June 1st, 2010 - Barbara Feiner
While the BP oil spill has officially become the worst in U.S. history, Americans remain divided over whether the government should increase offshore oil drilling, according to a nationwide survey of 1,001 adults conducted by Virginia Commonwealth University’s Center for Public Policy.
When asked specifically about drilling’s risks and benefits, 51% said the environmental risks outweigh the benefits, while 35% think the benefits outweigh the environmental risks. Nonetheless, 45% support increased offshore drilling, with 44% opposing it (margin of error: ±3.7%).
- 80% say pollution of the country’s rivers, lakes and reservoirs is a major problem; 16% say it’s a minor problem; and 3% say it’s not a problem.
- Air pollution is considered a major problem by 74%, and 73% worry about our overreliance on energy from oil and gas.
- 54% say global warming is a major problem, 23% consider it a minor problem, and 19% say it’s not a problem.
- Views about global warming are divided along partisan lines, with 70% of Democrats identifying it as a major problem; only 27% of Republications agree. Most Independents (53%) think global warming is a major problem.
- Perceptions lean toward the view that scientists are divided over global warming, with 49% of those polled saying many scientists have serious doubts about the evidence; 37% believe the evidence is widely accepted in the scientific community. Once again, views were split along partisan lines.
For Your Organic Bookshelf: The Bridge at the End of the World: Capitalism, the Environment, and Crossing from Crisis to Sustainability
Read More:Public Divided on Environmental Issues
April 28th, 2010 - Barbara Feiner
According to a new Department of Transportation (DOT) report, the United States can reduce greenhouse gas emissions by:
- Using low-carbon fuels
- Increasing vehicle fuel economy
- Improving system efficiency
- Reducing travel that involves high levels of carbon emissions
“Reducing the greenhouse gas emissions that contribute to global climate change is one of the great challenges of our time,” says Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood. “Transportation is one of the major contributors to greenhouse gases, and the transportation sector must be a big part of the solution. This report provides valuable information that will help us in our effort to protect the environment.”
The report states:
- 29% of all U.S. greenhouse gas emissions and 5% of global emissions are caused by the fuel burned to power U.S. vehicles.
- Almost 60% of these emissions come from light-duty vehicles, followed by freight trucks (19%) and aircraft (12%).
- Between 1990 and 2007, greenhouse gas emissions from U.S. transportation increased 27% and accounted for almost half of the total national increase during that period.
The report, while making no specific recommendations, analyzes available strategies that would reduce transportation’s greenhouse gas emissions.
Among the findings:
- More fuel-efficient gasoline vehicles could reduce per-vehicle emissions by 8% to 30%; hybrid vehicles, 26% to 54%; and plug-in hybrids, 46% to 75%.
- More direct routing of airline flights using NextGen technology, as well as more efficient takeoffs and landings, could reduce aviation greenhouse emissions by up to 10% by 2025.
- Reducing the number of vehicle miles traveled through a combination of strategies—improved public transportation, coordinated transportation, land use, opportunities for walking and biking—could reduce transportation greenhouse emissions by 5% to 17% by 2030.
The report discusses policy options for implementing these strategies, including efficiency standards, transportation planning and investment, market-based incentives, research and development, and economy-wide carbon policies.
“Earlier this month, we established historic new fuel economy standards that will save nearly a billion tons of greenhouse gas emissions over the lives of the vehicles covered,” LaHood says. “In aviation, DOT has put energy and environmental concerns at the heart of NextGen, the initiative to modernize the U.S. air traffic system.
“The Department’s Sustainable Communities Partnership with the Environmental Protection Agency and Department of Housing and Urban Development is providing low-carbon transportation options.”
Environmental Groups Praise Report
“Ray LaHood made an important contribution to addressing climate change,” says Michael Replogle, global policy director of the Institute for Transportation and Development Policy.
“Key strategies in this report would cut emissions at less cost than most other approaches to greenhouse gas reduction when considering vehicle operating cost savings. Such smart transportation strategies would put money in the pockets of consumers and businesses, create good jobs, and support livable communities and more efficient mobility. That’s good for business, the economy and environment.”
“Congress should use the report’s findings to guide investments and policy for transportation,” adds Kathryn Phillips, an expert on federal transportation policy for the Environmental Defense Fund.
For Your Organic Bookshelf: Auto Mania: Cars, Consumers and the Environment
Read More:Cutting Transportation-Related Greenhouse Gas Emissions
April 22nd, 2010 - Barbara Feiner
Today is Earth Day, and teens who want to make a difference in the fight against climate change now have a place to share their pledges, actions and ideas.
