Archive | August 2015

‘Godzilla El Niño’ Predicted for West Coast in Late Fall or Early Winter

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The strengthening El Niño in the Pacific Ocean has the potential to become one of the most powerful on record, as warming ocean waters surge toward the Americas, setting up a pattern that could bring once-in-a-generation storms this winter to drought-parched California, the Los Angeles Times reported Thursday.

The National Weather Service’s Climate Prediction Center said Thursday that all computer models are predicting a strong El Niño to peak in the late fall or early winter. A host of observations have led scientists to conclude that “collectively, these atmospheric and oceanic features reflect a significant and strengthening El Niño.”

“This definitely has the potential of being the Godzilla El Niño,” said Bill Patzert, a climatologist with NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in La Cañada Flintridge.

Patzert said El Niño’s signal in the ocean “right now is stronger than it was in 1997,” the summer in which the most powerful El Niño on record developed.

“Everything now is going to the right way for El Niño,” Patzert said. “If this lives up to its potential, this thing can bring a lot of floods, mudslides and mayhem.”

“This could be among the strongest El Niños in the historical record dating back to 1950,” said Mike Halpert, deputy director of the Climate Prediction Center.

After the summer 1997 El Niño muscled up, the following winter gave Southern California double its annual rainfall and dumped double the snowpack in the Sierra Nevada, an essential source of precipitation for the state’s water supply, Patzert said.

The mass of warm water in the Pacific Ocean is also bigger and deeper than it was at this point in 1997, Patzert said.

Second, the so-called trade winds that normally keep the ocean waters west of Peru cool — by pushing warm water farther west toward Indonesia — are weakening.

That’s allowing warm water to flow eastward toward the Americas, giving El Niño more strength.

For this year’s El Niño to truly rival its 1997 counterpart, there still needs to be “a major collapse in trade winds from August to November as we saw in 1997,” Patzert said.

“We’re waiting for the big trade wind collapse,” Patzert said. “If it does, it could be stronger than 1997.”

There is a small chance such a collapse may not happen.

“There’s always a possibility these trade winds could surprise us and come back,” Patzert said.

Overall, the Climate Prediction Center forecast a greater-than-90% chance that El Niño will continue through this winter in the Northern Hemisphere, and about an 85% chance it will last into the early spring.

In California, officials have cautioned the public against imagining that El Niño will suddenly end the state’s chronic water challenges.

In fact, it would take an astonishing 2.5 to three times the average annual precipitation to make up for the rain and snow lost in the central Sierra mountain range over the last four years of drought, said Kevin Werner, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s expert on climate in the western United States.

That amount far exceeds what happened in 1983, the wettest year on record for that region, when the area got 1.9 times the average annual precipitation, Werner said.

“A single El Niño year is very unlikely to erase four years of drought,” Werner said.

“The drought is not ending any time soon,” Halpert added.

California has been dry for much of the last 15 years. Even if California gets a wet winter this year, it could be followed by another severe multiyear drought.

Another problem is that the Pacific Ocean west of California is substantially warmer than it was in 1997. That could mean that though El Niño-enhanced precipitation fell as snow in early 1998, storms hitting the north could cause warm rain to fall this winter. Such a situation would not be good news “for long-term water storage in the snowpack,” said Daniel Swain, a climate scientist at Stanford University.

Drought officials prefer snow in the mountains in the winter because it slowly melts during the spring and summer and can trickle at a gentle speed into the state’s largest reservoirs in Northern California. Too much rain all at once in the mountains in the winter can force officials to flush excess water to the ocean to keep dams from overflowing.

Swain said it’s important to keep in mind that all El Niño events are different, and just because the current El Niño has the potential to be the strongest on record “doesn’t necessarily mean that the effects in California will be the same.”

“A strong El Niño is very likely at this point, namely because we’ve essentially reached the threshold already, but a wet winter is never a guarantee in California,” Swain said in an email.

“I think a good way to think about it is this: There is essentially no other piece of information that is more useful in predicting California winter precipitation several months in advance than the existence of a strong El Niño event,” Swain said. “But it’s still just one piece of the puzzle. So while the likelihood of a wet winter is increasing, we still can’t rule out other outcomes.”

A Record 988 Billion Miles Driven on U.S. Highways During First Four Months of 2015

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Data from the U.S. Federal Highway Administration show Americans drove a record 988 billion miles during the first four months of 2015. Motor gasoline consumption, which rose by 80,000 barrels per day in 2014, will increase by a projected 170,000 barrels per day (1.9%) in 2015 as the effects of employment growth and lower gasoline prices outweigh increases in vehicle fleet efficiency.

Lower prices along with higher rates of road traffic and more demand for larger vehicles continue to push gas consumption higher.

As refiners continue to produce at a near-record pace, U.S. gasoline stockpiles have declined. Gasoline stockpiles are down 10% since February.

Demand for automotive-grade gasoline increased to 9.17 million barrels (385.14 million gallons) per day, according to information from the Energy Information Administration (EIA).

The Energy Information Administration estimates that for each gallon of gasoline burned in an internal combustion engine, 19.564 pounds of carbon dioxide (CO2) are emitted to the atmosphere, as well as smaller amounts of nitrous oxide and other gases. This calculates to 7.7 billion pounds CO2 per day from U.S. drivers. Carbon dioxide remains in the atmosphere from year to year, building to higher and higher levels of concentration, which is known to be causing warmer temperatures at lower altitudes, warmer ocean surface temperatures. In Wisconsin, nightly low temperatures have increased the most, as reported by the Weather Guys.

