Archive | October 2015

NOAA: 2015 Global Average Temperatures for Oceans and Land Highest on Record for September and January–September

NOAA

noaa
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) reports that the September average temperature across global land and ocean surfaces was 1.62°F (0.90°C) above the 20th century average, and that this was the highest September temperature on record, surpassing the previous record set last year by +0.12°F (+0.19°C).

September’s high temperature was also the greatest rise above average for any month in the 136-year historical record, surpassing the previous record set in both February and March this year by 0.02°F (0.01°C), NOAA states.

The September globally-averaged land surface temperature was 2.09°F (1.16°C) above the 20th century average which was also the highest for September in the 1880–2015 record, surpassing the previous record set in 2009 by +0.16°F (+0.09°C), according to NOAA. Record warmth was observed across much of South America and parts of Africa, the Middle East, Europe, and Asia.

The September globally-averaged sea surface temperature was 1.46°F (0.81°C) above the 20th century average, which was the highest temperature for September in the 1880–2015 record, surpassing the previous record set in 2014 by +0.13°F (+0.07°C), NOAA reports.

The year-to-date temperature across global land and ocean surfaces was 1.53°F (0.85°C) above the 20th century average, which was the highest for January–September in the 1880–2015 record, surpassing the previous record set in 2014 by 0.19°F (0.12°C).

The year-to-date globally-averaged land surface temperature was also the highest for January–September in the 1880–2015 record at 2.32°F (1.29°C) above the 20th century average, surpassing the previous record of 2007 by 0.31°F (0.17°C).

The year-to-date globally-averaged sea surface temperature was 1.24°F (0.69°C) above the 20th century average and the highest for January–September in the 1880–2015 record, surpassing the previous record of 2010 by +0.11°F (+0.06°C).

Advertisements

Weather Channel: Hurricane Patricia Most Powerful Tropical Cyclone Ever Measured in the Western Hemisphere

hrricanepatricia

Hurricane Patricia became the strongest Pacific hurricane on record shortly after midnight CDT early on Oct. 23, 2015. The Weather Channel reported Patricia rapidly organized and intensified as maximum sustained winds with the storm increased 115 mph in a 24-hour window from 85 mph at 4 a.m. CDT on Oct. 22 to 200 mph at 4 a.m. CDT Oct. 23.

During that same time, the minimum central pressure of Patricia also decreased 100 millibars, from 980 millibars to 880 millibars.

This places Patricia among the most rapidly intensifying tropical cyclones ever witnessed anywhere in the world since the advent of modern meteorology.

White House Announces Commitments to the American Business Act on Climate Pledge

whithouse

The White House Monday announced new commitments from companies from across the American economy. With this announcement, 81 companies will have signed the American Business Act on Climate Pledge to demonstrate their support for action on climate change and the conclusion of a climate change agreement in Paris that takes a strong step forward toward a low-carbon, sustainable future. The release says the 81 companies who signed the pledge have operations in all 50 states, employ over 9 million people, represent more than $3 trillion in annual revenue, and have a combined market capitalization of over $5 trillion.

From the White House release: By signing the American Business Act on Climate pledge, these companies are:

Voicing support for a strong Paris outcome. The pledge recognizes those countries that have already put forward climate targets, and voices support for a strong outcome in the Paris climate negotiations.
Demonstrating an ongoing commitment to climate action. As part of this initiative, each company is announcing significant pledges to reduce their emissions, increase low-carbon investments, deploy more clean energy, and take other actions to build more sustainable businesses and tackle climate change.

These pledges include ambitious, company-specific goals such as:

Reducing emissions by as much as 50 percent,
Reducing water usage by as much as 80 percent,
Achieving zero waste-to-landfill,
Purchasing 100 percent renewable energy, and
Pursuing zero net deforestation in supply chains.
Setting an example for their peers. Today’s announcements builds on the launch of the American Business Act on Climate Pledge in July. This fall, the Obama Administration will release a third round of pledges, with a goal of mobilizing many more companies to join the American Business Act on Climate Pledge.