Inconvenient Youth, the Alliance for Climate Protection’s new teen education initiative, launches today. The program will also enable five teens to participate in upcoming in-person training with Nobel Laureate and former Vice President Al Gore.
“Inconvenient Youth is built on the belief that teens can help lead efforts to solve the climate crisis,” Gore says. “It will give this generation—which has a unique stake in this issue—a chance to organize and exchange ideas with other young people who want to do their part to address the climate crisis. Perhaps most importantly, this initiative was inspired by youth and shaped by youth, with their unique viewpoint guiding it forward.”
“It’s not a website; it’s a community,” explains program manager Sam Davidson. “We are building a community—a place where people engage, encourage and empower one another to take action. We’re not broadcasting ‘green tips’ from on high; we’re creating a space where teens can share their ideas and their solutions.”
Interested teens can visit the organization’s website from now until May 15 and apply for the opportunity to attend a Gore-led training session in June.
Students will go through a committee review process. Those selected will become official presenters who can deliver a new slide show to their local communities based on Gore’s latest book, Our Choice: A Plan to Solve the Climate Crisis.
“The ultimate goal of Inconvenient Youth, at least for me, is to provide ideas and to consciously act on those ideas, while pursuing efforts that make obstacles entirely irrelevant,” says Shilpi Misra, a member of the teen advisory board.
Read More:Inconvenient Youth: Al Gore’s New Earth Day Initiative
April 7th, 2010 - Barbara Feiner
Cars, sport utility vehicles, minivans, pickup trucks used for personal transportation and passenger vehicles emit about 60% of all mobile-source greenhouse gases—the nation’s fastest-growing source of greenhouse gases, according to the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF).
That’s why EDF President Fred Krupp believes the new standards for vehicle emissions and fuel economy offer a “trifecta” of benefits:
- Less dependence on Middle Eastern oil
- Less pollution
- More savings at the gas pump
“Cleaner cars will deliver immediate results as the Senate finishes work on bipartisan climate and energy legislation,” he says.
What the Future Holds
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) expect automobile manufacturers to meet the new standards by more widespread adoption of conventional technologies already in commercial use, such as more efficient engines, transmissions, tires, aerodynamics and materials, as well as improvements in air-conditioning systems.
And while the standards can be met with such technologies, EPA and NHTSA also predict some manufacturers will pursue more advanced fuel-saving technologies, including hybrid vehicles, clean diesel engines, plug-in hybrid electric vehicles and electric vehicles.
“These historic new standards set ambitious, but achievable, fuel economy requirements for the automotive industry that will also encourage new and emerging technologies,” confirms Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood. “We will be helping American motorists save money at the pump, while putting less pollution in the air.”
The Automakers’ Perspective
Even the Association of International Automobile Manufacturers (AIAM) seems to approve.
“We have long supported a single, national program that provides clear guidance for AIAM members to meet these important program goals, and these regulations harmonize the efforts of EPA and the Department of Transportation to do just that,” says Michael J. Stanton, the organization’s president and CEO.
Dave McCurdy, president and CEO of the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, agrees.
“America needs a roadmap to reduced dependence on foreign oil and greenhouse gases, and only the federal government can play this role,” he says.
“A year ago, the auto industry faced a regulatory maze resulting from multiple sets of inconsistent fuel economy/greenhouse gas standards,” he adds. “NHTSA was promulgating new fuel economy standards required by Congress under the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007, while EPA was preparing greenhouse gas standards under the Clean Air Act.
“Meanwhile, California and 13 other states were planning their own state-specific greenhouse gas standards. When our engineers struggle with changing or conflicting laws, it derails efforts to introduce new technologies with long-term research and development timeframes. The national program announced [Thursday] makes sense for consumers, for government policymakers and for automakers.”
For Your Organic Bookshelf: Two Billion Cars: Driving Toward Sustainability
Read More:Even Automakers Approve of New Standards
April 4th, 2010 - Barbara Feiner
Following a major directive from the Obama administration, the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) and Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Thursday established historic new rules that set the nation’s first national greenhouse gas emissions standards.
The standards will significantly increase the fuel economy of all new passenger cars and light trucks sold in the United States. The rules could potentially save the average buyer of a 2016 model-year car $3,000 over the life of the vehicle and, nationally, will conserve about 1.8 billion barrels of oil.
The new program will also reduce carbon dioxide emissions by about 960 million metric tons over the lifetime of the vehicles regulated, equivalent to taking 50 million cars and light trucks off the road in 2030.