Yet nationally, only 63% of U.S. citizens believe global warming is occurring!

Madison Butterfly Update

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Butterflies I’ve seen in Madison thus far in 2015 include the following: the Great Spangled Fritillary; Red Admiral; Red Spotted Purple; Tortoiseshell, White, Monarch, Black Swallowtail and Grey Hairstreak.

The Great Spangled Fritylery (above) is a medium sized butterfly that can fly very quickly and is easy to see while nectaring. They enjoy grassy, prairie areas that have a water source close and the caterpillars feed on Violets, so a partially shaded area will be beneficial for this winged beauty.

RedAdmiral

The Red Admiral is an admired butterfly, popular in much of North America, Asia, and Europe. This butterfly enjoys many types of environments and has a strong affinity to flowers. The males are territorial and many times can be found in the same location day to day. The undersides of the wings are a mottled brown and tan with a curved bright red color on the upper side of the brown/black wings. Although a quick flier, this beauty is a more docile butterfly, it tends to be a friendly visitor in gardens.

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Milbert’s Tortoiseshell is a swift-flying butterfly that is always a pleasure to see. This butterfly varies widely in abundance from year to year.

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The Red-spotted Purple is a common butterfly in the southern half of Wisconsin. Throughout central Wisconsin, this subspecies and the White Admiral are both present, and sometimes they hybridize. The offspring can have characteristics anywhere between the two subspecies. This butterfly is often found taking nutrients from gravel roads, roadsides, or scat.

Whitey

One of the most common butterflies seen flying around urban and suburban America is the cabbage White. More often than not, it is the white butterfly flying around your yard. Cabbage whites use a variety of mustards as larval host plants from leafy garden vegetables such as broccoli, cauliflower, and cabbage to weeds such as london rocket, flixweed, garlic mustard, and whitetop.

Monarch

The monarch butterfly may be the most familiar North American butterfly. Its wings feature an easily recognizable orange and black pattern, with a wingspan of 8.9–10.2 cm(3½–4 in).

The eastern North American monarch population is notable for its annual southward late-summer/autumn migration from the United States and southern Canada to Mexico. During the fall migration, it covers thousands of miles, with a corresponding multi-generational return North. The western North American population of monarchs west of the Rocky Mountains most often migrate to sites in California but have been found in overwintering Mexico sites.

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The (Eastern) Black Swallowtail is found throughout much of North America. They are usually found in open areas like fields, parks, marshes or deserts, and they prefer tropical or temperate habitats. Black swallowtails rely on a variety of herbs in the carrot family. Species of host plants include Mock bishopweed, Roughfruit scaleseed, Spotted water hemlock, Water cowbane, Wedgeleaf eryngo, Canby’s dropwort, Queen Anne’s lace and Dill.

grayhairstreak

The Gray Hairstreak (Strymon melinus) is one of the most common hairstreaks in North America, ranging over nearly the entire continent. It occurs also throughout Central America and in northern South America. Its larvae feed on the fruits and flowers of a variety of host plants including several species mallows, members of the pea family, buckwheats, clovers, and many other plants.

Sources: Gardens With WingsWikipedia, the free encyclopedia;

Arena Deal Is A “Pig in a Poke” for Milwaukee, Others Too

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The National Basketball Association (NBA) said the Milwaukee Bucks must have a new arena by 2017 or the city risks losing the team to another state. Enter Governor Scott Walker.

Gov. Scott Walker negotiated the deal in July with the current Bucks owners – billionaire hedge funds managers Wesley Edens and Marc Lasry, who jointly purchased a majority interest in the team from former senator Herbert Kohl – and senator Kohl.

The team is currently valued at $600 million. In a bipartisan vote last month, the Wisconsin Legislature approved a bill authorizing $250 million in state and local public financing for the Milwaukee Bucks arena. Governor Walker signed the bill into law on Wednesday, August 12, setting up a vote on the $500 million public/private project at a City of Milwaukee Common Council meeting on the proposal in September.

Walker’s signing of the bill commits the State of Wisconsin’s taxpayers to paying at least half of the dollar cost of the massive new arena over the next 20 years, discouraging the NBA from moving the team out of Milwaukee.

Opponents have said the public’s money would benefit the team’s already wealthy owners and is not a good use of public funds. The state’s financial commitment to keeping the Bucks in Milwaukee comes on the heels of controversial state cuts to spending on transportation infrastructure along with a $250 million cut of the University of Wisconsin System’s budget and historic earlier cuts to the state’s public K-12 education system. The state’s commitment to fund the arena was perceived by many Wisconsinites as a slap in the face to Wisconsin’s dwindling number of middle class families and its increasing number of low income families.  The governor has not been shy in showing his disdain for those who advocate for a higher minimum wage in Wisconsin – presently $7.25/hour, or the same as the federal minimum wage – and his budget approval of cuts to other social programs in Wisconsin which help the state’s disabled and low income populations.

Walker claimed Wisconsin needed to keep the team and its stream of income taxes in the state. “It’s cheaper to keep them,” he said repeatedly to reporters on Wednesday..

