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February 12 2014

23:48

British Isles Endure Unprecedented Flooding

UK Flooding adds to global extreme weather events

Even while the US East shivers in record cold, Alaska basks in heat and California experiences extreme drought (despite the recent rain), it is the British Isles that are truly being hammered by extreme weather. As much as some folks snipe at the oft-repeated phrase of late, the polar vortex and stalled jet stream lay at the heart of the weather chaos, behaving, scientists believe, in response to a warming Arctic and loss of Arctic sea ice.

In the UK, the implications for this “string of one-in-150 year” events hit at the core of political as well as everyday life.

“The water table is so high in some areas that flooding is possible even far from a river. 1.6 million properties could be at risk.”

The following video comes courtesy of ClimateCrocks.com

 

Featured image credit: Ian is here, courtesy flickr

The post British Isles Endure Unprecedented Flooding appeared first on Global Warming is Real.

January 24 2014

23:51

Video Friday: Extreme Weather, the Jet Stream, and Global Warming

With the eastern half of the United States under a deep freeze and the phrase “polar vortex” making the rounds (and no, despite Rush Limbaugh’s breathless ranting, it isn’t a term just made up by evil climate scientists), we circle back around to the discussion of climate vs. weather  and get a grasp on how the jet stream works in this video from The Film Archive.

The irony is that global warming my cause more bitterly cold winters in the eastern U.S. due to a rapidly warming Arctic and its effect on the jet stream. Of course, in any case, winters are still cold.

The post Video Friday: Extreme Weather, the Jet Stream, and Global Warming appeared first on Global Warming is Real.

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January 08 2014

18:38

NY Governor Launches $17B Plan to Enhance Resiliency to Extreme Weather

Hammered by an unprecedented nine federally declared disasters since he took office three years ago and with much of the state now frozen solid as a result of the southward drifting polar vortex, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo unveiled details of a far reaching rebuilding plan that aims to enhance New York state’s resiliency to climate change and its emergency preparedness.

Dubbed “Reimagining New York for a New Reality,” the $17 billion plan will see the state invest a wide range of projects “that will transform New York’s infrastructure, transportation networks, energy supply, coastal protection, weather warning system and emergency management system to better protect New Yorkers from future extreme weather,” the governor’s office explained in a press release.

Credit: New York State Office of the Governor

Extreme weather is “The New Reality”

Along with its own funds, the state government is putting federal disaster funds granted in response to 2012′s Superstorm Sandy and 2011′s Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee to work to implement the far reaching plan to enhance New York’s climate change resiliency and emergency preparedness. Its key aspects include:

  • Building the most advanced weather detection system in the nation, with 125 interconnected weather stations to provide real-time warnings of local extreme weather and flood conditions;
  • Launching the nation’s first College of Emergency Preparedness, Homeland Security, and Cybersecurity;
  • Replacing and repairing 104 older bridges at risk due to increasing flooding;
  • Implementing the largest reconstruction of the state’s transit system in 110 years with $5 billion of federal funds;
  • Creating a statewide Strategic Fuel Reserve, and statewide gas station back-up power on critical routes throughout the state;
  • Hardening the state’s electric grid and creating 10 “microgrids” (independent community-based electric distribution systems);
  • Building new natural infrastructure to protect the New York’s coastline, and provide advanced flood control for inland waterways;
  • Training a new Citizen First Responder Corps to make New York residents the best prepared in the nation to deal with emergencies and disasters; and
  • Expanding the $650 million NY Rising Community Reconstruction program to allow 124 communities around the state to create their own individualized storm resilience plans.
  • Issuing special license plates for first responders

Avoiding climate change catastrophe

Besides enhancing New York’s emergency preparedness and climate change resiliency, carrying out the $17 billion plan is sure to provide the state economy with a big, much needed, economic boost.

Unveiling the strategic plan at a press conference in Albany, the state capitol, Governor Cuomo highlighted the new reality of more frequent extreme weather events and recounted the unprecedented disruption and devastation that resulted, both downstate, in and around New York City, as well as across the length and breadth of upstate New York.

Of the one-year process that resulted in creation of the plan, the governor stated,

“This was a special challenge for us, because it called for us to literally reimagine the state in light of what we went through with Hurricane Sandy, Superstorm Sandy, storms Irene and Lee, and taking those lessons, and taking really that trauma, and reshaping our vision of New York through that experience. We call it ‘Reimagining New York’ because we are now facing a new reality after what we went through.”

 

“Extreme weather is the new reality, like it or not. What caused it is a separate discussion for a separate day, but the reality is extreme weather and we have to deal with it.”

The governor also acknowledged that the plan couldn’t have come to fruition without extraordinary support and assistance from the Obama Administration and federal government, as well as local leaders throughout New York State.

Joining Governor Cuomo at the press conference, Vice President Joe Biden praised the plan and Governor Cuomo. “Governor, I am delighted to be able to be here with you today,” the vice president began.

“I think you rebuilding New York, reimagining a future is exactly what we have to do in this country. And once again, in the tradition of this state and the tradition of Andrew Cuomo, you’re leading. You’re not just leading in New York, you’re leading the country. And I think a lot of governors and a lot of folks can learn an awful lot from what they see and what you do here.”

For more on this, check out the Office of the Governor’s press release or watch the press conference below:

Image credit: New York State Office of the Governor

The post NY Governor Launches $17B Plan to Enhance Resiliency to Extreme Weather appeared first on Global Warming is Real.

December 05 2013

22:41

Massive US Temperature Fluctuations and Climate Change

The increasingly wide temperature fluctuations over short periods of time indicate we could be approaching climate tipping points. What are the implications of wild swings in temperature for the veracity of climate change? Everyone who follows climate science knows that the planet is warming, but many are unaware of how temperature fluctuations may also be a part of the climate change picture. Scientific observations provide an overwhelmingly compelling body of evidence for global warming. Many lines of scientific evidence show that as a consequence of global warming, the Earth’s climate is changing,  however, increasing global mean temperature is only one element of observed climate change phenomena.

Evidence of global warming can be seen in a number of scientific observations including melting ice and sea level rises. Anomalies like increased precipitation and extreme weather events support the data generated by climate models. However, radical temperature fluctuations are another dimension of climate change that is often overlooked.

Both Dallas and Colorado recently experienced some of the most extreme temperature fluctuations on record. After enjoying balmy temperatures, Dallas was hit with a powerful cold front that caused temperatures to plummet below freezing. On Wednesday December 4, the observed high was 80 degrees, on Saturday December 7, the temperature plunged to just over 30 degrees. That is a temperature change of 50 degrees. Similarly, Denver went from being 67 degrees on Monday to 14 degrees on Wednesday. This represents a temperature difference of 53 degrees.

During the first week of December, 33 million Americans in 27 states were hit by a cold spell. Deniers have commonly looked at cold weather as evidence that disproves global warming. However, when examined over much longer time spans we see a clear warming trend. Further, high and low temperature data from recent decades show that new record highs occur nearly twice as often as new record lows.

