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July 22 2013


Enviro News Wrap: Wind Power on the Rise; We Are All Climate Change Deniers; Pipelines and Tar Sands Oil (not Keystone)

The Latest Environmental News HeadlinesGlobalWarmingisReal contributor Anders Hellum-Alexander wraps-up and comments on the climate and environmental news headlines for the past week:

The post Enviro News Wrap: Wind Power on the Rise; We Are All Climate Change Deniers; Pipelines and Tar Sands Oil (not Keystone) appeared first on Global Warming is Real.

July 16 2013


Enviro News Wrap: Fossil Energy and Safety; Fracking and Earthquakes; China and Air Pollution, more…

The Latest Environmental News HeadlinesGlobalWarmingisReal contributor Anders Hellum-Alexander wraps-up and comments on the climate and environmental news headlines for the past week:





The post Enviro News Wrap: Fossil Energy and Safety; Fracking and Earthquakes; China and Air Pollution, more… appeared first on Global Warming is Real.

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July 08 2013


Enviro News Wrap: Farm Bill Foibles; Oil Theft in Nigeria; Expected Opposition to Obama Climate Plan, and more…

The Latest Environmental News HeadlinesGlobalWarmingisReal contributor Anders Hellum-Alexander wraps-up and comments on the climate and environmental news headlines for the past week:

  • Charles Krauthammer Washington Post op-ed belies his understanding of climate science and misrepresents Obama’s climate plan. The whole article is misleading and riddled with pseudo-scientific arguments.
  • Obama has started his environmental campaign with 3 years left in office. A necessary focus of his campaign is coal which is drawing strong opposition from such a wealthy interest group. But, he does not need their re-election money so whine they will while Obama tries to reduce the environmental impact of such a dirty industry. While the coal industry will use its puppets to spread the fear-based propaganda that the economy will crumble from this much-needed regulation, environmentalists are slowly winning this fight.
  • In Nigeria 10 percent of the oil is stolen from pipelines to be sold on the black market. This has created a dirty illegal industry of poor polluters. This is the real affect of “dirty energy,” oil is always being stolen, spilled and regular people feel the consequences. A train in Canada carrying crude oil got out of control and spilled in a small town causing a large explosion that killed several and incinerated part of the downtown area. We need energy sources that can’t easily explode and cause massive death when spilled. If accidents happened like this in the renewable energy industry conservative politicians would be demanding the end of all clean energy, but since the blood is on the hands of the dirty energy industry then the suffering of this town is just part of the cost of cheap energy.
  • As we use up the easily accessible, high quality sources of oil, we are increasingly forced to dig deeper, both on land and underneath the oceans. The cost and environmental impact of this is huge. If companies invested billions of dollars of exploration money into research and development of renewable energy we would be much better off.
  • The US farm bill entrenches in our economy large agricultural companies pumping out lots of cheap corn, cotton, wheat and soy. The “farm bill” has passed in the US congress every year for decades, but this year it did not pass and now some groups are scrambling to upkeep the status quo.
  • People need to be healthy to make healthy environmental decisions. That means we need a society that grows and eats healthy food –  that means real food, not processed food. No matter how much we engineer our food, nothing will beat the bounty that is naturally provided by mother nature. Eat real food.

The post Enviro News Wrap: Farm Bill Foibles; Oil Theft in Nigeria; Expected Opposition to Obama Climate Plan, and more… appeared first on Global Warming is Real.

July 05 2013


Making Good on Obama’s Climate Change Action Plan, Part 3

obama-climate-speech-2013This is the third of a three-part series on energy, environment and US law in light of the launch of President Obama’s National Climate Change Action Plan. Here in Part 3, we conclude our discussion regarding US climate change legislation with Robert B. McKinstry, Jr., Practice Leader for Ballard Spahr’s Climate Change and Sustainability Initiative, and move on to discuss the ramifications of the president’s National Climate Change Action Plan for the US energy industry with Darin Lowder, Associate in Ballard, Spahr’s Energy and Project Finance practice.

Limiting carbon, greenhouse gas emissions from existing, as well as new, power plants

Back in April 2012, the Obama administration EPA issued a proposed new rulemaking for federal standards to reduce carbon and greenhouse gas emissions from new power plants, an action that the EPA had refrained from taking during President GW Bush’s two terms in office. Though required to issue a final rule within one year, the EPA, inundated with with more than 2 million comments, has yet to do so.

Legal actions from opponents also factored into the delay, McKinstry recounted.

“EPA got a lot of adverse comments from coal industry and coal state interests. They didn’t take action on existing source standards, and sat on the new source standards published in the Federal Register. When they missed the deadline, environmental groups filed suit to force their hand.”

The President took executive action on June 25, seeking to put the EPA’s initiative back on track with the launch of his National Climate Change Action Plan. Part and parcel of the national strategic plan, a Presidential Memorandum was issued directing the EPA “to work expeditiously” to finalize carbon and greenhouse gas emissions limits not only for new, but for reconstructed and existing power plants, as well.

Setting a definitive timeline for issuing new rules governing carbon and greenhouse gas emissions, in the memorandum the President directs the EPA “to issue a new proposal by no later than September 20, 2013…and further direct you to issue a final rule in a timely fashion after considering all public comments, as appropriate.”

Furthermore, McKinstry noted, the President’s memorandum directs the EPA to:

  • issue proposed carbon pollution standards, regulations, or guidelines, as appropriate for modified, reconstructed, and existing power plants by no later than June 1, 2014;
  • issue final standards, regulations, or guidelines for modified, reconstructed, and existing power plants by no later than June 1, 2015; and
  • require states to submit implementation plans required under section 111(d) of the Clean Air Act to the EPA no later than June 30, 2016.

The establishment of target dates for new EPA limits on carbon and greehouse gas emissions – which are also to include new limits on hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) – will result in another surge of legal activity on the part of coal and fossil fuel power plant owners and operators, according to Darin Lowder, Associate in Ballard Spahr’s Energy and Project Finance practice.

Spurring action across government and industry

The President’s National Climate Change Action Plan will spur and renew momentum not only at EPA, but across federal government departments and agencies, and not only when it comes to reducing carbon and greenhouse gas emissions, but in terms of fostering further gains in renewable and clean energy, energy efficiency and clean technology, Lowder told GWIR.

“I’d expect HUD (the Department for Housing & Urban Development) to quickly come up with a policy to incentivize all this. The Department of Defense (DoD) has 3-gigawatts (GW) of clean energy installed on military installations.”

The military’s situation is a particularly interesting one, he continued, “because of additional value off-grid redundancy renewables provide. They’ve had a very robust discussion in the military about benefits of diversifying the energy supply chain, not only on bases and other facilities, but in the field as well.

“Grid power plus renewables makes life a whole lot easier and safer, even in the case of catastrophic attacks. The benefits are worth the additional cost, and though they don’t like to, they are authroized to pay the additional costs. Plus, they have some locations that are great for renewables.”

Fundamental shifts in mindset

The President’s climate change mitigation and adaptation initiatives have spurred a shift in the military’s mindset and attitude when it comes to energy and the environment, he continued. In traditional fashion, branches of the US Armed Forces, and units within them, are now competing to see who can be the most energy efficient, who can best minimize resource use and ecological impacts, and who can deploy the most in the way of renewable energy resources, Lowder continued.

“All of a sudden, you see competitions over who’s the most energy efficient. It’s a very fundamental shift. The way they had it done in past, you had facilities that had just one meter for an entire base. That’s changing radically now, and for a lot of reasons. One of the mechanisms pushing this is the things we’re discussing. Things like energy performance contracts push that change. Measurement is the first step.”

That fundamental change in values and attitudes towards energy and the environment needs to be replicated across the energy, industrial, financial, government and public sectors if the President’s vision of building a greener, sustainable low-carbon society and economy are to be realized. Stakeholders across the economy and society need to come together in a genuine spirit of collaboration, overcome their differences and join forces in identifying and aggressively implementing practical solutions, Lowder said.

Such movement is already well under way, he added.

“There are huge opportunities in all this, and there are numerous examples of people trying to understand each other’s view and aggressively pursue common goals…You’re seeing a blending of diverse views and interests taking place around these opportunities. Housing authorities, for instance, have to satisfy banks and investors’ requirements. It’s not completely foreign to them, but it’s set in a new and different context.

