Brazil, South Africa, India and China Want Legally Binding Outcome by 2011


Ministers from four of the major emerging economies – Brazil, South Africa, India, and China (the “BASIC” group) – met over the weekend and through Monday to discuss the next steps in international efforts to address global warming.  These four countries played a critical role in Copenhagen and collectively account for around 30% of the world’s global warming pollution* so they are critical players in addressing this challenge.  And each of them have made commitments as a part of the Copenhagen Accord to reduce their emissions and are implementing policies to achieve those goals (as I discussed here).
So when these four countries meet, we pay very close intention to both the spirit and words of their joint statements.  And their statement from this weekend provides us with some insights on where they think things should head internationally (full text available here).  Here are some insights that I drew that were new (or at least reaffirmed more firmly by putting pen to paper on that issue).
They want an internationally legally binding agreement (and one that applies to them as well).  Coming out of Copenhagen, there was some uncertainty in the minds of some commentators and countries regarding whether the major emerging economies really wanted an international legally binding agreement.  Some perceived that these countries only want a legally binding agreement if it applies to the developed countries (and not to developing countries).  While they didn’t completely clarify what they mean by “legally binding” (a critical point) these countries did confirm that they do indeed want a “legally binding agreement”.   Continued...


People's Climate Stewardship Act


It's time to take back Earth Day.

Some of our best friends have become the planet's worst enemies.

The climate and energy bills in Congress were designed by big banks and fat-cat environmental organizations that have lost touch with the people and nature. 

The bills all use smoke-and-mirrors: cap-and-trade, offsets, and give-aways.

The truth is this: as long as fossil fuels are the cheapest energy we will go to the ends of Earth the deepest ocean, the most pristine land for the last drop of oil and gas, and destroy mountains for the last shard of coal.

But that would guarantee climate disasters for young people and nature – we would destroy creation.

Fossil fuels are cheapest only because they do not pay their costs to society – for damage to human health, the environment and future generations.

So today, based on discussions with religious leaders, congressional staffers, economists, and concerned citizens, I am proposing a People's Climate Stewardship bill. Continued...


Earth Day 2011


April 22nd is Earth Day. This year, Earth Day's theme is themed after A Billion Acts of Green: the Earth Day Network's people-powered campaign to generate a billion acts of environmental service and advocacy.

The first Earth Day, on April 22, 1970, activated 20 million Americans from all walks of life and is widely credited with launching the modern environmental movement. The passage of the landmark Clean Air Act, Clean Water Act, Endangered Species Act and many other groundbreaking environmental laws soon followed. Growing out of the first Earth Day, Earth Day Network (EDN) works with over 22,000 partners in 192 countries to broaden, diversify and mobilize the environmental movement. More than 1 billion people now participate in Earth Day activities each year, making it the largest civic observance in the world.

To find local activities and to learn more, visit the Earth Day Network.

Earth Day 2010


4/22/2010.  From Earth Day Network:  "Forty years after the first Earth Day, the world is in greater peril than ever. While climate change is the greatest challenge of our time, it also presents the greatest opportunity – an unprecedented opportunity to build a healthy, prosperous, clean energy economy now and for the future.

Earth Day 2010 can be a turning point to advance climate policy, energy efficiency, renewable energy and green jobs. Earth Day Network is galvanizing millions who make personal commitments to sustainability. Earth Day 2010 is a pivotal opportunity for individuals, corporations and governments to join together and create a global green economy. Join the more than one billion people in 190 countries that are taking action for Earth Day."

Take Action here:  http://www.earthday.org/earthday2010

NASA's New Eye on the Sun


NASA's new Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO), launched on February 11, 2010, has returned remarkable images of the sun.  

← An ultraviolet view  of the sun.  

A full-disk multiwavelength extreme ultraviolet image of the sun taken by SDO on March 30, 2010. False colors trace different gas temperatures. Reds are relatively cool (about 60,000 Kelvin, or 107,540 F); blues and greens are hotter (greater than 1 million Kelvin, or 1,799,540 F). Credit: NASA/Goddard/SDO AIA Team

The new observatory gives us a view of the sun in dynamic formats and is referred to, by NASA, as one of the most advanced spacecrafts ever launched.