The impacts of climate change are already being felt worldwide. Nineteen of the 20 hottest years on record occurred in the past two decades. Countries and communities around the world are already being affected by deeper, more persistent droughts, pounded by more severe weather, inundated by bigger storm surges, and imperiled by more frequent and dangerous wildfires. Rising temperatures can lead to more smog, longer allergy seasons, and an increased incidence of extreme-weather-related injuries, all of which imperil public health, particularly for vulnerable populations like children, the elderly, the sick, the poor, and some communities of color. No corner of the planet and no sector of the global economy will remain unaffected by climate change in the years ahead.

Climate change is a global challenge that demands a global response, and President Obama is committed to leading the fight. The President’s Climate Action Plan, when fully implemented, will cut nearly 6 billion tons of carbon pollution through 2030, an amount equivalent to taking all the cars in the United States off the road for more than 4 years. The Clean Power Plan, the most significant domestic step any President has ever taken to combat climate change, will reduce emissions from the energy sector by 32% by 2030. And while the United States is leading on the international stage and the federal government is doing its part to combat climate change, hundreds of private companies, local governments, and foundations have stepped up to increase energy efficiency, boost low-carbon investing, and make solar energy more accessible to low-income Americans.

The measures taken by the public and private sectors enabled President Obama to set an ambitious but achievable goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions economy-wide by 26-28% by 2025 last November. And in the eleven months since, we’ve seen unprecedented global momentum in the fight against climate change.

To date, 150 countries representing more than 85% of global carbon emissions have reported post-2020 climate policies to the United Nations. This includes the major economies like the U.S., China, the European Union and India and it includes a large number of smaller economies, developing nations, island states and tropical countries – some of whom are the most vulnerable to the impacts of climate change.

But these submissions are only the beginning of achieving a successful outcome in Paris this December that puts in place a transparent global framework for increasing ambition over time and continuing to drive down emissions over the course of this century. As the world looks toward Paris, President Obama is committed to building on this momentum, with American leadership at all levels – the federal government, state and local governments and the private sector.

Additionally, leading up to the White House Clean Energy Investment Summit on June 16, 2015, an independent consortium of long-term investors (“LTIs”), including sovereign development funds, pension funds, endowments, family offices, and foundations, committed to building a new investment intermediary that will identify, screen, and assess high-potential companies and projects for commercial investment that could also produce impactful and profitable solutions to climate change.

The consortium announced its founding CEO, interim board of directors, sponsors, and confirms the intention of the LTIs to deploy at least $1.2 billion of investment capital through an ‘aligned intermediary’, which they anticipate will be formally launched and branded in mid-2016.

The initial group of LTIs announcing financial commitments to work with the ‘aligned intermediary’ includes:

$500 million from University of California’s Office of the Chief Investment Officer;
350 million from the New Zealand Superannuation Fund;
$200 million from the Alaska Permanent Fund;
$100 million from TIAA-CREF; and
$10 million from Tamarisc.
The effort launches with research support from the Hewlett Foundation, ClimateWorks Foundation, and Planet Heritage Foundation, and a commitment of further operational support, pending final approval, from the MacArthur Foundation.

As President Obama said at the U.N. Climate Summit last September, “There’s one issue that will define the contours of this century more dramatically than any other, and that is the urgent and growing threat of a changing climate.” The American Business Act on Climate Pledge shows that the U.S. private sector, with its history of innovation and ingenuity, is committed to stepping up and doing its part in taking on this global challenge.

We applaud the growing number of countries that have already set ambitious targets for climate action. In this context, we support the conclusion of a climate change agreement in Paris that takes a strong step forward toward a low-carbon, sustainable future.

We recognize that delaying action on climate change will be costly in economic and human terms, while accelerating the transition to a low-carbon economy will produce multiple benefits with regard to sustainable economic growth, public health, resilience to natural disasters, and the health of the global environment.