Of course, individual temperature readings over the course of a few days cannot be taken as evidence for or against climate change. However, the anomalous temperature fluctuations are part of a trend that is consistent with what many scientists predict will occur as the planet warms.

As H.J. Weaver and his colleagues at the Australian National University explained, “Climate change is predicted to alter the physical environment through cumulative impacts of warming and extreme fluctuations in temperature and precipitation, with cascading effects on human health and well being, food security and socioeconomic infrastructure.”

A NOAA report (PDF) on the 2009/2010 Cold Season stated that a changing climate produced “Extreme fluctuations in temperature and precipitation in the mid-latitudes in 2009 and 2010.”

The winters of 2010 and 2011 in the northern hemisphere have resulted in the record-setting freezes and warm spells. According to an analysis of the past 63 winters from the American Geophysical Union, the warm extremes were more widespread and severe than the cold extremes in the winters of 2009-2010 and 2010-2011. Natural variability may explain the cold temperatures, but researchers concluded the extreme warmth cannot be explained by natural cycles, suggesting a possible role of climate change. The report’s co-author Alexander Gershunov and Scripps climate researchers indicated that these temperature swings are consistent with global warming trends.

In Nowata Oklahoma, in the winter of 2011,  the temperature went from a low of -31 degrees on February 10 (the all-time coldest temperature ever recorded in Oklahoma) to a record high of 79 degrees on February 17. According to the National Weather Service in Tulsa, Okla., this 110-degree temperature rise is the greatest change within seven days in Oklahoma history.

A 2011 report out of the UK examined the possible infrastructure impacts of climate change and indicated that extreme temperature fluctuations are likely.

A July 2013 study on plant physiology and climate change talked about “expected extreme fluctuations in temperature and global warming in general.”

It is important to understand as we approach irreversible tipping points that the impacts of climate change may at times appear to be counterintuitive. Far from disproving global warming, radical fluctuations in temperature are another dimension of the same problem.
——————-
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: Ted Eytan, courtesy flickr

The post Massive US Temperature Fluctuations and Climate Change appeared first on Global Warming is Real.

November 21 2013

19:45

Extreme Weather and Existential Reflections on Life in the Anthropocene

Extreme weather is a harbinger of life in a climate-changed worldThe recent spate of deadly tornadoes in the U.S. and the carnage of Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines are poignant opportunities for us to reflect on the future of civilization. These events are tangible reminders of the sometimes intangible reality of human existence in the anthropocene. Extreme weather affords an opportunity to come to terms with the evidence that shows how human activities are degrading the Earth’s ecosystems.

While it is difficult to attribute any individual extreme weather event to global warming, when looked at over time, we see an interesting pattern emerge.

According to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), from 1953 to 1983, the U.S. Averaged 26.65 disasters per year. In the last 29 years, the average number of U.S. disasters has risen to 91.4 per year, representing an increase of more than 240 percent.

According to NASA’s Earth Observatory, whether or not global warming is responsible for this increase in natural disasters, it does speak to our future. As stated in the Earth Observatory website, climate change will impact future catastrophes, “changes in climate not only affect average temperatures, but also extreme temperatures, increasing the likelihood of weather-related natural disasters.”

The intense thunderstorms that swept across the U.S. Midwest on Sunday are yet another warning calling us to deal with climate change. This storm follows on the heals of the devastating Typhoon that recently wreaked havoc in the Philippines.

On Sunday, November 17th, a large number of violent thunderstorms and as many as 77 tornadoes touched down in 12 U.S. states. These events killed at least 8 people, wounded many others and left a trail of destruction. Entire towns have been decimated and scores of homes have been wiped off the face of the earth. As terrible as this is, it is nothing compared to Typhoon Haiyan which has killed between four and ten thousand and rendered four million people homeless.

Scientists like Professor Will Steffen, a researcher at the ANU and member of the Climate Council, have linked Typhoon Haiyan to climate change, others describe it as being exacerbated by global warming. The relationship between tornadoes and climate change is more complex and harder to predict than hurricanes (typhoons, cyclones).

Understanding convective available potential energy, (CAPE) may offer us insights into the relationship between tornadoes and climate change as this measure represents the energy that powers storms. It is determined by the combination of moisture and temperature differences between the ground and higher regions of the atmosphere. It is known that global warming leads to an increase in CAPE and this in turn leads to an increase in thunderstorms which can spawn tornadoes.

The relationship between global warming and tornadoes was discussed in a 2007 Scientific American interview with climate scientist Kevin Trenberth of the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Colorado. While he predicted more hurricanes due to global warming he also suggested there may be an impact on tornadoes.

“Of course, tornadoes are very much a weather phenomenon. They come from certain thunderstorms, usually supercell thunderstorms that are in a wind shear environment that promotes rotation,” Trenberth said. “The main climate change connection is via the basic instability of the low-level air that creates the convection and thunderstorms in the first place. Warmer and moister conditions are the key for unstable air. The oceans are warmer because of climate change.”

Grady Dixon, an associate professor of geosciences at Mississippi State University who studies tornado climatology also weighed in on the connection between tornadoes and global warming.  ”The most common finding is a warming environment leads to more storms and more intense storms.” Paradoxically, Dixon also pointed out that a warming climate means warmer temperatures in the north which should decrease wind shear and may lead to fewer tornadoes.

Harold Brooks of the National Weather Center recently talked about a condensing effect, meaning more tornadoes could occur on fewer days of the year.  Jeff Trapp, a professor of atmospheric science at Purdue University said the tornado season may be expanded by a warming world. ”We would see an increase in the number of days that could be favorable for severe thunderstorm and tornado formation,” he said.

Trapp also said that the “CAPE increases with time in a globally warmed world, mainly because the temperature near the ground and lower parts of the atmosphere increases and becomes more humid…In a globally warmed future world, that thunderstorm should be more intense.”

Applied environmental geoscience major Derrek Davey said the devastation from the storms has a lot to do with global warming.

“We have measured that we have increased our global temperature 1 degree. This does not seem like much, but it is a huge factor with ice caps melting. More water equals . . . more devastation from storms.”

We know that storms and weather-related events are clearly connected to temperature. “So it should not be a big surprise to find that the rapid average global warming we’ve seen since the Industrial Revolution would affect them.” said Alice Mulder, chair of the Environmental Issues Committee.  “[G]lobal warming does change the base conditions that make some of these events more likely.”

It is important to note that the exact relationship between climate change and tornadoes is still not very well understood. Scientists do not know how global warming will impact the frequency or intensity of tornadoes. However, the absence of evidence does not mean evidence of absence.

In 2011, the U.S. suffered through 1,700 tornadoes which is the second-deadliest tornado season in history. But 2012 and 2013 did not see elevated numbers of tornadoes. However, just as looking at one extreme weather event does not prove or disprove climate change, looking at tornado data over the course of a few years does not necessarily contradict the notion that there is a trend.

Over the course of a few years we can expect to see some variability, science looks at weather trends over much larger time frames. While the nature of science will always entertain a degree of uncertainty, more than 95 percent of climate scientists are in agreement about anthropogenic global warming. They also acknowledge that this will have serious implications for the health of the planet.

