Archive for the 'Climate Policy' Category

Climate Crisis: Radical Action or a New Battlefront in the War on Nature?

Climate change is happening, but geoengineering schemes are not the solutions we need

by Rachel Smolker and Almuth Ernsting
(cross-posted from Common Dreams)

Will declaring a ‘climate emergency’ help to finally prompt radical action to address climate change?  A growing number of campaigners as well as scientists think so and hope that a major wakeup call about unfolding climate disasters will spur governments and people into action.

The planet needs a break from humanity's assault, not a new 'war' on nature in the form of geoengineering schemes.

The planet needs a break from humanity’s assault, not a new ‘war’ on nature in the form of geoengineering schemes.

Whether a lack of scary-enough facts about climate change has been holding back real action is questionable.  After all, it requires a fair amount of psychological denial to not be alarmed by the escalating heat waves, droughts, floods and destructive mega storms. Continue reading ‘Climate Crisis: Radical Action or a New Battlefront in the War on Nature?’

Enbridge Greeted With Vocal Opposition at BC Hearings

This week, the Joint Review Panel has been holding hearings in Victoria about the Enbridge Northern Gateway Pipeline. Just today, the Dogwood Initiative tweeted:

Final speaker of the day makes it official! 141 OPPOSED – in favour, ZERO at the #yyj #Enbridge #JRP hearings #bcpoli

Earlier in the week, several news outlets (written coverage here and TV coverage here) reported heavy police presence and “armed guards” at the hearings, where the public is supposed to be able to express their opinions on the pipeline which is planned to carry over 500,000 barrels of tar sands per day from Alberta to the Pacific Coast where it will be exported. Organizers with Social Coast organized events outside of the hearings and criticized the undemocratic nature of the hearings. “They are public hearings, are they not?” asked Eric Nordal of Social Coast. The format of the hearings taking place this month and next in Victoria, Vancouver, and Kelowna are having a different format than previous hearings on the same pipeline. People who have registered to speak are asked to speak to the panel one at a time, while others wait in a separate observation room. A few months ago, there were also updates as to what people were allowed to speak about, prohibiting people to address issues such as climate change.

The following is a release sent out by Rising Tide-Vancouver, Coast Salish Territories. A long list of endorsers indicates the broad-based opposition to Enbridge, and other pipelines that would bring fossil fuels to the coast and across unceded Inidgenous territories.

Media Release-January 7th, 2013

Enbridge Panel to be Greeted with Loud Demonstration
Diverse list of grassroots groups demand consent not consultation

When the Enbridge pipeline joint Environmental Assessment and Energy Board hearings open in Vancouver on January 14th they will be greeted by community members determined to make their opposition heard on the streets and inside the hearing room. A large, noise demonstration will march through downtown Vancouver in full support of the self-determination of Indigenous communities, and their rights to say no to oil and gas pipelines across their territories.

The Harper government has gutted Canada’s already weak environmental laws, giving cabinet the final say on pipeline projects and making the Joint Review Panel hearings merely a public relations (consultation) exercise. This undemocratic change attempts to remove the rights of communities to say no to big oil corporations. Continue reading ‘Enbridge Greeted With Vocal Opposition at BC Hearings’

Doha Climate Talks: First Farce, then Tragedy

The lead-up to COP18 which started in Doha, Qatar this week, would have been farcical, if not for the tragic reminder from Hurricane Sandy that climate change is deadly, and is already upon us.

But for a moment, let’s appreciate the ironies:

Rio+20, “The Future We Want,” summit in June of this year was declared a failure on almost all counts. The tepid commitments, all voluntary, sound exactly like the future fossil fuel industries want. But in Doha, under the mandate of the UNFCCC, parties will agree on issues like finance, carbon markets, and REDD+.

Protester in Rio, June 2012.

Sounds reasonable? Think twice- COP18 is in Qatar, an OPEC nation with some of the highest emissions per capita that has been barely involved in climate negotiations. International campaigners Avaaz posted, “having one of the OPEC leaders in charge of climate talks is like asking Dracula to look after a blood bank.”

At least we can turn to our “climate leaders,” like the EU. Turns out the debt crisis has our European friends a little distracted from their climate commitments. Spain, Germany, Italy, the U.K. and France have all cut aid to renewables.

