December 15, 2014
The US/China climate agreement is a game changer, for a lot of reasons. Below, some analysis from Climate Progress. Above, my video on the subject, probably the first of several.
One aspect that has not been well explored in the media, is that this is a deal that China needs – not because they want to score PR points, not because they want to look like a responsible world power, and not even, primarily, because they are all that concerned about climate change (although, increasingly, they are..)
They need to change the course they are on because the breakneck development of fossil fuels has put them on a collision course with some very, very hard physical limits – in particular, water. In addition, they are looking at pollution problems that have become so severe, they are now a primary source of political unrest. And this generation of Chinese leaders remembers how rough things can get in China in a period of unrest.
For the video above, I sampled the media sphere for pieces of the narrative, as usual, and I interviewed Peter Gleick of the Pacific Institute, one of the world’s best recognized experts on water resources, and Keith Schneider, a long time New York Times writer, currently global correspondent for Circle of Blue, an NGO dealing in the nexus of water, climate and energy.
“Renewable and nuclear energy accounted for 9.8 percent of China’s energy mix in 2013,” said Melanie Hart, the Director for China Policy at the Center for American Progress. “They have just promised to double that by 2030. That target will light a fire under China’s already-aggressive renewable deployments and put even stronger limits on coal and other fossil-fuels.”
Experts did tell Reuters that the emission reductions China needs to meet this deal are not too far off from the course it’s already projected to maintain. That said, the Chinese government and its officials have raised the peak goal as a possibility before, but coming from Jinping himself, Wednesday’s deal constitutes the most robust commitment China has ever made.
“It’s the agreement that people have been waiting for, for a long time,”said Jake Schmidt, director of the International Program at the Natural Resources Defense Council, an environmental group. “It’s the two biggest emitters, the two largest economies, the two biggest drags on agreement over the years. For them to step up and say we’re going to take deep actions, it will send a powerful signal to countries around the word.”
But the President has argued that as the world’s second-largest emitter currently, and by far its largest historically, the U.S. cannot expect other countries to act if it does not demonstrate good faith by stepping forward. Hence the suite of executive actions Obama announced in his second term to cut U.S. emissions, with the Environmental Protection Agency’s recently rule for power plants as its centerpiece. As such, Wednesday’s deal also marks an at least partial vindication of Obama’s strategy.
The Chinese government announced Wednesday it would cap coal use by 2020. The Chinese State Council, or cabinet, said the peak would be 4.2 billion tonnes, a one-sixth increase over current consumption.
This is a staggering reversal of Chinese energy policy, which for two decades has been centered around building a coal plant or more a week. Now they’ll be building the equivalent in carbon-free power every week for decades, while the construction rate of new coal plants decelerates like a crash-test dummy.
The 2020 coal peak utterly refutes the GOP claim that China’s recent climate pledge “requires the Chinese to do nothing at all for 16 years.” Indeed, independent analyses make clear a 2020 coal peak announcement was the inevitable outcome of China’s game-changing climate deal deal with the U.S. last week, where China agreed to peak its total carbon pollution emissions in 2030 — or earlier.
We already knew that China’s energy commitment to “increase the share of non-fossil fuels in primary energy consumption to around 20% by 2030” was going to require a staggering rate of deployment for carbon free energy. It means adding some 800-1,000 gigawatts of zero-carbon power in 16 years, which, the White House notes, is “more than all the coal-fired power plants that exist in China today and close to total current electricity generation capacity in the United States.”
December 13, 2014
Nothing to see here, move along.
December 13, 2014
Newly emboldened, if not empowered, by the election results, the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) is planning an even more aggressive war on sane environmental regulations, in fact, on any regulations, of any kind, that might impinge in any way, on anyone who does anything evil, anywhere, for the rest of time.
So, why are there companies that still support ALEC? A slew of high flying tech companies fled a few months ago, following the gigantic climate march in New York.
Above, Google’s Eric Schmidt in his “They’re just lying” interview on the Diane Rheam show, the day after the New York demonstration – coincidentally I am sure..
In August, Microsoft announced that it’d be severing ties with ALEC, citing its opposition to renewable energy projects; in September, Google chairman Eric Schmidt said his company would be leaving as well, in part because ALEC is “just literally lying” about climate change (the group tried, and totally failed, to reform its stance). But despite the tech exodus that followed — Facebook, Yahoo and Yelp are no longer ALEC-affiliated — the group is sure to be buoyed by the favorable results of the midterm elections, Nick Surgey, of the Center for Media and Democracy, told reporters during a press call Wednesday.
And according to Aliya Haq, the climate change special projects director for the Natural Resources Defense Council, it ”will actually be escalating its attacks on environmental safeguards.”
The “most extreme” proposal getting attention at this week’s conference, according to the NRDC, is a plan to have Congress disband the EPA, slash funding for environmental protections by 75 percent and replace the federal agency with a group of 300 state agency employees — even though the entire point of having the EPA is because pollution extends beyond state boundaries.