It remains to be seen whether seas will rise by 3 feet or by 10 feet, we also are not certain if the average global temperature will climb by 4 degrees or by 7. What we do know is that it is getting warmer and seas are rising. We know that warming is related to extreme weather.

We should leave investigation of the details to climate scientists and the public should be focusing on what we do know and its implications for the planet. The relationship between global warming and extreme weather should not be derailed by the few remaining — albeit powerful – skeptics who try to undermine the veracity of the vast body of climate science by pointing to examples of uncertainty.

These impacts of climate change are catastrophic. This is not some theoretical notion for the distant future, this is a fact here and now. People are already dying due to disease, food shortages, heat waves and air quality. As reported in the Daily Beast, a 2012 Climate Vulnerability Monitor report indicates that global warming is already killing four-hundred thousand people each year.

Anthropogenic climate change adversely impacts the health of humans and many other species of animal and plant life. This is a fact borne out in numerous studies and reports including those published by the United Nations, World Health Organization (WHO) and Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

In March, Admiral Samuel J. Locklear III, the commander of the United States Pacific Command, told security and foreign policy specialists in Cambridge, Mass., that global climate change is the greatest threat the United States faces — more dangerous than terrorism, Chinese hackers and North Korean nuclear missiles.

Extreme weather events help people to see what climate change looks like. People in the U.S., even those that belong to the Republic party, traditionally a bastion of climate denial, are coming to terms with the veracity of global warming. As reported in the Guardian, a new study from Stanford University’s social psychologist Jon Krosnick found that “a vast majority of red-state Americans believe climate change is real and at least two-thirds of those want the government to cut greenhouse gas emissions.

Whether or not Typhoon Haiyan or the tornadoes in the U.S. are directly caused by climate change is not the point. The issue that is highlighted by these phenomenon encourages us to embrace the scientific evidence. We know that extreme weather events are expected to intensify as global warming proceeds.

Violent climatic occurrences are consistent with climate models which predict increasingly severe extreme weather events as the earth warms. While we may not be able to be certain about the attribution of specific weather events, we know the earth is warming, we know that the oceans are rising as well. We also know that a warmer world increases the likelihood of precipitation, storm surges, flooding and extreme weather.

As the Prince of Wales said recently, ‘The devastating impact of Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines should surely have been a poignant and telling reminder of the intimacy and interdependence of man’s relationship with the natural world.”

Despite critics who claim Charles overstated the case, we have good reason to question the ways in which we relate to the planet. Even if we are foolish enough to ignore climate models that predict more extreme weather, we will still be subject to sea level rise and ocean acidification among other adverse affects.

Extreme weather demands that we face the civilization-altering impacts we are having on the planet. The challenge of the Anthropocene forces us to reflect on what it means to be human. This is the great existential question of our times.

To quote the immortal words of Shakespear’s Hamlet:

“To be, or not to be: that is the question:

Whether ’tis nobler in the mind to suffer

The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune,

Or to take arms against a sea of troubles,”

We are destroying the Earth upon which all life depends, and we must reconcile ourselves to the implications of our actions. As Roy Scranton commented in the Times, “If we want to learn to live in the Anthropocene, we must first learn how to die.”

Regardless of the causal attribution for Typhoon Haiyan and the recent U.S. Tornadoes, it is no exaggeration to say that climate change poses a threat to life on earth. Extreme weather events offer a glimpse into the future and this provides an opportunity for us to reflect on the choice between accepting our impending death or collectively resolving to change our ways.
——————–
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: Ingo Meironke, courtesy flickr

The post Extreme Weather and Existential Reflections on Life in the Anthropocene appeared first on Global Warming is Real.

September 16 2013

17:19

Colorado’s “Biblical” Flood in Line with Climate Trends

Colorado’s “Biblical” Flood in Line with Climate Trends (via Climate Central)

By Andrew Freedman Follow @afreedma The Boulder, Colo. area is reeling after being inundated by record rainfall, with more than half a year’s worth of rain falling over the past three days. During those three days, 24-hour rainfall totals of between…



The post Colorado’s “Biblical” Flood in Line with Climate Trends appeared first on Global Warming is Real.

May 13 2013

17:39

Enviro News Wrap Up: 400 PPM CO2 Threshold Reached; Winters and Global Warming; Innovative Solar Financing a Game Changer, 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:

  • 400 ppm (parts per million) of CO2 has been reached! Congratulations Planet Earth you are on your way to being unsuitable habitat for billions of humans. Humans will watch our animal brethren decline, then we will follow them. If you don’t like this reality, then “clean” up your life and get political.
  • Oil prices are very important for clean energy industries. Higher oil prices encourage consumers to look for alternatives, increase efficiency and decrease use. The other side is that higher oil prices encourage oil companies to develop previously unaffordable sources of oil in environmentally sensitive locations. Think deep water oil exploration and the BP-Transocean-Haliburton Gulf of Mexico oil spill and the Canadian Tar Sands. We need high oil prices but there will be a period of time when oil companies rush to produce as much oil as possible before they get under-priced by clean fuels.
  • Belief in global warming by the American public is always fluctuating, but is it fluctuating with temperature itself? Belief in global warming increased sharply last summer and then rose in the fall again due to the east coast storm Sandy. Then, after a cold winter we have backed down to a nation of 60 percent believers. This shows a real lack of understanding of science on the part of the American people. Its sad when a government by the people, of the people, for the people does not have a people smart enough to understand the more important and complicated issues. Without a united, consistent, overwhelming voice from the American people our government is confused about the issue leaving a void that is filled by dirty energy lobbyists.
  • Man-made dust bowls through climate change will be just like natural dust bowls, people will be displaced and they have to go somewhere. The problem with human caused climate change is that it is happening all over the globe and if people do not have any where to go, what will they do?
  • Solar technology is developing at a steady pace, but the real potential for changing the game in the short term is solar financing (full disclosure: I work for a solar company). When companies get creative and are allowed to fund solar projects in unique ways (like leasing) then solar becomes more affordable for homeowners. Without improving the technology solar can be sold for less than current utility prices. This has happened in California, New York, New Jersey and many more states. Many people do not know that solar leasing is illegal in many states, literally. If our government would just get out of the way deployment of residential solar would explode more than it already is.
  • Banks fund business, so Rainforest Action Network is putting pressure on banks to not fund dirty energy businesses. Bank of America, CitiGroup and JP Morgan Chase are the biggest investors in dirty energy. I quite Chase bank years ago and switched to credit unions, but Bank of America has got me with the credit card. Disassociating and divestment are difficult but we should all slowly figure out how to take our money out of the “dirty economy.”
  • After the devastating loss of the Rainforest Action Network’s executive director Becky Tarbotton RAN appoints an acting executive director, Lindsey Allen.
  • Being the richest nation in the world, you’d think that our drinking water would be, well, drinkable. Too often that is not the case and our government is not setup to ensure its drinkability.
  • Pacific Gas and Electric in California blew up a neighborhood in San Bruno, now their time in court is coming and it could cost them $2.5 billion.  In recent years PG&E has made about a billion dollars of profit annually.

