Sunday, March 22, 2009

Senator Boxer: Global Warming Action

On March 19th, Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA), Chairman of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, delivered remarks on the path forward for addressing global warming, including legislation and other actions. Included in her speech were the following prinicples:

The primary goals of this legislation would be to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to avoid dangerous global warming while promoting economic growth and energy independence. To achieve these goals, legislation to cut global warming pollution shall:

1. Reduce emissions to levels guided by science to avoid dangerous global warming.

2. Set short and long term emissions targets that are certain and enforceable, with periodic review of the climate science and adjustments to targets and policies as necessary to meet emissions reduction targets.

3. Ensure that state and local entities continue pioneering efforts to address global warming.

4. Establish a transparent and accountable market-based system that efficiently reduces carbon emissions.

5. Use revenues from the carbon market to:

- Keep consumers whole as our nation transitions to clean energy;
- Invest in clean energy technologies and energy efficiency measures;
- Assist states, localities and tribes in addressing and adapting to global warming impacts;
- Assist workers, businesses and communities, including manufacturing states, in the transition to a clean energy economy;
- Support efforts to conserve wildlife and natural systems threatened by global warming; and
-Work with the international community, including faith leaders, to provide support to developing nations in responding and adapting to global warming. In addition to other benefits, these actions will help avoid the threats to international stability and national security posed by global warming.

6. Ensure a level global playing field, by providing incentives for emission reductions and effective deterrents so that countries contribute their fair share to the international effort to combat global warming.

A video of her speech, and the transcript are here.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

PowerShift: Climate-Energy Legislation Now

The Power Shift '09 Lobby Day on March 2nd was the largest lobby day on climate and energy in our nation's history. Power Shift '09 called on the United States Congress to pass comprehensive climate and energy legislation in 2009 that adheres to the following principles:

1. Cut Carbon Dramatically and Immediately
  • Reduce global warming pollution by the targets science tells us are necessary: 25%-40% below 1990 levels by 2020; and 80%-95% below 1990 levels by 2050.
  • Set an aggressive cap on carbon immediately. If a cap-and-auction mechanism is chosen, 100% of pollution allowances must be auctioned. Any revenue generated from this cap must be used to address the climate crisis in a just and equitable way; none of this money should go to polluting industries.
  • Conserve and restore the world’s forests, ecosystems, and carbon sinks, which are the best natural defense in a warming world.

2. Invest in a Green Economy

  • Create 5 million new jobs through investments in clean energy
  • Develop a “Clean Energy Corps” to create service, training, and job opportunities in the clean energy economy
  • Train a generation of workers and volunteers to build our clean energy future and help communities adapt to the already changing climate

3. Power our Future With Clean Energy, not Dirty Fuels

  • We see a future powered by clean, renewable energy like wind, solar, and geothermal; 100% of our electricity should come from these sources, and we should invest in sustainable transit and energy efficiency
  • End our dependence on dirty energy by enacting a moratorium on financing and development of new coal and nuclear plants, and oil shale and tar sands infrastructure
  • Immediately begin phasing out dirty and dangerous energy sources and methods of extraction, while also ensuring a just transition for affected workers and communities

4. Lead the World to a Clean and Equitable Energy Future

  • Work with other nations to reach a strong new global climate treaty in Copenhagen that puts us on track to reduce carbon below 350 parts per million
  • Assist vulnerable communities and developing countries in the transition to low-carbon economies and with adaptation to the changing climate

The future of the young people hangs in the balance of Congressional decisions. There is no waiting. There is no higher priority. As such, young citizens who support the Power Shift '09 principles demand the passage of bold climate and energy legislation in 2009.

The full document is at Power Shift '09 Lobby Day article about Power Shift '09: Environmentalism, Millennial-Style

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Liberty, Justice & Clean Energy for All

The Capitol Climate Action, a protest held in Washington DC at the U.S. Capitol Power Plant on March 2nd, was a huge success. This was a non-violent protest and no one was arrested. Around 2,000 people showed up, despite a freak snow storm and cold weather in DC.