"These initial images show a dynamic sun that I had never seen in more than 40 years of solar research,” said Richard Fisher, director of the Heliophysics Division at NASA Headquarters in Washington.  Continued...


Koch Industries' Unsolicited Emails: More questions than answers


Earlier this month, I post an article (link) that included information about Koch Industries' involvement with Americans for Prosperity.

On April 6, 2010, I received a request for a correction from Koch Industries regarding their involvement with Dick Armey; a request that began with the representative's claim of Koch Industries' "environmental stewardship."

I updated my post regarding Dick Armey (from current to prior involvement with Koch affiliated groups) and requested answers in return to four questions about Koch Industries' environmental stewardship and involvement with Americans for Prosperity:

1. Is AFP, as seemingly implied in 
Lee Fang's [Think Progress] article, planning to challenge any town hall meetings, representatives or legislators over upcoming climate legislation in the manner as was observed during last summer's town hall meetings on the health care debate?

2. Is Koch Industries, as stated in Fang's article, "the largest funder of climate science denying organizations in the world" and, whether that is true or not, what is Koch Industries' position on climate change?

3. Does Koch Industries have a position on the threats of violence that have become a risk with an incited population?

4. Is Koch Industries either working with and/or interested in working with the current administration to find the best way for both business and the environment to succeed? If so, what initiatives have been proposed and/or undertaken? If not, what would you like to see happen?

The representative replied that that Koch would get back to me. I await further communication.

This exchange became all the more interesting after 
Rachel Maddow's April 15th report that Talking Points Memo had received an unsolicited email from Koch Industries (a different representative from the one who had contacted me) claiming no affiliation with Tea Parties (from the TPM report) (a claim that Koch has since withdrawn).  Continued...

Obama's Second Chance on the Predominant Moral Issue of this Century


President Obama, finally, took a get-involved get-tough approach to negotiations on health care legislation and the arms control treaty with Russia -- with success. Could this be the turn-around for what might still be a great presidency?

The predominant moral issue of the 21st century, almost surely, will be climate change, comparable to Nazism faced by Churchill in the 20th century and slavery faced by Lincoln in the 19th century. Our fossil fuel addiction, if unabated, threatens our children and grandchildren, and most species on the planet.

Yet the president, addressing climate in the State of the Union, was at his good-guy worst, leading with "I know that there are those who disagree..." with the scientific evidence. This weak entrée, almost legitimizing denialists, was predictably greeted by cheers and hoots from well-oiled coal-fired Congressmen. The president was embarrassed and his supporters cringed.



Hollywood's Fix for America's Three and a Half Trillion-Dollar Lobbying Addiction


In 3rd century BC Rome, actors were considered equal to prostitutes. In 2010, actors and others in entertainment have evolved into a major force behind campaigns and progressive causes. Unfortunately, these efforts resulted in only token reform due to a greater problem in America.

The United States of America has a dirty little secret. We're addicted to a drug. A drug dealt everyday in the halls of Congress, on the streets of Washington and at the exclusive Georgetown soirees. That drug is corruption, pure and simple. And the dealers are lobbyists. The year 2009 was record breaking for the lobbying industry, mostly due to the health care debate, with total spending on all issues at more than $3.47 billion.

Last year, nearly $545 million was spent just on health care. It would sound fabulous if it actually went to caring for people's health. Except it was spent on health care industry
lobbyists, whose expensive words and promises were thrown all around Washington. Not a penny was spent on the 56-year-old retired schoolteacher, Lorraine O'Malley's chemotherapy bill. Or 20-year-old college student John Bamberger's emergency appendectomy. Or Karen Toolin's medical costs after a terrible car accident following her layoff from a company she was loyal to for 23 years.

