Lobbying for the Greater Good

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Have you read David Bornstein’s piece in the New York Times on CCL?Here’s an excerpt:“The Citizens Climate Lobby is taking very sophisticated ideas and putting them into letters and op-eds and face-to-face meetings with members of Congress,” explained  Bob Inglis, a South Carolina Republican who served 12 years in the House of Representatives and now directs the Energy and Enterprise Initiative at George Mason University. “I think they’ve moved the needle on this issue.”

In the same week, climate hero Dr. James Hansen — one keynote speaker for CCL’s conference in Washington — had some great things to say about the organization in a Huffington Post blog, calling it “a democratic force to be reckoned with”.

With now more than 100 chapters across North America, Citizens Climate Lobby is anticipating 375 climate activists converging on DC at the end of the month, where they plan to meet with every office in the House and Senate.

My personal favorite excerpt from the article was a line from Elli Sparks who founded the Richmond VA CCL chapter.

“Sparks says it’s necessary to get out of your “comfort zone.” “If it feels comfortable, ‘I’m going to sign this petition; I’m going to post it on Facebook,’” she said, “then you’re not doing enough to move things forward. You’ve got to have butterflies in your belly, your heart has to be racing, your palm has to be sweating.”

There are many people out there who feel powerless; who look at the world’s problems and think these problems are too big. CCL is an organization made up of people who refuse to succumb to that cynicism, who have seemingly boundless energy, and who believe they can move mountains. And they are doing just that.

There is no better time than now to join them… at citizensclimatelobby.org.

 

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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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2012 Hottest Year on Record in US

Last week NOAA announced that 2012 was likely to be the hottest year on record in the continental US based on temperature readings through November. Climate Central has done the math and that chance is a 99.99999999%, based on analysis of 118 years of temperature records through December 10,2012. That should come as no news to anyone who has lived through the winter that never happened, summer hot weather in early spring, a cross-country heatwave, an epic drought, massive wildfires, and balmy fall weather.

And so far we’ve only turned up the heat less than 1˚C. According to the World Bank, we are on track to reach a 4˚C world by the end of the century.

We need to turn down the heat and the only way to do that is to take back our political system from the fossil fuel companies that now control it. That is no small task, but remember, politicians do not create political will, they respond to it.

So, I am going to give you what James Hansen believes is the most “effective step you could take” to engage in this process. That step is joining the Citizen’s Climate Lobby. With over 70 groups in North America, they probably have one near you. There is an introductory call every Wednesday evening and you can grab that info right off their website. Don’t despair. Your voice is needed. Connect to your source of power and take action.

 

 

 

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James Hansen: The Runaway Greenhouse Effect

Ultraviolet image of Venus' clouds as seen by ...

According to a Washington Post poll published in July, only 18% of Americans view climate change as their top environmental concern.  Compare this to 33% who said so in 2007, (amidst a highly publicized IPCC report and Al Gore‘s Academy Award-winning film, An Inconvenient Truth).

The survey findings and follow-up interviews with respondents show that Washington’s inaction on climate policy may have caused the issue to recede. Even though many people link extreme weather events to global warming, there is still a disconnect.

Of course all environmental problems are interconnected and all are exacerbated by climate change, but on other crisis has the potential to end life on this planet and convert Earth’s climate into one similar to the one we see on Venus. That’s what makes this crisis, the most pressing, requiring real and immediate action to curb greenhouse gas emissions.

Below NASA scientist James Hansen discusses the runaway greenhouse effect.

 

Runaway Greenhouse Effect– Video Transcript

What will life be like if carbon emissions continue to grow?

James Hansen: Well, if we allow emissions to continue at a high rate, in this century we’re going to see ice sheets begin to disintegrate. And one of the things I write about in my book is the effect that will have on storms, because as Greenland begins to release more fresh water, cold fresh water, and Antarctica does, what it does is cool the North Atlantic Ocean and the southern ocean, and that increases the temperature gradient between low latitudes and middle and high latitudes. And that will increase the strength of storms that are driven by horizontal temperature gradients. So our children can look forward to increasing storms. And with a rising sea level that is going to lead potentially to a very chaotic situation, because once you have hundreds of cities in the situation analogous to what happened in New Orleans, then we’ve got an economic situation that’s just out of control globally.

In the long run, if that really happened, as I point out in the book, over centuries, we could actually get a runaway greenhouse effect, and then that’s it for all the species on this planet. And as I try to point out, there’s no practical way to escape from this planet; we can’t even transfer one species to another planet. I discuss the monarch butterfly and just how complex it is. And for us to hope that we could transplant life from our planet to another planet is really unrealistic. [00:21:59.17]

What is the runaway greenhouse effect?

