September 29, 2010

James Hansen Arrested

James Hansen was arrested during a Mountain Top Mining protest in front of the White House. 

More than 100 people were arrested during Appalachia Rising, a national protest to end mountaintop removal (MTR) coal mining. Arrests included Appalachian residents; retired coal miners; renowned climate scientist, James Hansen; and faith leaders. After a march from Freedom Plaza and a rally at Lafayette Park, more than 100 staged a sit-in in front of the White House to demand President Obama follow his own science and end mountaintop mining.

Hansen said, "The science is clear, mountaintop removal destroys historic mountain ranges, poisons water supplies and pollutes the air with coal and rock dust. Mountaintop removal, providing only a small fraction of our energy, can and should be abolished. The time for half measures and caving in to polluting industries must end."

Jim Hansen arrest at White House

Faith Communities building Green

More and more communities of faith—including Protestant, Catholic, Jewish, Muslim, Buddhist, and Quaker groups— are embracing green design and green building. While beliefs, traditions, and practices vary in many respects, care for the earth is a value that transcends religious distinctions and emerges as a common motivation for incorporating environmentally friendly designs into construction projects. Belief in a higher being, respect for creation, and a mandate to care for one's neighbor are at the core of many faiths. Many religious traditions call upon members to be good stewards of the earth and its resources.

Building green is a way of committing an entire community to the moral imperative to care for the earth and help all people share in the benefits of a healthy, sustainable environment. For a growing number of religious institutions, building green has become not just a cost-effective investment but, more importantly, a way to embody and demonstrate a religious and moral commitment to care for the earth and for life. The process of learning about and undertaking greening, in turn, commonly reinvigorates the religious community.

Felician Sisters convent and school in Coraopolis, Pennsylvania, just outside of Pittsburgh recently built green. Sister Mary Christopher Moore, one of the community's members noted that the more the community learned about green buildings, the more they began to realize that renovating their building to be LEED certified had a moral dimension: "building green was the morally right thing to do, because it not only considered the sustainability of our community but also the sustainability of our world."
The Jewish Reconstructionist Congregation (JRC) in Evanston, Illinois completed its synagogue in 2008 as a LEED Platinum building. In both cases, the decision to build green began as a grassroots effort, driven by interest from within the community and guided by leadership of the rabbis. According to Temple Rabbi Rosen, environmental concerns are inherent in the Jewish principles of bal tashchit, meaning "do not destroy or waste," and tikkun olam, which means "healing the earth." Rabbi Rosen observed that  "it goes back to the Torah, a value we've inherited in our own spiritual tradition . . . energy efficiency, not destroying natural resources. The world does not belong to us. . . . We're reminded repeatedly of that in the Torah".

Read more:


There is nothing sustainable about this picture.

If you think your current electricity rates are sustainable - think again.
If you think availability of electricity on demand is guaranteed - think again.
If you think your health is not affected by burning this much coal - think again.
If you think our environment is not affected by burning this much coal - think again. 

September 23, 2010

Happy 40th Birthday - Clean Air Act!

The benefits from the Clean Air Act amount to 40 times the cost of regulation. 

"For 40 years the Clean Air Act has protected our health and our environment, saving lives and sparking new innovations to make our economy cleaner and stronger. The common sense application of the act has made it one of the most cost-effective things the American people have done for themselves in the last half century," said EPA Administrator Lisa P. Jackson. "Since 1970 we have seen a steady trajectory of less pollution in our communities and greater economic opportunity throughout our nation. We will continue those trends as we face the clean air challenges of the next 40 years, including working to cut greenhouse gases and grow the American clean energy economy. The Clean Air Act proves the naysayers wrong – we can protect our health and environment at the same time we grow our economy."

Van Jones wrote the following article about the benefits of the EPA. 

