Obama takes a big stand on climate change

U.S. EPA Releases Clean Power Plan Proposal
On June 2, the U.S. EPA released a proposed rule to reduce carbon pollution from existing power plants. The Clean Power Plan proposal sets state-specific goals to be met by 2030 and provides guidelines for states to develop plans, building on the work states are already doing to reduce carbon pollution.  By 2030, the EPA expects to reduce carbon emissions from the power sector by 30% nationwide below 2005 levels.  In order to meet that target, this proposal allows states to work individually or in regional groups to meet their respective goals while including flexibility in compliance options.

The proposal includes a timeline for states to follow to meet their respective goals:

  • June 30, 2016:  All states submit initial or complete plans
  • June 20, 2017:  Deadline to submit individual state plans eligible for one-year extension, and progress report for multi-state plans
  • June 30, 2018:  Deadline to submit multi-state plans

The EPA is accepting public comment for 120 days after publication in the Federal Register and will hold four public hearings the week of July 28 in Denver, Atlanta, Pittsburgh and Washington, DC. To learn more or to submit a comment, click here.

Is it really THAT radical?

“It may well be true that capitalism is incapable of accommodating itself to the limits of the natural world. But that is not the same question as whether or not capitalism can solve the climate crisis,” writes Christian Parenti in his article A Radical Approach to the Climate Crisis.

Parenti provides a comprehensive yet easy to understand overview of the state of our climate crisis as well as how capitalism and government influence may be the way to getting us out of it. But they can do nothing without, what he calls, radical reform.  I particularly like this piece because his idea of radical reform does not hail to the ideals that we all return to living off the land, eating grasses and raising our own foods.

No, he defines it as: reforms that achieve qualitative change in the balance of power between the classes. And suggests that the only way this will  happen is if we, the people, rise up and demand it. We do so by putting pressure on our government bodies as well as our business entities. The result is a shift in government behaviors which would naturally drive the costs of fossil fuels up and renewables down. I am not going into detail here because Parenti does a very fine job of explaining this in his article, which can be found in the Summer 2013 edition of Dissent Magazine or at  Resilience.org

Plenty of others are in agreement with many of the points Parenti makes, including the idea of charging for polluting (some call it a carbon tax). For example, Severin Borenstein, Bad Incentives For Green Choices, explains, “The near-unanimous view of economists is that the best way to deal with pollution externalities is by pricing them, generally through a pollution tax or cap and trade program. Yet, policy makers still prefer to reward “good” behavior rather than impose costs on bad behavior…”

What happens over the next seven years or so is pivotal. Some might argue it’s too late. Call me a bit pie-eyed, perhaps even quixotic, but I’ll hold out hope for change before 2020.

Changing the future on a…train?

Millennial Trains Project (MTP): 20 participants age 18-34 are set to embark on a fast-paced cross-country journey in the name of sustainability, entrepreneurism and social change.

Ten cities, 10 days, 20 bright young minds on a transcontinental train trip sharing ideas for solving real-world problems — that’s the concept behind The Millennial Trains Project, a sort of mobile think tank that brings together socially minded entrepreneurs to address the challenges of the present and future. Departing Aug. 8 from San Francisco, the train will stop in Salt Lake City, Denver, Omaha, Chicago, Pittsburgh and Washington on its journey of discovery. 

Read more about this project in Mother Nature News reporter Gerri Miller’s interview with Patrick Dowd, the project’s founder and CEO.

All of the projects sound really interesting! There are studies of food waste, energy conservation, health and diversity issues like- living with chronic illness or what it’s like to be an Arab American- and one, not surprisingly, about the use of trains for transit as a sustainable choice. In all, the MTP categorizes the individual projects into ten tracks:

I’ll be very interested to learn more about that last one; it’s Malcolm Kenton’s project. Trains Revitalizing America, is born out of Malcolm’s passion for trains and interest in sustainability and ecology. He’ll be creating a documentary that highlights various reasons that makes train travel a sustainable, efficient and ecologically sound mode of transportation. Cool!

The individual millennials and their project ideas can be found on the Project’s website. They have some really unique and creative stories and ideas. I hope they are able to make great strides and grow their concepts into real, actionable and helpful strategies to shape a better future for us all.

Safe & successful travels, Millennials, Choo Choo!!

Staying Hungry for Justice

Students, staff and faculty frat the University of California, Santa Barabara recently participated in a 24-hour “Justice Fast”, to promote justice, solidarity, integrity and dignity, in light of humanitarian issues worldwide and other social justice concerns.

Excerpts from the article, Campus Fasting Event Highlights Diverse Social Justice Movements, shed some light on the event:

  • …the act of fasting, or abstaining from eating, emphasizes a continued prevalence of people’s hunger for justice. … “We’re trying to bring awareness to certain issues that are affecting our society and our larger global society,” Ochoa said. “At first, we were trying to figure out what issue to revolve our fast around, but in the end, we realized we couldn’t just focus on one issue. So we decided to split them, and students decided to take upon their own issues.”