James Hansen: A runaway greenhouse effect means once the planet gets warmer and warmer, then the oceans begin to evaporate. And water vapor is a very strong greenhouse gas, even more powerful than carbon dioxide. So you can get to a situation where it just — the oceans will begin to boil, and the planet becomes so hot that the ocean ends up in the atmosphere. And that happened to Venus. That’s why Venus no longer has carbon in its surface. Its atmosphere is made up basically of carbon dioxide because it had a runaway greenhouse effect. Now the earth, it can go unstable either toward a cold climate or toward a hot climate. And the earth has had a runaway snowball earth situation. This happened most recently about 700 million years ago. The earth froze all the way to the equator.

So these runaway situations can occur. We’ve never had a runaway greenhouse effect, because if we did, that would have been the end. Once — that’s a permanent situation. In the case of a snowball earth, when the earth becomes ice-covered, then the planet can escape from that situation because volcanoes continue to go off, but the weathering process is greatly reduced. So volcanoes put carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, and it builds up more and more until there’s enough to melt the ice. But we can’t push the planet off of the runaway greenhouse end. That’s the end for everybody if we do that.

How long would this take to occur if we stay on this path?

James Hansen: Well, you would have to — first of all, you’d have to melt the ice sheets, and that takes a while. The Antarctic ice sheet is a couple miles thick. But with continued rapid increase in greenhouse gases, that — you could melt the ice sheets in less than a century. And then things start to get hotter and hotter. So over a period of several centuries it would be conceivable to have a runaway greenhouse. That would also require bringing into play what we call the methane clathrates or methane hydrates. We already observe in the tundra region in Canada and Siberia that as the tundra is melting, methane, frozen methane, begins to be released. And methane is another powerful greenhouse gas. And there have been times in the earth’s history when the methane hydrates on the continental shelves melted and went into the atmosphere and caused global warming of six to nine degrees Celsius, which is 10 to 18 degrees Fahrenheit. So if you add that on to the carbon dioxide warming and the water vapor warming, you could begin to push the planet into a very different state.

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Climate Change: Game Over or Just Beginning

James Hansen giving testimony before the Unite...

As the latest climate data reports show, the period from May 2011 to April 2012 was the warmest ever recorded in the United States. The average temperature over the 12-month stretch was nearly three degrees Fahrenheit above last century’s average. This news comes on the heals of the record-breaking heat of the warmest March on record.

And as NASA James Hansen tells us in what should be a call to action for everyone reading this op-ed in the New York Times today,

“The global warming signal is now louder than the noise of random weather, as I predicted would happen by now in the journal Science in 1981. Extremely hot summers have increased noticeably. We can say with high confidence that the recent heat waves in Texas and Russia, and the one in Europe in 2003, which killed tens of thousands, were not natural events — they were caused by human-induced climate change.”

Hansen reiterates, as he’s told us his book, Storms of My Grandchildren: The Truth About the Coming Climate Catastrophe and Our Last Chance to Save Humanity, that if Canada continues to develop it’s tar sands extraction for fossil fuels, “it will be game over for the climate.” Hansen, being one of the world’s imminent climatologists, doesn’t choose his words lightly.

NASA Scientist James Hansen Arrested, August 2...

NASA Scientist James Hansen Arrested, August 29, 2011 Photo Credit: Ben Powless (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The Club of Rome, a global network of independent thinkers, has also issued a new report this week:

The Report says the main cause of future problems is the excessively short-term predominant political and economic model. “We need a system of governance that takes a more long-term view”, said Professor Randers, speaking in Rotterdam. “It is unlikely that governments will pass necessary regulation to force the markets to allocate more money into climate friendly solutions, and must not assume that markets will work for the benefit of humankind”.

“We already live in a manner that cannot be continued for generations without major change. Humanity has overshot the earth’s resources, and in some cases we will see local collapse before 2052 – we are emitting twice as much greenhouse gas every year as can be absorbed by the world’s forests and oceans.”

So where does this leave us?  In Grist, this week, a “young, liberal, idealist” quoting a paper from 2004, pronounced the environmental movement dead. But is it really dead?

On May 5th, 350.org held a global day of action to Connect the Dots between extreme weather events and climate change. You can check out their impactful video of events from around the world below.

Further, in a ground-breaking lawsuit, teenagers are taking climate change to the courts. Katherine Ellison writes in the Atlantic that Alec Loorz, 18, “and four other juvenile plaintiffs want government officials to do more to prevent the risks of climate change — the dangerous storms, heat waves, rising sea levels, and food-supply disruptions that scientists warn will threaten their generation absent a major turnabout in global energy policy. Specifically, the students are demanding that the U.S. government start reducing national emissions of carbon dioxide by at least six percent per year beginning in 2013.

“I think a lot of young people realize that this is an urgent time, and that we’re not going to solve this problem just by riding our bikes more,” Loorz said in an interview.”