The Clean Air Act turns 40 this month. But if dirty energy proponents and climate change deniers have their way, it won't survive intact for another 40 weeks.
Ever since the US Supreme Court agreed that the EPA has the right to regulate greenhouse gasses under the Act, lobbyists for dirty energy have been trying to gut the law.
Americans can't let that happen.
Promoters of dirty air have been vilifying this law since it was just a notion in a Congressional subcommittee, four decades ago. They carry on with the exact same fear-mongering today. They keep peddling the same old falsehoods: enforcing the Clean Air Act is a job killer, bad for industry, certain to ruin the economy, etc.
In 1970 they said it would "cause entire industries to collapse," and in 1980 they said it would cause "a quite death for business across the country."
It is really kind of sad. You would think that – after four decades – they could come up with some new talking points. But no: it is always the same stuff.
Unfortunately for them, we now have the benefit of 40 years of hindsight. And even the most casual review of the facts shows how demonstrably wrong the defenders of dirty air and dirty energy have been – time and time, again.
They are dead wrong, and the facts speak for themselves.
Economic Benefits
Clean air regulation in this country has created trillions of dollars in economic value.  This year alone, the benefits of clean air programs are projected to total $110 billion.  In a bipartisan gathering this week, EPA director Lisa Jackson said that the "total benefits of the clean air act amount to 40 times the cost of regulation."  Put another way, for every $1 they spend on regulation, this country gets back $40 in economic benefit.
Clean air regulation has also dramatically increased worker productivity, preventing 4,100,000lost work days since 1970, and 31,000,000 days in which Americans would have had to restrict activity due to air pollution related illness. (Now that's good for business).
It has also created entire new markets for automobiles and cleaner vehicles.  Today's new cars, light trucks, and heavy-duty diesel engines are up to 95 percent cleaner than past models thanks to technology such as the catalytic converter.  New non-road engines used in construction and agriculture have 90 percent less particle pollution and nitrogen oxide emissions than previous models. Finally, vehicle and fuel programs from clean air regulations will produce $186 billion in air quality and health benefits by 2030 – all this with only $11 billion in costs, a nearly 16-to-1 benefit/cost ratio.
Health Benefits
Clean air is essential for our health and safety; it is unconscionable to allow bottom line profits to come before human life.
Clean air regulation has produced dramatic health benefits for the nation.  According to an EPA analysis, the first 20 years of Clean Air Act programs, from 1970 to 1990, prevented:
  • 205,000 premature deaths
  • 672,000 cases of chronic bronchitis
  • 21,000 cases of heart disease
  • 843,000 asthma attacks
  • 10.4 million lost I.Q. points in children – mostly from reducing lead in gasoline
  • 18 million child respiratory illnesses
By 1995, the percentage of U.S. children with elevated blood-lead levels had dropped from 88.2% in the 1970s to 4.4%, according to data compiled by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.  Likewise, ear infections, which have cost parents 3-5 billion dollars per year, have decreased as air quality has increased, according to the Surgeon General.
In total, the health benefits of the first 20 years of clean air regulation amount to $22.2 trillion and the total compliance costs over the same years cost $0.5 trillion. That's a savings of $21.7 billion dollars over the first 20 years of the Act's existence.
This includes a projected prevention of 1,700,000 asthma attacks, 22,000 respiratory-related hospital admission, 42,000 prevented cardiovascular hospital visits, and 295 million incidents of skin cancer.
Here's to the next 40 years!
This is a fight from which we cannot stand down.  Clean air and water is literally a matter of life and death. Some communities – particularly communities of color – don't have clean air to breathe and clean water to drink.
Our clean air regulations, and the Environmental Protection Agency, need to be strengthened and protected from attacks by special interests – who continually try to put the power of America's regulatory power on the chopping block. We have a long way to go before we breathe a sigh of relief, and a long fight to protect ourselves from the promoters of dirty air.
But let us remember this: every time the American people have insisted upon higher environmental performance from our industries, American business has risen to the occasion. Over and over, entrepreneurs have shown that they can find ways to build private wealth – without unduly harming public health. That will happen, too, when the EPA begins regulating greenhouse gas emissions.
To pretend otherwise is to deliberately ignore our nation's proud history of continually improving our environmental performance. Perhaps worse, it is to confess an appalling lack of confidence in the creative power of American ingenuity.
Special interest lobbyists have been hitting the panic button about clean air regulations for (at least) 40 years. For decades paid lobbyists have tried to dupe the public (and numerous politicians) that spewing poison into the air and water for free was good for business – and that clean air and good health should be an afterthought.
They are wrong. And the champions of clean air are right – still.