Thanks to pressure from shareholders, unions and public interest organizations, more than 90 companies have severed ties with ALEC since 2012, according to the nonprofit Center for Media and Democracy (CMD), which tracks the secretive group’s activities on its ALEC Exposed website. The list of deserters comprises a veritable Who’s Who of U.S. business, including Amazon, Bank of America, Coca-Cola, General Electric, General Motors, IBM, Kraft, McDonald’s, Microsoft, Procter & Gamble and Wal-Mart. And in the days following Schmidt’s denunciation of ALEC for “making the world a much worse place,” other Internet companies headed for the exits. Yahoo cancelled its membership, Facebook said it was unlikely it would renew next year, and Yelp divulged it was no longer a member.
Since its inception in 1973, ALEC—which currently boasts more than 1,800 state legislators and nearly 300 corporations, trade associations, corporate law firms and nonprofits as members—has been promoting model state legislation on a range of issues, from “stand your ground” laws to privatizing prisons to worker rights. Nearly 98 percent of the group’s funding comes from its corporate sector members, which pay annual dues of $7,000 to $25,000. Those fees grant them direct access to ALEC legislators—who each pay a token $50 a year—and the opportunity to ghostwrite sample bills that serve as templates for statehouses across the country.
ALEC also lost a few energy sector members over the last two years, notably ConocoPhillips, Entergy, Xcel Energy and, in the wake of Schmidt’s outburst, Occidental Petroleum. But roughly 30 fossil fuel companies and trade associations—including BP America, Chevron, Duke Energy, ExxonMobil, Koch Industries, Peabody Energy and Shell — are still steadfast supporters.
Two of the companies—ExxonMobil and Koch Industries—are so gung ho that they’ve been kicking in significantly more than the annual fee. ExxonMobil donated $942,500 to ALEC over the last decade, while Koch family foundations gave $747,000 between 2007 and 2012. On top of that, the oil and gas industry’s premier trade association, the American Petroleum Institute, contributed $88,000 between 2008 and 2010.
Given this support, it’s not surprising that ALEC’s sample bills would, among other things, impede government oversight on fracking, undermine regional cap-and-trade climate pacts and introduce climate misinformation in school curricula. Last year, according to CMD estimates, ALEC sponsored more than 75 energy bills in 34 states. Thirteen of those bills, if enacted, would have frozen, rolled back or repealed state standards requiring electric utilities to increase their use of renewable energy. Fortunately, all 13 went down in defeat.
What is surprising is five of the seven ALEC energy behemoths I listed above—all but Koch Industries and Peabody Energy—publicly acknowledge the threat posed by climate change on their respective websites and claim to be doing something about it.
BP, for example, states that the company “believes that climate change is an important long-term issue that justifies global action.” Chevron says “taking prudent, practical and cost-effective action to address climate change risks is the right thing to do.”
Here, Exxon CEO Rex Tillerson acknowledges the reality of human caused climate change:
December 12, 2014
Selma is a new movie about the civil rights movement, and Dr. Martin Luther King’s leadership role.
It’s relevant to a climate change blog, because the movement to free black people, first from slavery, then from segregation, is a close parallel to the movement against the climate crisis. Both movements had important leaders from the faith community, and both movements faced bitter opposition from powerful interests, many of them based in the US South, the old confederacy. And like the struggle against slavery, those powerful interests are being told they must relinquish a primary source of their wealth – in this case, enormous stores of carbon fuels, energy “slaves” that must stay in the ground for humanity to survive.
Pundits today still ask the question “What Happened to Kansas?” – the conundrum of how poor and middle class white people can be consistently motivated to vote against their own interests. But this is, of course, the oldest game in the political playbook – resentment politics.
A South politician preaches to the poor white man
“You got more than the blacks, don’t complain.
You’re better than them, you been born with white skin,” they explain.
And the Negro’s name
Is used it is plain
For the politician’s gain
As he rises to fame
And the poor white remains
On the caboose of the train
But it ain’t him to blame
He’s only a pawn in their game
Bob Dylan, Only a Pawn in Their Game
In this case, the Strom Thurmonds and Lester Maddox’s of the fossil fuel interests attempt to frame the issue as a battle of good, normal, white Americans against “UN scientists” (“UN” is always a dog whistle, meaning, those brown skinned furriners who want to tell you what to do – pay attention and you’ll see how often this card is played), “Hollywood elitists” – see Senator James Inhofe’s recent rant against Barbara Streisand, and of course, pot-smoking, tree-hugging hippies.
Polls show that people of color consistently register more concern about the climate than whites in America. As in the civil rights movement, the climate movement is reaching a number of middle class whites, as their churches point to the moral dimension of the struggle.
Catholic bishops from around the world are calling for an end to fossil fuel use and increased efforts to secure a global climate treaty.
Catholics, they say, should engage with the process leading to a proposed new deal to be signed in Paris next year.
The statement is the first time that senior church figures from every continent have issued such a call.
The bishops say this is necessary “in order to protect frontline communities suffering from the impacts of climate change, such as those in the Pacific Islands and in the coastal regions.”
