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?
December 6th, 2009 - Barbara Feiner
As reported Wednesday in A Pivotal Moment in Environmental Politics, world leaders will gather tomorrow in Copenhagen for the United Nations Climate Change Conference. Key discussion topics include:
- What will developed nations do to reduce greenhouse gas emissions?
- What will developing nations do to curb emissions growth?
- Who will pay for these measures?
The Copenhagen summit may be the last chance to head off disastrous effects from climate change—and our efforts may already be too late, according to Rafael Reuveny, PhD, a professor of public and environmental affairs at Indiana University, Bloomington.
“The climate change train has left,” says Dr. Reuveny, coeditor of North and South in the World Political Economy. “What we are trying to do now is limit the rise in temperatures to an acceptable level, and this may not be possible.”
Devastating Socioeconomic Upheaval
Some models suggest we may be close to a “climate tipping point,” where the effects of global warming generate positive feedbacks that make the trend almost impossible to stop, Dr. Reuveny says.
His research shows changes in climate produce devastating socioeconomic upheaval, including forced migration and increased conflict, especially in the developing world.
But Dr. Reuveny is also concerned that the sacrifice required to prevent a climate disaster could bring about a “social tipping point”—a dangerous social disruption. A sufficient reduction in greenhouse gases could upset the social order—at first in countries with less robust governance systems, followed by developed nations.
Two Possible Scenarios for Copenhagen
Dr. Reuveny anticipates two possible outcomes in Copenhagen:
- It’s possible, though unlikely, that there could be a broad-based agreement to slash greenhouse gas emissions by enough to avert serious climate effects.
- We will essentially continue with business as usual. Sooner or later, this would lead to economic decline and social chaos, at first in the developing world and then in the rich nations.
The latter is a “gloomy scenario,” he says, “but unfortunately the most likely.”
A Marshall Plan for Climate Change?
Dr. Reuveny believes there’s a better way to approach global warming: Developed nations could agree to relatively modest emissions reductions, while developing nations could agree to slow their rate of emissions growth for a while and then accept modest emissions reductions.
Most importantly, the rich nations could create a massive “Global Warming Marshall Plan” to help vulnerable developing nations begin adapting now to problems brought on by climate change—problems, it should be noted, that developed nations caused.
Read More:Have We Hit the Climate Tipping Point?
December 2nd, 2009 - Barbara Feiner
In less than a week, world leaders—including President Obama—will convene in Copenhagen for the United Nations Climate Change Conference, set for Dec. 7–18.
The goal, as we’ve reported before, is to achieve international consensus on climate-change goals for the whole planet.
Many grassroots groups have asked for the public’s support, and we’ve chronicled efforts like the music industry’s Beds Are Burning campaign.
Politics, however, is a beastly affair, and some experts believe the Copenhagen summit is already doomed.
“We can only hope that the looming failure of Copenhagen can be overcome by future talks and a serious change in resolve by the United States and China,” says Scott Ollinger, PhD, an associate professor at the University of New Hampshire’s Institute for the Study of Earth, Oceans and Space.
“The gravity of the challenge is underscored by the fact that even the best of outcomes at Copenhagen would still be insufficient for dealing with the problems of rising CO2 and climate change,” he adds.
It’s now up to us to put pressure on our representatives and demand decisive action. You can voice your concerns by signing numerous petitions. Please visit:
For Your Organic Bookshelf
Read More:A Pivotal Moment in Environmental Politics
November 10th, 2009 - Barbara Feiner
As a number, 350 may not mean much to you, but it’s extremely important to those following the climate-change crisis.
According to the Citizens Climate Lobby, 350 parts per million (ppm) is the carbon-dioxide limit each nation must achieve to keep global temperatures from rising to catastrophic levels. The current atmospheric carbon-dioxide concentration is 389 ppm—a number that’s climbing 2 parts a year.
Rep. Bob Filner (D-CA) has asked President Obama to reach agreement on this goal with other world leaders at next month’s United Nations Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen. He and Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-OH) are circulating a letter in the House that calls upon Obama to take action. Click here to read the full text.
“Global leaders can negotiate with one another, but humanity cannot negotiate with the earth’s climate,” says Citizens Climate Lobby Founder and President Marshall Saunders. “It will not compromise. We must yield or face the wrath of nature.”