Another recent article, which cites this UC-SB event, discusses deeping the academic experience to help students foster their already innate connection to the global challenges facing them and expounds on why these students resorted to fasting:

  • From water shortages to climate change, population growth to the health of bees, biocultural diversity to globalization, everything feels inextricably interdependent and connected. Higher education is a great leverage point for addressing the complex issues that affect us all. Many students recognize the multifaceted challenges that face us, and they can become overwhelmed when classes seem abstract and disconnected from day-to-day life and there is no clear action component to the learning process. A recent article discusses a student fast at the University of California, Santa Barbara with the slogan “There’s too much to lose, don’t make me choose!Resorting to fasting shows the seriousness with which these students take environmental, social and economic problems.

And these students and others across the nation are serious!  80% of US grads want to make a positive impact on the environment and 92% want to work for an eco-friendly company. Thankfully, 53% of our Fortune 500 companies are publishing some kind of sustainability or corporate social responsibility report, so our grads can find these companies, and nearly 80% of the nation’s population agrees we need to decrease consumption of energy and goods. This means, more and more our institutions of higher education need to be preparing students to be able to design systems, social and economic, that will meet these concerns and allow humans to persist within our limits.

At Moraine Valley Community College, faculty are fortunate to have an excellent resource that will help them integrate the concepts of sustainability into their coursework. The Moraine Valley Learning Academy, in collaboration with the Center for Sustainability, offers a faculty-enrichment program called the Greening Your Curriculum- Prairie Project. Enrollment for Fall 2013 is open now. The course explores many facets of sustainability, addressing today’s challenges and the unknowns of tomorrow, and guides faculty to understand how these topics relate or can be used to teach their individual disciplines. The program is unique to Moraine Valley, but there are other similar examples across campuses regionally and nationally. I am inspired and hopeful because of them.

Dept of Energy: Climate Change Will Cause More Energy Breakdowns

The NY Times has an article out today about how climate change will affect (is affecting) our electrical grid. Journalist John Broder sites the US Department of Energy stating, “The nation’s entire energy system is vulnerable to increasingly severe and costly weather events driven by climate change, according to a report from the Department of Energy“.

The fact that our power grid is threatened should be alarming enough, however, climate change is affecting so much more that will then again threaten our ability to maintain power, quality of life, etc.

Broder further writes, “The effects are already being felt, the report says. Power plants are shutting down or reducing output because of a shortage of cooling water. Barges carrying coal and oil are being delayed by low water levels in major waterways. Floods and storm surges are inundating ports, refineries, pipelines and rail yards. Powerful windstorms and raging wildfires are felling transformers and transmission lines.”

Coincidentally, (??)  The Weather Channel website is featuring a 254-page slide show of images from NASA showing dramatic changes to our planet, not just the US.

Dramatic Images of Our Changing Planet “The pictures, featured in NASA’s “State of Flux: Images of Change,” show movement over time, with lapses from just a few days to centuries. They look at cities and locales the world over, from Saudi Arabia to El Salvador. They exhibit lake shrinkage and flooding and drought and fires. Many highlight the impact humans have had on these natural places.

In some instances, the changes are slight, circled or outlined to delineate the modification. But in others, like this one of deforestation in Argentina, the difference in just three decades is stark.”

In that same posting by The Weather Channel, they have quick video about how NASA is using its images and other data collected from satellites to understand climate change. It’s very quick, but educational if you’re not yet aware of this process.

Wait, NINE Billion People?? World Population Day 7/11/2013

I recently received the following (slightly shortened) email. Sometimes, because there’s just not enough time to read them all, I delete mass emails like this. However, I found the title compelling enough to open and then, the message within even more interesting. There could be 9 Billion people on the planet before my time is up (given I live to be nice and old and past 2050). That’s alarming since we’re struggling now to balance food and water and other resources equitably for the 7 billion we have now. Read below and learn more about these challenges- truly upsetting.

BUT, what I liked most about this email is the hope it provides. Hope is a powerful motivator and clearly (below) there are many folks out there with hope that they can make a difference.

Danielle, author of the email, asks the readers to suggest other groups and names addressing the issues presented within- do you know anyone? I wrote back and suggested the Half the Sky Movement.

 

“Dear Stephenie,

Thursday, July 11th, is World Population Day.   The United Nations estimates that global population will swell to 9 billion by the year 2050.   Most of this growth will occur in urban areas and emerging economies in Asia,   Latin America, and sub-Saharan Africa. Cities such as Delhi, India; Sao   Paolo, Brazil; and Lagos, Nigeria will become the largest in the world, while   rural areas will lose inhabitants.