Well there are some “easy” issues to resolve in Doha, like fund transfers from wealthy countries to developing countries for mitigation and adaptation, right? But the farce continues- just in time for the conference to start, an international report finds that most wealthy countries are falling embarrassingly short of their commitments thus far for fund transfers. So much for the easy stuff.

Okay, at least they off-set their emissions! 25k metric tons of carbon was “eliminated” in the CDM carbon market to off-set 10,000 participants traveling to Doha. Yet this comes amidst mounting evidence that the carbon markets are broken, with the value of credits in the CDM plunging 93% in two years, and the EU system failing to reduce emissions. (I’ll spare the gory details of CDM’s social injustice.)

Yet, somehow in the fracas, carbon speculators are optimistic for Doha. Unlike the negotiators, they’ve figured out they can still make a handsome profit even if emissions don’t drop. In the rush to appease and appeal to business interests, negotiators have bought into a “Green Economy” narrative, where climate solutions are reduced to financial and technological fixes. REDD+, CDM, and other carbon offsets allow industrialized countries to avoid shifting their economies off fossil fuels, and speculators in new carbon markets reap the rewards.

The Doha skyline.

The choice of some climate justice groups to skip the trip to Doha is looking better and better.

So is the COP system broken? Can we expect anything out of Doha? With Sandy barely behind us, and more storms on the horizon, a meaningful U.N. process may feel like our last hope. However most major decisions are mapped out in preparatory meetings, such as those in Bonn and Bangkok this year.  While the presence of critical voices is important, so far the COPs have proven to leave out indigenous peoples, youth, and others most impacted by climate change.  We can’t count on negotiators to broker our future with fossil fuel corporations.

The recent position paper from Focus on the Global South offers a critique and an alternative: “The capitalist system is seeking to get out of this economic crisis through a process of reconfiguration that implies a new process of exploitation of humans and nature… …To confront the interests and power of corporations, our struggle must have as starting point the daily life of the people affected by climate change and not the UNFCCC negotiations.”

Around the world, more and more people are connecting the dots and challenging the root causes of climate change and false solutions. From the Tar Sands Blockade in Texas, to First Nations in British Columbia, to indigenous communities impacted by REDD+ in Mexico, people are taking a stand for their communities and ecology. As Hurricane Sandy showed, if we aren’t already, we all may soon be on the frontlines of climate change.

As Focus on the Global South writes, “A ‘one size fits all’ model like neoliberalism or centralized bureaucratic socialism is not the answer. Instead, diversity should be expected and encouraged, as it is in nature.” Real solutions come from the grassroots.

The Photos Rep Denny Rehberg Doesn’t Want You to See

One of the great things about the age of email, Twitter, and Facebook, is it theoretically allows ordinary people to connect quickly and easily with their elected officials, sharing their views about matters of concern to them.  In the perfect democracy, politicians would embrace the opportunity to host open and transparent discussions about big issues online.

Yet in the real world, politicians all too often use tools like Facebook merely to have a one-sided conversation, projecting the image they want you to see while removing posts and comments they disagree with.  A case in point is Montana’s Congressman Denny Rehberg (who is running for the US Senate this year).

One week ago, after a weekend of action against coal exports in the Northwest, youth activists posted photos from a rally outside of Rehberg’s office on his Facebook page.  Since the action was on a Sunday, when no one was in the office, we wanted to make sure Rehberg still knew we had been there.  Some of us hoped he might even respond to our concerns about expanded coal mining, and explain why he continues to support the coal industry despite it’s record of health, safety, and environmental violations.

Instead, the photos were removed from Rehberg’s Facebook page almost immediately.  No comments, no explanation, nothing.

Continue reading ‘The Photos Rep Denny Rehberg Doesn’t Want You to See’

From Pillars to Platform: Demystifying the Durban Outcome

“If we accept this text, we are killing ourselves.” These were the words of an ambassador from a small island nation in the final hours of the longest UN climate negotiations in history. “We may be small, but we are not dead,” he continued. With these strong statements, the ambassador sought to rally other countries like his to push back against the weak agreement the conference had produced.

Continue reading more on the Fletcher Forum.

