February 1st, 2010 - Barbara Feiner
When President Obama gave his State of the Union address on Wednesday, he highlighted the importance of clean energy and green jobs.
“We should put more Americans to work building clean energy facilities and give rebates to Americans who make their homes more energy-efficient, which supports clean energy jobs,” he said. “And to encourage these and other businesses to stay within our borders, it is time to finally slash the tax breaks for companies that ship our jobs overseas and give those tax breaks to companies that create jobs right here in the United States of America.”
The president also cited the need for U.S. innovation.
“Last year, we made the largest investment in basic research funding in history—an investment that could lead to the world’s cheapest solar cells or treatment that kills cancer cells, but leaves healthy ones untouched,” he said. “And no area is more ripe for such innovation than energy. You can see the results of last year’s investments in clean energy—in the North Carolina company that will create 1,200 jobs nationwide helping to make advanced batteries, or in the California business that will put a thousand people to work making solar panels.”
The president called upon Congress to pass a comprehensive energy and climate bill, “with incentives that will finally make clean energy the profitable kind of energy in America.” And while he acknowledged the costs involved in moving forward, Obama said we cannot afford to sit on our hands.
“I know that there are those who disagree with the overwhelming scientific evidence on climate change,” he said. “But here’s the thing: Even if you doubt the evidence, providing incentives for energy efficiency and clean energy are the right thing to do for our future—because the nation that leads the clean energy economy will be the nation that leads the global economy. And America must be that nation.”
For Your Organic Bookshelf: Clean Energy Common Sense: An American Call to Action on Global Climate Change
Official White House photo by Pete Souza
Read More:Obama Pushes for Comprehensive Energy, Climate Legislation
January 28th, 2010 - Barbara Feiner
“Warning! General Mills Destroys Rainforests.”
This text recently appeared on a 30’ x 70’ banner (above) held outside the company’s Minneapolis headquarters by 42 activists who say the company is irresponsibly sourcing palm oil.
More than 100 General Mills products, including brands like Pillsbury, Betty Crocker, Hamburger Helper and Toaster Strudel, contain palm oil or its derivatives, according to the Rainforest Action Network (RAN).
Demand for the oil has steadily increased worldwide in recent years, and palm-oil plantations are expanding rapidly into tropical forests, RAN notes—growth that contributes to climate change, species extinction, and the displacement of indigenous and local communities.
“Palm oil is a leading cause of rainforest destruction in places like Indonesia,” says RAN representative Ashley Schaeffer. “As long as General Mills is using irresponsibly sourced palm oil, their customers will have to worry that they are contributing money to rainforest destruction.”
“Worldwide, the degradation and destruction of tropical rainforests is responsible for 15% of all annual greenhouse gas emissions. The carbon emissions resulting from Indonesia’s rapid deforestation account for around 8% of global emissions—more than the combined emissions from all the cars, planes, trucks, buses and trains in the United States. This huge carbon footprint from forest destruction has made nonindustrialized Indonesia the third-largest global greenhouse-gas emitter, behind only the U.S. and China.”
But General Mills is defending the way it sources palm oil. A prepared statement reads, in part:
“We have analyzed our use of palm oil,” said Gene Kahn, General Mills’ global sustainability officer. “General Mills does not purchase any palm oil directly. However, we do purchase ingredients produced from palm oil from suppliers. Overall, we calculate that General Mills’ use of palm oil and palm derivatives is modest—approximately .0004% of world exports.”
Click here to sign the General Mills petition.
Click here to watch the video “Does Your Breakfast Cause Rainforest Destruction?”
Photo by Mercury Miller/RAN
Read More:Campaign Targets General Mills’ Use of Palm Oil
January 25th, 2010 - Barbara Feiner
If you’re plugged into the climate-change debate, you know:
- Most scientists agree that global warming is primarily man-made.
- A skeptical minority blames Mother Nature’s normal cycles.
In truth, both sides agree on several core ideas, according to the Dec. 22 issue of Chemical & Engineering News:
- The Earth’s atmospheric load of carbon dioxide has increased since the dawn of the Industrial Revolution (late 1700s).
- This increase largely results from the burning of coal and other fossil fuels.