At least one billion   people around the world do not get enough to eat. A nearly equal amount – 1.4   billion – are overweight, and can suffer from various health problems such as   diabetes, high blood pressure, and heart disease. And more than 200 million women across the globe have an unmet need for   contraception, keeping them from planning how many children they want to have   and when. In addition, women farmers often lack access to land, credit, and   education making it harder for them to provide for their families. The U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization estimates that if women had the same access to these services as men, global malnutrition could be reduced by 12 to 17 percent.

But committed groups around the world are highlighting the   connections between population growth, gender, reproductive health,   agricultural production, and environmental sustainability and the need for   integrated, holistic approaches to nourish both people and the planet.

The 18 individuals and organizations below (in alphabetical order) are all taking action to prepare for the challenges presented by global population growth through research, advocacy, education, and community outreach.   What other groups are taking on these issues? Please let us know in the comments or email me.”

  1. Aspen Global Health and Development
  2. Cecile Richards
  3. Center for Environment and Population
  4. Debra Hauser
  5. The Earth Institute, Colombia University Center on   Globalization and Sustainable Development
  6. Every Mother Counts
  7. Family Care International (FCI)
  8. Global Fund for Women
  9. Hans Rosling
  10. International Planned Parenthood Federation (IPPF)
  11. Jane Goodall Institute
  12. Jill Sheffield
  13. Jon Foley
  14. Population Council
  15. Population Services International (PSI)
  16. Suzanne Ehlers
  17. Marie Stopes Foundation
  18. United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA)

“Who would you add to this list? Please email me and let me know! Also, you can share the list by clicking HERE.

All The Best,

Danielle Nierenberg
Co-Founder, Food Tank
foodtank.org
Email: danielle@foodtank.org
Phone: 202-590-1037

Why 400+ PPM Matters – it’s not an environmental issue

So I for one am horrified at recent news of atmospheric CO2-e concentration reaching 400+ppm… Why? Climate Change is a serious problem. Not because it can harm the environment (though it will, and that does pain me) but because of the wicked uncertain predicaments we face. The bigger issue with uncertainty is the threat it poses to national security- and even more, global human stability (i.e., peace).

In 2009, the Pentagon made a formal claim that climate change was then (is still now) a threat to U.S. national security.

And for those of you (how!?) still on the fence about whether climate change is real, is caused by CO2-e, is man-made or not, etc. This video is awesome! It uses no climate models (something anti-climate change folks use in their debate to say it’s all guess-work) and it’s not funded by or produced by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (again, often sited as spinning fallacies and using scare-tactics claiming it’s all for the sake of folks like Al Gore to get rich or whatever…). This is based on historical, peer-reviewed, science. Science. Not speculation. Not feelings or emotions. Not guess-work. Science.

The evidence for climate change WITHOUT computer models or the IPCC

Public school swaps chicken nuggets for tofu, becomes first all-vegetarian cafeteria

WOW! This really goes beyond Meatless Monday. I would love to hear a response to this… could it be done at Moraine Valley? Or a local K12 school? Why or why not?

REPOST: By Elizabeth Chuck, Staff Writer, NBC News Braised black beans and plantains. Tofu roasted in Asian sesame sauce. Falafel and cucumber salad. These aren’t menu items from a high-end restaurant; they’re lunchtime grub for students at a Flushing, Queens, public school’s all-vegetarian cafeteria, the first in New York City to nix meat and believed to be one of the first public school in the nation to serve only vegetarian fare. … full article linked below

http://usnews.nbcnews.com/_news/2013/05/01/17999627-nyc-public-school-swaps-chicken-nuggets-for-tofu-becomes-first-all-vegetarian-cafeteria?lite%3

Climate Change & NY State’s Bond Offerings

So there you have it. NY State just listed climate change as a real threat to the value of the State’s bonds. This is alongside other risks like unresolved litigation and potential cuts in federal spending! Here’s a clip from the Environmental Leader article about this:

“The decision by Gov. Andrew Cuomo Administration follows Hurricane Sandy, which caused more than $40 billion in damage in the state after it made landfall last year, according to Bloomberg News. New York may be the first US state to warn investors of the risk caused by climate change, such as rising sea levels, flooding and erosion, the news agency says.”

It goes to reason that other states will soon follow NY’s lead.  Of course, there are a lot of concerns with increased hurricanes and sea-level rise, so coastal states are sure to consider this. But, climate change affects us in the middle, too, with increased droughts and mega-snow storms. Perhaps Illinois will be next?

A New Record 55.3, Warmest Year Ever

NOAA announced that 2012 was the warmest year on record (see NCDC Announces Warmest Year on Record for Contiguous U.S.). Chicagoland has had a strange winter, and we also had a long drought over the summer, but it is difficult to recognize if we are just having a localized, abnormal year, or if out local weather is connected to larger trends. The NOAA report may suggest that our local weather is impacted by larger trends. Interestingly enough, Fox News has questioned the NOAA report and has given climate skeptics a platform (see Fox News Questions Whether Government Faked Hottest Year On Record Quotes “Skeptic” Blogger Sugges). It is interesting to watch how ideology colors this debate.