The following companies have joined the pledge and their detailed commitments can be viewed at:

President Obama’s Speech at the GLACIER Conference, Anchorage, Alaska

alaskaspeech
The full text of his speech to the Glacier Conference on 1 September 2015 follows:

I want to thank the people of Alaska for hosting this conference. I look forward to visiting more of Alaska over the next couple of days. The United States is, of course, an Arctic nation. And even if this isn’t an official gathering of the Arctic Council, the United States is proud to chair the Arctic Council for the next two years. And to all the foreign dignitaries who are here, I want to be very clear — we are eager to work with your nations on the unique opportunities that the Arctic presents and the unique challenges that it faces. We are not going to — any of us — be able to solve these challenges by ourselves. We can only solve them together.

Of course, we’re here today to discuss a challenge that will define the contours of this century more dramatically than any other — and that’s the urgent and growing threat of a changing climate.

Our understanding of climate change advances each day. Human activity is disrupting the climate, in many ways faster than we previously thought. The science is stark. It is sharpening. It proves that this once-distant threat is now very much in the present.

In fact, the Arctic is the leading edge of climate change — our leading indicator of what the entire planet faces. Arctic temperatures are rising about twice as fast as the global average. Over the past 60 years, Alaska has warmed about twice as fast as the rest of the United States. Last year was Alaska’s warmest year on record — just as it was for the rest of the world. And the impacts here are very real.

Thawing permafrost destabilizes the earth on which 100,000 Alaskans live, threatening homes, damaging transportation and energy infrastructure, which could cost billions of dollars to fix.

Warmer, more acidic oceans and rivers, and the migration of entire species, threatens the livelihoods of indigenous peoples, and local economies dependent on fishing and tourism. Reduced sea levels leaves villages unprotected from floods and storm surges. Some are in imminent danger; some will have to relocate entirely. In fact, Alaska has some of the swiftest shoreline erosion rates in the world.

I recall what one Alaska Native told me at the White House a few years ago. He said, “Many of our villages are ready to slide off into the waters of Alaska, and in some cases, there will be absolutely no hope -– we will need to move many villages.”

Alaska’s fire season is now more than a month longer than it was in 1950. At one point this summer, more than 300 wildfires were burning at once. Southeast of here, in our Pacific Northwest, even the rainforest is on fire. More than 5 million acres in Alaska have already been scorched by fire this year — that’s an area about the size of Massachusetts. If you add the fires across Canada and Siberia, we’re talking 300 [30] million acres -– an area about the size of New York.

This is a threat to many communities — but it’s also an immediate and ongoing threat to the men and women who put their lives on the line to protect ours. Less than two weeks ago, three highly trained firefighters lost their lives fighting a fire in Washington State. Another has been in critical condition. We are thankful to each and every firefighter for their heroism — including the Canadian firefighters who’ve helped fight the fires in this state.

But the point is that climate change is no longer some far-off problem. It is happening here. It is happening now. Climate change is already disrupting our agriculture and ecosystems, our water and food supplies, our energy, our infrastructure, human health, human safety — now. Today. And climate change is a trend that affects all trends — economic trends, security trends. Everything will be impacted. And it becomes more dramatic with each passing year.

Already it’s changing the way Alaskans live. And considering the Arctic’s unique role in influencing the global climate, it will accelerate changes to the way that we all live.

Since 1979, the summer sea ice in the Arctic has decreased by more than 40 percent — a decrease that has dramatically accelerated over the past two decades. One new study estimates that Alaska’s glaciers alone lose about 75 gigatons — that’s 75 billion tons — of ice each year.

To put that in perspective, one scientist described a gigaton of ice as a block the size of the National Mall in Washington — from Congress all the way to the Lincoln Memorial, four times as tall as the Washington Monument. Now imagine 75 of those ice blocks. That’s what Alaska’s glaciers alone lose each year. The pace of melting is only getting faster. It’s now twice what it was between 1950 and 2000 — twice as fast as it was just a little over a decade ago. And it’s one of the reasons why sea levels rose by about eight inches over the last century, and why they’re projected to rise another one to four feet this century.