For Your Organic Bookshelf: Our Choice: A Plan to Solve the Climate Crisis
Read More:Climate Change: The Point of No Return
October 21st, 2009 - Barbara Feiner
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Department of Transportation (DOT) are holding public hearings this week on the country’s first greenhouse gas emissions limits for passenger vehicles.
Hearings began today in Detroit and will continue in New York City on Friday and Los Angeles on Tuesday. You can thank President Obama for pushing this environmental agenda, in concert with California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, automakers, the United Auto Workers Union and eco-conscious organizations.
According to the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF), passenger cars and light trucks emit “nearly 20% of the nation’s greenhouse gases, in the form of carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide and hydrofluorocarbons. In April, EPA provisionally found that these four contaminants and two other greenhouse gases endanger human health and welfare.”
The proposed standards would apply to new cars produced from 2012 to 2016. The EDF cites the following benefits:
- Breaking Our Oil Addiction and Strengthening National Security. The vehicles subject to the proposed standards are responsible for about 40% of all U.S. oil consumption. The standards would reduce our oil consumption by 1.8 billion barrels, while achieving a 5% annual improvement in fuel efficiency for U.S. passenger cars.
- Reducing Global-Warming Pollution. Vehicles covered by the proposed standards account for 60% of heat-trapping emissions from the transportation sector and about 20% of all U.S. heat-trapping gases. These emissions have increased by more than 1% annually. The proposal would cut carbon dioxide pollution from passenger vehicles approximately 21% by 2030, reducing emissions by 950 million tons.
- Saving Money at the Pump. Families can save more than $3,000 over a vehicle’s lifetime.
Read More:Feds Hold Public Hearings on Auto Emissions Limits
October 15th, 2009 - Barbara Feiner
Former Vice President Al Gore’s follow-up to An Inconvenient Truth will be released on Nov. 3.
Our Choice: A Plan to Solve the Climate Crisis is available for preorder at Amazon, which is offering a 34% discount (retail price: $26.99; Amazon price: $17.81). An abridged audiobook (CDs) is also available (retail price: $29.99; Amazon price: $19.79).
The book is printed on locally produced and sourced 100% recycled paper, with low-VOC inks.
“An Inconvenient Truth reached millions of people with the message that the climate crisis is threatening the future of human civilization and that it must and can be solved,” says Gore, co-recipient of the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize for his environmental work. “Now that the need for urgent action is even clearer with the alarming new findings of the last three years, it is time for a comprehensive global plan that actually solves the climate crisis.”
As with An Inconvenient Truth, Gore will donate 100% of the new book’s proceeds to the Alliance for Climate Protection, a nonprofit, nonpartisan group dedicated to spreading awareness of the climate crisis.
From Our Organic Blog
Read More:Our Choice: A Plan to Solve the Climate Crisis
October 3rd, 2009 - Barbara Feiner
What unites former United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan and international artists like Fergie, Lily Allen, Duran Duran, Mark Ronson, Jamie Cullum, Marion Cotillard and Milla Jovovich?
A global musical petition that demands climate justice.
A new cover of Midnight Oil’s Beds Are Burning is designed to send a message to world leaders who will participate in the UN’s Copenhagen Climate Change Summit in December.
Each free download will count as a signature on a “digital petition” for an ambitious, fair and international answer to the global-warming crisis. More than 1.3 million people have signed on thus far.
“Climate change is the greatest humanitarian challenge facing mankind today,” Annan says. “And it is a challenge that has a grave injustice at its heart. It is the major developed economies of the world which contribute the overwhelming majority of global greenhouse emissions. But it is the poorer and least developed nations that are hit hardest by its impact.
“By downloading ‘Beds Are Burning’ for free from major music download platforms on the Internet, people from around the world will be adding their names to this growing global petition—joining the campaign for climate justice and becoming a climate ally. This will be the first time ever that a musical petition has been created to demand decisive action from our world leaders.”
“Music is the universal language, capable of transcending cultures, generations, religions and races,” adds song producer Alexandre Sap. “A song or an artist truly has the power to translate a message or a movement more than any politician or world leader can on a global scale. This will create a voice for all of us who deserve to have a say leading up to Copenhagen in December. The goal is to draw enough attention to an event that will affect everyone’s lives on the planet.”
You may download the song from the Time for Climate Justice website, Amazon or iTunes.
For Your Organic Bookshelf: Climate Change: What It Means for Us, Our Children and Our Grandchildren
Read More:Fergie, Lily Allen, Kofi Annan Demand Climate Justice