The face of global warming

This is what Global Warming looks like from NRDC Broadcast Videos on Vimeo.

September 21, 2010

2 million homeless in India due to flooding

Reuters reports that over 2 million people in India are homeless due to flooding of the Ganges and other rivers that have broken embankments and flooded villages. 

The effects of climate change continue to be felt in this extraordinary year of climate related disasters. Click here to see more images

NY Times Editorial on California Battle over clean energy

The Brothers Koch and AB 32

Four years ago, bipartisan majorities in the California Legislature approved a landmark clean energy bill that many hoped would serve as a template for a national effort to reduce dependence on foreign oil and mitigate the threat of climate change. 

Now a well-financed coalition of right-wing ideologues, out-of-state oil and gas companies and climate-change skeptics is seeking to effectively kill that law with an initiative on the November state ballot. The money men include Charles and David Koch, the Kansas oil and gas billionaires who have played a prominent role in financing the Tea Party movement.
The 2006 law, known as AB 32, is aimed at reducing California's emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases to 1990 levels by 2020 and by 80 percent at midcentury. To reach these targets, state agencies are drawing up regulations that would affect businesses and consumers across the board — requiring even cleaner cars, more energy-efficient buildings and appliances, and power plants that use alternative energy sources like wind instead of older fossil fuels.
The prospect that these rules could reduce gasoline consumption strikes terror into some energy companies. A large chunk of the $8.2 million raised in support of the ballot proposition has come from just two Texas-based oil and gas companies, Valero and Tesoro, which have extensive operations in California. The Koch brothers have contributed about $1 million, partly because they worry about damage to the bottom line at Koch Industries, and also because they believe that climate change is a left-wing hoax.
They have argued that the law will lead to higher energy costs and job losses, arguments that resonate with many voters in a state with a 12.4 percent unemployment rate. But this overlooks the enormous increase in investments in clean energy technologies — and the jobs associated with them — since the law was passed.
Overturning AB 32 would be another setback in the effort to fight climate change. The United States Senate has already scuttled President Obama's goal of putting a price on carbon. The Environmental Protection Agency, while important, can only do so much. This leaves state and regional efforts as crucially important drivers — and if California pulls back, other states like New York that are trying to reduce emissions may do so as well.
The Kochs and their allies are disastrously wrong about the science, which shows that man-made emissions are largely responsible for global warming, and wrong about the economics. AB 32's many friends — led by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger of California — have therefore mounted a spirited counterattack in defense of the law.
Another respected Republican, George Shultz — a cabinet member in both the Nixon and Reagan administrations — has signed on as a co-chairman of this effort. Mr. Shultz credits AB 32 for an unprecedented "outburst" of technological creativity and investment.
Who wins if this law is repudiated? The Koch brothers, maybe, but the biggest winners will be the Chinese, who are already moving briskly ahead in the clean technology race. And the losers? The people of California, surely. But the biggest loser will be the planet.

2 out of 3

Climate Change in Russia

September 17, 2010

Hottest Year so far

NOAA reports that the first eight months of 2010 tied the same period in 1998 for the warmest combined land and ocean surface temperature on record worldwide. 

The record warmth that we are seeing this year is all the more powerful evidence of human-caused warming “because it occurs when the recent minimum of solar irradiance is having its maximum cooling effect,” as a recent NASA paper notes.