The Bucks deal includes $250 million in contributions from the state, city and county of Milwaukee, and a special arena and entertainment district. The other half of the arena is being paid by Edens, Lasry and Kohl.

State, city and county residents will ultimately pay $400 million on the arena when accounting for $174 million in interest over 20 years, with any construction cost overruns and maintenance expenses being the responsibility of the team.

Of the principal coming from taxpayers for the arena, $47 million would come from the City of Milwaukee, which must agree to provide for a parking structure and tax incremental financing.

The rest — $203 million — would come from: bonds issued by an arena and entertainment district and paid off by state taxpayers; a $4 million decrease in Milwaukee County’s state aid over the next 20 years; and the increase of a ticket surcharge and the extension of existing local hotel room, rental car, and food and beverage taxes being collected by the Wisconsin Center District.

Walker included $220 million in state borrowing for the arena in the budget he proposed in February.

But his fellow Republicans who control the Legislature took the measure out of the budget and reworked the deal with some input from Democrats.

Not factored into this analysis is the total number of tons of carbon dioxide (C02) and other greenhouse gases that will be emitted to the atmosphere by jet travel by other NBA teams traveling to Milwaukee, Wisconsin, nor the tons of C02 and other greenhouse gases emitted by the jets carrying the Bucks to distant locations over the next 20 years to play basketball. Nor does the agreement factor in the costs to the environment of paving roads and Wisconsin’s landscape to accommodate more travelers to the arena for games and other events and their emissions.  Presently, travelers and the airlines and associated companies are getting a “free lunch” from everyone who might be affected by those emissions, to say nothing about the cost to the public of funding the Federal Aviation Administration’s air traffic controllers, who mainly benefit people who can afford to fly commercially or privately.

Part of this post are taken from a 8/12/15 story of by Mary Spicuzza, Jason Stein and Crocker Stephenson of the Journal Sentinel.

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Pope Urging the U.N. Take Very Strong Stand on Climate Change in Paris in December

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In front of a Vatican-hosted conference of mayors from major world cities and governors, Pope Francis on Jul 21, 2015 urged the United Nations to take a “very strong stand” on climate change at a landmark summit this year in Paris on global warming.

The pope spoke at a Vatican-hosted conference of mayors and governors from major world cities who signed a declaration urging global leaders to take bold action at the U.N. summit, saying it may be the last chance to tackle human-induced global warming.

“I have a great hopes in the Paris summit,” he said. “I have great hopes that a fundamental agreement is reached. The United Nations needs to take a very strong stand on this.”

Last month, the pope issued an encyclical on climate change, the first ever dedicated to the environment. The call to his church’s 1.2 billion members could spur the world’s Catholics to lobby policymakers on ecology issues and climate change.

The Vatican conference linked climate change and modern slavery because, according to an introductory paper, “global warming is one of the causes of poverty and forced migration”.

Francis, speaking in unprepared comments in Spanish to the group at the end of the first day, said he hoped the Paris summit would address “particularly how it (climate change) affects the trafficking of people.”

The conference is the Vatican’s latest attempt to influence the Paris summit in December, the purpose of which is to reach a global agreement to combat climate change after past failures.

Mayors from South America, Africa, the United States, Europe and Asia signed a declaration stating that the Paris summit “may be the last effective opportunity to negotiate arrangements that keep human-induced warming below 2 degrees centigrade.”

Leaders should come to a “bold agreement that confines global warming to a limit safe for humanity while protecting the poor and the vulnerable…,” the declaration, which the pope also signed, reads.

High-income countries should help finance the cost of climate-change mitigation in low-income countries, it says.

In a rejection of so-called climate-change deniers, the declaration says: “Human-induced climate change is a scientific reality, and its effective control is a moral imperative for humanity.”

On Tuesday morning, California Governor Edmund “Jerry” Brown, whose state is suffering a severe drought, urged mayors to “fight the propaganda” of big business interests that deny that climate change is human induced.

“We have fierce opposition and blind inertia and that opposition is well-financed,” Brown said.

New York Mayor Bill de Blasio called Pope Francis “the most powerful voice on this earth for those whose voice is not being heard,” and added: “He did not convene us here to accept the status quo but to indict it”.

De Blasio announced that New York City would commit to reduce carbon emissions by 40 percent by 2030 on top of a previous commitment to reduced them by 80 percent by 2050.

Tony Chammany, the mayor of Kochi, India, said coastal areas were already feeling the effects of rising sea levels. “It is now or never, there may never be a replay,” he said.

Original by Philip Pullella
Reuters

Paris Summit

Vatican Conference Linked Climate Change and Modern Slavery

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Democracy Now:

Following the publication of Pope Francis’ encyclical on climate change, a major conference on climate change was held at the Vatican. Speakers included our guest, Naomi Klein, author of “This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. the Climate.” We speak to Klein about her trip to the Vatican and the importance of the pope’s message – not only on climate change, but the global economy.

TRANSCRIPT

This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: Our guest is Naomi Klein, journalist, best-selling author. Her most recent book is This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. the Climate, out today in paperback. A documentary film directed by Avi Lewis based on This Changes Everything will be released in the fall.

Naomi, you have recently returned from the Vatican. Can you describe that experience? What were you doing there?