- Average global temperatures have been rising since 1850, with most of the warming occurring since 1970.
“But here is where the cordial agreements stop,” writes Senior Editor Stephen K. Ritter. “At the heart of the global warming debate is whether warming is directly the result of increasing anthropogenic [man-made] CO2 levels, or if it is simply part of Earth’s natural climatic variation.”
Click here to read the full article, which presents both sides of the increasingly contentious issue.
For Your Organic Bookshelf: Global Warming: The Complete Briefing
Read More:Global Warming: Human Activity or Mother Nature?
January 17th, 2010 - Barbara Feiner
The overwhelming majority of Americans support action to limit carbon pollution and move the United States toward a clean energy future, according to 1,000 registered voters polled in December by the National Wildlife Federation.
“The American people can’t be more clear when it comes to solving global warming: They want the U.S. to be Rudolph out in front of the sleigh, leading the world toward a clean energy future,” says NWF Senior Vice President Jeremy Symons. “There is overwhelming public support for the Senate to pass legislation with firm limits on carbon pollution that will stimulate massive new investments in clean energy technologies.”
The poll’s results show:
- 82% of voters support a federal investment in clean energy sources.
- 67% support limits on carbon pollution and other gases that may cause global warming.
- 91% of Democrats believe global warming is happening; 8% don’t.
- 43% of Republications believe global warming is happening; 54% don’t.
- 64% of Independents believe global warming is happening; 32% don’t.
Read More:Most Americans Want Action on Global Warming
January 9th, 2010 - Barbara Feiner
A new report from the Wildlife Conservation Society reveals that more than a dozen animals are facing new risks related to global warming, including:
- Changing land and sea temperatures
- Shifting rain patterns
- Exposure to new pathogens and disease
- Increased threats from predators
“The image of a forlorn-looking polar bear on a tiny ice floe has become the public’s image of climate change in nature, but the impact reaches species in nearly every habitat in the world’s wild places,” says President and CEO Steven E. Sanderson, PhD. “In fact, our own researchers are observing direct impacts on a wide range of species across the world.”
The affected wildlife includes:
- Flamingos. Climate change reduces the availability and quality of wetland habitats in the Caribbean, South America, Asia and Africa.
- Irrawaddy dolphins. This coastal species relies on the flow of fresh water from estuaries in Bangladesh and elsewhere in Southeast Asia. Changes in flow and salinity may have an impact on the species’ long-term survival.
- Hawksbill turtles. Higher temperatures result in more female hatchlings, which could impact the species’ long-term survival by skewing sex ratios.
“Aside from all of the current political disagreements on meteorological data, we can say with certainty that climate change is threatening our planet with significant losses to wildlife and wild places,” Dr. Sanderson says.
For Your Organic Bookshelf: Saving Wildlife: A Century of Conservation
Read More:3 Species Threatened by Climate Change
December 28th, 2009 - Barbara Feiner
When the United Nations Climate Change Conference ended Dec. 19 in Copenhagen, world leaders had reached an agreement to cap the global temperature rise by significantly reducing emissions and financing environmental efforts in developing countries.
The end result, however, is much weaker than many environmentalists would have liked, and the international blame game is heating up.
While most countries supported the Copenhagen Accord, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon admitted it “cannot be everything that everyone hoped for, but it is an essential beginning.”
The Accord recognizes the scientific view that an increase in global temperature below 2° is required to stave off global warming’s worst effects. Mitigation requires industrialized countries to commit to implementing, individually or jointly, quantified emissions targets by 2020.
The deadline for countries to sign the Accord is Jan. 31, and President Obama is trying to remain optimistic.
“After extremely difficult and complex negotiations, this important breakthrough lays the foundation for international action in the years to come,” he said. “This progress did not come easily, and we know that progress on this particular aspect of climate-change negotiations is not enough. Going forward, we’re going to have to build on the momentum that we established in Copenhagen to ensure that international action to significantly reduce emissions is sustained and sufficient over time.
“At home,” he continued, “that means continuing our efforts to build a clean energy economy that has the potential to create millions of new jobs and new industries. And it means passing legislation that will create the incentives necessary to spark this clean energy revolution.