White Roofs

NEW YORK — Herb Van Gent points his infrared gun at a square of still unpainted gray shingle and clicks the trigger. He gets an immediate temperature reading: 143 degrees and rising. Then he aims it 5 feet away to a square of roof I have just painted: 98 degrees and decreasing.
He smiles.
"A 45-degree difference and we're only on the first coat," he says. That means it also will be cooler inside the building, he says, saving energy.
Its 11 a.m. and we are on the roof of a New York retirement home, rolling out a thick, shiny white paint. Van Gent is one of a volunteer group that has come up here to paint the roof as part of a city-sponsored "cool roof" program.
The idea of painting roofs white is catching on across the country; Energy Secretary Steven Chu has said it could contribute to the fight against global warming.
"Cool roofs are one of the quickest and lowest-cost ways we can reduce our global carbon emissions and begin the hard work of slowing climate change," said Chu in July, while announcing that Department of Energy buildings would be painted white wherever possible.
While white roofs keep homes cool in summer by letting less heat in, they have little impact on winter heating bills, according to the Cool Roof Rating Council, a non-profit group created in 1998 to research and implement the technology. That's generally because the sun is less intense in winter, the group said, and less important as a heat source. The roofs do not let any more heat escape than other roofs, it said.
In Arizona, cool roofs are mandatory for state and state-funded buildings, while Philadelphia has an ambitious green energy plan that put cool roofs at its center.
In New York, with Mayor Michael Bloomberg's blessing, the Department of Buildings and other public and private groups have vowed to paint 1 million square feet of roof on city-sponsored community buildings. Organizers have advertised on Craigslist for volunteers, promising that the painting is rewarding and fun.

Hurricane Double Feature

A rare double feature: two simultaneous Category 4 hurricanes in the Atlantic, for only the second time in recorded history.

The Atlantic hurricane season of 2010 kicked into high gear this morning, with the landfall of Tropical Storm Karl in Mexico, and the simultaneous presence of two Category 4 hurricanes in the Atlantic, Igor and Julia. Tropical Storm Karl’s formation yesterday marked the fifth earliest date that an eleventh named storm of the season has formed. The only years more active this early in the season were 2005, 1995, 1936 and 1933.

This morning’s unexpected intensification of Hurricane Julia into a Category 4 storm with 135 mph winds has set a new record–Julia is now the strongest hurricane on record so far east. 

This morning is just the second time in recorded history that two simultaneous Category 4 or stronger storms have occurred in the Atlantic. The only other occurrence was on September 16, 1926, when the Great Miami Hurricane and Hurricane Four were both Category 4 storms for a six-hour period. 

Hot Summer Nights

Summer 2010 set temperature records across the country and around the world. NRDC’s analysis of June, July, and August 2010 US temperature data from the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA’s) Historic Climatology Network reveal that this summer set heat records in many parts of the country. In fact, of the 1,218 weather stations in the contiguous United States, with data going back to 1895, 153 locations recorded their hottest summer on record and nearly one in three stations recorded average temperatures among their five hottest on record.

Even more telling is that nighttime lows were the hottest ever recorded at nearly one in four weather stations in NOAA’s Historic Climatology Network. This means that at 278 stations the average nighttime low temperatures for June, July and August 2010 were hotter than at any time since 1895. More than half the stations recorded average nighttime low temperatures among their five hottest on record. Nighttime temperatures are more sensitive to the buildup of heat-trapping pollution in the atmosphere than daytime temperatures because increases in atmospheric aerosols and cloud cover have counteracted some of the warming effect of greenhouse gases during the day. Hot, stagnant nights can prove even more harmful than daytime highs as vulnerable populations (particularly the elderly) are unable to cool down and get relief from the stress of the daytime heat.

September 13, 2010

Pakistan - the story that wasn't

Please remember those who are suffering in Pakistan.  The floods covered an area the size of New York, Massachusetts, Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine combined and made over 18 million people homeless - including half a million pregnant women who are still homeless. Can you imagine the entire Northeast United States underwater? 

Recently I was asked why there was so little coverage of this - the largest climate related disaster of our time. Here's an example. Time Magazine ran the story of Pakistan on the cover of their European, Asian and South Pacific magazines. They didn't even run the story in the US print edition of the magazine. If you want to read the cover story article in the US, you have to do a lot of clicking on their website to find their "Web Exclusive".  Here's the link to the article

As a society we seem to be crossing over to the other side of the street and pretending we don't see those who are suffering, so we don't have to stop and help. 