NAOMI KLEIN: So I was there at a conference that was convened by Cardinal Peter Turkson. And Cardinal Peter Turkson is—has been doing a lot of the speaking on the encyclical. It wasn’t convened by Francis, just to set that record straight. It was convened by the Cardinal Turkson’s office and also by the organization representing Catholic development agencies. And it was part of the rollout for the climate change encyclical. The organizers described what they were doing as building a megaphone for the encyclical, because they understand that it’s words on a page unless there are groups of people around the world who are amplifying that message in various ways. So there were people from around the world.

There were people there, for instance, from Brazil, who were talking about how the movements there that have been fighting large dams, oil drilling, fighting for more just transit, are going to be putting huge resources behind popularizing the climate change encyclical, buying radio ads, producing videos, creating teaching materials for every chapter of the encyclical, and really using it as an organizing tool. That was one of the things I was really struck by while I was there, was just how ready particularly the movements in Latin America are to operationalize the encyclical, if you will.

And they also talked about not wanting it to be domesticated, was a phrase I heard a lot, domesticated by the church. You know, there’s a way in which you can just take this document that is, you know, almost 200 pages and just take out the safest parts of it—you know, “Oh, we’re against climate change, and we all need to kind of hold hands.” But, in fact, if you read the document, it’s very clear in calling for a different economic model, and it’s a challenge to what Pope Francis calls our throwaway culture. So they want to make sure that the parts of the encyclical that really do represent the deepest challenge to our current economic system and represent the most hope for the people who are excluded from the benefits of that economic system are really highlighted.

NERMEEN SHAIKH: Well, last month, Pope Francis went on a tour of South America in his first foreign trip after unveiling the historic encyclical urging climate action. In Ecuador, he reiterated his call for social justice and environmental preservation.

POPE FRANCIS: [translated] The goods of the Earth are meant for everyone. And however much someone may parade his property, it has a social mortgage. In this way, we move beyond purely economic justice, based on commerce, toward social justice, which upholds the fundamental human right to a dignified life. The tapping of natural resources, which are so abundant in Ecuador, must not be concerned with short-term benefits.

NERMEEN SHAIKH: That was Pope Francis speaking in Ecuador. Naomi Klein, could you talk—you’ve mentioned in the past the significance of the pope’s origins in Argentina and the particular form that Catholicism took in Latin America. Could you talk about the significance of that and the kind of turn that you witnessed at the Vatican in the focus of this new pope and the church under his leadership?

NAOMI KLEIN: Sure, Nermeen. Yeah, it was definitely striking that a lot of the people who are real players in the Vatican right now come from the Global South. As you mentioned, Pope Francis is from Argentina, and he is the first pope from the Global South. And Cardinal Turkson is originally from Ghana and is talked about as potentially going to be the first African pope. And you see the influence. There are a lot of people who have a history with liberation theology around this pope. He doesn’t come from that particular tradition, but there’s clearly an influence, because before he became pope, he worked with the Latin American Council of Bishops, which—you know, the form of Catholicism in Latin America is one that is more influenced by indigenous cosmology than perhaps in North America, and definitely in Europe, precisely because the genocide of indigenous people in Latin America was far less complete.

So, the first phrase of the encyclical, the first paragraph of the encyclical quotes Francis of Assisi, referring to the Earth as “sister” and as “mother,” and then goes on to talk about Francis—Francis of Assisi, not Pope Francis—and it’s significant that Pope Francis chose the name Francis, the first pope in history to choose that as his name—how we ministered to plants and animals, and saw them as his brothers and sisters. And obviously, in there, you have echoes of indigenous cosmologies that see all of creation as our relations. And while I was at the Vatican, I did ask and, before and afterwards, talked to different theologians about whether there is any precedent for a pope talking—using this language of Mother Earth so prominently, and nobody could think of a single example of this. So, I think what is significant about it is that it is very much a rebuke to the worldview that humans have been put on Earth to dominate and subjugate nature. That is very clear in the encyclical. And the major theme of the encyclical is the theme of interdependence.

You also mentioned—or you played that clip where Francis talks about natural resources as being something that everybody has a right to. And this, of course, is a challenge to a pretty basic principle of private property under capitalism, that if you buy it, it’s yours to do with whatever you want. And that’s something else that’s very strong in the encyclical, is the idea of the commons, that the atmosphere is a commons, that water is a right. And I do think that you can see the influence of Pope Francis’s many years in Argentina. You know, he ministered in the outskirts of Buenos Aires, and that’s somewhere where I spent some time doing reporting and filmmaking. And the outskirts of Buenos Aires, they have had one of the most catastrophic experiences with water privatization, where a French water company came in and put in the pipes, but then refused to put in the sewers. So every time it rains, there are these huge floods, and there’s even cases of bodies being washed up in the streets and in people’s basements, so—which is simply to say he knows of which he speaks. I mean, he has seen a very brutal form of deregulated capitalism introduced in the Southern Cone of Latin America, and he also understands that this is a form of capitalism that, in that part of the world, was imposed with tremendous violence.

AMY GOODMAN: Naomi Klein, as we wrap up, very quickly, the pope is coming to the United States in September, but before that, he will go to Cuba first. Can you talk about the significance of the Cuba trip, and then, within the presidential race here, the pope landing in the United States?

NAOMI KLEIN: Well, I think the timing of this trip is obviously going to be very awkward for several Republican candidates who are Catholic and understand that this is a very, very popular pope. He’s particularly popular among Latinos, and that’s a really coveted voting bloc. So, you know, picking a fight with this pope is not a very smart political move if you’re running for office right now.