Recently, the Congressional Budget Office estimated the proposed health care plan will cost the United States $94 billion a year over ten years, will reduce the deficit by $138 billion over that time and extend coverage to 32 million more Americans.  

The PR agencies hired by the health care industry told conservative lawmakers that reform will put our country further into debt. Then the conservative lawmakers spewed this message to American people. Are we to presume that the same groups that spend $545 million on health care 
talk are concerned with the cost of this health care bill?  

Americans are so conditioned to hearing "billions and trillions of dollars" spent on "Operation This" and "Operation That" and the unfathomable amount of money we owe China, that when we hear about $545 million being wasted on 
words, it's easy to blink once and change the channel.  Continued...

The President’s Power Tools


On Capitol Hill, the ship of state is so bereft of rudder and sail that the crew is jumping overboard. The latest to abandon ship is Sen. Evan Bayh of Indiana, who minced no words about the dysfunctional Congress he is choosing to leave.

Forget for a moment about health care and financial reform. On national energy and environmental issues, which have been stalled in the congressional queue, we have a critical national security threat, a danger to public health and welfare, and national policy that encourages American families to inadvertently fund terrorists.

Those are among the reasons the paralyzing partisanship on Capitol Hill is so serious a dereliction of duty.

So what can the President of the United States do? Quite a lot if he’s willing to use the executive powers he’s been given by the Constitution, the courts and past Congresses.

That’s what President Obama is planning now, according to the New York Times. “With much of his legislative agenda stalled in Congress,” the Times reports, “President Obama and his team are preparing an array of actions using his executive power to advance energy, environmental, fiscal and other domestic policy priorities.”  Continued...


About those offshore rigs


Unlike many of my colleagues, I was not all that surprised at President Obama's announcement that he will open up specific locations to offshore drilling. The urge to demand a consistent position of the president when it comes to the climate seems like the right thing to do. But I have long been aware of the pragmatic and, quite possibly, cynical considerations that may have led to the president's decision.

It is about the climate. Not the long-term trends of weather and geophysics, but the political and factional climate currently in our country, since there can be no argument a storm is brewing come November that could make last August look like a picnic.

How is a president to deal with climate legislation in such a poisonous atmosphere? The rigs give a clue. Offshore drilling on the locations he cited could take years to put in place and longer to see results. By that time, if we're not getting our energy from alternative sources, those rigs will be the least of our problems.  

The "drill-baby-drill" mantra, however, despite the evidence to the contrary of the advantage it would provide, has become a talking point that flares whenever gas prices rise -- gas prices that rise in the summer also rise in conjunction with election cycles. 

Is it possible that certain industries might not want democrats reelected to the slim majorities they now hold?

With the initiatives President Obama will be put through on energy in the next few months, as evidenced by the new fuel standards set the other day and with the climate legislation that is coming up this summer, he faces an easy (for his opponents) talking point (among many) with drill-baby-drill. 

Do you remember last summer? The demonstrations and town halls that turned into hate-fests? Behind many of those who protested was a group, Americans for Prosperity, that is run by the former Rep. Dick Armey.  That has received some publicity.  What had not been widely publicized is Armey's connection to one of world's biggest polluters, Koch Industries...   Continued...

That Acrid Smell in the Air


Oh how I hate an ism. Born in the first half of the twentieth century I've lived through them all. That century was cursed with fascism, communism, and McCarthyism. In the twenty first we have Islamic terrorism. 

I must apologize if I am adding to the already overcrowded list of isms -- but with the threats from Republican Congressmen, the bulls-eye targeting of Sarah Palin of the Democrats she disagrees with, and the racist and homophobic curses from the Tea Party ringing in our ears after the passage of the health care bill, I suggest that we take a look backwards at the sad story of Timothy James McVeigh and see the McVeighism that is festering. 

Here was a man so filled with rage and resentment against the government for its Waco and Ruby Ridge raids, and a generalized hatred for American foreign policy, that he used explosives to blow up the Alfred P. Murrah Federal building in April of 1995 killing 168 people, injuring 450 others, nineteen of them small children in a day care center. Continued...