“So, even though we have a long way to go, there’s no question that we’ve accomplished a great deal over the last few days. And I want America to continue to lead on this journey, because if America leads in developing clean energy, we will lead in growing our economy and putting our people back to work, and leaving a stronger and more secure country to our children.”
Photo courtesy of the White House
Read More:What Did Copenhagen Achieve?
December 13th, 2009 - Barbara Feiner
As the United Nations Climate Change Conference continues in Copenhagen, atmospheric scientist Katharine Hayhoe, MS, offers her take on what needs to happen.
“It is encouraging to see global leaders discussing the ways climate change may affect us and how we can contribute toward a solution,” says the research associate professor at Texas Tech University’s Department of Geosciences and coauthor of A Climate for Change: Global Warming Facts for Faith-Based Decisions.
Interestingly, her 224-page book examines Christian views on climate change. In an effort to dispel many of the myths and misconceptions that cloud Americans’ views, Hayhoe and coauthor Andrew Farley (a pastor) address why Christians should care about global warming and why temperature increases are more than “just a cycle.”
To avoid climate change’s most severe effects, we must globally stabilize the concentration of heat-trapping gases in the atmosphere at no more than 450 parts per million (ppm) by 2050, Hayhoe says. This limit is designed to avoid a global average temperature increase exceeding 3.5°F—a benchmark she and other scientists believe could wreak increasing environmental havoc. (Others are pushing for a 350-ppm limit.)
“If we wait until 2020 to start emission reductions, we’ll have to cut twice as fast than if we start in 2010 to meet the same target,” says Hayhoe, who contributed to the Nobel Prize-winning United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change in 2007.
Read More:Christian Perspectives on Climate Change
December 11th, 2009 - Barbara Feiner
Several groups are lauding Monday’s Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) report, which officially concluded that human activity causes greenhouse gases that threaten our health and welfare.
Health Care Without Harm (HCWH), an international coalition of more than 430 organizations in 52 countries, has long maintained that the impacts of climate change would be devastating to the health of world populations through increased famine, heat waves, disruption of the ocean food supply, flooding, disease encroachment, drought, population displacement, war and chronic illness from air pollution.
“As an organization, our goal is to protect public health through reduction of pollution and environmental factors contributing to illness,” say Executive Director Anna Gilmore Hall, RN. “We welcome the EPA statement as a powerful commitment of support to our climate change reduction efforts.”
“With this announcement, the EPA is taking an important step forward,” adds Josh Karliner, the HCWH’s international coordinator. “It is now up to the President to follow through by negotiating a strong and fair agreement in Copenhagen that leads to a binding accord to protect public health from climate change.”
HCWH has placed an advertisement in the New York Times to draw attention to the public health aspects of climate change, and the group has also helped launch an online Prescription for a Healthy Planet initiative. For more information on HCWH’s climate change program, click here.
The National Wildlife Association also hails the EPA decision.
“This action clears the way for serious measures to reduce the pollution that is accelerating global warming, and the timing couldn’t be better,” says Joe Mendelson, the organization’s global warming policy director. “The Obama administration’s action enforces the Clean Air Act and strengthens the President’s hand for the upcoming talks to forge a global deal to fight climate change.
“The announcement follows the recent diplomatic breakthrough with China and India, who both announced their willingness to take action to control pollution if the world acts. For the first time ever, the leaders of the world will gather with offers to act from China and the United States, the world’s two biggest emitters. I am optimistic that the talks will yield a workable plan to protect our children’s future.”
Read More:Groups Praise EPA Report on Greenhouse Gases
December 9th, 2009 - Barbara Feiner
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) confirmed Monday what most of us have suspected for quite some time: “science overwhelmingly shows greenhouse gas concentrations at unprecedented levels due to human activity.”
The report, delivered by EPA Administrator Lisa P. Jackson, proves that greenhouse gases (GHGs) threaten Americans’ health and welfare, and emissions from on-road vehicles contribute to this threat.