And I met somebody while I was—I can’t use his name, because it was just—it wasn’t an interview situation. But I met a fairly prominent Catholic, while I was at the Vatican, from the United States, from a major U.S. organization, who said, “The holy father isn’t doing us any favors by going to Cuba first,” by which he meant that there are a lot of people talking about how this pope is sort of a closet socialist, and by going to Cuba first, he was reinforcing that narrative. So I think for conservative Republican Catholics, the fact that this pope is going to Cuba first, but also because he has said such critical things about deregulated capitalism and everything he’s saying about climate change, is putting them into, frankly, uncharted territories. They really don’t know how to navigate these waters.

AMY GOODMAN: It’s President Obama’s birthday today. Do you have any particular birthday wishes for him?

NAOMI KLEIN: Amy, I had no idea. Thanks for telling me. And I wish him a very happy birthday.

AMY GOODMAN: Naomi Klein, we want to thank you for being with us, journalist, best-selling author. Her most recent book is called This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. the Climate. It’s out in paperback today. And she’s got a documentary film coming out. It’s directed by Avi Lewis, based on This Changes Everything. It’s out in the fall. She also, together with Avi Lewis, made The Take, about Argentina. Her past books, No Logo and The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism.

Democracy Now

Democracy Now Interviews Naomi Klein Re: EPA’s (Obama’s) Power Plan CO2 Emissions Regulations

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Democracy Now:

As scientists warn 2015 is on pace to become the Earth’s hottest year on record, President Obama has unveiled his long-awaited plan to slash carbon emissions from U.S. power plants. Under new Environmental Protection Agency regulations, U.S. power plants will be required to cut emissions by 32 percent from 2005 levels by 2030. In addition, new power plants will be required to be far cleaner, which could effectively prevent any new coal plants from opening. But does the plan go far enough? We speak to Naomi Klein, author of the best-selling book, “This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. the Climate,” which is out in paperback today.

TRANSCRIPT

This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

NERMEEN SHAIKH: As scientists warn 2015 is on pace to become the Earth’s hottest year on record, President Obama has unveiled his long-awaited plan to slash carbon emissions from U.S. power plants. During a speech at the White House, Obama said no challenge poses a greater threat to future generations than a changing climate.

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: Climate change is no longer just about the future that we’re predicting for our children or our grandchildren; it’s about the reality that we’re living with every day, right now. The Pentagon says that climate change poses immediate risks to our national security. While we can’t say any single weather event is entirely caused by climate change, we’ve seen stronger storms, deeper droughts, longer wildfire seasons. Charleston and Miami now flood at high tide. Shrinking ice caps forced National Geographic to make the biggest change in its atlas since the Soviet Union broke apart. Over the past three decades, nationwide asthma rates have more than doubled, and climate change puts those Americans at greater risk of landing in the hospital. As one of America’s governors has said, we’re the first generation to feel the impact of climate change and the last generation that can do something about it. And that’s why I committed the United States to leading the world on this challenge, because I believe there is such a thing as being too late.

AMY GOODMAN: Under new Environmental Protection Agency regulations, U.S. power plants will be required to cut emissions by 32 percent from the 2005 levels by 2030. In addition, new power plants will be required to be far cleaner, which could effectively prevent any new coal plants from opening. President Obama defended the regulations, which are expected to be challenged in court.

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: Right now our power plants are the source of about a third of America’s carbon pollution. That’s more pollution than our cars, our airplanes and our homes generate combined. That pollution contributes to climate change, which degrades the air our kids breathe. But there have never been federal limits on the amount of carbon that power plants can dump into the air. Think about that. We limit the amount of toxic chemicals like mercury and sulfur and arsenic in our air or our water, and we’re better off for it. But existing power plants can still dump unlimited amounts of harmful carbon pollution into the air. For the sake of our kids and the health and safety of all Americans, that has to change. For the sake of the planet, that has to change.

NERMEEN SHAIKH: As President Obama spoke, the impacts of extreme weather could be seen across the globe. In California, more than 9,000 firefighters are battling more than 21 active wildfires. In Japan, temperatures topped 95 degrees on Monday for a record fourth day in a row. Heat records are also being broken across the Middle East. In one Iranian city, the heat index reached 164 degrees last week. Temperatures have been regularly topping 120 degrees in Baghdad and other Iraqi cities.

Meanwhile, a group of scientists, including former NASA scientist James Hansen, have warned that sea levels could rise as much as 10 feet before the end of the century unless greenhouse gas emissions are drastically reduced. The rise would make cities such as London, New York and Shanghai uninhabitable.

AMY GOODMAN: To talk more about climate change and President Obama’s plan to cut emissions, we’re joined by Naomi Klein, author of the best-selling book, This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. the Climate, which is out in paperback today. She recently spoke at a Vatican climate change summit organized by Pope Francis. Naomi Klein joins us from Washington, D.C.

Naomi, welcome. Your assessment first of President Obama’s plan that he unveiled yesterday at the White House?

NAOMI KLEIN: Well, good morning, Amy. It’s great to be with you, and Nermeen.