So, I would say that the in the face of this this increasingly dismal scientific data, we have no choice but to join those already taking action in the climate movement and organize together like never before- like our lives depended on it (because they pretty much do). Denial and depression or fear are emotions that we don’t have the luxury of time for.

Take Action:

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Hansen on Climate Change: I Need Your Help

English: Taken at the Energy Crossroads confer...

Climate Scientist and Director of NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies, James Hansen decided early in his career that investigating a planet with a climate changing before our eyes was a more interesting and important area of study.  So, he changed his focus from Venus to Earth. Studying global warming on Earth was nothing new to science. British physicist, John Tyndall ,studied the greenhouse effect in the 1850s.

When Hansen began speaking out during the Bush Administration of the lack of action on the part of government to address climate change, NASA tried to censor him. He used the first line of NASA’s mission statement, “to understand and protect the home planet” as his justification for speaking out. The first line of NASA’s mission statement was then deleted, never to appear again.

Hansen describes the most important conclusion from the physics of climate change. First, related to energy balance, adding CO2 to the atmosphere is like throwing another blanket on the bed, it reduces Earth’s heat radiation to space. More energy is coming in than is being radiated back out; until Earth heats up enough to correct that imbalance. The key quantity is Earth’s energy imbalance. Is there more energy coming in than going out? If so, more warming will occur without adding any more CO2 to the pipeline. We can measure this precisely by measuring Earth’s heat reservoirs, such as the oceans. “This imbalance is equivalent to exploding 400,000 Hiroshima atomic bombs per day 365 days per year,” says Hansen.  That’s how much extra energy Earth is gaining each day.

This imbalance means we must reduce carbon dioxide in the atmosphere from 391 ppm (where we are presently) to 350 ppm (where we haven’t been since the mid-1980s), if we want to stabilize climate and prevent further warming.

Climate change deniers argue the sun is the main cause of climate change. But the measured energy imbalance occurred during the deepest solar minimum, when the sun’s energy reaching the earth was at its least. Yet more energy was coming in than going out. This shows that the effect of the sun on climate change is overwhelmed by greenhouse gases- primarily caused by burning fossil fuels.

See his full talk below:

Dr. Hansen describes the role of feedback looks in climate change. Greenland and Antarctica are losing mass and methane is escaping from the permafrost. The last time that atmospheric CO2 was 390 ppm (current levels), sea level was higher by at least 15 meters (50 feet). Dr. Hansen thinks that a 5 meter (18 feet) sea level rise could happen if we keep burning fossil fuels the way we do (business as usual or BAU). What this means is that we will have initiated a process that is out of the control of humanity.

20-50% of species are headed for extinction at the end of the century according to the IPCC.  The Texas/Mexico/Oklahoma heat wave this past year, Moscow the year before and Europe in 2003 were all exceptional events more than three standard deviations outside the norm. This has increased by a factor of 25-50% over the last 50 years. The Midwest and Great Plains in the US, the world’s “breadbasket”, are supposed to be come increasingly effected by drought.

“The tragedy about climate change,” laments Hansen, “is that we can solve it with a simple honest approach of a gradually rising carbon fee collected from fossil fuel companies and distributed 100% electronically every month to all legal residents on a per capita basis with the government not keeping one dime. Most people would get more in the monthly dividend that they would pay in increased prices.” This would stimulate the economy and create jobs.

But instead of making fossil fuels pay their true costs to society our governments are forcing the public to subsidize the fossil fuel industry– by $400-500 billion worldwide. This encourages every kind of fossil fuel extraction from mountain top removal to fracking to tar sands to deep-ocean drilling. This path guarantees that we will pass tipping points leading to ice sheet disintegration, species extinction, increasing drought and flood causing massive famine and economic decline.

“I need your help to communicate the gravity and the urgency of this situation and its solutions more effectively,” Hansen concludes, “We owe it to our children and grandchildren.”

 

 

 

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What happened to the science in Durban?

Chairman of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and one of the world’s foremost authorities on climate

DAVOS/SWITZERLAND, 23JAN08 - Rajendra K. Pacha...

science, Rajendra Pachauri,  would like to have seen the climate science driving the climate negotiations at the COP17 in Durban last week.

“I’d like to see the science driving some of the discussions and the decisions that are taken. I’m sorry I don’t see much evidence of that right now”, Pachauri told Amy Goodman last week on Democracy Now.

AMY GOODMAN: What do you want to see at the end of this week?

DR. RAJENDRA PACHAURI: I’d like to see the science driving some of the discussions and the decisions that are taken. I’m sorry I don’t see much evidence of that right now.

AMY GOODMAN: What is, in fact, in evidence then this week?

