A welcome message from DeSmogBlog executive director Brendan DeMelle.
We’re pleased to introduce DeSmog UK, a brand new investigative journalism and research outlet dedicated to clearing the PR pollution that clouds climate science and exposing the individuals and organizations attacking solutions to global warming.
A welcome message from DeSmogBlog executive director Brendan DeMelle.
Just over a month before the United Nations convenes on September 23 in New York City to discuss climate change and activists gather for a week of action, the Obama White House Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) argued it does not have to offer guidance to federal agencies it coordinates with to consider climate change impacts for energy decisions.
It came just a few weeks before a leaked draft copy of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change's (IPCC) latest assessment said climate disruption could cause “severe, pervasive and irreversible impacts for people and ecosystems.”
Initially filed as a February 2008 petition to CEQ by the International Center for Technology Assessment, the Sierra Club and the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) when George W. Bush still served as President, it had been stalled for years.
Six and a half years later and another term into the Obama Administration, however, things have finally moved forward. Or backwards, depending on who you ask.
NEPA and CEQ
The initial February 2008 legal petition issued by the plaintiffs was rather simple: the White House's Council for Environmental Quality (CEQ) should provide guidance to federal agencies it coordinates with to weigh climate change impacts when utilizing the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) on energy policy decisions.
Magna Carta; Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons
CEQ oversees major tenets of environmental, energy and climate policy. It often serves as the final arbiter on many major legislative pushes proposed by Congress and federal agencies much in the same way the White House's Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA) does for regulatory policy.
This week, a United Nations panel on climate change issued one of its most urgent warnings to date, explaining that unless major changes to greenhouse gas emissions are made within the next few years, it will become extraordinarily difficult to ward off the worst impacts of climate change.
“We cannot afford to lose another decade,” Ottmar Edenhofer, a German economist and co-chairman of the committee, told The New York Times.
With the time to cut emissions running out, the Obama administration has seized upon the hope that greenhouse gasses can be cut dramatically by switching from coal to natural gas, because gas gives off half as much carbon dioxide as coal when it’s burned. Indeed, when the EPA published its annual greenhouse gas inventory this Tuesday, it credited a switch from coal to natural gas with helping to cut carbon emissions nationwide.
But a new scientific paper, also published Tuesday in the prestigious peer-reviewed journal Proceedings of the Natural Academy of Sciences, further upends the notion that the current shale gas drilling rush is truly helping the U.S. cut its total greenhouse gas emissions.
In fact, the evidence suggests, the Obama administration has understated the full climate impacts of natural gas, focusing too much on only carbon dioxide and failing to take into account another key greenhouse gas: methane.
The paper, the first to directly measure methane plumes above natural gas drilling sites in Pennsylvania’s Marcellus shale, recorded methane leaks far more powerful than EPA estimates. Methane is especially important because its global warming effects are at their strongest during the first 20 years after it enters the atmosphere — in other words, during the small window of time identified as crucial by the U.N.’s climate panel.
AUSTRALIA finally has a vocal cheerleader at the COP19 United Nations climate talks currently taking place in Warsaw - a climate denial activist think tank which rejects the science of human-caused climate change.
The Committee for a Constructive Tomorrow, or CFACT, a fossil fuel-funded group which denies that emissions from burning fossil fuels cause climate change, declared in a UN-sanctioned press conference inside the talks that the world should be following Australia's lead in repealing laws to price carbon emissions.
Environment groups have been critical of Australia at the talks, giving the country four “Fossil of the Day” awards for slowing down the talks, while one group said Australia is taking an “anti-climate” stance in Warsaw.
Campaigners have been shocked at the rhetoric coming from Australia's Prime Minister Tony Abbott, who recently described carbon pricing as a “so-called market in the non-delivery of an invisible substance to no-one” and characterised moves to financially support developing countries to manage climate change as “socialism masquerading as environmentalism.”
Marc Morano, the editor of the ClimateDepot denial website, appeared Tuesday alongside CFACT executive director Craig Rucker. Morano unleashed a torrent of previously debunked climate denial talking points to a sparsely populated and occasionally perplexed press conference audience.
“Coal is the moral choice, particularly for the developing world,” said Morano in the CFACT Warsaw press conference - a comment greeted with laughter from many in the room. Conference hosts Poland have been criticised for simultaneously hosting a World Coal Association conference elsewhere in Warsaw.
“The model for the world right now should be Australia,” Morano said. “Australia gets it. Scientifically they get it, politically they get it and particularly when it comes to the United Nations, they get it. They are pulling out of this, they are repealing their carbon tax and Canada seems to be intrigued by what Australia is doing.”
“Australia gets it - they have realised what the United Nations is doing here today. Viva Australia - let's hope the world follows Australia's model,” said Morano, who is a former advisor to Republican Senator James Inhofe, who has said global warming is a scientific “hoax”.
Support from CFACT is not the kind of attention which Australia will welcome.
Crossposted from PolluterWatch.
Rarely do we meet those who have made careers selling us lies. Consider the oddball doctors who took tobacco money to deny a link between cigarette smoking and cancer, or the handful of scientists who take oil and coal money to discredit global warming science, or the people who have done both.
Last week, students in Wisconsin and Michigan stepped up to such an opportunity when CFACT Campus, the student arm of a well-known cabal of fossil fuel apologists, hosted climate change denier Willie Soon at several campus events around the country.
The UN's annual climate meetings wrap up in Doha today, and though the feckless agreements are a “delight to no one,” there is one silver lining. Geo-engineering, that grand, scary global experiment of last resort, won “scant enthusiasm” from the vast majority of participants.