Consider, as well, that many of the fires burning today are actually burning through the permafrost in the Arctic. So this permafrost stores massive amounts of carbon. When the permafrost is no longer permanent, when it thaws or burns, these gases are released into our atmosphere over time, and that could mean that the Arctic may become a new source of emissions that further accelerates global warming.

So if we do nothing, temperatures in Alaska are projected to rise between six and 12 degrees by the end of the century, triggering more melting, more fires, more thawing of the permafrost, a negative feedback loop, a cycle — warming leading to more warming — that we do not want to be a part of.

And the fact is that climate is changing faster than our efforts to address it. That, ladies and gentlemen, must change. We’re not acting fast enough.

I’ve come here today, as the leader of the world’s largest economy and its second largest emitter, to say that the United States recognizes our role in creating this problem, and we embrace our responsibility to help solve it. And I believe we can solve it. That’s the good news. Even if we cannot reverse the damage that we’ve already caused, we have the means — the scientific imagination and technological innovation — to avoid irreparable harm.

We know this because last year, for the first time in our history, the global economy grew and global carbon emissions stayed flat. So we’re making progress; we’re just not making it fast enough.

Here in the United States, we’re trying to do our part. Since I took office six and a half years ago, the United States has made ambitious investments in clean energy, and ambitious reductions in our carbon emissions. We now harness three times as much electricity from wind and 20 times as much from the sun. Alaskans now lead the world in the development of hybrid wind energy systems from remote grids, and it’s expanding its solar and biomass resources.

We’ve invested in energy efficiency in every imaginable way — in our buildings, our cars, our trucks, our homes, even the appliances inside them. We’re saving consumers billions of dollars along the way. Here in Alaska, more than 15,000 homeowners have cut their energy bills by 30 percent on average. That collectively saves Alaskans more than $50 million each year. We’ve helped communities build climate-resilient infrastructure to prepare for the impacts of climate change that we can no longer prevent.

Earlier this month, I announced the first set of nationwide standards to end the limitless dumping of carbon pollution from our power plants. It’s the single most important step America has ever taken on climate change. And over the course of the coming days, I intend to speak more about the particular challenges facing Alaska and the United States as an Arctic power, and I intend to announce new measures to address them.

So we are working hard to do our part to meet this challenge. And in doing so, we’re proving that there doesn’t have to be a conflict between a sound environment and strong economic growth. But we’re not moving fast enough. None of the nations represented here are moving fast enough.

And let’s be honest — there’s always been an argument against taking action. The notion is somehow this will curb our economic growth. And at a time when people are anxious about the economy, that’s an argument oftentimes for inaction. We don’t want our lifestyles disrupted. In countries where there remains significant poverty, including here in the United States, the notion is, can we really afford to prioritize this issue. The irony, of course, is, is that few things will disrupt our lives as profoundly as climate change. Few things can have as negative an impact on our economy as climate change.

On the other hand, technology has now advanced to the point where any economic disruption from transitioning to a cleaner, more efficient economy is shrinking by the day. Clean energy and energy efficiency aren’t just proving cost-effective, but also cost-saving. The unit costs of things like solar are coming down rapidly. But we’re still underinvesting in it.

Many of America’s biggest businesses recognize the opportunities and are seizing them. They’re choosing a new route. And a growing number of American homeowners are choosing to go solar every day. It works. All told, America’s economy has grown more than 60 percent over the last 20 years, but our carbon emissions are roughly back to where they were 20 years ago. So we know how to use less dirty fuel and grow our economy at the same time. But we’re not moving fast enough.

More Americans every day are doing their part, though. Thanks to their efforts, America will reach the emission target that I set six years ago. We’re going to reduce our carbon emissions in the range of 17 percent below 2005 levels by 2020. And that’s why, last year, I set a new target: America is going to reduce our emissions 26 to 28 percent below 2005 levels by 10 years from now.

And that was part of a historic joint announcement we made last year in Beijing. The United States will double the pace at which we cut our emissions, and China committed, for the first time, to limiting its emissions. Because the world’s two largest economies and two largest emitters came together, we’re now seeing other nations stepping up aggressively as well. And I’m determined to make sure American leadership continues to drive international action — because we can’t do this alone. Even America and China together cannot do this alone. Even all the countries represented around here cannot do this alone. We have to do it together.