A University of Michigan professor, Juan Cole, writes about the implications of this denial for our country in this excellent piece. (excerpts below)

No one yet knows just what kind of long-term instability the Pakistani floods are likely to create, but count on one thing: the implications for the United States are likely to be significant and by the time anyone here pays much attention, it will already be too late.  Few Americans were shown — by the media conglomerates of their choice — the heartbreaking scenes of eight million Pakistanis displaced into tent cities, of the submerging of a string of mid-sized cities (each nearly the size of New Orleans), of vast areas of crops ruined, of infrastructure swept away, damaged, or devastated at an almost unimaginable level, of futures destroyed, and opportunistic Taliban bombings continuing.  The boiling disgust of the Pakistani public with the incompetence, insouciance, and cupidity of their corrupt ruling class is little appreciated. 
The likely tie-in of these floods (of a sort no one in Pakistan had ever experienced) with global warming was seldom mentioned.  Unlike, say, BBC Radio, corporate television did not tell the small stories — of, for instance, the female sharecropper who typically has no rights to the now-flooded land on which she grew now-ruined crops thanks to a loan from an estate-owner, and who is now penniless, deeply in debt, and perhaps permanently excluded from the land.  That one of the biggest stories of the past decade could have been mostly blown off by television news and studiously ignored by the American public is a further demonstration that there is something profoundly wrong with corporate news-for-profit.  (The print press was better at covering the crisis, as was publically-supported radio, including the BBC and National Public Radio.) 
In his speech on the withdrawal of designated combat units from Iraq last week, Barack Obama put Pakistan front and center in American security doctrine, "But we must never lose sight of what's at stake. As we speak, al-Qaeda continues to plot against us, and its leadership remains anchored in the border regions of Afghanistan and Pakistan."  Even if Pakistan were not a major non-NATO ally of the United States, it is the world's sixth most populous country and the 44thlargest economy, according to the World Bank. 
The flooding witnessed in the Indus Valley is unprecedented in the country's modern history and was caused by a combination of increasingly warm ocean water and a mysterious blockage of the jet stream, which drew warm, water-laden air north to Pakistan, over which it burst in sheets of raging liquid.  If the floods that followed prove a harbinger of things to come, then they are a milestone in our experience of global warming, a big story in its own right. 
News junkies who watch a lot of television broadcasts could not help but notice with puzzlement that as the cosmic catastrophe unfolded in Pakistan, it was nearly invisible on American networks.  I did a LexisNexis search for the terms "Pakistan" and "flood" in broadcast transcripts (covering mostly American networks) from July 31st to September 4th, and it returned only about 1,100 hits.  A search for the name of troubled actress Lindsay Lohan returned 653 search results in the same period and one for "Iraq," more than 3,000 hits (the most the search engine will count).  A search for "mosque" and "New York" yielded 1,300 hits.  Put another way, the American media, whipped into an artificial frenzy by anti-Muslim bigots like New York gubernatorial candidate Rick Lazio and GOP hatemonger Newt Gingrich, were far more interested in the possible construction of a Muslim-owned interfaith community center two long blocks from the old World Trade Center site than in the sight of millions of hapless Pakistani flood victims.Of course, some television correspondents did good work trying to cover the calamity, including CNN's Reza Sayah and Sanjay Gupta, but they generally got limited air time and poor time slots. (Gupta's special report on the Pakistan floods aired the evening of September 5th, the Sunday before Labor Day, not exactly a time when most viewers might be expected to watch hard news.)  As for the global warming angle, it was not completely ignored.  On August 13th, reporter Dan Harris interviewed NASA scientist Gavin Schmidt on ABC's "Good Morning America" show at 7:45 am.  The subject was whether global warming could be the likely cause for the Pakistan floods and other extreme weather events of the summer, with Schmidt pointing out that such weather-driven cataclysms are going to become more common later in the twenty-first century.   Becky Anderson at CNN did a similar segment at 4 pm on August 16th.  My own search of news transcripts suggests that that was about it for commercial television. 
The "Worst Disaster" TV Didn't Cover 
… By August 9th, nearly 14 million people had been affected by the deluge, the likes of which had never been experienced in the region in modern history, and at least 20% of the country was under water.  At that point, in terms of its human impact, the catastrophe had already outstripped both the 2004 tsunami and the 2010 Haiti earthquake.  On August 10th, the United Nations announced that six million Pakistanis needed immediate humanitarian aid just to stay alive. 