As well as calling for the phasing in of 100% renewable energy, there is a strong focus on finance for adaptation in the statement.
MN: Why is it important for the clergy to have a voice in this discussion?
JMM: The African American church has historically served as a moral leader on the most pressing issues of our time—from voting rights to gun violence. The church isn’t going to now sit aside and watch as polluters jeopardize the health and safety of our children and grandchildren.
Climate change not only imperils the most marvelous natural features of God’s creation, it threatens to cause human suffering of a magnitude that we cannot tolerate. Worldwide, we are facing severe drought, famine, disease, and disasters as a result of our climate crisis.
MN: What are some next steps?
JMM: One action on the near horizon that we’re asking folks to take is to send a comment to the Environmental Protection Agency letting them know they support strong carbon pollution safeguards. These carbon safeguards would go a long way to fighting climate change and protecting our communities. You can find out more at www.epa.gov.
MN: What impact do these church leaders see the environment (particularly environmental degradation) having on their congregations and communities?
JMM: Many of these churches are already working on environmental issues just as part of the day-to-day job of the church to make sure congregants are healthy and not being poisoned. Those struggles are related to the industries that are driving climate change and they understand that connection.
We had representation from a church in Richmond, CA that has struggled with pollution from the Chevron oil refinery. We had a pastor from a church in San Francisco’s Bayview neighborhood, which has a number of Superfund sites from the old navy shipyards. There have been a number of environmental justice issues there for years. While climate change and carbon pollution hurt everyone, the communities that many of these churches serve shoulder the greatest burden. Seventy-eight percent of African Americans live within 30 miles of a coal-fired power plant. Black children have an 80 percent higher rate of asthma than their White peers, and are more than three times more likely to die of the disease.
It’s probably the closest thing the coal industry will ever get to actually receiving the word of a god – or rather, a note from several gods as well as other various prophets, spiritual leaders and the like.
Last month religious leaders representing Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus, Jews and a couple of Christian denominations published an open letter calling for world leaders to “commit to a rapid transition away from fossil fuels and towards renewable energy” to avoid “climate-related disasters”.
December 12, 2014
When school children learn about the era when the world could have done something to avoid most of the effects of climate change, but didn’t, Senator James Inhofe will be remembered in much the same way we remember the most vile segregationists of the Old South – as an answer to a multiple choice question, or short paragraph, about global tragedy.
Jake Tapper’s CNN interview above is evidence that journalists are moving away from the “he said, she said” framing on climate change, and challenging science deniers more forcefully. Unfortunately, about 30 years too late to avoid “a compliant,ignorant, incompetent, lazy, bought-off, and cowed media” from becoming an answer on the same test.
Senator Inhofe made headlines recently in claiming that Climate Change was a global conspiracy headed up by Barbara Streisand, who apparently is pulling the strings of an international cabal of evil doers, who wish to destroy America.
I doubt this will be a future test question.
Nevertheless, we expect similar headlines to grace the media on a regular basis as Senator Inhofe re-ascends to the chairmanship of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, the nation’s most powerful legislative seat in matters of the global life support system. It is important that those who support and surround Senator Thur.. I mean, Inhofe, be always and forever made to answer for that support, challenged to defend his manifest craziness, and reminded of it whenever they wish to weigh in on matters of substance and fact.
In case you don’t remember Strom Thurmond and his Inhofe-like prominence in the segregationist movement, see below. (racial language alert)
December 12, 2014
John Stossel, on how climate change science is like believing in Ghosts.
Stossel said that he believed that the “climate changes, always has, always will.” But he argued that a “climate catastrophe” was absurd.
“Every year, fewer people die from the weather because of fossil fuels,” the Fox Business host observed. “They are able to protect themselves. Big difference between ‘climate change is going to kill us,’ and ‘climate changes.’”
“So, you are saying that it would be reasonable to point out the pluses of fossil fuels,” Hasselbeck noted.
“In the short term, lives are being saved if the planet warms,” Stossel agreed. “There is some good evidence man contributes to global warming. But I say, so what? We can deal with that. It’s not a catastrophe. And cold is far worse for hurting people than warmth.”
Stossel added that other absurd things that people believed included ghosts, astrology and UFOs.
“What about wage war?” Hasselbeck wondered, referring to gender inequality in the workplace.
“It’s true, you women earn less than we men do,” Stossel replied. “But there are reasons for it. You, maybe, are more sensible. You have put more emphasis in not working in a horrible place, not working in dangerous places, you take time off to take care of a family. There’s a reason for that.”
“How do these ridiculous things get stuck in our heads?” Doocy asked.
December 11, 2014
Additionally entertaining and humorous when you know some back story. A number of us unfortunate enough to be on climate denier Marc Morano’s mailing list (I get it so you don’t have to) got the plaintive story about how a crew of deniers, “..one of the few skeptical voices of reason at the conference”, were kicked off the stage to make way for what they called “Kerry’s photo op”.
My spies tell me that the denialist presser was “..a total dud, with only ~5 people in attendance not counting their staff.”