This year, in Paris, has to be the year that the world finally reaches an agreement to protect the one planet that we’ve got while we still can.

So let me sum up. We know that human activity is changing the climate. That is beyond dispute. Everything else is politics if people are denying the facts of climate change. We can have a legitimate debate about how we are going to address this problem; we cannot deny the science. We also know the devastating consequences if the current trend lines continue. That is not deniable. And we are going to have to do some adaptation, and we are going to have to help communities be resilient, because of these trend lines we are not going to be able to stop on a dime. We’re not going to be able to stop tomorrow.

But if those trend lines continue the way they are, there’s not going to be a nation on this Earth that’s not impacted negatively. People will suffer. Economies will suffer. Entire nations will find themselves under severe, severe problems. More drought; more floods; rising sea levels; greater migration; more refugees; more scarcity; more conflict.

That’s one path we can take. The other path is to embrace the human ingenuity that can do something about it. This is within our power. This is a solvable problem if we start now.

And we’re starting to see that enough consensus is being built internationally and within each of our own body politics that we may have the political will — finally — to get moving.
So the time to heed the critics and the cynics and the deniers is past. The time to plead ignorance is surely past. Those who want to ignore the science, they are increasingly alone. They’re on their own shrinking island. (Applause.)

And let’s remember, even beyond the climate benefits of pursuing cleaner energy sources and more resilient, energy-efficient ways of living, the byproduct of it is, is that we also make our air cleaner and safer for our children to breathe. We’re also making our economies more resilient to energy shocks on global markets. We’re also making our countries less reliant on unstable parts of the world. We are gradually powering a planet on its way to 9 billion humans in a more sustainable way.
These are good things. This is not simply a danger to be avoided; this is an opportunity to be seized. But we have to keep going. We’re making a difference, but we have to keep going. We are not moving fast enough.

If we were to abandon our course of action, if we stop trying to build a clean-energy economy and reduce carbon pollution, if we do nothing to keep the glaciers from melting faster, and oceans from rising faster, and forests from burning faster, and storms from growing stronger, we will condemn our children to a planet beyond their capacity to repair: Submerged countries. Abandoned cities. Fields no longer growing. Indigenous peoples who can’t carry out traditions that stretch back millennia. Entire industries of people who can’t practice their livelihoods. Desperate refugees seeking the sanctuary of nations not their own. Political disruptions that could trigger multiple conflicts around the globe.

That’s not a future of strong economic growth. That is not a future where freedom and human rights are on the move. Any leader willing to take a gamble on a future like that — any
so-called leader who does not take this issue seriously or treats it like a joke — is not fit to lead.

On this issue, of all issues, there is such a thing as being too late. That moment is almost upon us. That’s why we’re here today. That’s what we have to convey to our people — tomorrow, and the next day, and the day after that. And that’s what we have to do when we meet in Paris later this year. It will not be easy. There are hard questions to answer. I am not trying to suggest that there are not going to be difficult transitions that we all have to make. But if we unite our highest aspirations, if we make our best efforts to protect this planet for future generations, we can solve this problem.

And when you leave this conference center, I hope you look around. I hope you have the chance to visit a glacier. Or just look out your airplane window as you depart, and take in the God-given majesty of this place. For those of you flying to other parts of the world, do it again when you’re flying over your home countries. Remind yourself that there will come a time when your grandkids — and mine, if I’m lucky enough to have some — they’ll want to see this. They’ll want to experience it, just as we’ve gotten to do in our own lives. They deserve to live lives free from fear, and want, and peril. And ask yourself, are you doing everything you can to protect it. Are we doing everything we can to make their lives safer, and more secure, and more prosperous?

Let’s prove that we care about them and their long-term futures, not just short-term political expediency.