DR. RAJENDRA PACHAURI: A complete absence of the discussion on the scientific evidence that we have available on climate change. I would like to see each day of the discussions, starting with a very clear presentation on where we are going, what it’s going mean to different parts of the world, and what are the options available to us by which, at very low cost and, in some cases, negative cost, we can bring about a reduction in emissions of greenhouse gases. I would like to see an hour, hour and a half every day being devoted to this particular subject, because I think then the movement towards a decision would be far more vigorous, it would be based on reality, and not focusing on narrow and short-term political issues.

Of course, that is the real tragedy because as the climate negotiators make plans for what is politically expedient, the planet adheres to the laws of physics and chemistry and the window of opportunity to limit warming to 2˚C is fast closing. And a 2˚C warming world as a best case scenario would bring more and stronger versions of the extreme weather events that have become the new normal over the past decade.

Often called the “grandfather of climate change” for sounding an unheeded early warning to the world, NASA’s James Hansen said, “The dangerous level of global warming is less than what we thought a few years ago. It was natural to think that a few degrees wasn’t so bad…. (But) a target of two degrees is actually a prescription for long-term disaster.”

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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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American Heroes Protest Tar Sands Pipeline

Tar Sands Action PosterOver the next two weeks, from August 20- September 3, heroes from all over America will be taking part in acts of civil disobedience in front of the White House to protest the proposed Keystone XL pipeline . The proposed pipeline would run 1500 miles from the tar sands in Alberta, Canada to the Gulf of Mexico, allowing the Canadian government to connect the tar sands oil project to the United States and foreign markets. Plans are also in the works for the pipeline to crisscross America’s farmlands from coast to coast.

The Alberta tar sands project, visible from outer space, has led to the destruction of an area the size of Florida or the country of England. Most of this area is the Canadian boreal forest, one of the last remaining pristine forest on the earth.

  • The Alberta tar sands project uses more water per day than a city of two million people. It uses 3 barrels of water to extract one barrel of oil.
  • It produces 36 million tons of carbon dioxide per day.
  • It emits more greenhouse gases per day than 1.3 million cars.
  • The Alberta tar sands leaks eleven million liters of toxic waste into ground water every day. The pipeline will traverse the Ogallala aquifer which is the source of drinking water for 2 million Americans.
  • NASA’s top climatologist James Hansen says that if we continue to on the road of developing and burning the tar sands oil that it is “essentially game over” for the climate. We will push the earth’s climate system past a tipping point.

So, why would President Obama consider signing off on such a project? Well, its also the largest capital investment project and biggest energy project on the planet today. Oil companies have invested 120 billion dollars in tar sands development. Climate scientist, Jason Box stated “If Obama authorizes this pipeline, it will prove that the power of oil is greater than the power of reason.”

The tar sands pipeline is a form of collective suicide. Suicide because burning all the dirty coal and fossil fuel will send our climate past the point of no return- that’s a planet not inhabitable for civilization. That’s why NASA’s James Hansen calls it “game over”. Collective because in this game, not paying attention or inaction is the same as agreeing to the end game.

If you can’t be part of the civil disobedience in Washington, please take action by signing the petition at:

http://www.tarsandsaction.org/obama-petition/.

“After the ice is gone, would Earth proceed to the Venus syndrome, a runaway greenhouse effect that would destroy all life on the planet, perhaps permanently? While that is difficult to say based on present information, I’ve come to the conclusion that if we burn all the reserves of oil, gas, and coal, there is a substantial chance we will initiate that runaway greenhouse. If we also burn the tar sands and tar shale, I believe, the Venus syndrome is a dead certainty.” James Hansen in  Storms of My Grandchildren: The Truth About the Coming Climate Catastrophe and Our Last Chance to Save Humanity-page 236.

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Alec Loorz: Climate Youth Activists Unite!

Last month, I streamed some of the live Bioneers 21 Conference. I wanted to see James Hansen, having recently finished his book, Storms of My Grandchildren: The Truth About the Coming Climate Catastrophe and Our Last Chance to Save Humanity.  After his presentation, Dr. Hansen introduced a face I hadn’t seen before, Alec Loorz.  Sixteen-year-old, Alec leads a non-profit organization called Kids Vs Global Warming . In this inspiring video, Alec quotes Thomas Jefferson,”every generation needs a new revolution.” The core of the youth’s revolution is sustainability, which Alec defines as “Living as if the future matters. Living our lives in a way that values trees, air, animals and future generations just as much as short-term interests.”

Alec is organizing a Million Kids March for Climate Action on Mother’s Day, May 8, 2011 where youth and the adults who care about their future can march together in all 50 states. You can find out more by going to his website, kids-vs-global-warming.com or by texting iMatter to 411 247. Kids Vs Global Warming also has an iphone app called iMatter.

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