 

 

The post Enviro News Wrap Up: 400 PPM CO2 Threshold Reached; Winters and Global Warming; Innovative Solar Financing a Game Changer, and more… appeared first on Global Warming is Real.

March 25 2013

18:54

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:

 

 

 

The post Enviro News Wrap: Growth in US Solar; Changing Perceptions of Global Warming; US Plays Catch-Up in Enviro Policy, and more… appeared first on Global Warming is Real.

August 08 2012

18:20

Science Denial and Andrea Saul – Romney 2012 Campaign Spokesperson

This is a guest post from Connor Gibson, originally published at PolluterWatch.

 INTRODUCTION

 
Andrea Saul, a prominent Romney 2012 campaign operative and spokesperson, formerly worked for DCI Group, a Washington DC public affairs and lobbying firm. During this period, DCI Group was on contract to ExxonMobil at the height of Exxon’s campaign attacking global warming science and climate change policy. DCI’s efforts included campaigns to undermine climate legislation and to push counter messages and spokespeople to media on the connection between extreme weather and global warming. Saul’s extensive role in these DCI Group climate campaigns can be traced through archived documents and press releases. Her role in shaping Romney’s climate and science policy is not known. 
“Gov. Romney does not think greenhouse gases are pollutants within the meaning of the Clean Air Act, and he does not believe that the EPA should be regulating them,” said Romney spokeswoman Andrea Saul. “CO2 is a naturally occurring gas. Humans emit it every time they exhale.”  Politico, July 2011
.
Ms. Saul has also responded to Mitt Romney's contradictory public statements on global warming. NPR reported in October, 2011:
"Romney went from believing that humans contribute to global warming, though he was uncertain how much, to saying he didn't know what contributes to global warming." Andrea Saul denied that Romney had "flip-flopped" on his climate stance, responding:
"This is ridiculous. Governor Romney's view on climate change has not changed. He believes it's occurring, and that human activity contributes to it, but he doesn't know to what extent. He opposes cap and trade, and he refused to sign such a plan when he was governor. Maybe the bigger threat is all the hot air coming from career politicians who are desperate to hold on to power."

ANDREA SAUL AND DCI GROUP

  • Saul was hired March 2011 as a Romney campaign spokesperson. Today, she regularly appears in the media as the main messenger for the campaign.
  • While employed with the PR firm DCI Group as an account executive between 2004-2007, Ms. Saul helped to orchestrate a multi-faceted, covert operation to undermine science, attack scientists and confuse the public and reporters. 
  • DCI was, at that time, contracted as lobbyists by Exxon and many other corporations.  Exxon remains a DCI client today.
From 2004 to 2007, Ms. Saul worked at the DCI Group, a top lobbying and public relations firm that has represented a range of clients including the Burmese junta and has orchestrated front group campaigns for Microsoft, Verizon and ExxonMobil. More on ExxonMobil's role in climate science denial is outlined in Steve Coll's new book, Private Empire: ExxonMobil and American Power.
 
Two of the DCI Group founders, Tim Hyde and Thomas J. Synhorst, began their careers with the tobacco industry where they worked to undermine the science on the dangers of smoking. For instance, Mr. Synhorst oversaw field operations with the “smokers rights” groups, a phony movement designed to shift the discussion away from the dangers of smoking to the protection of smoking rights.
 
In the early-2000s, DCI picked up ExxonMobil as a client and began operations to create confusion about climate change science. For instance, the Wall Street Journal reported on a purportedly homemade YouTube video portraying Al Gore as a sinister figure who blames several problems on global warming. The video’s maker was listed as “Toutsmith” a 29-year-old who identified himself as living in Beverly Hills, California.
 
However, when Journal reporters contacted “Toutsmith” his return emails originated from a computer registered with the DCI Group. A spokesman from Exxon confirmed that the company was a DCI Group client. DCI declined to admit to the Wall Street Journal if they had made the video. 
 
According to the Wall Street Journal
"Traffic to the penguin video, first posted on YouTube.com in May, got a boost from prominently placed sponsored links that appeared on the Google search engine when users typed in "Al Gore" or "Global Warming." The ads, which didn't indicate who had paid for them, were removed shortly after The Wall Street Journal contacted DCI Group on Tuesday."
As part of this Exxon funded campaign, Andrea Saul was a point person behind an effort to create confusion and advance contrarian viewpoints and corporate-funded pundits. 
 
This briefing illuminates Ms. Saul’s efforts at DCI

  • PART 1) Ms. Saul advanced the opinions of contrarian scientists and corporate-funded pundits on the Exxon-funded Tech Central Station, a purported news web site;
  • PART 2) Ms. Saul sought to promote contrarian voices into the debate over hurricanes and climate change in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina; 
  • PART 3) Ms. Saul promoted the views of a scientist who had no training in climate change to undermine a study on climate change effects on the Antarctic ice sheet; 
  • PART 4) Ms. Saul led a public relations campaign to undermine scientific consensus on the science of climate change; 
  • PART 5) Ms. Saul pushed out press releases for a front group linked to Grover Norquist designed to undermine pending climate change legislation.

ADDITIONAL CONTENT:

(click links above to jump down to a section of the briefing)

1. Andrea Saul - Contact on Climate Change for Phony News Site, Tech Central Station

Tech Central Station is a free market news site that was established, owned and published by DCI Group until it was sold in September 2006.  According to a story published in 2003 in the Washington Monthly, Tech Central Station appeared to be less about news than lobbying. The story found:
"Tech Central Station looks less like a think-tank-cum-magazine than a kind of lobbying practice. Which makes sense: Four of the five co-owners of TCS are also the co-owners of the DCI Group, the Washington public affairs firm founded by Republican operative Thomas J. Synhorst. TCS's fifth owner is Charles Francis, who is also a senior lobbyist at DCI and is listed on TCS's phone directory. And as it happens, three of TCS's sponsors—AT&T, General Motors, and PhRMA—have also retained DCI for their lobbying needs. (Both DCI's spokeswoman and TCS's chief executive officer declined to be interviewed for this article. However, after I requested comment, the Web site was changed. Where it formerly stated that 'Tech Central Station is published by Tech Central Station, L.L.C.,' it now reads 'Tech Central Station is published by DCI Group, L.L.C.')
 
"Like its publishing arm, DCI's business is to influence elite opinion in Washington. But instead of publishing articles, DCI specializes in what's known as 'corporate-financed grass-roots organizing,' such as setting up front groups to agitate for a client's position, placing letters to the editor with key newspapers, and using phone banks to generate calls to politicians. TCS, for its part, includes a disclaimer on its site noting that 'the opinions expressed on these pages are solely those of the writers and not necessarily those of any corporation or other organization.' But it is startling how often the opinions of TCS's writers and sponsors converge."
In 2006, Andrea Saul was listed as the contact person on Tech Central Station’s webpage on climate change. The site hosted opinions written by many prominent climate change science deniers including Patrick Michaels, Willie Soon, Sallie Baliunas, David Legates, Robert C. Balling, Henry I. Miller, Tim Ball, William Gray, Anthony Lupo, and Roy Spencer
 

2. DCI Tech Central Station - Campaign on Link Between Hurricanes and Climate Change

On the eve of the 2006 hurricane season, after the worst year of hurricane damage in recent history, including the devastating and deadly hurricane Katrina, DCI was deployed to create a counter narrative on the connection between stronger hurricanes and global warming. It is unknown who the DCI client was requesting this work, or what the deliverables were.
 