“It’s similar with the military regarding contracting with private housing developers to install solar and renewable energy systems, which entails bringing project developers and banks into the picture as well, familiarizing them with federal procurement and compliance requirements, as well as raising their overall comfort level to the point they’re willing and able to move forward.”

Despite all the gains of the past decade and more, the entire movement toward building a sustainable, low-carbon society is still in its infancy, Lowder pointed out.

“Housing authorities, especially in New England have been using co-generation – capturing and using heat as well as using electricity. You can do that with natural gas. Some facilities are replacing old heating systems, fuel oil boilers that are literally 50-60 years old with new equipment and combined heat and power (CHP) systems. There are tax credits available for that. They’re less than that for solar, but the same potential exists for private developers to enter the field.

“Energy mangement, demand management, even fostering changes in behavioral patterns — like showing people how much power they’re using – there’s growth potential in all these areas. The same is true in the military. It seems basic in retrospect, but a fundamental shift in awareness and information availability is helping spur all this forward.”

Read part 1 and part 2 of this series

The post Making Good on Obama’s Climate Change Action Plan, Part 3 appeared first on Global Warming is Real.

July 03 2013


Making Good on Obama’s Climate Change Action Plan, Part 2

Part 2 of a discussion from expert attorneys and policy advisors on the course of climate and environmental policy in light of president Obama's National Climate Action PlanThis is the second in a three-part series on energy, environment and US law in light of the launch of President Obama’s National Climate Action Plan. In it, we continue our discussion with Robert McKinstry, Jr., Practice Leader for Ballard, Spahr’s Climate Change and Sustainability Initiative.

In Part 1, McKinstry began recounting the long, arduous path of three major federal initiatives via which the Obama Administration aims to significantly reduce greenhouse gas and air pollutant emissions across society and the economy: the issuance of the EPA’s Cross-State Air Pollution Rule (CSAPR), issuance of the Mercury and Air Toxics Standards Rule (MATS), and the EPA’s efforts to regulate and reduce carbon and greenhouse gas emissions under the Clean Air Act (CAA). Having discussed CSAPR, we move on to the second and third of these federal regulatory initiatives.

MATS: the Mercury and Air Toxics Standards Rule

Finalized by EPA in December 2011, the Utility MACT or “Mercury and Air Toxics Standards Rule” (MATS) requires existing and new coal-fueled power plants to limit emissions of toxic air pollutants, such as mercury, arsenic and metals, by installing the best available emissions control technology by 2015.

Initially enacted in 1990, the Clean Air Act  (CAA) empowers the EPA to establish the standards and guidelines via which state governments develop plans to regulate toxic air pollutants. However, though proven technologies existed, no federal standards requiring power plants to limit their emissions of toxic air pollutants had been established until the MATS ruling.

MATS finalizes standards to reduce power emissions of mercury and other toxic air pollutants under sections 111 and 112 of the CAA. Setting emissions limits based on the best available control technology (BACT), it requires the EPA to set emissions standards for existing sources “that are at least as stringent as the emissions reductions achieved by the average of the top 12 percent best controlled sources.”

Though CSAPR and MATS imposes additional costs on polluters, the EPA’s new source performance standards (NSPS) apply only to new and modified power plants. The omission of existing power plants actually creates a perverse market incentive, McKinstry explained. Excluding existing coal and oil-fueled power plants from NSPS provides an incentive for power utilities to keep older, more polluting plants up and running rather than modifying or decommissioning them or replacing them with new, cleaner power generation capacity.

Massachusetts vs. EPA: A landmark ruling

As opposed to mercury and air toxic emissions, the EPA has not and said it doesn’t intend to set ambient air quality standards for carbon and greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, standards which typically precede the establishment of emissions limits (national performance standards), reduction targets and state implementation plans to realize them. More fundamentally, the EPA’s effort to deem CO2 a pollutant has been vociferously challenged in the courts for some 13 years’ running.

Concerned with rising CO2 levels in the atmosphere, the Clinton Administration determined that the Clean Air Act could be applied to CO2 and other greenhouse gases back in 1998. Opponents thwarted any attempts to move forward, however.

That changed in April 2007 in Massachusetts vs. the EPA, wherein the US Supreme Court, in a 5-4 decision that was deemed “a sharp rebuke to the Bush administration,” ruled that not only does the EPA have authority under the Clean Air Act to regulate carbon and greenhouse gas emissions from new automobiles and light-duty vehicles, but that it could not avoid doing so without providing a scientific basis for inaction. It also gave the EPA the leeway to move forward without having to establish national ambient air quality standards for carbon and other greenhouse gas emissions, McKinstry noted.

By concluding that the EPA could consider CO2 and other greenhouse gases pollutants, the Supreme Court’s ruling was a precedent-setting milestone in the effort to regulate US carbon and greenhouse gas emissions. It paved the way for the EPA to not only establish standards and guidelines for mobile sources of CO2, but for also for stationary sources, such as power plants, oil refineries, other industrial plants, and factories. It would not go unchallenged.

As the EPA began the long, arduous process of developing a broader, more comprehensive institutional framework and mechanisms to limit and reduce CO2 emissions, the Coalition for Responsible Regulation Inc. and other plaintiffs challenged the Supreme Court ruling. Of even greater import, the Bush administration issued an advance notice of rulemaking that delayed implementation.

The situation changed radically when President Obama took office. EPA began “providing a number of opportunities for stakeholders to have a say in how it should actually implement this,” McKinstry recounted. “They reached a settlement, agreeing to regulate mobile sources under rule 202 [of the CAA] and for heavy duty vehicle emissions, which the Bush admin refused to do,” as well as agreeing to limit carbon and greenhouse gas emissions limits and standards to new, not existing or even modified, power plants.

Significantly, one of the first, and fundamental, things the Obama Administration EPA did in the wake of Massachusetts vs. EPA was make an endangerment finding, concluding that carbon dioxide (CO2) and greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions can threaten the health and well-being of the American public.

Setting limits on fossil fuel power plants’ carbon emissions

As McKinstry elaborated, the EPA in March 2012 proposed a limit on carbon and GHG emissions of 1,000 tons per megawatt-hour (MWh) for new source coal-fired power plants of greater than 25 MW capacity. Based on the emissions vented to the atmosphere by current commercial natural gas combined cycle power plants, the EPA watered this down, reasoning that new coal-fueled generation capacity may be desirable for reasons of national energy security, drastic changes in market conditions or other factors.

The EPA said it will maintain the new standard, but gave fossil fuel power plant operators the option of meeting it based on 30-year averaging, McKinistry noted.

“New coal-fired or pet coke-fired units could meet the standard either by employing carbon capture and storage (CCS) of approximately 50 percent of the CO2 in the exhaust gas at start up, or through later application of more effective CCS to meet the standard on average over a 30-year period,” the EPA wrote in its proposed rulemaking.

Meanwhile, opponents were mustering their resources. In total, “a cluster of four rulings was appealed by opposing interests,” McKinstry explained: the EPA’s endangerment finding, the “Tailpipe Rule” in which it set emissions standards for car and light-duty vehicles, and the “Timing Rule” and Tailoring Rule,” which ease requirements for major stationary sources of greenhouse gases to obtain construction and operating permits.

Initially rebuffed in December 2011, the Coalition for Responsible Regulation and other plaintiffs’ appeal of the Supreme Court’s decision in Massachusetts vs. EPA was heard in the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia last year. The Appeals court in June 2012 upheld the Supreme Court’s decision and subsequently, in December, denied a petition to rehear the case.

The Coalition of Responsible Regulation hasn’t quit yet. In April, it  filed a petition requesting the Supreme Court rehear to review the Appeals court’s ruling. Word in the legal community is that the petition is unlikely to be accepted, according to McKinstry.

The tale doesn’t end there, however…To be continued

The post Making Good on Obama’s Climate Change Action Plan, Part 2 appeared first on Global Warming is Real.