“This is a significant step toward cleaner air and energy efficiency, and an important example of how our economic and environmental priorities go hand in hand,” said EPA Administrator Lisa P. Jackson. “By working together with industry and capitalizing on our capacity for innovation, we’ve developed a clean cars program that is a win for automakers and drivers, a win for innovators and entrepreneurs, and a win for our planet.”
Starting with 2012 models, the rules require automakers to improve fleet-wide fuel economy and reduce fleet-wide greenhouse gas emissions by approximately 5% a year. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has established fuel economy standards that strengthen each year, reaching an estimated 34.1 mpg for the combined industry-wide fleet for model-year 2016.
Because credits for air-conditioning improvements can be used to meet EPA standards (but not NHTSA’s standards) , the EPA standards require that 2016 models must achieve a combined average vehicle emission level of 250 grams of carbon dioxide per mile. This is equivalent to 35.5 miles per gallon if all reductions came from fuel economy improvements—a 10-mpg increase over current standards.
“These are the first national standards ever to address climate change,” said EPA Assistant Administrator for Air and Radiation Gina McCarthy. “Over the coming years, America will witness an amazing leap forward in vehicle technologies, delivering fuel efficiency that will save us money and protect the environment.”
Read More:New Rules: Fuel Economy, Vehicle Emissions
March 25th, 2010 - Barbara Feiner
From heat waves to rainstorms to droughts, climate change has a significant impact on your organic lawn.
As hundreds of communities endure record-breaking temperatures, homeowners’ lawns are stressed out—brown, weakened and dying.
There are, however, effective ways to reduce and reverse the toll climate change takes on your yard:
- Top Dress. This simple technique can reap huge rewards. This spring, use a rake to spread 1/4” to 1/2” of sphagnum peat moss over your lawn. This will gradually condition your lawn throughout the year, strengthening grass so it can resist weather damage, disease, weeds and thatch. Peat moss slowly releases water and nutrients as grass plants need it, so you won’t need to water or fertilize as frequently.
- Aerate. This season, remove plugs of sod to loosen soil and allow water, air and fertilizer to reach grass plants’ root structure. For smaller yards or concentrated trouble spots in larger yards, use a manual aerating tool to remove plugs from turf. If you have an extremely large yard, consider renting a power aerator.
- Start from Scratch. Is your lawn so far gone that you need to scrap it and start over? Proper soil preparation can help lay the groundwork—literally—for a healthier, more trouble-resistant lawn. Before you seed or lay sod, dig or rototill 2” of peat moss into the top 6 inches of soil to help provide extra protection from the elements. The next time Mother Nature unleashes weird weather, your lawn will be better equipped to cope.
For free online brochures and educational videos, visit the Canadian Sphagnum Peat Moss Association.
Read More:Climate Change: 3 Tips to Revive Your Lawn
March 13th, 2010 - Barbara Feiner
The Hip Hop Caucus, an organization that encourages urban youth to become active in elections, policymaking and service projects, recently traveled more than 2,000 miles, through nine states, to promote clean energy.
The Hip Hop Caucus’ Clean Energy Now! Bus Tour closed on the Capitol’s steps after hosting events at churches, nightclubs, job training centers and five college campuses, including three historically black colleges and universities. Organizers distributed energy efficiency kits to attendees.
“The clean energy choices we make today will have a profound impact on the environment of our young people and communities of color—the very people this tour is bringing together and the voices we need to hear,” said Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Lisa P. Jackson. “We’re going out and meeting people where they live, work and learn, to talk about how we create clean energy jobs, protect our planet and break our dependence on foreign oil.”
The tour “helped amplify and unite the voices of young people, African Americans, the hip hop community and the faith community around the critical need for clean energy jobs now and a clean energy future for our country,” said Caucus President Rev. Lennox Yearwood Jr. “People around this country are hurting because our economy has failed them. Comprehensive clean energy policies will help our communities create a brighter future through solutions that will fight poverty and pollution at the same time.”
Studies show comprehensive clean energy and climate policies could create up to 1.9 million new entry-level, professional and entrepreneurial jobs nationwide.
Such policies would also save households up to $1,175 per year by 2020 through investments in building insulation and other efficiency improvements, while also reducing medical bills and protecting communities from environmental threats.
For Your Organic Bookshelf: Urban Meltdown: Cities, Climate Change and Politics-as-Usual
Photo: Tracy Russo/Flickr
Read More:Reaching Out to Communities of Color
March 2nd, 2010 - Barbara Feiner
Climate change is responsible for some of the weird winter weather we’re seeing in the northern United States, according to a new report from the National Wildlife Federation (NWF).