As part of the DCI efforts, Tech Central Station produced and distributed a Video News Release (VNR) that called into question the science linking hurricanes with climate change. The VNR along with a known newscast that used the piece, is viewable online, preserved by the Center for Investigative Reporting:
 
 
VNRs are produced videos, contracted generally by corporations, edited as news segments and sent out to news stations in small markets in hopes of filling airtime within the actual newscast. 
 
DCI’s hurricane VNR was distributed to TV stations across the Gulf states and was aired on at least one of them. Materials accompanying the video package listed "TCS Daily Science Roundtable" as the producer. The VNR’s announcers said:
 
"There’s a lot of debate as to what’s been causing all of these hurricanes. Some scientists say it’s part of a naturally occurring cycle, while others have made the claim global warming is to blame.
 
"Dr. William Gray and Dr. James O’Brien, two of the nation’s top weather and oceans scientists, point to scientific data for the answer […].
 
"Gray and many of his colleagues believe it’s not global warming that’s creating these massive hurricanes, but the cycle of nature itself."
Growing Body of Scientific Evidence on Hurricanes and Climate Change:
Around the time that Hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans in August 2005, several papers were published in the scientific literature that found a potential link between hurricanes and climate change.
 
Two months before Katrina hit, Kevin Trenberth of the National Center for Atmospheric Research published a 'Perspective' article in Science that examined the published literature for possible evidence linking hurricanes and climate change.  Dr. Trenberth concluded:
"Trends in human-influenced environmental changes are now evident in hurricane regions. These changes are expected to affect hurricane intensity and rainfall, but the effect on hurricane numbers remains unclear. The key scientific question is not whether there is a trend in hurricane numbers and tracks, but rather how hurricanes are changing."
Weeks before Katrina landed, Kerry Emmanuel with the Program in Atmospheres, Oceans, and Climate at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) published a study in Nature that reviewed the power of roughly 4,800 hurricanes in the prior few decades. His analysis concluded that hurricanes that occurred over this period were increasing in average intensity. 
"My results suggest that future warming may lead to an upward trend in tropical cyclone destructive potential, and—taking into account an increasing coastal population—a substantial increase in hurricane-related losses in the twenty-first century."
Evan Mills of the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory published a 'Viewpoint' in Science which argued that the insurance industry was vulnerable to the negative financial impact of disasters accentuated by climate change. 
 
The month after Hurricane Katrina hit, researchers at the Georgia Institute of Technology and the National Center for Atmospheric Research published a study of tropical cyclones in Science. The data found an increase in the number and proportion of hurricanes reaching the largest categories, which are 4 and 5. 
 
The accumulated evidence of these papers, along with the media reports, had a definitive impact on public opinion. A poll run by Time/ABC News/Stanford University at that time, found that 85 percent of Americans agreed that the Earth was growing warmer. 
 
On the eve of the 2006 hurricane season, DCI responded to growing public recognition of global warming. On March 30, 2006, Andrea Saul sent out a press release alerting reporters to “experts” who could discuss the link between hurricanes and climate change. This press release furtively lists Saul as representing “Technology Commerce Society”, the tag line for TCS Daily, Tech Central Station’s daily blog website…it’s either Tech Central Station or the Technology Commerce Society. Saul’s real employer, DCI Group.
 
Ms. Saul wrote in the release: 
“Coming off one of the most devastating hurricane seasons in recent memory, many are quick to blame the strength and frequency of these storms on global warming. Leading climate scientists, however, say there is no link between increased storm activity and a massive change in global climate.” 
The scientists listed on the press statement included:
  • James J. O’Brien, director of the Center for Ocean-Atmospheric Prediction Studies, Florida State University – As an expert in oceanography and weather, Dr. O’Brien appeared to have little to no expertise in climate change according to his CV of published studies. 
  • Patrick Michaels, Professor of Environmental Science at the University of Virginia – A denier of anthropogenic global warming, Dr. Michaels has maintained strong ties to several denialist and front groups for oil and gas interests including the Cato Institute and the Greening Earth Society
  • George Taylor, Manager of the Oregon Climate Service at the University of Oregon – With no training in climate change or hurricanes, Taylor’s job was “to help advise Oregon farmers, fishermen, skiers and motorists about likely weather conditions, both short- and long-term” (Jeff Wright, Eugene Register-Guard, Feb. 22, 2008).
  • Anthony R. Lupo, Associate Professor of Atmospheric Science at the University of Missouri – A global warming denier and conservative activist, Lupo has been affiliated with numerous denialist organizations including the Science and Environmental Policy Project, the Heartland Institute, and the Marshall Institute (see also Dr. Lupo's resume).

3. Andrea Saul - Promoting the Views of a Non-expert Expert

In April 2006, Andrea Saul put out a press release to promote the views of weatherman and climate contrarian George Taylor who attempted to rebut a study published in Science which found that the Antarctic ice sheet was melting. Ms. Saul wrote:
"TCSDaily Science Roundtable member and Oregon state climatologist George Taylor, expressed his concern over the legitimacy of recent claims that the Antarctic ice sheet is melting. The Washington Post article titled 'Antarctic Ice Sheet Is Melting Rapidly' (www.washingtonpost.com/wp- dyn/content/article/2006/03/02/AR2006030201712.html) looked to Taylor to provide an expert view on the validity of a recent study published in Science magazine on global warming."
George Taylor was the Manager of the Oregon Climate Service at the University of Oregon and had no training in climate change or its effects on polar regions of the Earth. According to an article about his retirement in 2008, Taylor’s expertise was “ to help advise Oregon farmers, fishermen, skiers and motorists about likely weather conditions, both short- and long-term” (Jeff Wright, Eugene Register-Guard, Feb. 22, 2008).
 

4. Andrea Saul - Led Campaign to Undermine Scientific Consensus on Climate Change Science

In mid 2006, the American Meteorological Society (AMS) sought to draft a consensus statement on the science of climate change. This statement examined the vast body of research on the matter in attempt to better explain the science to both scientists and the American public.
 
In response, several scientists sent a letter to the AMS in an attempt to introduce contrarian views about “natural variability” and “data uncertainty” in the climate.   The lead author of the letter was Joseph D’Aleo a well-known climate change denier who has no training in climate change science. Other signatories include contrarian scientists and corporate funded pundits such as Richard Lindzen, Sallie Baliunas, and Patrick J. Michaels.
 