The protest was about generating energy by burning coal, the largest single contributor to greenhouse gas emissions and global climate change. We heard from NASA's Dr. James Hansen, climate change guru. We also heard from Bill McKibben, environmentalist author of The End of Nature (1989), the first book on global warming for a general audience. But the protest was about more than global warming. Young people, whose futures are on the line, were shouting exuberant chants such as:
Tell me what Democracy looks like,
THIS is what Democracy looks like!

Many of these young adults had attended the PowerShift '09 conference, and were in DC to lobby Congress for a clean energy future with green jobs and environmental justice.

We saw all sorts of placards: Coal stinks! Coal is dirty! Coal makes us sick! Stop Coal!

We heard from indigenous peoples speaking with the utmost respect for the environment and "Mother Earth", and who view the seams of underground coal as her "liver". These people are being pushed off their land in the southwest to make way for coal strip mines. Others can't eat the fish from their waterways because of mercury contamination from burning coal.

We heard from a local resident who lives one block from the Capitol Power Plant who told of getting "rained on" by power plant emissions that later had to be removed her car windshield with an ice scrapper. She also told of a high cancer incidence on her street, in people and in dogs.

A woman from Australia where coal and uranium are mined for export said, "We are dying to give the world energy!"

Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. gave a rousing speech, saying that coal companies could not survive in the marketplace if they had to pay their own freight, referring to the heavy government subsidies that taxpayers provide to keep coal "cheap". He also talked about the negative impact on public health of mercury pollution and particulates from coal-fired power plants, and the environmental devastation of coal mining by mountaintop removal.
Below is a brief video interview about the protest with R.F.K.Jr. just before the march to the power plant:

There were many other luminaries, celebrities and concerned citizens who spoke. Here's a sampling of the Capitol Power Plant protest NEWS:
UPDATE, March 4th: Protest video from Capitol Climate Action:

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Dirty Coal: Pollution, Health, Jail & Change

Burning coal is the single largest contributor to global warming pollution and also to toxic mercury pollution. Smog-generating pollution, acid pollution and particulates from burning coal have been cleaned from some but not all coal-fired power plants. In 2007, Congress planned to 'Green' the Capitol, in part by switching from dirty coal to cleaner-burning natural gas at the Capitol Power Plant. But when it came down to the decision on coal, Congress was just blowing smoke. Pressured by legislators from coal States, Congress allowed the Capitol Power Plant to continue polluting the DC air by burning coal.

The U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has reported that global warming threatens human populations and the world’s ecosystems with intensifying heat waves, floods, drought, extreme weather, and by spreading infectious diseases. The Panel stated that the U.S. and other industrialized countries need to reduce global warming pollution by 25% to 40% by 2025 to avoid the most severe impacts of climate change. Burning coal is the single largest contributor to the problem. A transition to Clean, Renewable Energy sources is the solution, and it will also create new jobs, revitalizing our economy. Coal has become a liability, and it's now TIME FOR A CHANGE!

It's not just the air that's being polluted by using coal as an energy source. Waterways are polluted and the environment is being destroyed at the expense of getting at coal in a very eco-unfriendly way that provides ten times fewer jobs than traditional mining. In Kentucky and West Virginia, the mountaintops are literally being blown off to extract coal, raping the environment and raining toxic waste down on the valleys, polluting streams, wells and drinking water. In New York's Adirondack region and elsewhere, the lakes and rivers have been acidified and contaminated by mercury from air polluted by burning coal in upwind states, resulting in the killing of waterfowl, fish and plants. Mercury can damage developing brains of fetuses and young children, and high levels of mercury in fish have elicited advisories that children as well as women of childbearing age should not eat any fish from contaminated waters. Mercury pollution and mountaintop removal, that's GOT TO CHANGE!

And then there is the ash waste from burning coal. While most of the mercury goes up in smoke and unfortunately gets deposited elsewhere and incorporated into the food chain, less volatile toxic chemicals present in coal, like arsenic and lead, are concentrated by ten fold in the ash waste. In Tennessee, peoples' homes, properties and dreams were destroyed when 1 Billion gallons of coal ash surged out of an earthen storage dam, fouling the environment and polluting waterways with toxic chemical waste. Many people have switched to bottled drinking water. Some report respiratory problems associated with breathing airborne ash. Others are living in fear of future illnesses, such as cancer, that take time to develop. Environmental pollution with toxic coal ash waste, that's GOT TO CHANGE!