I had a chance to meet with some Native peoples before I came in here, and they described for me villages that are slipping into the sea, and the changes that are taking place — changing migratory patterns; the changing fauna so that what used to feed the animals that they, in turn, would hunt or fish beginning to vanish. It’s urgent for them today. But that is the future for all of us if we don’t take care.

Your presence here today indicates your recognition of that. But it’s not enough just to have conferences. It’s not enough just to talk the talk. We’ve got to walk the walk. We’ve got work to do, and we’ve got to do it together.

So, thank you. And may God bless all of you, and your countries. And thank you, Alaska, for your wonderful hospitality. Thank you. (Applause.)

Catastrophic Climate Change and National Security

rice
World faces catastrophic climate change unless it takes action, National Security Adviser Susan Rice tells Stanford University audience 12 October 2015

Selected Remarks by National Security Adviser Susan E. Rice on Climate Change and National Security at Stanford University, October 12, 2015: [Full Text of Speech]

… In 1985—fall quarter of my senior year—scientists from around the world met to express concern that a buildup of greenhouse gasses, and specifically carbon dioxide, would result in “a rise of global mean temperature…greater than any in man’s history.” By 1990, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change issued its first report, detailing how a warming climate would affect our ecosystem. There have since been four more reports, each with more sophisticated science to support ever more dire warnings.

So, it’s not that we didn’t see climate change coming. It’s that for the better part of three decades we failed, repeatedly, to treat this challenge with the seriousness and the urgency it deserves. As an international community, we succumbed to divisive global politics that set developing countries against industrialized nations and stymied international consensus on climate change.

At home, we succumbed to divisive domestic politics that allowed entrenched interests to push a calculated agenda of doubt, denial, and delay. And, we focused, quite understandably, on other critical national security priorities—from coming to grips with globalization, halting proliferation, and above all, keeping the American people safe in a post-9/11 world….

We are seizing opportunities and meeting challenges head on. And, today, we face no greater long-term challenge than climate change, an advancing menace that imperils so many of the other things we hope to achieve. That’s why, under President Obama, we have put combating climate change at the very center of our national security agenda….

In the past 15 years, we’ve had 14 of the hottest years on record—which is exactly the kind of change those climate scientists back in 1985 suggested we could be seeing by now. Last year, 2014, was the hottest. And, scientists say there’s a 97 percent chance that we’ll set a new record again this year. The seas have risen about eight inches over the past 100 years, and they’re now rising at roughly double the rate they did in the 20th century. Arctic sea ice is shrinking. Permafrost is thawing. The Antarctic ice shelf is breaking up faster than anticipated. Storms are getting stronger. Extreme precipitation events are becoming more frequent. Heat waves are growing more intense. The bottom line is this: we’re on a collision course with climate impacts that have inescapable implications for our national security. Let me sketch out a few of them.

First, climate change is a direct threat to the prosperity and safety of the American people. We’re losing billions of dollars in failed crops due to extreme drought. Millions of acres of forest have been lost to fire. In addition to longer fire seasons and drier summers here in the West, on the East Coast we’re seeing record rain events. Last week in the Carolinas, unprecedented amounts of rain fell—enough in just five days to put a serious dent in California’s multi-year drought. And, while we can’t say that climate change is the direct cause of any specific weather event, these are exactly the trends that we expect to see more of, if climate trends continue on their current trajectory.

Along our coasts, we’ve got thousands of miles of roads and railways, 100 energy facilities, communities of millions—all of which are vulnerable to sea-level rise. Remember Super Storm Sandy—how it hobbled America’s largest city and plunged everyone south of 34th Street into darkness for days? We saw a cascading failure of infrastructure. Water flooded an electrical substation, and backup power was either flooded or insufficient. Over 6,000 patients had to be evacuated from powerless hospitals down stairwells. Transportation broke down, because you can’t pump gas without electricity. Wastewater treatment plants shut down. One critical sector pulled down other vital systems. And, with warmer oceans and higher seas, New York City will have to be prepared for Sandy-level flooding to happen every 25 years.