On August 14th, another half-million people were evacuated from the Sindhi city of Jacobabad.  By now, conspiracy theories were swirling inside Pakistan about landlords who had deliberately cut levees to force the waters away from their estates and into peasant villages, or about the possibility that the U.S. military had diverted the waters from its base at Jacobabad.  It was announced that 18 million Pakistanis had now been adversely affected by the floods, having been displaced, cut off from help by the waters, or having lost crops, farms, and other property.  The next day, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon, surveying the damage, pronounced it was "the worst disaster" he had ever seen.
The following week a second crest of river water hit Sindh Province.  On August 30th, it submerged the city of Sujawal (population 250,000).  The next day, however, there were a mere 16 mentions of Pakistan on all American television news broadcasts, mostly on CNN.  On Labor Day weekend, another major dam began to fail in Sindh and, by September 6th, several hundred thousand more people had to flee from Dadu district, with all but four districts in that rich agricultural province having seen at least some flooding. 
Today, almost six million Pakistanis are still homeless, and many have not so much as received tents for shelter.  In large swaths of the country, roads, bridges, crops, power plants — everything that matters to the economy — were inundated and damaged or simply swept away.  Even if the money proves to be available for repairs (and that remains an open question), it will take years to rebuild what was lost and, for many among those millions, the future will mean nothing but immiseration, illness, and death. 
Why the Floods Weren't News 
In the United States, the contrast with the wall-to-wall cable news coverage of the Haitian earthquake in January and the consequent outpouring of public donations was palpable.  Not only has the United Nations' plea for $460 million in aid to cover the first three months of flood response still not been met, but in the past week donations seem to have dried up.  The U.S. government pledged $200 million (some diverted from an already planned aid program for Pakistan) and provided helicopter gunships to rescue cut-off refugees or ferry aid to them. 
What of American civil society?  No rock concerts were organized to help Pakistani children sleeping on highways or in open fields infested with vermin.  No sports events offered receipts to aid victims at risk from cholera and other diseases.  It was as if the great Pakistani deluge were happening in another dimension, beyond the ken of Americans.
A number of explanations have been offered for the lack of empathy, or even interest, not to speak of a visible American unwillingness to help millions of Pakistanis.  As a start, there were perfectly reasonable fears, even among Pakistani-Americans, that such aid money might simply be pocketed by corrupt government officials.  But was the Haitian government really so much more transparent and less corrupt than the Pakistani one? 
It has also been suggested that Americans suffer from donor fatigue, given the string of world disasters in recent years and the bad domestic economy.  On August 16th, for instance, Glenn Beck fulminated: "We can't keep spending. We are broke! Game over… no one is going to ride in to save you… You see the scene in Pakistan? People were waiting in line for aids [sic] from floods. And they were complaining, how come the aid is not here?  Look, when America is gone, who's going to save the people in Pakistan? See, we got to change this one, because we're the ones that always ride in to save people." 
Still, the submerging of a fifth of a country the size of Pakistan is — or at least should be — a dramatic global event and even small sums, if aggregated, would matter.  (A dollar and a half from each American would have met the U.N. appeal.)  Some have suggested that the Islamophobia visible in the debate about the Park 51 Muslim-owned community center in lower Manhattan left Americans far less willing to donate to Muslim disaster victims. 
And what of those national security arguments that nuclear-armed Pakistan is crucial not just to the American war in Afghanistan, but to the American way of life?  Ironically, the collapse of the neoconservative narrative about what it takes to make the planet's "sole superpower" secure appears to have fallen on President Obama's head.  One of the few themes he adopted wholeheartedly from the Bush administration has been the idea that a poor Asian country of 170 million halfway around the world, facing a challenge from a few thousand rural fundamentalists, is the key to the security of the United States. 
If the Pakistani floods reveal one thing, it's that Americans now look on such explanations through increasingly jaundiced eyes.  At the moment, no matter whether it's the Afghan War or those millions of desperate peasants and city dwellers in Pakistan, the public has largely decided to ignore the AfPak theater of operations….

