greenhouse gas emissions

The Resurgence of an Evolving Climate Movement, Part 2

Ken Wu is executive director of Majority for a Sustainable Society (MASS) and co-founder of the Ancient Forest Alliance

For Part 1 of this article, click here.

In the first part of this article, I described what specific challenges the climate movement faces when confronting its own limiting tendencies as well as industry funded public relations campaigns. In this second part I outline what I think are four essential ways the climate movement must evolve in order to overcome these obstacles.

FIRST, we must become a lot more political, in the sense that it’s fundamentally the laws, policies, and agreements that shape our greater society and economy. And it’s our society and economy which are the foundations of our personal lifestyles. What is available, affordable, practical, and possible in our lifestyles is largely a product of the society in which we live – what clean energy sources exist at what price relative to dirty energy, how available public transit is, how well or poorly our cities are designed for walking, cycling, and accessing our needs, how energy efficient our buildings are, and so on.  

No individual is an island unto himself; the way we live is fundamentally shaped by the economy and society in which our lifestyles are nested.  

The Credibility Gap: All Talk and Not Much Action on Climate Change

By Hannah McKinnon, National Program Manager at Environmental Defense.

In last week's State of the Union address, President Obama reiterated his vision for clean energy and urgent action on global warming. With TransCanada’s Keystone XL tar sands pipeline on the frontlines and looking threatened, oil industry supporters are suddenly desperate to look like the environmental and climate risks of the tar sands are under control.
 
But there’s a massive credibility gap as Canada’s contribution to global warming is spiralling out of control, with the reckless expansion of the tar sands.
 
We’ve always believed that actions speak louder than words. So while the oil industry and government embark on a pro-tar sands PR campaign, let’s look at how Canada has behaved on climate action and the environmental risks of the tar sands.  

The Resurgence of an Evolving Climate Movement, Part 1

Ken Wu is executive director of Majority for a Sustainable Society (MASS) and co-founder of the Ancient Forest Alliance. Read Part 2 of this series here.

After years of apathy and political inertia, North America’s climate sustainability movement has found itself in the midst of a timely resurgence, as is evident by the recent massive expansion of Bill Mckibben's 350.org movement against the Keystone XL pipeline.

With climate change regaining its footing as a central political issue, now is the time to pressure governments to enact the needed laws, policies, and agreements required to curtail runaway global warming. But unless the moment is seized right, climate action will be stymied again – and there is no time to wait for another opportunity.

During his State of the Union address on February 12, 2013, US President Barack Obama stated:

“For the sake of our children and our future, we must do more to combat climate change…We can choose to believe that Superstorm Sandy, and the most severe drought in decades, and the worst wildfires some states have ever seen were all just a freak coincidence. Or we can choose to believe in the overwhelming judgment of science – and act before it’s too late.”
 
Recent studies project that the Earth’s average temperature is on course to rise over four degrees this century, far beyond the two degree rise when “runaway” global warming kicks-in due to positive feedbacks that make it extremely difficult to halt.

The Real Train Wreck: ALEC and "Other ALECs" Attack EPA Regulations

When business-friendly bills and resolutions spread like wildfire in statehouses nationwide calling for something as far-fetched as a halt to EPA regulations on greenhouse gas emissions, ALEC is always a safe bet for a good place to look for their origin.

In the midst of hosting its 39th Annual Meeting this week in Salt Lake City, Utah, the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) is appropriately described as an ideologically conservative “corporate bill mill” by the Center for Media and Democracy, the overseer of the ALEC Exposed project. 98 percent of ALEC's funding comes from corporations, according to CMD.

ALEC's meetings bring together corporate lobbyists and state legislators to schmooze and then vote on what it calls “model bills.” Lobbyists, as CMD explains, have a “voice and a vote in shaping policy.” In short, they have de facto veto power over whether the prospective bills they present at these conferences become “models” that will be distributed to the offices of politicians in statehouses nationwide.

For a concise version of how ALEC operates, see the brand new video below by Mark Fiore.

Does Red Leaf's "EcoShale" Technology Greenwash Oil Shale Extraction?

At the Clinton Global Initiative in 2008, former Vice President Al Gore called the possibility of fossil fuel corporations extracting oil shaleutter insanity.” 

Insanity, though, doesn't serve as a hinderance for deeply entrenched and powerful fossil fuel interests.

Oil shale, also known as kerogen, should not be confused with shale gas or shale oil, two fossil fuels best known from Josh Fox's “Gasland.” As explained in a report by the Checks and Balances Project,

Oil shale itself is a misnomer. It is actually rock containing an organic substance called kerogen. The rocks haven’t been in the ground for enough time or under enough pressure to become oil. Oil companies need to recreate geological forces to produce any energy from it. Ideas for developing oil shale have included baking acres of land at 700 degrees for three to four years and even detonating an atomic bomb underground.

The really “insane” part of the equation: oil shale production, which has yet to begin, would be ecologically destructive to the extreme.

“Because oil shale is a rock, commercial production would release 25% to 75% more greenhouse gas emissions than conventional oil,” wrote the Western Resource Advocates. Furthermore, like tar sands production and shale oil/gas production, oil shale production is a water-intensive process.