Greenhouse gases are the primary driver of climate change, which can lead to hotter, longer heat waves that:
- Threaten the health of the sick, poor and elderly
- Increase ground-level ozone pollution that’s linked to asthma and other respiratory illnesses
- Pose other threats to Americans’ health and welfare
“These long-overdue findings cement 2009’s place in history as the year when the United States government began addressing the challenge of greenhouse-gas pollution and seizing the opportunity of clean-energy reform,” Jackson says. “Business leaders, security experts, government officials, concerned citizens and the United States Supreme Court have called for enduring, pragmatic solutions to reduce the greenhouse-gas pollution that is causing climate change. This continues our work toward clean-energy reform that will cut GHGs and reduce the dependence on foreign oil that threatens our national security and our economy.”
EPA’s final findings respond to the 2007 U.S. Supreme Court decision that GHGs fit within the Clean Air Act definition of air pollutants. The findings do not, in and of themselves, impose any emission reduction requirements, but they allow the EPA to finalize the GHG standards proposed earlier this year for new light-duty vehicles, as part of a joint rulemaking with the Department of Transportation.
On-road vehicles contribute more than 23% of total U.S. GHG emissions. EPA’s proposed GHG standards for light-duty vehicles (a subset of on-road vehicles) would reduce GHG emissions by nearly 950 million metric tons and conserve 1.8 billion barrels of oil over the lifetime of model year 2012–2016 vehicles.
EPA’s endangerment finding covers emissions of six key greenhouse gases—carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, hydrofluorocarbons, perfluorocarbons and sulfur hexafluoride—that have been the subject of scrutiny and intense analysis for decades by U.S. and international scientists.
Scientific consensus shows that as a result of human activities, GHG concentrations in the atmosphere are at record-high levels, and data show the Earth has been warming over the past 100 years, with the steepest increase in warming in recent decades. The evidence of human-induced climate change goes beyond observed increases in average surface temperatures; it includes melting ice in the Arctic, melting glaciers around the world, increasing ocean temperatures, rising sea levels, acidification of the oceans due to excess carbon dioxide, changing precipitation patterns and changing patterns of ecosystems and wildlife.
Jackson and President Obama have publicly stated that they support a legislative solution to the problem of climate change and Congress’ efforts to pass comprehensive climate legislation. However, climate change is threatening public health and welfare, and it is critical that EPA fulfill its obligation to respond to the 2007 U.S. Supreme Court ruling.
EPA issued the proposed findings in April and held a 60-day public comment period. The agency received more than 380,000 comments, which were carefully reviewed and considered during the development of its final findings.
Read More:EPA Reaffirms Human Role in Climate Change
December 7th, 2009 - Barbara Feiner
As the United Nations Climate Change Conference begins today in Copenhagen, some experts believe world leaders will be sufficiently motivated to achieve consensus on ways to reduce greenhouse gases.
In the United States, retired military leaders like Gen. Anthony Zinni call climate change a “threat multiplier” that could have disastrous consequences for unstable countries like Somalia, Sudan, Kenya and Nigeria.
Chinese, Indian and Pakistani leaders are keenly aware of these risks, recognizing that their nations may endure water scarcity as global warming dries up mountain snowpack and disrupts the monsoon season.
The United States could still agree to “Kyoto Lite”—a set of targets and a timetable that look weaker than 1997’s Kyoto Protocol, according to Matthew R. Auer, PhD, a professor of public and environmental affairs at Indiana University, Bloomington. If so, U.S. leaders would still be agreeing to reduce more carbon dioxide than any other country.
“The U.S., China and India could turn out to be climate heroes if they put their minds to it,” says Dr. Auer, author of Restoring Cursed Earth: Appraising Environmental Policy Reforms in Eastern Europe and Russia. “China is getting smarter about how it produces and uses energy, with everything from high-tech furnaces at steel mills to newly insulated office buildings now saving energy in Chinese cities. China’s solar power and wind turbine industries compete fiercely with U.S. firms for global market share.
“In India, Tata Motors’ peppy Nano minicar gets 65 mpg, and new alternative fuel and electric battery models are in the works. With that kind of ingenuity and their newfound wealth, China and India in partnership with the U.S. could go a long way in fighting global warming, with or without a resounding diplomatic triumph at Copenhagen.”
Read More:United States, China, India: Climate Heroes?