To advance these views, Ms. Saul led a public relations campaign to “influence the deciding committee on the final statement.” 
 

5. Andrea Saul - Work with Grover Norquist Front Group, United For Jobs

When Congress was considering a tax on oil companies in the mid 2000’s, Andrea Saul leaped to Big Oil’s defense as part of United For Jobs, front group. In a press release by Saul, she wrote:
"Today United for Jobs (UFJ) warned that federal legislation to impose a so-called "windfall profits tax" on U.S. oil companies would have a severe economic impact on public employee trust funds. The Missouri Highway Patrol Retirement System, the Public School Employees' Retirement System of Missouri, the Missouri State Employees' Retirement System, and other public retirement funds could lose as much as $325 million per year in foregone gains, according to a recent study by the Investors Action Foundation (http://www.windfallprofitstax.org/)."
United for Jobs had already led the campaign to kill the McCain-Lieberman climate legislation on a rolling basis beginning in 2004. In 2005, the latest McCain-Lieberman climate bill was gaining slow momentum and Senator McCain pushed for more votes. McCain staff told to us at the time that United for Jobs was the most formidable opponent, with their appearance as a multi-denominational coalition of "labor", black business (National Black Chamber of Commerce), and seniors groups (60 Plus Association). United for Jobs attacked numerous other proposals for greenhouse gas regulations, including a counter offense against Senator Jeff Binghaman’s carbon dioxide regulatory efforts in 2005
 
United for Jobs no longer exists, but an archived website finds that their office was located at 1920 L Street, NW Suite 200 Washington, DC 20036. At the time, this was the exact same address for Americans for Tax Reform, a corporate front group managed by Grover Norquist, an associate of disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff
 
DCI Group served as the contact and distribution node for United for Jobs reports and press releases.
 

Leaked Document: DCI, Heartland Institute and Exxon plan attacks on Clean Air Act

An anonymous source sent Greenpeace a copy of an invitation, agenda and attendees list for a May 2006 meeting organized by the Heartland Institute and hosted at the DCI Group offices “to discuss public policy challenges related to the Clean Air Act.” The only corporation represented at the meeting was ExxonMobil. Exxon representatives gave two presentations over the course of the full day meeting. Six ExxonMobil staff are listed as invited guests. Two DCI – Tech Central Station representatives are named on the invitees list, along with a note “plus DCI field officers and staff”. It is unknown whether Andrea Saul attended this meeting.
 
 
 
 
Organizations invited to this session included:
{cke_protected}

DCI Group former staff within Romney 2012 campaign:

(Quotations sourced from Democracy in Action)
 
Matt Rhoades, Campaign Manager:
“(announced Feb. 15, 2010) A vice president with DCI Group, May 2007-Feb. 2010. Communications director on Romney's presidential campaign, Jan. 2007-March 2008. A deputy communications director in charge of research for the RNC during the 2006 election cycle. Research director for the 2004 Bush/Cheney re-election campaign. Deputy research director at the RNC, 2003-04. White House Liaison at the U.S. Office of Personnel Management in the Bush Administration, and earlier an Associate Director in the White House Presidential Personnel Office. B.A. from Syracuse University, 1997; and an M.A. from The George Washington University, 1999.”
Andrea Saul, Press Secretary:
“announced March 3, 2011 as communications advisor to Free and Strong America PAC) Press Secretary for Carly Fiorina’s U.S. Senate race in California. Communications director for Gov. Charlie Crist during his recent U.S. Senate run but resigned in April 2010 upon his decision to switch party affiliation. Press secretary to U.S Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT) during much of 2009. Director of media affairs for McCain-Palin, responsible for organizing all television, radio and surrogate activity. Director of media affairs at the Republican National Committee, 2007-08. Associate account executive at DCI Group, 2005-07. Graduate of Vanderbilt University, 2004. twitter
Evan Yost, Deputy Communications Director and Research Director:
“(June 2011) M.B.A. in finance, accounting from Rice University, 2011. A director at DCI Group, 2007-09. Deputy director of research on John McCain 2008 in 2007. Special assistant for strategic initiatives in the Office of Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, 2005-06. B.A. in English literature from The Johns Hopkins University, 2000.”
 

 

August 07 2012

14:55

How to Parse Climate Change and Extreme Weather?

How much of the weird weather so much of the world is experiencing can be attributed to global warming, and how much to the natural variability of climate? The question has political implications as well as scientific ones.

August 02 2012

14:02

July 26 2012

15:34

A Climate and Energy Stalemate

Is climate change a real and present danger? Why does the United States lag behind many other industrialized nations in addressing it?

April 23 2012

13:54

March 30 2012

11:18

Making Sense of the Wacky Weather

Scientists are getting bolder about linking extreme weather patterns, and even specific events, to human-induced global warming. Still, even the boldest acknowledge that it's a difficult exercise.

March 01 2012

22:17

Survey Shows More Americans Believe Climate Change is Happening


American belief in global warming is now on the riseThe number of Americans who believe global warming is happening is on the rise, according to a Brookings Institution report on the latest National Survey of American Public Opinion on Climate Change (NSAPOCC) survey conducted in December of 2011.

The report shows much of that new-found belief comes from direct experience with independent studies showing that four out of five Americans have been directly impacted by climate change. 2011 was a “year for the record books” bringing record drought and heat waves, hurricanes, floods, winter storms and wildfires. In all, there were 14  record climate and weather-related events in 2011, each causing at least $1 billion in damage. Hurricane Irene alone caused more than $7 billion in damages.

“Many of our respondents pointed to their own experience with hotter temperatures, storms or droughts,” says senior Brookings fellow Barry Rabe. “In increasing numbers, Americans are making the connection between weather and their belief about global warming.”

Belief driven by local conditions can be fickle, but the study also cites reports of declining Arctic sea ice and melting ice sheets as driving public concern about changing climate.

 

More American now believe global warming is happening

According to the latest NSAPOCC survey, 62 percent of Americans believe that global warming is real, more than at any time since 2009 when 65 percent held that belief. Public perception has changed significantly since the 2010 survey, when only 58 percent felt the evidence for global warming was compelling.

Of course, for some, there is little that will sway their disbelief that global warming is occurring. Though the number of people denying climate change has dropped to 26 percent, those who are left are dug in, and mostly Republican. Only 47 percent of Republicans believe there is evidence of global warming, as opposed to nearly 80 percent for Democrats.

Rabe said those who believe there is no evidence of climate change, though fewer in numbers, are highly certain in that belief. ”On either side of the issue, both for and against, people tend to give a generally solid level of confidence,” he said. “That doesn’t mean there aren’t movers or people who can’t be changed,” Rabe added.

Instead of approaching climate change as a “third rail” issue never to be touched except in its denial, some conservatives still call for a more sensible approach. Last year former Republican congressman Bob Ingles pleaded for his conservative colleagues to “return to true conservatism” in dealing with global warming.

Belief in global warming split along political party lines

Whatever people choose to believe, and for whatever reason, extreme weather and climate events pay little heed. A swath of destructive, late-winter tornadoes tore through the U.S. midwest yesterday, killing at least 12 and  injuring hundreds more, bringing back uncomfortable memories of last year’s record-breaking tornado season.