July 02 2013


Making Good on Obama’s National Climate Change Action Plan

Part one of interview with attorneys from Ballard, Sphar on climate policy and president Obama's National Climate Action PlanBypassing Congress in a bid to set the US firmly on course in developing a low-carbon society and green economy, President Obama on June 25 launched his administration’s National Climate Change Action Plan, a more comprehensive and fully realized version of a climate change strategy that builds on and adds momentum to long-fought-over and hard-won legal and legislative efforts that stretch back at least two decades.

President Obama’s National Climate Change Action Plan marks a major milestone in a long line of historic marking posts in US environment and energy law, one that charts the course for the federal government not only to mitigate and adapt to climate change by spurring the creation of a healthier, greener, and more sustainable US economy and society, but to actively promote and foster the realization of these ends around the world.

Aiming to offer our readers a longer term and more in-depth perspective on what’s been achieved to date and how efforts to implement the president’s National Climate Change Action Plan might play out in future, GWIR interviewed leading members of Washington, D.C.-based Ballard, Spahr’s environmental and energy practices.

Turning the Ship of State to address climate change

Creating and weaving together all the diverse elements of a coherent, cohesive national strategy to address climate change has proven to be no simple, easy, smooth, or short-lived, task. It entails turning the massive ship of state by enacting fundamental, often bitterly contentious changes to the vast web of government policies, legislation, and regulations that have favored, subsidized, and created an economy and society dependent on fossil fuel production and use, one in which ecological health and integrity have typically been sacrificed for the sake of short-term economic and financial gain, leaving the public – either through taxes or increasing public debt – to pay the costs.

It also entails transcending the well-established boundaries of longstanding energy, environmental, economic, and social policy and politics, crossing over lines and surmounting barriers in order to bring together and marshal the resources of stakeholders throughout society – private sector and civil society groups and organizations, as well as federal, state, and local government levels. Once again directing national attention to his administration’s ongoing efforts to develop a comprehensive strategic plan to tackle climate change, President Obama and his administration appear to be aiming for nothing less.

Ballard, Spahr attorneys Robert B. McKinstry, Jr. and Darin Lowder have been working at the cutting edge of US environmental and energy law for decades. They’ve witnessed, and often been a part of, initiatives that have brought about fundamental changes and helped established a legal and public-private institutional framework for the development of a low-carbon US society and green economy.

In doing so, they’ve worked with clients from across government, the private sector, and civil society to help forge agreements on groundbreaking pollution, carbon, and greenhouse gas emissions legislation, policies, standards, and governance mechanisms, and they have helped played key roles in bringing copious amounts of clean, renewable energy generation capacity online. This includes pioneering efforts that helped establish the two regional carbon and greenhouse gas emissions cap-and-trade systems up and running in the US, the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) and the Western Climate Initiative.

The work they and others like them do will be key, pivotal factors if the goals set out in the president’s National Climate Change Action Plan – curbing US carbon and greenhouse gas emissions, boosting renewable energy development and energy efficiency improvements, and taking the lead in forging international agreements that call on national governments around the world to take actions to adapt to, as well as mitigate, climate change – are to be realized.

The US and climate change: Hard-won progress

Speak to Robert McKinstry, Jr., Practice Leader for Ballard, Spahr’s Climate Change and Sustainability Initiative, about climate change, environmental governance, and efforts to regulate and reduce carbon and greenhouse gas emissions and you can’t help but come away with a better understanding and appreciation of the tremendous amount of time, effort, and resources stakeholders across US society have dedicated to advancing the climate change agenda even this far forward, and the tremendous amount of opposition and variety of obstacles that have had to be overcome.

The US government effort to mitigate and adapt to climate change can be traced back to 1992 and the UN Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro, when then President George HW Bush signed and Congress subsequently ratified the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), the treaty in which 195 parties — national and regional governing authorities — have pledged to take actions to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and address climate change throughout society.

Real progress in the US, particularly at the federal level, has been slow and difficult to come by. The George W. Bush administration, for instance, stonewalled efforts that would have enabled the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to regulate greenhouse gas emissions, not only in the power sector, but in transportation, agriculture, forestry, waste and the built environment.

In contrast, it has been the inability of Congress to agree to take sustained, meaningful action to address climate change that has thwarted progress during President Obama’s tenure. With his June 25 speech and launch of the National Climate Change Action Plan, the President has decided to take executive action, moving forward with or without Congress’s support.

Establishing the legal framework to address climate change

Accounting for some 40 percent of national carbon and greenhouse gas emissions and as much as 80 percent from the energy sector, reducing emissions from large power plants offers the biggest bang for US society’s climate change buck. The legal road forward toward regulating power plant emissions and environmental impacts has been filled with obstacles, however. As McKinstry pointed out,

“Existing coal-fired power plants have been exempt from a whole raft of environmental regulations for a long time. Finally, the EPA is acting to regulate those emissions…The Obama Administration is now moving forward, but there are lots of interests that can comment on the regulations, in particular, on the application of Section 111 (b) of the Clean Air Act in regulating carbon, greenhouse gas, and other power plant emissions.

“Anything that causes the fossil fuel industry to bear the costs of the pollution it emits is going to benefit non-emitting sources of energy, basically renewable energy sources, including hydro and nuclear power,” he added.

McKinstry ticked off and recounted the long, arduous path of three major federal initiatives that aim to significantly reduce greenhouse gas and air pollutant emissions across society and the economy: the issuance of the EPA’s Cross-State Air Pollution Rule (CSAPR), issuance of the Mercury and Air Toxics Standards Rule (MATS), and the EPA’s efforts to regulate and reduce carbon and greenhouse gas emissions under the Clean Air Act (CAA).

Finalized by the EPA in July, 2011, CSPAR is designed to help US states reduce air pollution and meet 1997 ozone and fine particle and 2006 fine particle National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS). It “requires states to significantly improve air quality by reducing power plant emissions that cross state lines and contribute to ozone and fine particle pollution in other states,” the EPA explains on its website.

CSAPR would require reductions in sulfur dioxide (SO2) and nitrogen oxide (NOx) emissions in the eastern U.S. by January 1, 2012 (Phase 1) and January 1, 2014 (Phase 2). In sum, CSAPR requires a total of 28 states to reduce annual SO2 emissions, annual NOx emissions and/or ozone season NOx emissions to assist in attaining clean air standards.

CSAPR is still being challenged in the courts, however, McKinstry pointed out. The EPA ruling was vacated by a three-judge panel of the D.C. Circuit Court in August 2012. The full D.C. Circuit refused to hear the case in January. In March this year, EPA and environmental groups appealed the decision on up to the Supreme Court, which on June 24 agreed to review the D.C. Circuit’s decision.

To be continued…

The post Making Good on Obama’s National Climate Change Action Plan appeared first on Global Warming is Real.

July 01 2013


Enviro News Wrap: Obama’s Climate Plan; Shell in the Arctic; the Growth of Renewables; Natural Gas Greenwash, and more…

The Latest Environmental News HeadlinesGlobalWarmingisReal contributor Anders Hellum-Alexander wraps-up and comments on the climate and environmental news headlines for the past week:

The post Enviro News Wrap: Obama’s Climate Plan; Shell in the Arctic; the Growth of Renewables; Natural Gas Greenwash, and more… appeared first on Global Warming is Real.

June 27 2013


Reaction to President Obama’s Historic Georgetown University Speech

A group inspired by Obama's climate speechDespite what some detractors may say, the speech delivered by President Obama at Georgetown University will reverberate across America and around the world.  June 25th, 2013 will be remembered as the day America committed itself to act domestically and lead globally on climate change.

It is not overstating the case to say the President’s speech signals an end to the debate on climate change and the beginning of a consorted effort to reign in greenhouse gas emissions.

The President’s ambitious speech has far reaching implications that involve both mitigation and adaptation. “As a president, as a father and as an American, I’m here to say we need to act,” Obama said.

Going forward, climate change impacts will be factored into every governmental decision including procurement, land and water management, infrastructure spending, and resource development.

The President’s national climate strategy will:

  • Reduce emissions from coal-fired power plants, the transportation sector, and people’s homes
  • Increase renewable energy production on federal lands
  • Enhance efficiency standards
  • Prepare communities to deal with climate change

For a more detailed review of the plan, click here. For the full transcript of the President’s speech, click here.