BREAKING: U.S. Youth Ejected from Climate Talks While Calling Out Congress’s Failure

Abigail Borah calls out Congress and the Obama Administration's inaction at the UN climate talks in South Africa before being removed by security

Abigail Borah calls out Congress and the Obama Administration's inaction at the UN climate talks in South Africa before being removed by security. credit: Katherine Rainone, SustainUS

Durban, South Africa – After nearly two weeks of stalled progress by the United States at the international climate talks, U.S. youth spoke out for a real, science-based climate treaty.  Abigail Borah, a New Jersey resident, interrupted the start of lead U.S. negotiator Todd Stern’s speech to call out members of Congress for impeding global climate progress, delivering a passionate call for an urgent path towards a fair and binding climate treaty. Stern was about to speak to international ministers and high-level negotiators at the closing plenary of the Durban climate change negotiations. Borah was ejected from the talks shortly following her speech.

Borah, a student at Middlebury College, spoke for U.S. negotiators because “they cannot speak on behalf of the United States of America”, highlighting that “the obstructionist Congress has shackled a just agreement and delayed ambition for far too long.” Her delivery was followed by applause from the entire plenary of leaders from around the world.

Since before the climate talks, the United States, blocked by a Congress hostile to climate action, has held the position of holding off on urgent pollution reductions targets until the year 2020. Studies from the International Energy Agency, numerous American scientists, and countless other peer-reviewed scientific papers show that waiting until 2020 to begin aggressive emissions reduction would cause irreversible climate change, including more severe tropical storms, worsening droughts, and devastation affecting communities and businesses across America.  Nevertheless, the United States has held strong to its woefully inadequate and voluntary commitments made in the Copenhagen Accord in 2009 and the Cancun Agreement in 2010.

“2020 is too late to wait,” urged Borah. “We need an urgent path towards a fair, ambitious, and legally binding treaty.”

The U.S. continues to negotiate on time borrowed from future generations, and with every step of inaction forces young people to suffer the quickly worsening climate challenges that previous generations have been unable and unwilling to address.

Photos are available here:

http://www.flickr.com/photos/sustainus

Video here:

http://youtu.be/XDQxg7F2j1s

And check out – U.S. Youth Say “2020: It’s too late to wait”

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mQVpZQ1UlKw

Full text of Abigail’s speech:

I am speaking on behalf of the United States of America because my negotiators cannot.  The obstructionist Congress has shackled justice and delayed ambition for far too long.  I am scared for my future.  2020 is too late to wait.  We need an urgent path to a fair ambitious and legally binding treaty.

you must take responsibility to act now, or you will threaten the lives of youth and the world’s most vulnerable.

You must set aside partisan politics and let science dictate decisions.  You must pledge ambitious targets to lower emissions not expectations.  Citizens across the world are being held hostage by stillborn negotiations.

We need leaders who will commit to real change, not empty rhetoric.  Keep your promises. Keep our hope alive. 2020 is too late to wait.

Occupy Denialism

Occupy Denialism: Toward Ecological and Social Revolution

This is a reconstruction from notes of a keynote address delivered to the Power Shift West Conference, Eugene, Oregon, November 5, 2011.

All of us here today, along with countless others around the world, are currently engaged in the collective struggle to save the planet as a place of habitation for humanity and innumerable other species.  The environmental movement has grown leaps and bounds in the last fifty years.  But we need to recognize that despite our increasing numbers we are losing the battle, if not the war, for the future of the earth.  Our worst enemy is denialism: not just the outright denial of climate-change skeptics, but also the far more dangerous denial — often found amongst environmentalists themselves — of capitalism’s role in the accumulation of ecological catastrophe.1

Recently, climate scientists, writing in leading scientific journals, have developed a way of addressing the extreme nature of the climate crisis, focusing on irreversible change and the trillionth ton of carbon.  Central to the scientific consensus on climate change today is the finding that a rise in global temperature by 2° C (3.6° F), associated with an atmospheric carbon concentration of 450 parts per million (ppm), represents a critical tipping point, irreversible in anything like human-time frames.  Climate models show that if we were to reach that point feedback mechanisms would likely set in, and society would no longer be able to prevent the climate catastrophe from developing further out of our control.  Even if we were completely to cease burning fossil fuels when global average temperature had risen by 2° C, climate change and its catastrophic effects would still be present in the year 3000.  In other words, avoiding an increase in global average temperatures of 2° C, 450 ppm is crucial because it constitutes a point of no return.  Once we get to that point, we will no longer be able to return, even in a millennium, to the Holocene conditions under which human civilization developed over the last 12,000 years.  Many of you are aware that long-term stabilization of the climate requires that we target 350 ppm, not 450 ppm.  But 450 ppm remains significant, since it represents the planetary equivalent of cutting down the last palm tree on Easter Island.2.