Extreme weather events like those scene across the country last year and in the midwest yesterday, are quickly becoming part of the “new normal” all Americans can expect to experience more often in a warming world.

Download the full report from the Brookings Institution

February 15 2012

13:20

January 31 2012

18:35

The Oceanic Conveyor Belt: Climate Change Tipping Points Being Reached in the Arctic, Western Boundary Ocean Currents


Accelerated changes in the Arctic are moving ocean currents poleward and threaten the oceanic conveyor belt

Two new research papers by authoritative climate research teams were announced this week — one on climate change tipping points being reached in the Arctic and a second on warming of long-distance, poleward-moving ocean currents. The results of the studies show that warming of both the Arctic and western boundary currents is happening faster than has been anticipated, prompting the researchers to publicly urge that efforts to adapt to abrupt climate change be intensified globally.

Climate Change Tipping Points in the Arctic

In “Abrupt climate change in the Arctic,” University of Western Australia (UWA) Ocean Institute researchers lead by director and Winthrop Professor Carlos Duarte found that the Arctic is warming at a rate three times faster than the global average, which has caused Arctic summer sea ice to melt and recede at a pace faster than researchers have forecast.

Arctic summer sea ice may be limited to the the waters off northern Greenland and Ellesmere Island in as short a period as the next decade, and is likely to disappear entirely by the middle of the century, according to a WA News report. The warming’s occurring so fast that it’s not only threatening Arctic ecosystems and traditional ways of life, the Arctic may change from being a net carbon sink to a net source of greenhouse gas emissions.

The fast warming Arctic is opening up new sea lanes and a bonanza of resource exploration and exploitation, as well as political controversy over resource rights. However, faster than anticipated warming and melting will also have “abrupt knock-on effects” across major world cities in northern mid-latitudes, a list that includes Beijing, Berlin, London, Moscow, New York and Tokyo. Tentatively linked is the occurrence of much colder winters in Europe.

Warming of Western Ocean Boundary Currents

Also published in Nature Climate Change, “Enhanced warming over the global subtropical western boundary currents,” is a global study of fast-moving, long-distance ocean currents, such as the Gulfstream, that distribute heat and moisture from warming tropical ocean waters globally.

Moving along the western boundaries of the world’s ocean basins, changes in water temperature of these currents also have significant, large-scale effects on climate globally. Releasing heat and moisture on their way from the equator to the poles, they affect atmospheric jet streams and mid-latitude storms and patterns, as well as ocean absorption of carbon dioxide.

Reconstructing and re-examining data sets using new methods, the research team found that “the post-1900 surface ocean warming rate over the path of these currents is two to three times faster than the global mean surface ocean warming rate. The accelerated warming is associated with a synchronous poleward shift and/or intensification of global subtropical boundary currents in conjunction with a systematic change in winds over both hemispheres.”

The faster than expected warming of these long-distance, poleward moving ocean currents “may reduce the ability of the oceans to absorb anthropogenic carbon dioxide over these regions,” according to the report’s authors. “Uncertainties in detection and attribution of these warming trends remain,” they note, “pointing to a need for a long-term monitoring network of the global western boundary currents and their extensions.”

The Oceanic Conveyor Belt and Climate Change

Though not stated by the authors, the increasing incidence of unusual extreme storms, such as 2011′s Hurricane Irene, which carried as far north as the US’ mid-Atlantic and New England regions, and Typhoon Washi, which struck the southern Philippine island of Mindanao, may be evidence of the faster than expected melting of Arctic ice and faster than expected warming of western ocean boundary currents.

Moreover, the changes in both Arctic sea ice and western boundary currents are both aspects of what’s now known as the “oceanic conveyor belt” – scientific knowledge that’s come to us thanks to groundbreaking hypothesizing, testing and research performed by Wallace Broecker.

The abruptness and scale of the climate changes that increasingly appear to be headed our way warrant much greater attention by world leaders and policy makers. While exaggerated for dramatic effect, they bring to mind the popular disaster film, “The Day after Tomorrow,” the science of which is based on a shutting down of the oceanic conveyor belt Broecker first theorized, and the occurrence of world-changing super-storms that bring on a new Ice Age in a matter of months.

As UWA’s Prof. Duarte was quoted as saying, “We need to stop debating the existence of tipping points in the Arctic and start managing the reality of dangerous climate change.”

 

Image credit: NASA Ocean Motion

January 19 2012

20:27

Two More Billion-Dollar Weather Disasters

Severe weather last July in in the Rockies and Tropical Storm Lee in August and September caused more than $1 billion in damages, bringing the total number of such events in 2011 to 14, NOAA says.

January 05 2012

17:04

On Our Radar: Chinese Airlines Defy Europe's Emissions Rules

Under regulations that took effect on Jan. 1, airlines that fail to pay emissions allowances in flying into European Union countries can be fined per ton of carbon dioxide. Persistent offenders could be banned.

January 04 2012

15:16

The Year in Review: Popular Efforts to Combat Climate Change in 2011


Popular efforts to fight global warming increased in 2011Last year saw a significant increase in popular efforts to combat climate change. From protests against the Keystone XL pipeline to campaigns that pressure businesses to engage more sustainable practices, people are standing up in support of efforts to combat climate change. Last year, we also saw an unprecedented number of people getting involved with environmental events, protests and social activism. Although the Occupy Movement may have lacked a clear environmental focus, it did underscore the growing popularity of grassroots protests.

Keystone XL Pipeline

According to the Guardian, the Keystone XL pipeline protests that took place from August 20th to September 3rd were, “the largest act of civil disobedience for the climate in US history.”  Thousands of people, including 350.org co-founder Bill McKibben and NASA’s Dr. James Hansen protested at the White House, demanding that President Obama reject the tar-sands oil pipeline.

On Monday August 28th, more than 60 religious leaders made their voices heard in front of the White House. Nine recipients of the Nobel Peace Prize, including Archbishop Desmond Tutu and the Dalai Lama, also joined the protest against the Keystone XL.

Weeks of protest and the arrests of 1,252 peaceful protesters did not deter people from opposing the pipeline in Washington. McKibben reportedly said the pipeline galvanized U.S. action on climate change.

On Sunday, November 6th, another protest was held to stop the tar-sands pipeline. As many as 15,000 Americans encircled the White House to tell President Obama to reject the Keystone XL project. This was described as a historic defining moment in the push to move beyond oil.

On November 10th, President Obama announced that he would put the future of the planet ahead of Big Oil. Citing climate change, Obama sent the Keystone XL pipeline project back for review until at least 2013.

Even though Republicans are resorting to blackmail to get the Keystone XL pipeline back on track, the success of the anti-pipeline protests represent an important victory for those involved in the struggle against climate change.