Republican resistance to the President’s initiatives are as dependable as a Swiss watch.  Even before Obama unveiled his plan on Tuesday afternoon, Republicans in Congress were already on the attack. They declared the plan to be a job killer that would undermine the recovery.

Republicans continue to flog the same ideas knowing that they will gain some traction with the American public. “It’s tantamount to kicking the ladder out from beneath the feet of many Americans struggling in today’s economy,” Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said on the floor of the Senate.

In a more blatant effort to inflame the public, Don Stewart, a spokesman for Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said imposing carbon rules on power plants amounts to a national energy tax.

The President responded to his critics preemptively when he remarked, “that’s what they said every time and every time, they’ve been wrong.” Obama stated that research, technology and innovation are American strengths that will help lead the world in the war on climate change.

Republicans are almost unanimously impervious to reality. They refuse to comprehend that the planet is warming, they seem blind to melting arctic ice and devastating droughts. They will not even acknowledge that extreme weather already causes hundreds of billions of dollars worth of damage.

Republicans in the Congress are hell-bent on denying the truth and they seem to exist with their heads perpetually in the sand. While Republicans are disconnected from the facts on climate change, the President has carefully crafted a reality-based perspective. In response to Republican outrage over Obama’s use of his executive powers to circumvent the legislature, White House spokesman Jay Carney said, “we’ve seen Congress attempt to deal with this issue, and fail.”

Obama is simply making good on the warning he issued in his State of the Union address. As he said last February, “if Congress won’t act soon to protect future generations, I will.”

Republicans deride the employment potential from the green economy.  They ignore the current staggering cost of climate change including extreme weather, and they seem oblivious to the fact that the situation is destined to get far worse if we continue with business as usual. Most importantly, they refuse to appreciate that the devastating impacts of runaway climate change will dwarf any costs associated with transitioning to a greener  economy and more sustainable employment. The longer we wait the more it will cost and the less likely we will be to stave off the worst impacts.

In a comment that directly addressed Republican climate deniers, the President mockingly said “we do not have time for the meeting of the flat earth society.” He went on to say he has no patience for those who deny that humans are contributing to the warming of the planet.

As the President said, history will judge the present generation by our success or failure in meeting and surmounting this existential challenge. No matter how many Republicans line up against the national climate strategy, we must do what we can to combat climate change. As explained in a White House statement, “we have a moral obligation to act on behalf of future generations.”


Many environmentalists are heaping praise on the President and lauding his leadership. Frances Beinecke, president of the Natural Resources Defence Council said, “the President nailed it,” and Sierra Club Executive Director Michael Brune said, “President Obama is finally putting action behind his words.”

Support for the President’s national climate strategy is far from unanimous even among environmentalists.  Those who want to see more from the President need to view his actions from a historical perspective. Obama’s national climate strategy is the most consorted effort to combat climate change in the history of the United States. Even in his first term Obama made more environmental progress than any President in American history, including great strides in renewable energy and fuel efficiency.

Bill Snape of the Center for Biological Diversity is among those who were not satisfied with the President’s speech. He described it as too little, too late.

“What he’s proposing isn’t big enough, doesn’t move fast enough, to match the terrifying magnitude of the climate crisis,” Snape said.

While Snape may even be right, he is still wrong. He and others like him do not understand the politics at play nor do they countenance the limitations of the President’s executive powers. Further, the President has to protect the interests of his party ahead of the 2014 midterms.

Dan Lashof of the Natural Resources Defence Council is among those who disagree with Snape.

“The country is facing a threat; the President is facing facts,” said Lashof. “Reducing that pollution is the most important step we can take as a nation to stand up to climate change.”

It is understandable that many people are frustrated that the President did not go further. In particular, his apparent support for domestic fossil fuels and fracking in particular was undeniably disappointing.  However, those who wish the President would have done more need to understand that the President is not omnipotent, nor does he operate in a vacuum.

He can expect legal challenges from interests in the old energy economy and by sidestepping Congress he can also expect that lawmakers will introduce legislation to stymie his national climate strategy.  House Republicans have shown themselves to be especially tenacious in their opposition to the President and they will do everything in their power to undermine him and his plan.

Unlike many of Obama’s detractors, Al Gore is a man who understands politics and he applauded the President’s speech. Gore referred to the Georgetown address as “historic” calling it, “the best Presidential address on climate change ever.”

“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,” Gore said.

While Gore conceded that more needs to be done, he also indicated that Obama can succeed if he uses the bully pulpit of the Presidency to good effect.

Gore concluded by saying, “I urge the nation to follow President Obama’s lead…to keep fighting. We’ve got a lot more work to do.”

Obama’s speech vindicates those who have supported the President and who held out hope that he would make a serious attempt to combat climate change.  His detractors, particularly those who call themselves environmentalists, should be ashamed of their lack of support for these ambitious actions. Within the purview of his power, and the realities of the current political landscape, the President is moving boldly forward.

June 25, 2013 is an important day for us and for our planet and it will be remembered as the point in history when America enjoined the struggle against climate change and assumed a leadership role.

Stay tuned for the companion piece to this article on the politics of fracking to be published in Global Warming is Real next Thursday.
Richard Matthews is a consultant, eco-entrepreneur, green investor and author of numerous articles on sustainable positioning, eco-economics and enviro-politics. He is the owner of The Green Market Oracle, a leading sustainable business site and one of the Web’s most comprehensive resources on the business of the environment. Find The Green Market on Facebook and follow The Green Market’s twitter feed.

Image credit: DailyKos, Energy Action


The post Reaction to President Obama’s Historic Georgetown University Speech appeared first on Global Warming is Real.

June 25 2013


President Turns Up the Heat On US Carbon Pollution, Revealing Details of National Climate Change Action Plan

Obama outlines his National Climate Action Plan. Photo credit: AP

President Obama once again raised the bitterly, politically divise issues of US fossil fuel use, greenhouse gas emissions and climate change to the forefront of the national political agenda today, revealing new aspects of his administration’s national climate change action plan during a speech given at Georgetown University.

The president characterized US efforts “to lead the global fight against carbon pollution as a moral obligation to act on behalf of future generations.” The president’s plan centers on taking action on three broad fronts: cutting carbon pollution across the US; preparing the US for the impacts of climate change; and leading international efforts to address climate change.

“Climate change represents one of the major challenges of the 21st century, but as a nation of innovators, we can and will meet this challenge in a way that advances our economy, our environment, and public health all at the same time,” according to the White House.

Obama sets the stage for the US to lead the global effort to reduced carbon pollution, combat climate change

Taking action to both mitigate and adapt to climate change throughout society, President Obama’s laid out his agenda for tackling climate change in his speech at Georgetown University. The comprehensive strategic plan takes action to:

  • Cut Carbon Pollution in the US:
    In 2012, U.S. carbon pollution from the energy sector fell to the lowest level in two decades even as the economy continued to grow. To build on this progress, the Obama Administration is putting in place tough new rules to cut carbon pollution—just like we have for other toxins like mercury and arsenic —so we protect the health of our children and move our economy toward American-made clean energy sources that will create good jobs and lower home energy bills. For example, the plan:
    • Directs EPA to work closely with states, industry and other stakeholder to establish carbon pollution standards for both new and existing power plants;
    • Makes up to $8 billion in loan guarantee authority available for a wide array of advanced fossil energy and efficiency projects to support investments in innovative technologies;
    • Directs DOI to permit enough renewables project—like wind and solar – on public lands by 2020 to power more than 6 million homes; designates the first-ever hydropower project for priority permitting; and sets a new goal to install 100 megawatts of renewables on federally assisted housing by 2020; while maintaining the commitment to deploy renewables on military installations;
    • Expands the President’s Better Building Challenge, focusing on helping commercial, industrial, and multi-family buildings cut waste and become at least 20 percent more energy efficient by 2020;
    • Sets a goal to reduce carbon pollution by at least 3 billion metric tons cumulatively by 2030 – more than half of the annual carbon pollution from the U.S. energy sector – through efficiency standards set over the course of the Administration for appliances and federal buildings;
    • Commits to partnering with industry and stakeholders to develop fuel economy standards for heavy-duty vehicles to save families money at the pump and further reduce reliance on foreign oil and fuel consumption post-2018; and
    • Leverages new opportunities to reduce pollution of highly-potent greenhouse gases known as hydrofluorocarbons; directs agencies to develop a comprehensive methane strategy; and commits to protect our forests and critical landscapes.
  • Prepares the United States for the Impacts of Climate Change:
    Even as we take new steps to cut carbon pollution, we must also prepare for the impacts of a changing climate that are already being felt across the country. Building on progress over the last four years, the plan:
    • Directs agencies to support local climate-resilient investment by removing barriers or counterproductive policies and modernizing programs; and establishes a short-term task force of state, local, and tribal officials to advise on key actions the Federal government can take to help strengthen communities on the ground;
    • Pilots innovative strategies in the Hurricane Sandy-affected region to strengthen communities against future extreme weather and other climate impacts; and building on a new, consistent flood risk reduction standard established for the Sandy-affected region, agencies will update flood-risk reduction standards for all federally funded projects;
    • Launches an effort to create sustainable and resilient hospitals in the face of climate change through a public-private partnership with the healthcare industry;
    • Maintains agricultural productivity by delivering tailored, science-based knowledge to farmers, ranchers, and landowners; and helps communities prepare for drought and wildfire by launching a National Drought Resilience Partnership and by expanding and prioritizing forest- and rangeland- restoration efforts to make areas less vulnerable to catastrophic fire; and
    • Provides climate preparedness tools and information needed by state, local, and private-sector leaders through a centralized “toolkit” and a new Climate Data Initiative.
  • Lead International Efforts to Address Global Climate Change:
    Just as no country is immune from the impacts of climate change, no country can meet this challenge alone. That is why it is imperative for the United States to couple action at home with leadership internationally. America must help forge a truly global solution to this global challenge by galvanizing international action to significantly reduce emissions, prepare for climate impacts, and drive progress through the international negotiations. For example, the plan:
    • Commits to expand major new and existing international initiatives, including bilateral initiatives with China, India, and other major emitting countries;
    • Leads global sector public financing towards cleaner energy by calling for the end of U.S. government support for public financing of new coal-fired powers plants overseas, except for the most efficient coal technology available in the world’s poorest countries, or facilities deploying carbon capture and sequestration technologies; and
    • Strengthens global resilience to climate change by expanding government and local community planning and response capacities.

The White House has put together an excellent, visually rich infographic that summarizes the President’s national climate change action plan.

And then there’s this video of the president’s speech:


Main image: Associated Press

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June 24 2013


Enviro News Wrap: Obama to Address Climate Strategy; World Bank Commits Billions to Alleviate Climate Impacts; Learning the Lessons of Sandy (or not)

The Latest Environmental News HeadlinesGlobalWarmingisReal contributor Anders Hellum-Alexander wraps-up and comments on the climate and environmental news headlines for the past week:

  • Obama will outline a grand national climate change plan on Tuesday June 25th.  I hope this effort does not turn out like healthcare did, we need a real solution, not a watered down compromise that panders to skeptics. Obama has executive powers that he has been using, like executive orders and regulation via the EPA, but what legislation will he be able to push through the obstructionist legislature? Straight regulation of CO2 emissions is what we need. And not just because CO2 is a greenhouse gas, but because when you reduce CO2 emissions you also reduce emissions of a whole host of other environmentally damaging pollutants.
  • The World Bank has funded environmentally devastating projects for decades to “develop” the economies of the world. They have opened up markets in Asia, Africa and South America with transportation and energy projects. Now, after all those changes the World Bank is stepping in to help alleviate the effects of so much development. They are now funding projects to protect people from the effects of climate change.
  • Central America has a lot of support for environmental causes amongst the citizens - but an overall plan between the countries would advance the effort greatly.
  • How many people worldwide are employed in the renewable energy sector? Find out here.
  • I sell Solar PV to homeowners and commercial building owners for a living. The thing I spend most of my time talking about with customers is aesthetics and return on investment. The environmentally positive aspects of solar energy is only a small factor in the equation. The average American is willing to buy green, but only if it makes or saves them money. Incentives matter with a “free market” economy, if the incentives for green products is not there then few people will buy.
  • Learning lessons from Sandy? Government subsidized coastal development resumes after Super-storm Sandy tore apart the East coast. This happens all the time, it is both costly and dumb.


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June 17 2013


Enviro News Wrap: The Will for Climate Action; Exxon Spills Big, Pays Little; Distributed Power to the People, and more…

The Latest Environmental News HeadlinesGlobalWarmingisReal contributor Anders Hellum-Alexander wraps-up and comments on the climate and environmental news headlines for the past week:

  • Climate Change is technically preventable. I’m not talking about historic climate change, not talking about natural fluctuations. I’m talking about the phenomenon of our environment changing due to human caused disruptions. We are pumping out waste, using up resources, transforming landscapes, increasing temperatures, killing off species, removing habitat, and Earth is responding. We could reduce our emissions of junk , we could change how we create and use energy, we could do large carbon capture projects, we could do a lot, and everyday, as our technology advances, it gets cheaper to accomplish these things. But, are our governments going to act in the next 10 years? I don’t think so, I think governments will get really involved when we clearly need a collective response to the devastating effects of climate change. We are on track to do very little prevention followed by a long saga of adaption.
  • ExxonMobil keeps spilling oil and only getting small fines for big damages. As long as they can profit off of damaging the environment illegally they will continue to do it.
  • Better Place was a company that had a great idea: provide a battery service to owners of electric vehicles (EV) making EV ownership easy. But their effort seems to have been made a little early to be successful. EVs will still rise in popularity in the next 20 years, but companies like Tesla are poised to be the ones that make a long term profit from electric vehicles.
  • Oil pipelines are not safe. They are built on the cheap and have minimal regulation, inspection and maintenance. Fossil fuels have an inherent problem, you have to transport, refine and distribute a toxic product thousands of miles and there are many opportunities for spilling.
  • Pharmaceutical drugs cycle back into nature and other animals consume them. Fish are high on prozac, oxycotin, benedryl, MDMA and so much more.
  • If urban density is better than country sprawl, how tall do our buildings have to get to accommodate population growth? Elevator lift technology is improving and will allow us to build super tall buildings, much taller than the skyscrapers in Dubai.
  • Sometimes the sun does not shine and sometimes the wind does not blow, this is a harsh reality for wind and solar power. To get electricity consistently each day we need other energy sources and often they are the dirty, like coal and natural gas. But, what if we had enough advanced batteries to provide consistent energy from renewable sources and could ditch dirty energy? California is leading the way by attempting to install a lot of batteries in a short period of time.
  • Energy created by users is called distributed generation, energy created by a utility and sold to users is called centralized generation. Utilities centralize generation where they hold the power and the users only have the power of government influenced by private interests. Distributed generation is becoming disruptive generation as utilities struggle to control a new power structure. I wonder if they will figure out how to get us back under their thumbs? The utility could only allow distributed generation that is leased by themselves and then pay subcontractors to do the installations.
  • The renewable energy industry is shifting its focus to the developing world where there is a lot of untapped potential for energy projects.



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June 11 2013


UN, World Bank, IEA Gear Up to Achieve Sustainable Energy for All

The UN and World Bank seek to motivate the international community toward sustainable energy with the "Sustainable Energy for All" initiativeLast year UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon created and set in motion “Sustainable Energy for All,” a global initiative that aims to realize what to many may seem irreconcilable goals: mitigating climate change by fostering deployment of green, renewable energy systems and boosting energy efficiency while also stimulating socioeconomic development and growth by providing access to modern energy services for all those who lack it.

A year on, some 170 national governments have signed on to SE4ALL, pledging to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by doubling renewable energy capacity and energy efficiency, and providing access to modern energy services to all those living in their countries. Private sector businesses and other organizations have pledged to invest billions of dollars to achieve SE4ALL’s goals. Aiming to raise the public profile of the initiative, the UN General Assembly has declared the decade 2014-2014 a “Decade of Sustainable Energy for All.”

While notable gains in energy efficiency and renewable energy deployment have been made worldwide, rapid industrialization, population growth and ongoing growth in the use of fossil fuels has all but negated progress in reducing greenhouse gas emissions and stimulating green, responsible socioeconomic development. Energy-related carbon dioxide emissions rose 1.4 percent in 2012 to a record high of 31.6 billion tons, that despite reductions in the world’s developed economies (emissions in the the US were at their lowest level since the mid-1990s), the IEA announced while presenting its latest annual World Energy Outlook in Stockholm this week.