September 12, 2010

Face Facts

Face facts: Climate change is unfolding as predicted
Published: Friday, September 03, 2010, 6:06 AM
Star-Ledger Editorial Board Star-Ledger Editorial Board 
The wildfires in Russia, the floods in Pakistan and the record heat this summer in New Jersey have one thing in common: They are exactly the kind of symptoms scientists predicted we'd experience as global warming occurs.
No, we cannot say for sure that man-made pollutants are the cause. The science is not that precise. But we can measure the effects.
Glaciers that have been stable for centuries are now melting at an alarming rate. Hurricanes are becoming more severe as ocean temperatures rise. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration announced last month that 2010 is breaking all temperature records. And that is no fluke — the 10 hottest years on record have all occurred since 1990.
A rational person would look at this evidence and listen to the scientists who are warning of catastrophic impacts over the next few decades, such as coastal flooding and the collapse of rain-fed agriculture in many regions, especially Africa. If the scientists are right, a lot of people are going to die as a result of climate change. Pentagon planners are preparing for wars and instability that could result.
Republicans in Washington have killed any chance for climate change legislation, for now. Polls show that while most Americans believe climate change is occurring, most Republicans do not. And given the probability that Republicans will gain power in November, the prospects for a comprehensive answer to this appear grim.
For now, we can only chip away at the problem. The Environmental Protection Agency under Lisa Jackson is preparing to impose regulations on carbon emissions, as the Clean Air Act requires. Washington is also subsidizing clean energy sources such as wind and solar, as are states like New Jersey. On the east and west coasts, regional agreements to begin limiting emissions from power plants are getting off the ground.
None of this is nearly enough. And until the United States takes much bolder action, developing countries like China, now the world's largest emitter of greenhouse gases, won't make the needed changes either.
As the world dawdles, this problem will grow worse, and the solution will have to be more drastic, more expensive and disruptive. For that, we will have the climate-change skeptics to thank.

September 2, 2010

McKibben on Letterman

Nuclear companies buying wind and solar companies

The NY Times reports that Exelon, a nuclear giant that recently backed away from building new nuclear plants, is buying wind farms. 

Earlier this year the French nuclear company Areva announced their plans to buy Ausra a solar energy company... 

This may be all you really need to know about the state of nuclear versus renewable energy.

Fannie Mac and Freddie Mac kill PACE

It is a travesty that Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac are single handedly killing one of the best programs for encouraging renewable energy and energy efficiency in the country - PACE. 

I've written to Scott Brown, John Kerry, Barney Frank, and Ed Markey to encourage legislative action to require that Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac support PACE renewable energy and energy efficiency home loans. 

The Property Assessed Clean Energy programs have been one of the best programs for creating jobs and saving energy across the country. 

The NY Times reports that many homeowners who participated in a program that let them repay the cost of solar panels and other energy improvements through an annual surcharge on their property taxes must pay off the loans before they can refinance their mortgages, two government-chartered mortgage companies said Tuesday.
The guidance came from Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac as efforts to resolve a dispute over the program — called Property Assessed Clean Energy, or PACE— have failed.
Approved by 22 states, the programs let municipalities sell bonds to finance improvements in energy efficiency. Homeowners typically pay back the loans over 20 years through an annual property tax assessment. As is the case with other property tax assessments, a lien is placed on the home that has priority over the mortgage if the homeowner defaults.
In July, the Federal Housing Finance Agency, which oversees Fannie and Freddie, effectively derailed the program when it issued guidance to lenders stating that the liens violated the agency's underwriting standards. Fannie and Freddie buy and sell most of the nation's home mortgages.
That guidance led to the halt of most PACE programs and left in limbo those homeowners who had already taken out energy improvement loans.
On Tuesday, Fannie and Freddie issued guidance to lenders stating that borrowers with sufficient equity in their homes must pay off the loans before refinancing. Those homeowners without enough equity to take cash out of their home to pay off the lien can refinance with the loan in place.