“Let's face it, geo-engineering has a lot of unknowns,” Rajendra Pachauri, chairman of the U.N.'s panel of climate scientists, told Reuters.
Christiana Figueres, head of the U.N. Climate Change Secretariat, agreed, emphasizing the need to focus on actual greenhouse gas emissions reductions and mitigation strategies first. “Let's first use what we know,” said Figueres. “There are so many proven technologies we know exist that are tried and true that have not been used to their maximum potential,” she told Reuters. “To begin with, the simplest is energy efficiency.”
Advocates of geo-engineering strategies – which range from tinkering with the planet, the oceans or the atmosphere itself to force cooling in an effort to combat climate change – claimed a breakthrough in the international negations arena in the Cancun climate talks back in 2010. “The taboo is broken,” Paul Crutzen, a Nobel Prize-winning atmospheric scientist who has published on geo-engineering, then told The Associated Press.
That enthusiasm from 2010 seems to be on the wane as opponents of these strategies – including those at the highest levels of leadership in the U.N.'s climate bodies – highlight just how unproven all of these concepts are. Many advocates of real climate change mitigation are also wary of how rich nations could implement these massive, world-changing engineering efforts, the impacts of which are entirely beyond prediction.
Many serious, thought-provoking post-mortems have ensued in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, which recently tore through the heart of the financial capital of the world. The disaster will cost the city roughly $60 billion to repair, according to an Associated Press report.
Figures such as New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, former President Bill Clinton, writer and activist Bill McKibben, environmental reporter Mark Hertsgaard, and numerous others all have connected the dots between the tragedy in New York City and its excerbation at the hands of climate change.
On the other side of the spectrum, no matter how bad the tragedy, it seems, climate change denial will continue apace by the “merchants of doubt.” Hurricane Sandy was no exception this time around.
Patrick Michaels of the Koch-funded Cato Institute - who recently authored a report described by Greenpeace USA's Connor Gibson as a “Counterfeit Climate Report to Deceive Congress” - denied any connection between climate change and Sandy, going so far as to raise the specter of “global cooling.”
There are precious few voices in the U.S. capital these days that are speaking the truth about climate change. Which is what makes Senator John Kerry's speech on the Senate floor today so powerful, and so necessary.
In his speech, which clocked in at nearly 55 minutes, Senator Kerry attacked a “calculated campaign of disinformation” that, he says, “has steadily beaten back the consensus momentum for action on climate change and replaced it with timidity by proponents in the face of millions of dollars of phony, contrived ‘talking points,’ illogical and wholly unscientific propositions and a general scorn for the truth wrapped in false threats about job loss and tax increase.”
The senator from Massachusetts' words were clearly timed to inject some energy into the Rio+20 meetings of the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development, which begin in earnest tomorrow and which are struggling to stay relevant during a time when Europe is barely functioning and the U.S. is moving into election season. President Obama's decision not to attend the meetings has many diplomats and activists gathering in Brazil questioning the American committment to climate change and the great global environmental challenges.
Senator Kerry didn't mince words in his talk, calling out the “disgraceful” campaign of climate denial as the “conspiracy” that it is, and also placing some blame on the media for its reluctance or inability to bring reason and truth to the climate conversation.
DeSmogBlog has obtained the final negotiating text that will emerge from the Rio+20 Earth Summit and it is an utter disappointment to anyone who hoped that world leaders would pull together a meaningful global agreement on ending fossil fuel subsidies or other needed steps to protect future generations from resource depletion and global climate change.
Read the final text here: “The Future We Want”[.DOC] or [.PDF provided by DeSmog for those without Word]
Update: The Guardian (which first posted the text earlier today) has this summary of the implications:
Barring a last-minute rejection by one of the main negotiating blocks, the draft that will be presented to the 100 leaders attending the summit will contain almost no timetables, definitions or ways to monitor new sustainable development goals, nor will it strongly commit nations to move to a “green economy” that integrates environmental and social costs into decision-making.
Instead, civil society groups say the new text simply acknowledges the world's dire environmental and social problems without spelling out how to deal with them.
Read the early reactions to the final text below from Greenpeace and WWF.
Canada is pulling out of the Kyoto Protocol, the cornerstone of international climate negotiations, in the wake of the failed COP17 climate talks in Durban. Canadian Environment Minister Peter Kent announced Canada's bail-out of Kyoto as he returned from Durban.
The Kyoto Protocol was ratified by Canada in 2002, when the agreement became legally binding. Canada's decision to turn its back on its international obligations confirms yet again that Stephen Harper and his carbon cronies are securing a hellish future for generations to come. Canada's 'leaders' are brashly choosing pollution-based profiteering over public health and cooking the climate to make a killing in the tar sands.
Peter Kent said the protocol “does not represent a way forward for Canada” and would have forced it to take “radical and irresponsible choices”.
The move, which is legal and was expected, makes it the first nation to pull out of the global treaty. …
“Kyoto, for Canada, is in the past, and as such we are invoking our legal right to withdraw from Kyoto,” Mr Kent said in Toronto.
Kent returned to Ottawa from Durban Monday afternoon and made the announcement about two hours after landing.
He said he waited to formally pull out of the Kyoto Protocol because he'd promised a top UN official in Durban not to distract from the talks.
Greenpeace Canada climate and energy campaigner, Mike Hudema, reacts:
“The Harper government has imposed a death sentence on many of the world's most vulnerable populations by pulling out of Kyoto. The decision to leave Kyoto behind destabilizes the promise of action on the climate crisis. This is a further signal that the Harper government is more concerned about protecting polluters than people.”