An institutional “Sustainable Energy for All” framework emerges

Fossil fuels continue to account for more than 80 percent of the world’s energy mix, while “a population four times the size of the United States still lives without access to electricity,” according to the recently launched Global Tracking Framework, a multi-agency effort led by the International Energy Agency (IEA) and the World Bank.

SE4ALL’s ambitious goals are to help foster a doubling of energy efficiency, a doubling of renewable energy capacity and universal access to modern energy services by 2030. Putting an institutional framework and mechanisms in place to monitor and track progress and share information is critical to success. To that end, the International Energy Agency (IEA) and World Bank launched the Global Tracking Framework.

“The Sustainable Energy for All initiative is a rallying cry to tackle the twin crises of energy poverty and climate change, and this Global Tracking Framework is an important first response,” Maria van der Hoeven, IEA executive director and a member of the Advisory Board of the SE4ALL initiative, was quoted in a press release.

“By measuring the scale of the challenge, it provides a crucial reference against which the partners of the SE4ALL initiative, and all of us, can track progress towards building a cleaner energy system for all. The IEA has advocated stronger action to tackle energy poverty for more than a decade as part of its World Energy Outlook, but more needs to be done to tackle the problem. It is a moral imperative and we cannot afford to ignore it.”

Local challenges to achieving global “Sustainable Energy for All”

Renewable energy made up 18 percent of the global energy mix and energy efficiency had increased an average 1.3 percent per year since 1990 as of 2010, according to the Global Tracking Framework’s initial report. An estimated 17 percent of the global population lacked access to electricity and 41 percent “still relied on wood or other biomass to cook and heat their homes.”

Focused, determined action is needed worldwide if SE4ALL goals are to be achieved, but “the nature of the challenge differs across countries and, for each of the SE4ALL goals,” the report authors note. Looking to address this, the report singles out “20 ‘high-impact’ countries that are crucial to making major progress.”

In addition, the IEA and World Bank found that realizing SE4ALL goals will require green energy investment increases of at least US$600 billion per year out to 2030 as compared to the current level. Of that total, investment in boosting energy efficiency will need to increase $394 billion, that for renewable energy by $174 billion per year, that for universal access to electricity by $45 billion per annum, and that for universal access to modern cooking by $4.4 billion per annum.

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June 10 2013


Enviro News Wrap: Climate Denial and Conspiracy Theories; Helping Farmers Adapt; Fracking the Amish, and more…

The Latest Environmental News HeadlinesGlobalWarmingisReal contributor Anders Hellum-Alexander wraps-up and comments on the climate and environmental news headlines for the past week:



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May 14 2013


Worldwide Efforts to Combat Drought, Desertification to Take Shape in Namibia This Year

Efforts to tacle accelerating drought and desertification take shape this year an Namibia  Land degradation – more specifically drought and desertification – have become increasingly pressing problems for a growing number of countries around the world, threatening efforts to alleviate poverty, improve basic health and sanitation and address socioeconomic inequality, as well as spur agricultural and sustainable economic development.

The only multilateral, international agreement linking development and environment to sustainable land management (SLM), high-level representatives from 195 nations will be gathering in Windhoek, Namibia from September 16-27 for the 11th bi-annual Conference of Parties (COP) to review implementation of the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD). Meeting for the first time in southern Africa, UNCCD delegates will review implementation of the convention to date and plan for the ensuing two years of programs and actions.

One of the greatest challenges to sustainable development

Desertification, along with climate change and the loss of biodiversity, were singled out as the greatest challenges to sustainable development at the 1992 Rio Earth Summit. Unfortunately, desertification, land degradation and drought (DLDD) have accelerated during the 20th and 21st centuries to date, posing fundamental problems and challenges for drylands populations, nations and regions in particular.

Severe land degradation is estimated to be affecting 168 countries around the world, according to a first-of-its-kind cost-benefit analysis (CBA) of the global effects of desertification released during the UNCCD Conference and Committee Meeting held this past April in Bonn, Germany. That’s up sharply from 110 as of a previous analysis of data submitted by UNCCD parties in the mid-1990s.

The resulting losses, in lives, human potential, biodiversity and ecosystems health and integrity are alarming. Resulting in the devastation of an area three times that of Switzerland every year, UNCCD analysts estimate that the annual costs of combating land degradation have reached $490 billion…and that’s only expected to increase.

Home to some 2 billion people, approximately 40 percent of the Earth’s land area is considered drylands. Due to a combination of human activities and natural forces – climate change now prominent among them – 10-20 percent are already considered degraded. The total land area affected by desertification is estimated to range between 6 million and 12 million square kilometers, putting the livelihoods and lives of a billion inhabitants at risk.

In the report, “The Economics of Desertification, Land Degradation and Drought: Methodologies and Analysis for Decision-Making,”  UNCCD estimates the costs of land degradation to be between 3-5 percent of global agricultural Gross Domestic Production. Furthermore,  “the cost of siltation of water reservoirs is estimated at USD18.5 billion per year, and salinity in global agriculture at about USD12 billion per year.”

Combatting Desertification via Sustainable Land Management

Continual research, development and rapid implementation of sustainable land management practices are the keys to meeting the challenges DLDD poses, according to the UNCCD. Unfortunately, progress in this regard has been slow and halting. Commodities, other products and ecosystem services afforded by land and ecosystems being affected by DLD are not being valued accordingly, nor are government and private sector institutional frameworks geared towards addressing the issue comprehensively or effectively, experts assert.

Posing a fundamental threat to agricultural and broad, sustainable socioeconomic development, crafting and implementing sustainable land management policies cuts across all facets of a society and challenges long, and often strongly held attitudes, values and institutional frameworks. That makes the process of addressing DLDD awkward, cumbersome and difficult, posing varied, substantial and difficult-to-resolve trade-offs and conflicts of interest.

In the midst of carrying out a ten-year strategy to address DLDD and foster development and implementation of sustainable land management policies and practices, the UNCCD is marshaling the resources of member nations in an effort to combat DLDD through sustainable land management. Part and parcel of this global initiative, UNCCD is identifying, helping develop, implement and sharing effective policies and best practices.

“SLM and ecosystem restoration are the key to enhancing the resilience of systems that are vulnerable to DLDD,” the UNCCD CBA report authors state. “Effective policies need to be based on a good understanding of the challenges faced on the ground.

“Generally speaking, policies that have successfully addressed a transition to more sustainable land-use practices have used participatory approaches, responded to local perceptions and priorities, enjoyed adequate government and civil society backing, and promoted technical packages with low risk and strong economic incentives.”

Furthermore, they go on, “Addressing weak governance and policy-induced distortions that operate through markets to promote  land-degrading activities are arguably amongst the most efficient means of tackling land degradation in developing countries.

“Lastly, given a rising global demand for commodities built on an unsustainable price signal (e.g. wheat price speculations) that converts natural capital for free to provide food, fiber, fodder and fuel, finance must become more accountable for its impact on nature, creating opportunities for change.”

Image credit: iJuliAn, courtesy flickr

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May 07 2013


Rising Temperature, Sea Level On Track to Wipe Out Major World Cities Former Shell Exec Tells UN

Global community risks catastrophic sea level rise if current fossil fuel and c02 emissions stay on trackConsensus among the world’s leading climate scientists has established a 2°C rise in global mean temperature as the tipping point for runaway climate change, but even that could result in catastrophic rises in sea level of as much as 6-7 meters (23 feet), energy expert Ian Dunlop and policy planner and scholar Tapio Kanninen told audiences at packed meetings and panel discussions at UN headquarters in New York City organized by the Finnish Mission to the United Nations, the Club of Rome, the Temple of Understanding and the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs.

Sea level rises of 6-7 meters would wipe out coastal cities, including London, New York, Shanghai and Tokyo, and that’s even if we could somehow manage to limit global average temperature rise to 2°C this century, Dunlop and Kanninen told shocked audiences at the UN, according to a Club of Rome report.