Adding insult to injury, in the 100 years of attempted commercial production of oil shale, the fossil fuel industry has yet to seal the deal, motivating an April 2012 report by Checks and Balances titled “A Century of Failure.”

Government Watchdog Report Confirms Canada's Failures on Tar Sands Monitoring and Climate Action

Canada's top environmental watchdog official released a damning report today acknowledging the federal government's complete failure to account for the cumulative impacts of Alberta tar sands development. The report from Environment Commissioner Scott Vaughan also confirmed that information about Canada's greenhouse gas emissions is so poorly collected that the country really has no idea whether it is on track to meet its pollution reduction targets - targets which Canada has repeatedly scaled back despite its legally-binding international commitment to action dating back 20 years. 
 
According to the report, “The government has not put in place management systems and tools needed to achieve, measure and report on greenhouse gas emission reductions.” 
 
Vaughan describes the government's current climate action plan as “disjointed, confused, non-transparent.”
“I think it's next to impossible that Canada is going to be able to reach its Kyoto target, that's a given. The gap is so wide now, but I think what we've said as well is the basic problems that we've seen now, and the overall federal-wide co-ordinaton of these climate change programs really needs to get its act together. And if they don't, then we have some doubts on whether or not they are going to be able to meet any target, Vaughan said at a news conference today.
The report also slammed Canada's oversight of the filthy Alberta tar sands industry. By failing to collect baseline data prior to the industrialization of the area - and then adding insult to injury by failing to conduct regular monitoring of impacts from tar sands development - Canada has dropped the ball on its responsibilities to protect the health of local communities and the environment in northern Alberta and beyond. 

Are U.S. House Republicans confusing "Americans" with the "American Petroleum Institute" by cutting pollution protections?

Kids love clean air and support EPA

Recent polls confirm that Americans across the country and political spectrum actually do agree on at least one thing: that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) should keep doing its job – and even do more – to set limits on air pollution, including greenhouse gas emissions. Unfortunately, two influential groups feel differently than nearly seven in ten Americans on this issue: Republicans in the House of Representatives and the American Petroleum Institute, a powerful lobbying group representing the oil and gas industry.

The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) and the National Lung Association, who represent environmentalists and American lungs, respectively, each released public polls asking whether EPA scientists or Congress should make decisions about pollution limits. A key finding of the National Lung Association poll was that “voters overwhelmingly oppose Congressional action that impedes EPA from updating clean air standards [PPT].

At the same time, Congressional Republicans are claiming a mandate to cut funding for government programs like the EPA. House Republicans almost unanimously voted to prevent the EPA from doing its job – and specifically from enacting regulations on carbon emissions this year - by cutting EPA’s 2011 budget by $3 billion in the spending bill which passed the U.S. House on February 19, 2011. 

”This is about listening to our country, listening to the people who just elected this Congress to restore discipline with respect to our spending,” Frank Guinta (R-New Hampshire) said during the debate on the budget legislation. But to whom Republicans are listening should perhaps be up for debate.

New study finds emissions cuts can still tame most serious of global warming effects

A new report released by National Center for Atmospheric Research today reports that the worst effect of global warming could still be reversed if aggressive measures are implemented quickly to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Candace Lombardi at Greentech reports that:

“The computer simulation showed that if greenhouse gas emissions can be held at 450ppm–the target labeled as reasonably achievable by the U.S. Climate Change Science Program, if the world reduces emissions by 70 percent–the global temperature would rise by about .6 degrees Celsius (about 1 degree Fahrenheit) by the year 2100. If human-made emissions are left unchecked, the model predicted that greenhouse gas levels would rise to 750ppm by 2100, causing a global temperature increase of 2.2 Celsius (about 4 degrees Fahrenheit).” (my emphasis)

Our Friend CO2

One of the stupider arguments making the rounds in the media is that “carbon-dioxide-is-not-pollution– it’s life”.

In fact, the Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI) produced a hilarious commercial saying just that.

Friendly footage shows how CO2 comes from little girls blowing dandelion seeds, and prancing gazelles. Then cue the ominous music: “now some politicians want to label carbon dioxide a pollutant – imagine if they succeed. What would our lives be like then?

Perhaps a bit of back-story is in order. The CEI has received a whopping $2,005,000 from ExxonMobil since 1998. Their point person on climate change is the notorious Myron Ebell who is so pathologically pro-oil he once claimed that good gas mileage is a mass killer.

So what are the CEI (and their funders in the fossil fuel industry) so worried about? After decades of the atmosphere being used as a free dumping ground for astronomical amounts of carbon dioxide, the federal government is finally considering putting some regulations on our friend CO2.

It is no surprise that this proposed policy is about as popular with Big Oil as a fart in a diving bell.

The 'Carbon Belch Day' Conundrum

We have received a lot of emails asking our thoughts on the so-called “Carbon Belch Day” being pushed by a right-wing grassroots organizer named Steve Elliot and his website Grassfire.

Normally we try not to stray too far into the left vs. right side of the global warming argument, however in this case it is hard to ignore. To say Elliot is “right-wing” is an understatement - according to his bio, Elliot “has rallied citizens on a host of grassroots issues, including border security, tax reform, abortion, traditional marriage, supporting our troops, exposing media bias and defending the Pledge of Allegiance.”

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