So I think that what we’re seeing from Obama is a really good example of what a climate leader sounds like. You know, everything he’s saying is absolutely true about the level of threat, about the fact that this is not a threat for future generations, it is a threat unfolding right now around the world, including in the United States. It’s a threat that is about people’s daily health, with asthma levels, and also about the safety of entire cities, huge coastal cities. So he’s doing a very good job of showing us what a climate leader sounds like. But I’m afraid we’ve got a long way to go before we see what a climate leader acts like, because there is a huge gap between what Obama is saying about this threat, about it being the greatest threat of our time, and indeed this being our last window in which we can take action to prevent truly catastrophic climate change, but the measures that have been unveiled are simply inadequate.

I mean, if we look at what kind of emission reductions this is going to deliver, we’re—you know, when you talk about emission reductions, we don’t look at just one sector, just at electricity generation; you have to look at the economy as a whole. And what climate scientists are telling us is that relatively wealthy countries, like the United States, if we are going to stay within our carbon budget and give ourselves a chance of keeping warming below two degrees Celsius, which is already very dangerous but is what the United States negotiated, under Obama—when they went to Copenhagen in 2009, they agreed to keep temperatures below two degrees warming, and, in fact, we’re still on track for more like four degrees warming—if we were to stay below two degrees, we would need to be cutting emissions by around 8 to 10 percent a year. Those are numbers from the Tyndall Centre on Climate Research in Manchester. And this plan would lower emissions in the United States by around 6 percent overall—I’m not just talking about the power sector, but overall emissions by 6 percent by 2030. So compare what we should be doing—8 to 10 percent a year—with 6 percent by 2030. That’s the carbon gap, and it’s huge.

NERMEEN SHAIKH: And so, Naomi Klein, in your view, why did President Obama choose to focus so much on the power sector and not on other equally important sectors?

NAOMI KLEIN: Well, look, it is an incredibly important sector, as he says. It’s just that we have to do it all. And I think that this should be seen as a victory for the grassroots social movements that have been fighting dirty coal plants in their backyards, and the clean coal—the campaign that the Sierra Club has led over years now to shut down hundreds of coal plants. So this should be claimed, I think, as a grassroots victory. This phase of the plan is better than the last draft, in some ways, in that it’s less of a gift to the natural gas sector and has more supports for renewables. It also has more supports for low-income communities for energy efficiency. It’s inadequate, but it’s still better than the last draft. There are parts of the plan that are worse than the last draft, because of pressure from industry and from states that are very reliant on coal.

But that’s at—you know, the problem is not that this plan itself is bad. If this was announced in Obama’s first year in office, I would be the first to celebrate this and say, “OK, great. So now let’s bring on a carbon tax. Let’s prevent leasing of new oil and gas and coal on public lands. You know, let’s do the rest of the package. Let’s have huge investments in public transit, and we’ll really be on our way.” But at the end of his two terms in office, or coming near the end, you know, frankly, this does not buy a climate legacy. It’s not enough, because it isn’t in line with science, and it also isn’t in line with technology. I mean, the team at Stanford University under Mark Jacobson is telling us that we could get to 100 percent renewables, powering our entire economy with renewables, in two decades. So, if the scientists are telling us we need to do it, and the engineers are telling us we can do it, then all that’s missing are the politicians willing to introduce the bold policies that will make it happen. And that’s what we’re missing still.

AMY GOODMAN: Naomi Klein, during his speech Monday, President Obama also talked about his visit to the Arctic at the end of the month.

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: I’ll also be the first American president to visit the Alaskan Arctic, where our fellow Americans have already seen their communities devastated by melting ice and rising oceans, the impact on marine life. We’re going to talk about what the world needs to do together to prevent the worst impacts of climate change before it’s too late.
AMY GOODMAN: So that’s President Obama. Can you talk about what’s happening in the Arctic and the activism that’s going on, from Portland, Oregon, to Seattle, Washington, to prevent what President Obama has allowed—drilling in the Arctic?

NAOMI KLEIN: Well, it’s extraordinary, actually, that he would be announcing this now, because what the world needs to do to save the Arctic, for starters, is to declare a moratorium on Arctic drilling. And the U.S. could be leading that effort, bringing together all Arctic nations to agree that this is untouchable, this is a no-go zone. And because that leadership is not there, and because indeed Obama has—is opening up the Arctic to drilling for the first time—we know that Shell has drilling rigs there right now, that they began the very preliminary stages of drilling on Thursday—and because his administration has failed to provide leadership on such a basic issue, I mean, Amy, it is the definition of insanity, it would seem to me, to be drilling in the Arctic for oil that is only available because Arctic ice is melting and it’s now passable and ships are able to go there and do this.

The CEO of Shell, a few days ago, talked about how they are expecting to find oil underneath that melting ice that is an even bigger deposit than there is off the Gulf of Mexico. He described it as a huge play, but more significantly, he described it as a long-term play. It’s unfortunate that the oil and gas industry describes all of this, you know, in the language of games, because obviously it’s not a game, but they call it a play. And he says that they don’t expect this to be in production until 2030. I mean, that is really striking, because by 2030 we should be really winding down our reliance on existing oil and gas infrastructure, not ramping up and opening up whole new fossil fuel frontiers.