Continue reading ‘Occupy Denialism’

Activists Follow Obama and White House Press Corps to Martha’s Vineyard

Obama Martha's vinyard tar sandsAs I sit on the ferry from Oaks Bluff, Martha’s Vineyard back to the mainland it is hard not to think of the people who are currently sacrificing their body and individual rights outside the White House at this very moment. We traveled out to the Vineyard to follow our President Barack Obama and hand-deliver press packets for the Tar Sands Action to the White House Press Corps that surround him in order to remind them the key role that the President can play in future of the Keystone XL pipeline.  Stopping the construction of this pipeline will halt a cascade of environmental impacts (“sure”?  sounds a bit awkward) and begin to fulfill the campaign promises that engaged so many in 2008.  Our mission to the Vineyard today was a simple but impacting way to support this growing movement to inspire the President to do the right thing.  I encourage you to find your way to contribute.

The Keystone XL Pipeline is Obama’s chance to turn tides and start to regain support from the many that voted him into office. The same people that slept on the floors of churches taking workshops on grassroots political campaigning are now using the same trainings to prepare to be arrested outside his front door in D.C. Continue reading ‘Activists Follow Obama and White House Press Corps to Martha’s Vineyard’

The Evil At Our Door

When the odds were ten to two, darling I went down and fighted for you. Though I’m leaving in the morning to meet the evil at our door, I will return to you my darling… You are the one I fight my battles for, you are the one that I adore.

These are lyrics from my favorite song this summer, Battles by The Smart Brothers.

It’s a love song, but I also hear a call to action, a call to protect that which we care most about.

The Keystone XL pipeline, and the tar sands extraction it would spur, is so obviously one of the worst actions the United States could take with regard to climate change, not to mention all the communities along the pipeline route whose water and ecosystems would be threatened by crude oil spills. Today, leaders of the largest environmental organizations in this country united to release a letter calling on President Obama to block the Keystone XL pipeline.  You know when Environmental Defense Fund teams up with Rainforest Action Network that something big is in the air.

The tar sands industry has been trying for years to send tar sands crude to American refineries, and the construction of the Keystone XL pipeline, in James Hansen’s words, would be game over for the climate.  The predecessor to Keystone XL, the Keystone pipeline, has already had 15 spills in the United States and over 20 spills in Canada since it became operational last year.  The Enbridge pipeline dumped 800,000 gallons of tar sands crude into the Kalamazoo River, and the pipeline that spilled 42,000 gallons of oil into the Yellowstone River also carries tar sands crude (a full list of pipeline accidents can be found here).

Continue reading ‘The Evil At Our Door’

The Good Life

Welcome to the Good Life!

I’m a lifelong Nebraskan. I was born in Omaha, Nebraska 22 years ago, and although I was swept away to the East Coast for school and sustainable farming opportunities in the past few years, my heart still bleeds bright Cornhusker red. I’ve been in love with my home state for as long as I can remember (in love enough to recently get the outline of my Midwestern home state tattooed on my back…yeah…I’m not kidding!)

In the summer of 2010, a few friends and I started the organization Guardians of the Good Life (GOTGL), a home-grown, grassroots group of activists and clean energy economy  radicals in the urban center of Nebraska, Omaha. An eclectic group of people, GOTGL, admittedly a cheesy name for such a fantastic organization ( “the Good Life” being Nebraska’s unofficial state motto), is made up of urban eco-activists of all walks of life. Formed under the core beliefs that urban Nebraskans have a vested interest in protecting our state from the dangerous Keystone XL Pipeline, Guardians of the Good Life has continuously kicked out creative and engaging campaigns to stop the tar sands from ever entering out state…and for that matter, ever leaving their dirty home in Alberta.

Sadly, not living in Nebraska anymore, I have not been able to participate in the Guardians activities since last summer. However, as a large group of Nebraskans were arrested today in front of the White House today and as I prepare to risk arrest next week, I felt it necessary to write about the activities and interests of urban Nebraskans fighting the pipeline. Last August, the Guardians hosted a Week of Action against the pipeline, including educational lectures, street demonstrations, a “tar sands lemonade stand” tasting, and culminating in a 100 person “Human Oil Spill” flash mob and banner drop over Omaha’s most busy thoroughfare during rush hour. Continue reading ‘The Good Life’


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