And then there is Jail. It might seem that it's the coal mining and power company owners who profit by polluting the planet, threatening public health, and destroying the environment are the one's who should be sent to jail. Ironically, good citizens have been arrested for non-violent protests against mountaintop removal and coal-burning plants in Kentucky, Maryland, Ohio, West Virginia, Virginia and elsewhere. Folks from these and many other States involved in the DC Capitol Climate Action, who care about the planet, not profit, are now willing to go to jail to stop coal companies from performing their dirty deeds. In the past, companies have gotten a "get out of jail free" card from Congressmen, who have received significant financial contributions from company lobbyists. That's GOT TO CHANGE!

News from the front lines of the anti-coal movement:
Movement for Clean Energy, Stable Climate, Environmental Justice and Public Health

Bill McKibben, Wendell Berry, Gus Speth, Jim Hansen, Kathy Mattea, Mike Tidwell and many other notable people have made it known that they are willing to get arrested on Monday, March 2nd at the Capitol Power Plant to put an end to burning coal. See current articles and video below, and updates at Capitol Climate Action.

The Carbon Addicts on Capitol Hill
by Bill McKibben
"The power plant is only a symbol, of course -- a lunch counter or a bus station in the fight for environmental justice. We'll sit down at its gates for a single afternoon, but the message is much larger: It's time to start figuring out how to shut down every coal-fired plant on the planet. Success won't come right away because we're up against some of the world's richest corporations, but we have to start turning this tanker around someday, and tomorrow is that day." Full article at The Washington Post.

See you in jail:
It's not symbolism when you live in D.C.

Why I'm joining 2,000 people for a global warming mass arrest on Monday,
by Mike Tidwell, Chesapeake Climate Action Network, Click Here.

Coal Action Heats Up Capitol Hill
PowerShift, the youth climate movement, and Capitol Climate Action
At 6:30pm I'll be watching online the "Artists for the Climate: A Night with Wendell Berry, Bill McKibben and Gus Speth"
This will be a night of discussion, poetry and inspiration. Also appearing will be noted authors and activists Terry Tempest Williams and Janisse Ray, Rev. Lennox Yearwood of the Hip Hop Caucus, and singer Kathy Mattea. The live link is here, and following the event, it will be replaced by a link to a video recording.

UPDATES: Monday, March 2nd, from Capitol Climate Action

PowerShift 2009

Young People to Swarm Capitol With Green Agenda
Sunday, March 1, 2009
WASHINGTON -- Thousands of young people, many of them emboldened by the 2008 presidential contest, will descend on the Capitol tomorrow to urge the government to take radical action to stem climate change and plant the seeds of a green economy.

Arriving Friday from every state in the union -- as well as every Canadian province and more than a dozen countries -- about 12,000 people, most between 18 and 26 years old, are in the District this weekend for Power Shift '09, a summit aimed at raising environmental awareness and lobbying leaders on green issues. Full story in The Washington Post.

PowerShift 2009, the video:

Here is a small sampling of a long list of fine speakers at PowerShift 2009:
Two Obama administration officials spoke. EPA administrator Lisa Jackson said that “science is back” at the EPA. Ken Salazar, Secretary of the Interior, promised that the department would no longer be the department of fossil fuel extraction. Youth climate leader, Billy Parish stressed the need to tell Congress that clean energy is a better investment than dirty energy because it creates more jobs. Other youth climate leaders included the Energy Action Coalition Executive Director Jessy Tolkan, and Adam Gardner of the eco-friendly band, Guster. There were multiple keynote addresses, including those by Bill McKibben, environmental author and founder of, and by legislators Rep. Ed Markey and Rep. Donna Edwards, and by Majora Carter of the Majora Carter Group and founder of Sustainable South Bronx, and Van Jones of Green For All. Accompanied by her two little children and sources of inspiration, was Gillian Caldwell of 1Sky.
Speaking sessions ended at night with musical performances by Santigold, The Roots and The London Souls.

For running instant updates via Twitter, the Youth Climate way, click here. For more information, visit PowerShift 2009.