And so this is what I mean about how Obama does not deserve to be called a climate leader simply because he has introduced what is a pretty good plan for cutting emissions from coal-fired power plants. I’m not saying that’s not important. It’s a step in the right direction. But simultaneously, he’s taking some significant steps in the wrong direction with Arctic drilling, with—you know, he’s overseen an explosion of fracking for gas. He’s still waffling on the Keystone XL pipeline. You know, he’s opened up new offshore oil and gas leases. So, you know, when you take one step in the right direction and five steps in the wrong direction, you’re going in the wrong direction. You’re not going in the right direction. And we have to be honest about this, despite the fact that he’s under huge fire from the coal lobby right now.

AMY GOODMAN: This issue of the activists who have been trying to stop the drilling—

NAOMI KLEIN: Yeah.

AMY GOODMAN: —that the Obama administration has provided license for—I mean, what was it? Forty people—

NAOMI KLEIN: Yeah, in Portland.

AMY GOODMAN: Forty people were—40 people were hanging from the bridge. You had all these kayaktivists outside. Can you talk about how it is he can announce—as they are all being taken away, as activists are charged for doing the activism they do, he’s announcing he’s going to the Arctic.

NAOMI KLEIN: Well, you know, frankly, if we want to look for climate leaders, climate leaders are the people who rappelled down from that bridge in Portland. Climate leaders are the people who have been taking to their kayaks in Portland, in Seattle, you know, 21-year-olds who have been trying to stop Arctic drilling with their bodies, they feel so passionately about this. People stayed on that bridge, hanging from that bridge, in order to block Shell’s icebreaker, for 40 hours, and they did so despite the fact that Shell had gone to the courts and got an injunction and they were being threatened with huge fines. That is real leadership. That is real, moral action, standing up in the face of huge amounts of money and power and might-makes-right logic.

And we’ve seen this all over the Pacific Northwest. It’s one of the ironies of the extreme energy era that we’ve been living in this past decade or so, where North America has been in the midst of this extreme energy frenzy, with fracking, mountaintop removal and tar sands oil. In order to get this stuff out, it’s required that the oil and gas and coal companies build all kinds of new infrastructure in the Pacific Northwest, which is the part of the United States that is probably most environmentally aware, even militant. It’s where a lot of the tree sits began. You know, you think about Portland and the history of anti-logging activism, tree sits. In that part of the world, there are a lot of people with deep history in this kind of activism. And Shell, I think, you know, just in order—just logistically, in order to get to the Arctic, they needed to use various ports in the Pacific Northwest as a parking lot for their machinery and also to get repairs done. And, you know, the Pacific Northwest has given them a very, very, very hostile welcome and made it clear that they don’t want to be a gateway to this, frankly, suicidal action of drilling in the Arctic.

AMY GOODMAN: Just to be clear, to clarify this point, explaining what the activists were doing, the Greenpeace activists spending 40 hours suspending from a bridge in order to block the icebreaking ship commissioned by Shell from leaving for the Arctic, hundreds of activists gathering on the bridge in kayaks in efforts to stop Shell’s plans to drill in the remote Chukchi Sea. They did temporarily stop the ship—

NAOMI KLEIN: Yeah.

AMY GOODMAN: —but then, ultimately, the ship made its way and is now making its way to the Arctic.

NAOMI KLEIN: They stopped the ship for 40 hours. And, you know, I think sometimes this can be seen as a sort of a stunt or a token action, but it really isn’t. You know, I was speaking with Annie Leonard, the executive director of Greenpeace, yesterday, and the really significant part of this is that there is a very small window when it is possible to do this drilling for Shell, because the period where the Arctic is sufficiently ice-free is just a few months. They have until late September to do this. So every day that they’re delayed is one less day when they’re able to look for this deposit that they claim is going to be a game-changing play. So this is more than token activism. Anything that slows them down is really significant. And these really are heroes.

AMY GOODMAN: And Hillary Clinton and President Obama’s position on Keystone XL?

NAOMI KLEIN: Well, Hillary, first of all, she was asked about drilling in the Arctic, and she said she was skeptical of it, which some people claimed as, you know, it was Hillary coming out against Arctic drilling. I think it’s Hillary understanding that this is a very unpopular position. But just saying that you’re skeptical or have doubts, which is another phrase she used, is not anything that she can be held accountable to. That’s language that is slippery enough to get a glacier through, Amy. It’s not a straight-up “no.” She’s also refused to comment, as you mentioned, on the Keystone XL pipeline.

And let me say, you know, Hillary Clinton’s plan, green energy plan, that she unveiled a few days ago—we’re going to get more details soon—is surprisingly bold. There’s parts of this that the plan really gets right, in terms of the speed with which she’s promising to roll out renewable energy. She’s getting the yes part of this equation pretty close to right, in the sense that we need supports for renewable energy. But it’s not enough, because if you look at a country like Germany, they have introduced a bold plan to support renewable energy, and in fact Germany now has what Hillary Clinton is promising she would do in the U.S., which is it has 30 percent of its electricity coming from renewables, but Germany’s emissions are not going down fast enough, and in some years they’ve even gone up. And that’s because in Germany that yes to renewable energy hasn’t been accompanied by a no to fossil fuels. They’ve allowed a continued mining at very high rates of dirty coal, of lignite coal, the dirtiest coal on the market, and they just export it, if they don’t have a market for it in the U.S.