Arab Spring

Corruption and misuse of natural resources were some of the factors that fueled the uprisings in Arab states. The Arab world is facing numerous environmental problems including air pollution, water scarcity, desertification, waste management, loss of arable lands and marine degradation. Popular movements in the Arab world succeeded in changing the political landscape in the Middle East and North Africa in 2011. There are early indications that the environment could benefit from the Arab Spring.

The Arab Spring has attracted a $550 billion investment that promises to bring sustainable energy to the region. The world’s most ambitious solar project could start producing energy as early as 2015 in the region.

Paul van Son, the managing director of the Desertec Industrial Initiative (DII), told Reuters that interest in the project to turn sunshine into energy has grown with the spread of democracy across North Africa and the Middle East.

Before the Arab Spring, there were concerns about the political stability in the region. “We like the Arab Spring because it has opened up a lot of ideas and generated support for the project,” van Son said. “We’re very supportive. The democratic structures fit very well with ours.”

Renewable energy projects could help the economy and create jobs in the country and throughout the region. van Son said he hopes Desertec can help bring Mediterranean nations closer together. “I believe large infrastructure projects like this can contribute to stability. It’s about the development of new industries in the region, investment, job creation and the transfer of knowledge and know-how,” he said.

The first 150 megawatts power plant will be built in Morocco and it could be generating power by 2015 or 2016, with further projects planned in Tunisia and Algeria.

COP 17 

On Saturday December 3rd, 2011 in what was called the “Global Day of Action,” about 20,000 people from all over the world took to the streets calling for action in Durban. Protests, marches and rallies around the world demanded “climate justice.”

“We march today to show our outrage. We want to give the ministers…a clear message: You cannot continue to make excuses,” said Action Aid international climate justice coordinator Harjeet Singh.

“We demand urgent and strong action on climate change. We can’t just keep talking and keep wasting time,” Singh said. And Greenpeace said, “it is time to listen to the voices of ordinary people not polluters.”

Christiana Figueres, the Executive Secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, told the protesters in Durban: “You know where we stand, here with you.”

Although expectations for COP 17 were low, people came together and helped to force governments to sign-on to a binding agreement.

Local Protest Goes National

Michigan State University (MSU) students have been protesting the fact that they have the largest on-campus coal plant in the nation.

“Coal is harmful to our environment and us, but not everyone knows. I think it is important to raise awareness of the problem so it can be fixed and the damaging effects of coal can be stopped,” said student activist Kendra Majewski.

Even though three students were arrested at a sit-in, MSU activists have indicated that they are going to keep demanding clean air for their campus. In October, hundreds of campuses across the nation joined in on the demonstration against the university to show support for the Quit Coal campaign known as 100 Actions for 100% Clean Energy.

Students across the country are now engaged in telephone protests directed at the MSU president’s office. They are requesting that the president reconsider her position and commit to using 100 percent clean energy at Michigan State. This campaign illustrates that local issues can quickly gain national support.

Although MSU has not yet agreed to close its coal plant, the university has taken other steps to become more sustainable, including plans to have all new buildings become LEED-certified.

Environmental Events

There have been a number of environmental events in 2011, which were supported by an ever growing number of people. Global Green’s I Am Fighting Climate Change video contest asked people to document their individual actions to fight climate change. Global Green asked people to come together to help stop climate change and demand that leaders invest in green technologies and green jobs.

The League of American Bicyclists sponsored an event in the US and Canada that promoted the bicycle as an option for commuting to work. In 2011, Bike to Work Week was held on May 16th through the 20th. On June 5th the annual World Environment Day (WED) event became the largest and most widely celebrated WED event ever.

On June 15th, Global Wind Day raised worldwide awareness about wind energy. Thousands of public events were held in the US and around the world.  On Saturday June 18th, Canada, the US and the UK (November 19th in Australia) celebrated SolarDay. The 2011 SolarDay events were held by cities, non-profits, companies and the solar industry.

On August 15th through the 19th, the EDF led a campaign titled Voices for Clean Air to help remind political leaders that clean air is something that the majority of Americans support. The EDF sent a message to political leaders in the U.S. in support of strong clean air standards.

Beginning on September 13th, the Climate Reality Project hosted a live streaming event. The event was known as 24 Hours of Reality, it involved a global broadcast about the reality of the climate crisis. This global event was designed to help people make the connection between extreme weather, climate change, and the need to push the planet beyond fossil fuels. ZeDay was an event that took place on September 21st, it was a day for people all over the planet to strive for zero emissions and encourage the use of renewable energy.

On September 24th Bill McKibben and the 350.org team launched the “Moving Planet” campaign. It inspired over 2000 events in more than 175 countries. In South Asia, the 350.org coordinator indicated that their goal was to encourage grassroots activism against coal fired power emissions, as well as redefining development. African initiatives urged people to take to the streets to demand climate jobs. All regions including, the Pacific and Europe, pushed for renewable energy laws and sustainable transportation.

On October 26th, college campuses across North America celebrated the 9th annual Campus Sustainability Day (CSD), a day which highlighted the green accomplishments and initiatives of staff, faculty and students.

On March 26th, 134 countries and turned out their lights for WWF’s Earth Hour. In 2011, Earth Hour called on businesses and other organizations to show leadership by committing to lasting action for the planet beyond shutting off their lights for one hour. Climate Care Day is an event that takes place on the same day as Earth Hour; however this initiative is intended to encourage global businesses to replace all corporate travel with remote meetings.

On Earth Day (April 23rd), the Billion Acts of Green® campaign became the largest environmental service campaign in the world. In 2011, it included an increasing number of commitments from businesses to measurably reduce carbon emissions and support sustainability.

On Monday, April 18th, thousands of people came together for a rally outside the US Chamber of Commerce in Washington DC. The rally was the culmination of Power Shift 2011, which took place between April 15th and 18th. 350.org launched a campaign entitled “The US Chamber of Commerce Doesn’t Speak For Me,” where more than a thousand businesses abandoned the climate denying Chamber, including corporations like Apple, Nike, Microsoft, Levi-Strauss, Best Buy, and General Electric.

Businesses are Listening

Businesses are increasingly reckoning with the power of popular pressure. Individuals are pushing corporations to cleanup their supply chains, which are causing some businesses to change the way they source commodities. Public pressure has forced companies like Nestle, Unilever, Nestle, Kraft, Burger King, and General Mills to adopt more sustainable business practices.

In 2011, it became increasingly obvious that the risks associated with unsustainable business practices are a serious threat which cannot be ignored. Rather than incur such risks, an increasing number of businesses are cooperating with environmental groups. For example, Xerox has partnered with The Nature Conservancy to promote sustainable forestry, preserve biodiversity and help minimize forest loss and degradation that contribute to greenhouse gas emissions.

Non-profits are putting their expertise to work guiding businesses on sustainability. Carbon Trust has published a Green Guide for SMEs, the WWF-UK has launched its Green Game-Changers initiative and the EPA’s Green Power Partnership program has yielded impressive results.

People around the world are increasingly united in their demand for action on environmental issues. The events of 2011 demonstrate that the public can influence decision making at the highest level. This is a testament to the power of citizens to effectuate meaningful change.

——————-

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, 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: Sky News
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