“Oddball winter weather is yet another sign of how uncontrolled carbon pollution amounts to an unchecked experiment on people and nature,” says NWF climate scientist Amanda Staudt, PhD. “While global warming means shorter, milder winters on average, some snowbelt areas will see more heavy snowfall events.”
Among the report’s findings:
- In areas where winter is milder, ecosystems are disrupted.
- Natural habitats and agriculture are vulnerable to changing winter weather.
- Many communities will face greater economic uncertainty and losses.
- Snow removal and flooding will tax community resources.
“Disruptions to tourism and recreation economies will become increasingly common—for example, to skiing and ice fishing, which depend on predictable conditions,” Dr. Staudt says.
“More oddball winter weather is terrible news for skiers,” adds former Olympic slalom skier Chip Knight, an NWF project coordinator. “The mountain snow sports that depend on reliable snow conditions provide about $66 billion to our economy, and the local economies that rely on those dollars are becoming increasingly vulnerable. The extreme efforts necessary to provide snow for the Vancouver Olympics are a startling example of what’s at stake.”
Despite what some may think, we can take steps to minimize the severity of weather events by:
- Curbing pollution
- Safeguarding wildlife, fish and habitats from more unpredictable winter weather
- Planning for greater variability in snow-removal and flood-management programs
Ultimately, however, “we can no longer plan based on the climate we used to have,” Dr. Staudt says.
For Your Organic Bookshelf: Climate Cover-Up: The Crusade to Deny Global Warming
Official White House Photo by Pete Souza
Read More:Expect More Weird Winter Weather
February 21st, 2010 - Barbara Feiner
I have relatives in Virginia who have been hoping their roof doesn’t collapse from the extraordinary weight of recent snowfalls.
A short ride away, some Washington politicians, including science-challenged Sen. Jim DeMint (R-SC), have been using Snowmageddon to ridicule those who seek action on climate change. DeMint tweeted: “It’s going to keep snowing in DC until Al Gore cries ‘uncle.’”
The brain freeze appears to be contagious. Sen. James Inhofe’s (R-OK) family constructed an igloo near the Capitol, with a sign reading: “Al Gore’s New Home.”
Time magazine’s Bryan Walsh correctly dismissed such juvenile antics, explaining what’s clear to most people: “Weather is what will happen next weekend; climate is what will happen over the next decades and centuries.”
If Al Gore made any mistake, it was one of nomenclature. In a recent interview with MSNBC’s Keith Olbermann, Newsweek Senior Washington Correspondent Howard Fineman said conservative skeptics would have less to mock if the former vice president had used the term “climate change” instead of “global warming.”
“I do think that labels matter,” Fineman said. “And in retrospect, simply focusing on warming was a mistake, just in terms of the politics and the salesmanship of what is undoubtedly a really, really big problem.”
Nonbelievers should heed the interests of their grandchildren and great-grandchildren, who will inherit a sickly Earth. Padding their pockets with hefty contributions from Big Oil is what will happen next weekend. The ability to survive is what will happen over the next decades and centuries.
For Your Organic Bookshelf: The Thirteen American Arguments: Enduring Debates That Define and Inspire Our Country, by Howard Fineman
Read More:Climate Change and the Big Picture
February 9th, 2010 - Barbara Feiner
After President Obama delivered his State of the Union address, the National Wildlife Federation was quick to urge Congress to enact comprehensive energy and climate legislation.
“Last year, the president showed the leadership and determination to help the House pass the energy reform legislation that is overdue for America,” said NWF Senior Vice President Jeremy Symons. “His call for action was clear. He is ready to help the Senate take on Big Oil and move a bipartisan clean energy and climate bill that creates jobs, limits pollution from energy companies and reduces our dependency on oil from hostile nations.”
Big Oil and its beneficiaries “are spending millions of dollars to block progress,” Symons said. “They are standing in the way of clean energy jobs, energy security and clean air. The Senate must deliver this year, and senators will need the president’s help to overcome the obstruction that has stalled past efforts at real energy reform.”
Symons also praised Obama for making environmental education a priority—one that prepares “America’s workforce for a clean energy economy.”
Click here for an update on what’s happening in Washington. We also encourage you to call or write to your elected representatives to express your views on the environment.
For Your Organic Bookshelf: Green: Your Place in the New Energy Revolution
Photo courtesy of the White House
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