And, you know, this is the problem with Hillary. She is willing to say yes to green technology, green jobs, but she is showing no signs of being willing to say no to the oil and gas lobby, which we know is funding her campaign significantly. So, as secretary of state, we know that there was quite a revolving door between the oil and gas lobby and her people at State and on her previous campaign staff. And I think there’s real reason for concern about whether or not she would be willing to stand up to the oil and gas lobby on Keystone, on Arctic drilling, on any of these other issues.

Democracy Now

Obama Unveils His Plan to Cut Greenhouse Gases Emissions from Power Plants

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President Obama formally unveiled his plan to cut power plant emissions on Monday — some two years in the making — calling it the “single most important step that America has ever made in the fight against global climate change.”

Speaking at the White House, the president said the plan includes the first-ever Environmental Protection Agency standards on carbon pollution from U.S. power plants. Over the next few years, each state will have the chance to create its own plan, he said, adding: “We’ll reward the states that take action sooner.”

Toward the end of his remarks, Obama cited other environmental issues, such as combating acid rain, where efforts have been successful even though it seemed hard at the time.

“We can figure this stuff out, as long as we’re not lazy about it,” he said.

The president compared the requirement of cutting carbon emissions by 32 percent to taking 166 million cars off the road.

In a new push to confront climate change, President Obama is announcing new standards that would cut the amount of carbon pollution produced by America’s power plants.

“These are the first-ever national standards that address carbon pollution from power plants,” according to the Environmental Protection Agency, which adds that power plants are the largest source of carbon pollution in the U.S., generating 32 percent of the total emissions.

Key elements of the Clean Power Plan include a requirement that would cut the power industry’s carbon pollution by 32 percent below 2005 levels in the next 15 years. The plan also seeks to boost renewable energy.

The White House says that between now and 2015, the changes will mean better health for Americans — preventing up to 3,600 premature deaths — along with bringing energy savings for U.S. consumers.

Plan Detail

President Obama’s sweeping new power plant regulations are thrusting the debate over climate change into the race for the White House.

To Democrats, rallying around global climate change is a way to energize liberal supporters and paint Republicans as out of touch. To Republicans, Obama’s actions to curb greenhouse gas emissions are burdensome to business and block job creation.

Most of the changes Obama outlined would have to be implemented by the next president, if the rules survive court challenges.

Republicans cast the measure requiring states to cut carbon dioxide emissions by 32 percent by 2030 as unnecessary and costly.

The Obama administration itself estimated the emissions limits will cost $8.4 billion annually by 2030, though the actual price isn’t clear.

Republican Jeb Bush said the rules “run over state governments, will throw countless people out of work and increases everyone’s energy prices.”

Texas Republican Sen. Ted Cruz questioned whether climate change is occurring.

“I’m saying the data and facts don’t support it,” Cruz said at a retreat sponsored by billionaire brothers Charles and David Koch, heavily courted donors who oppose Obama’s climate change agenda.

Hillary Clinton called the measure a “significant step forward” and said she would defend it if elected president. Her Democratic challengers were similarly supportive.

A Washington Post/ABC News poll conducted in March showed 59 percent of Americans said they’d like the next president to be someone who favors government action to address climate change, while 31 percent would prefer someone who opposes it.

BY JULIE PACE, THE ASSOCIATED PRESS

Cecil The Lion And The Debate Over Trophy Hunting

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After Zimbabwe released the name this week of Walter Palmer, the hunter who killed Cecil the lion, the Minnesota dentist has faced intense backlash.

Those who still question the scientific validity of greenhouse gas warming causing more warming and rising sea levels, for pecuniary advantage, are a million times more unethical than Palmer and may be guilty of crimes against humanity.

rockyfire

Firefights working an explosive wildfire that’s tripled in size since Friday and is now burning in three Northern California counties — Lake County, Yolo County, and Colusa County and is only 12 % contained.

The Rocky Fire is now 60,000 acres, only 12 percent contained, and has prompted mandatory or voluntary evacuation orders for more than 12,000 residents. The wildfire has destroyed 50 structures, including 24 homes. The fire jumped Highway 20 and started a 100-acre fire in multiple spots, which firefighters were aggressively attacking Monday afternoon.

Firefighters say they’re feeling optimistic about the new containment number. They say the weather looks good for the next three days and that Sunday night was one of the quietest nights on the fire line.

They know, however, that spots can flare up in the afternoon when the winds pick up. As a result, crews are still keeping a very close eye on things, putting water on hotspots, and clearing residents out of the area.

“Left about 10 p.m. and will be here until they send us home,” said Lake County resident Wayne McKenney. “A couple days, probably. Who knows.”

There are nearly 3,000 firefighters currently battling the Rocky Fire, and more are arriving Monday. Residents say they are impressed and grateful.

“These guys are great,” said Lake County resident Rick McCune. “The winds are really bad, and that’s the problem.

Firefighters say even though it looked calm Monday morning and they’d more than doubled their containment lines, residents need to keep their head on a swivel. The fire grew so dramatically over the weekend that they just don’t know what it will do. Crews say you may not be affected this second, but that could change.

So far, 13,118 people have been evacuated.

“You know, they got a bad year, this is the worst fire I’ve ever seen in 40 some years up here,” said McKenney. “So, too much brush.”

Firefighters say the goal today is to box in the fire by using Highway 20 and Highway 16 as the perimeter. They want to keep it in that area and not jump over. They believe the weather may be in their favor over the next few days and maybe they’ll be able to turn the corner on this one.

Source: Drew Tuma – ABC7