On track for 4C rise in global temps; 230-foot rise in sea level

If current trends in fossil fuel use and greenhouse gas emissions continue, global temperatures would rise as much as 4°C or more. That would lead to sea level rises of up to 70 meters (230 feet), Dunlop and Kanninen stated as they “presented new evidence demonstrating the severity of the crisis of global sustainability and global survivability,” the topic of discussion for the mix of diplomats, political decision makers, sustainable development experts and NGOs who attended the meetings.

Dunlop’s experience in the field includes over 30 years working as an engineer and senior executive at the Royal Shell Group. He also is the former leader of Australia’s Emissions Trading Panel.

Commenting on the latest scientific evidence, “Today’s leaders refuse to accept that climate change science and the concept of Peak Oil condemns the international community to a catastrophic future,” Dunlop said.

“Why are we still exploring for fossil fuels since we can only burn 20-30% of reserves if we wish to keep climate change to the 2°C limit, while current policies will result in warming of 4-6°C?”

Perhaps even more shocking a 4°C rise in temperature results in a global human carrying capacity of 0.5-1 billion as compared to a present-day human population of 7 billion.

Urgently needed: drastic economic restructuring, emergency response mechanisms

Scientists have identified a number of climate change tipping points the reaching of which “exponentially and dramatically accelerate global warming trends,” Kanninen, a fomer long-time UN staff member and policy planner, pointed out. These will be reached in “a matter of years, not decades. We must take action before it is too late to avert a catastrophe,” he was paraphrased as saying.

Current policy measures and institutional frameworks are incapable of avoiding or preventing these scenarios from playing out, the pair emphasized. What’s needed, they said, is “a change in the entire system plus an emergency response.

“If runaway climate change leads to rising sea levels the next move has to be to urgently overhaul the UN and our global governance system so it is capable of dealing with rapidly changing global and regional conditions.”


Image credit: Cherrylynx, courtesy flickr

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May 06 2013


Enviro News Wrap: Climate Change and National Security; Keeling Curve On the Brink of 400; Getting Beyond Politics Leads to Climate Action, and more…

The Latest Environmental News HeadlinesGlobalWarmingisReal contributor Anders Hellum-Alexander wraps-up and comments on the climate and environmental news headlines for the past week:

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March 25 2013


Enviro News Wrap: Growth in US Solar; Changing Perceptions of Global Warming; US Plays Catch-Up in Enviro Policy, and more…

The Latest Environmental News HeadlinesGlobalWarmingisReal contributor Anders Hellum-Alexander wraps-up and comments on the climate and environmental news headlines for the past week:




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September 05 2012


Obama and Romney Agree that Global Warming is Real

Obama and Romney agree that global warming is realProviding written statements to the independent website ScienceDebate, both president Obama and his GOP challenger Mitt Romney acknowledged that human-caused global warming is happening.

Partially sponsored by the National Academies and the American Association for the Advancement of Science, ScienceDebate has long held that questions about science be included in televised presidential debates. Realizing there is little chance of that in the next debate on October 3rd, the website prepared a written list of 14 questions addressing the top science-based issues facing the country today. The questions were selected from suggestions by thousands of “scientists, engineers, and concerned citizens” and refined with the help of leading scientific and engineering organizations to represent the most important science policy issues. Among the list were questions of energy policy, food, fresh water, ocean health, natural resources and, of course, climate change.

While both candidates agreed that anthropogenic climate change is happening, not surprisingly they differed on what should be done about it.

In his 484-word answer, Romney made clear he opposed any carbon tax or cap-and-trade approach to mitigating global warming. Instead he suggested pursuing “no regrets” policies the would limit emissions and still be beneficial to the economy should climate change somehow “not come to pass.” Romney provided little in the way of specifics as to what those policies might be.

“Ultimately, the science is an input to the public policy decision;” Romney said in his written statement, “it does not dictate a particular policy response.”

For his part, Obama pointed to his actions in his first term and his agenda going forward. Among his achievements Obama cited aggressive vehicle efficiency standards, renewable energy investments, the proposed rule allowing the EPA to limit greenhouse gas emissions from power plants, and the hard-fought agreement from COP17 last year in Durban, South Africa calling for all major international greenhouse gas emitters to face equal obligation to cut those emissions by 2020. (See Andrew Burger’s post from September 4 on the accomplishments of the Obama administration in energy and efficiency.)

“Climate change is one of the biggest issues of this generation,” Obama said in his 181-word response. “And we have to meet this challenge by driving smart policies that lead to greater growth in clean energy generation and result in a range of economic and social benefits.”

Thanks to DonkeyHotey for image resource 






August 29 2012


Mitt Romney’s Love Affair with the Fossil Fuel Industry

Romney's energy plan is made by and for the fossil energy industryRepublican Presidential nominee Mitt Romney’s “new” energy plan, relies on 19th century fossil fuel technology. It is but the latest incarnation of a longstanding Republican obsession with oil and gas. Romney’s energy strategy is reliant on Canada’s environmentally disastrous tar sands. He wants to expedite the Keystone XL pipeline, reduce regulations on hydraulic fracturing and ease the permitting process for offshore oil and gas. Romney wants to take regulatory power away from the federal government and give it to individual states. He wants to amend the Clean Air Act and Clean Water Act and weaken the EPA’s ability to regulate pollution.

While Romney is pushing for more oil and gas, his plan does not advocate either conservation or efficiency. Instead he would end subsidies for renewable sources of energy like solar and wind.

The Republican convention in Florida was delayed due to concerns about Hurricane Isaac. The timing of Isaac is ironic given that GOP appears oblivious to the relationship between global warming and extreme weather. They do not see the powerful symbolism of four hurricanes, Andrew, Katrina, Irene and now Isaac, all landing at roughly the same time and in the same place.

The Republican presidential hopeful’s support for fossil fuels ignores the overwhelming price of extreme weather. With a cost of $81 billion and 1,836 dead, Katrina was the most expensive natural disaster in American history. About 20 years ago this week, Hurricane Andrew hit Florida; it cost $25 billion and killed 15 people. Hurricane Irene struck one year ago and caused an estimated $15 billion in damage while killing at least 67 people.

Romney continues to push for more offshore oil despite the fact that Hurricane Isaac will likely stir up oil left over from the massive Gulf spill of 2010. The remnants of that spill take the form of large tar mats that lie submerged just off the coast.

It appears nothing will deter Romney from pursuing his wanton desire to increase America’s reliance on oil and gas. As reviewed in a Grist article by Lisa Hymas, Mitt Romney’s 21 page energy strategy mentions oil a total of 154 times and natural gas 36 times. The document references coal more often than solar or wind energy and efficiency only gets mentioned once. His plan completely ignores the smart grid, sustainability and climate change.

Romney claims his fossil fuel fixation will create jobs and he eschews government support for renewable energy. However, clean energy has been a great jobs creator, in many cases far more than the fossil fuel industry. In Iowa alone, 7,000 jobs have been created in the wind power industry. Thanks to the wind production tax credit (PTC), the wind industry now employs more people than the coal sector. The US solar energy industry currently employs 100,000 workers at 5,600 companies.

The Republican nominee wants to kill support for renewable energy while continuing to give oil companies $4 billion in annual subsidies. In addition, the Romney plan would provide a $2.3 billion tax cut for the big five oil companies through cuts in the corporate tax rate. Over the next 9 years, the U.S. coal industry is expected to receive $8 billion in taxpayer support.

Romney claims oil is more economical, but his plan does not factor the massive health care costs associated with the burning of fossil fuels. According to a Harvard Medical study, these costs amount to $345 billion. When health issues are factored into the equation the cost of coal per kilowatt is more than 3x the cost of wind.

Romney’s emphasis on oil and gas and resistance to support renewable energy should come as no surprise as his top advisors are closely affiliated with the fossil fuel industry. Harold Hamm is the founder, chairman and chief executive officer of Continental Resources Inc. (CLR). Hamm is one of the richest people in America and the chairman of Romney’s Energy Policy Advisory Group. Romney’s other advisors are also oil industry insiders. David Wilkins is a Canadian lobbyist for tar sands oil and Andrea Saul was formerly with the DCI Group, a public affairs and lobbying firm that has worked with Big Oil to undermine the facts on global warming.

