of heat-waves, droughts, intense precipitation events, and in the long run most probably also tropical cyclone intensity. “ Munich Re Insurance Press Release October 17, 2012

The 274-page study, “Severe weather in North America” draws on “the most comprehensive natural catastrophe database worldwide” indexing losses from weather-related natural disasters including hurricanes, thunderstorms, floods, wildfires, winter storms, heatwaves and droughts.

“This publication represents another contribution to the global dialogue concerning weather-related activities and their causes. What is clearly evident when the longterm data is reviewed is that losses from weather events are trending upward. To simply say that this trend is a statistical anomaly or part of a long-term cycle of activity misses the point of these efforts – we must set aside our biases and continue a meaningful dialogue in search of answers to mitigate the losses that we are experiencing.” Tony Kuczinski, CEO of Munich Reinsurance America.

To order the full publication, click here.

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