At one time, Romney was a strong supporter of action on climate change. Now in his bid to be President, he is leading the climate deniers with a strategy that seems to invite climate change. Romney is a political opportunist who is depending on the oil and gas industry to help fund his campaign. According to the Center for Responsive PoliticsRomney has directly received more than $1 million from the oil and gas industry and the Koch brothers are expected to spend up to $200 million to help get their man elected.

Romney’s love of fossil fuel is at odds with the sentiments of most Americans. Americans hate the oil and gas industry and want global warming and clean energy to be national priorities. According to an August Gallup poll, a total of 61 percent of Americans gave the fossil fuel industry a negative rating, the worst of any industry in the U.S. Romney’s opposition to clean energy is also at odds with the views of the American public. A March Gallup poll had found that people were twice as likely to support solar and wind energy than coal or natural gas. The same poll found that 69 percent of Americans favored spending more government money on developing renewable energy.

As reviewed in a press release from the Sierra Club, greenhouse gas emissions are down to their lowest level in 20 years, Americans are using less oil, and new fuel standards will double efficiency and slash CO2. Over the last four years U.S. wind power has doubled and solar has grown by a factor of five. All of these advances would be reversed by Romney’s energy plan.

Romney’s intention to double down on oil and natural gas is a policy position that is incompatible with a 21st century economy. Romney’s resistance to renewable energy and support for fossil fuels is nothing short of reckless. His plan would result in the loss of tens of thousands of jobs in the clean energy industry and unleash pollutants that would harm Americans.

Romney’s energy strategy is a blueprint for increasing emissions and a roadmap for runaway climate change. America simply cannot afford a President who is so willfully ignorant on energy and the environment.


Richard Matthews is a consultant, eco-entrepreneur, green investor and author of numerous articles on sustainable positioning, eco-economics and enviro-politics. He is the owner of The Green Market Oracle, a leading sustainable business blog and one of the Web’s most comprehensive resources on the business of the environment. Find The Green Market on Facebook and follow The Green Market’s twitter feed.

Image credit: TerranceDC, courtesy Flickr

August 15 2012


GOP VP Candidate Ryan’s Unsustainable Voting Record on Energy and the Environment

Paul Ryan is the Republican Party’s pick for VP and he is also an outspoken climate change skeptic. Representative Ryan is an unflinching supporter of the fossil fuel industry who has a very poor voting record on environmental and energy issues. Although he is touted as the intellectual leader of the GOP, Ryan has cast aspersions on climate science and he has inferred that unusual snowfalls suggest that global warming is not real.

On the Issues reports that as a member of the House of Representatives, Ryan’s voting record earned him very low marks from three separate organizations. In December 2003, the League of Conservation Voters (LCV) gave Ryan a grade of only 10 percent, because of his anti-environment votes. In December 2006, the CAF gave him a rating of 0 percent, indicating his opposition to energy independence. And in January 2012, the Humane Society Legislative Fund (HSLF) gave him a grade of 13 percent, due to his anti-animal welfare voting record.

Ryan has an anti-environment policy perspective that dates all the way back to the start of his career. In the mid to late 1990s, Ryan worked as the legislative director for then Senator Sam Brownback of Kansas. Brownback’s record on the environment can be best summarized as anti-regulation and pro-growth. Brownback has repeatedly voted against regulations, even those designed to protect Americans against dangerous toxins like mercury.

As reported in On the Issues, here are several examples from Brownback’s anti-environment voting record:

  • Against banning drilling in ANWR (Roll Call #52, 03/16/05)
  • For prohibiting an increase in CAFE standards (Roll Call #48, 03/13/02)
  • Against requiring the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions (Roll Call #420, 10/30/03)
  • For preventing the government’s protection and acquisition of land for parks and open space (S.Amdt. 3640 to H.R. 2419; #429, 12/13/07)
  • Against protecting fish habitats (table Bryan Amdt. #1588; Bill H.R. 2466)

Brownback’s voting record on the environment was so bad that he earned a 0 percent score from the LCV.

Big oil and right wing social engineering

Ryan was first voted into the U.S. House of Representatives for Wisconsin’s first congressional district in 1989. Ryan currently chairs the House Budget Committee, where he has garnered a lot of attention for his alternative to President Obama’s 2012 budget proposal. Ryan’s controversial budget would support Big Oil, reduce taxes on the wealthy and cut government spending including clean energy investments. His radically conservative views on economic policy are so extreme they have been dismissed by arch-conservative Newt Gingrich who referred to them as “right wing social engineering.”

In addition to his controversial economic views, Ryan is also a climate denier of the first order. As explained in a Think Progress article, Ryan has accused scientists of engaging in conspiracy to “intentionally mislead the public on the issue of climate change.”

Another Think Progress article explored how his family directly benefits from his stalwart support of Big Oil.  As stated in the article:

“Paul Ryan’s budget, which means austerity for most Americans, turns out to mean prosperity for Ryan and his family.”

Ryans proposed FY 2013 budget provides oil subsidies and tax shelters worth more than $40 billion. In addition Ryans’ budget helps the fossil fuel industry by eliminating billions of dollars of investments in clean energy technologies (CAP, 3/20/12).

According to Ryan’s financial disclosure forms for Congress, he and his wife, Janna, own interests in land leases to oil and mining companies including XTO Energy, a recently acquired subsidiary of ExxonMobil.

Ryan’s close ties to fossil fuels do not end there. He is also an associate of the powerful Koch brothers, two of the most destructive spin masters in the American oil industry. This climate denying duo uses their extraordinary wealth to spread their influence and promote their self-centered pro-oil agenda. Just one of the many Koch founded organizations; known as Americans for Prosperity (AFP) has already spent $27 million on anti-Obama ads.

As reported in an Alternet article, Ryan has enjoyed AFP’s financial support for years. The nomination of Ryan prompted the article’s author, Adele M. Stan to write, “The Republican Party is now officially a wholly-owned subsidiary of the Koch brothers’ political enterprise.”

Wisconsin is both Ryans’ home state and the home of the now infamous Tea Party victory that aggressively moved that state to the right. With considerable help from the AFP, Republican Governor Scott Walker won reelection after ramming a bill through the state legislature that “all but ended collective bargaining for the state’s public employees.”

Ryan has even received special recognition from the AFP. Walker personally presented Ryan with the Wisconsin AFP chapter’s “Defending the American Dream” award.

A voting record against scientific fact and the future of civilization

Truth-Out calls Ryan a “virulent denier of climate science, with a voting record to match,” adding, “Paul Ryan stands with Big Oil against scientific fact and the future of human civilization.

A succinct summary of Ryan’s voting record reveals his allegiance to oil and his contempt for the environment, efficiency and clean energy. Ryan voted against the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) efforts to limit greenhouse gas pollution (Roll Call 249, 4/7/11); he tried to eliminate the role of a White House climate adviser (Roll Call 87, 2/17/11); and block the U.S. Department of Agriculture from preparing for climate disasters (Roll Call 448, 6/16/11). Ryan is on record as having voted to end the Department of Energy Advanced Research Projects Agency (ARPA-E) (Roll Call 55, 2/17/11) while supporting the Keystone XL Pipeline (Roll Call 650, 7/26/11). He even voted to eliminate light bulb efficiency standards (Roll Call 563, 7/12/11).

As reviewed in Vote Smart, here are some more examples that further expose Ryan’s agenda on energy and the environment:

Ryan voted for the following bills:

Ryan voted against the following bills:

A vote for Romney and Ryan in 2012 will bring back the same Republican policies that caused the meltdown of the global economy 5 years ago, it also means four years of policies that invite environmental abuse. Ryan’s vision for America is unsustainable and his anti-environment voting record is deplorable. Americans have to decide if they want to “unshackle Wall Street” or liberate themselves from Republicans beholden to Big Oil.
Richard Matthews is a consultant, eco-entrepreneur, green investor and author of numerous articles on sustainable positioning, eco-economics and enviro-politics. He is the owner of The Green Market Oracle, a leading sustainable business blog and one of the Web’s most comprehensive resources on the business of the environment. Find The Green Market on Facebook and follow The Green Market’s twitter feed.

Image credit: DonkeyHotey, courtesy Flickr

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