When I visited Alaska with President Obama last month, we saw rapidly disappearing glaciers and a native community whose island home is already being washed away. The question for them is not if they will have to abandon their traditional homes and way of life, but when. These are real threats to our homeland security, and they’re happening now.

Second, climate change will impact our national defense. We’ve got military installations that are imperiled by the same rising seas as our civilian infrastructure. Here in the western United States, ranges where our troops train are jeopardized by heat and drought. In fact, this summer we had to cancel some training exercises, because it got too hot.

Climate change means operating in more severe weather conditions, increasing the wear on both service members and their equipment. There will also be new demands on our military. A thawing Arctic means 1,000 miles of Arctic coastline and new sea lanes to secure. Around the world, more intense storms—like the massive typhoon that decimated part of the Philippines two years ago—will mean more frequent humanitarian relief missions. And, our military will have to deal with increased instability and conflict around the world.

That’s a third major national security concern, because climate change is what the Department of Defense calls a “threat multiplier”—which means, even if climate change isn’t the spark that directly ignites conflict, it increases the size of the powder keg. A changing climate makes it harder for farmers to grow crops, fishermen to catch enough fish, herders to tend their livestock—it makes it harder for countries to feed their people. And humans, like every other species on this planet, scatter when their environment can no longer sustain them. As the Earth heats up, many countries will experience growing competition for reduced food and water resources. Rather than stay and starve, people will fight for their survival.

All of these consequences are exacerbated in fragile, developing states that are least equipped to handle strains on their resources. In Nigeria, prolonged drought contributed to the instability and dissatisfaction that Boko Haram exploits. The genocide in Darfur began, in part, as a drought-driven conflict. In the years prior to civil war breaking out in Syria, that country also experienced its worst drought on record. Farming families moved en masse into urban centers, increasing political unrest and further priming the country for conflict. In fact, last year, a Stanford research group determined that a rise in temperature is linked with a statistically significant increase in the frequency of conflict. There is already an unholy nexus between human insecurity, humanitarian crises, and state failure—climate change makes it that much worse.

Around the world, more than 100 million people now live less than one meter above sea level—including entire island countries in the Caribbean, the Pacific and the Indian Oceans. Consider the impacts—to the global economy and to our shared security—when rising seas begin to swallow nations whole.

Fourth, we face spreading diseases and mounting threats to global health. Already, more mosquito-borne diseases are spreading from the tropics to temperate zones as climates warm. Viruses like West Nile and Chikungunya are growing more prevalent in the United States. India is currently in the grip of the worst dengue fever outbreak in years. Livestock diseases are expanding northward into Europe. These advancing diseases cost billions of dollars a year to treat and contain, not to mention the immeasurable cost in human lives and suffering.

Finally, we cannot dismiss the worst-case predictions of catastrophic, irreparable damage to our environment. If the Greenland ice sheet melts, seas could rise not just the one to four feet many scientists predict, but eventually as much as 20 feet. If the oceans continue to acidify, it will devastate the marine coral reefs, compromising the food chain, and imperiling a major source of protein for 3 billion people worldwide.

These aren’t marginal threats. They put at risk the health and safety of people on every continent.

Often in the shadows, 12 special interests wage aggressive anti-solar campaigns

EA_BlockingtheSun_cvr
Often in the shadows, 12 special interests wage aggressive anti-solar campaigns
By Environment America
Thursday, October 8, 2015
Phoenix, AZ –The Koch brothers, Duke Energy, and Arizona Public Service are among 12 special interest groups waging aggressive anti-solar campaigns across the country, often coordinated and behind the scenes, a new Environment America Research & Policy Center report said today.

While American solar power has increased four-fold since 2010, state by state, utilities and powerful industry front groups have begun chipping away at key policies that helped spur this solar boom, according to the analysis, Blocking the Sun: 12 Utilities and Fossil Fuel Interests That Are Undermining American Solar Power.

“Fossil-fuel interests and their allies have been using the same playbook to undermine solar power across the country,” said Bret Fanshaw, the solar program coordinator for Environment America. “And they’ve largely been operating in the shadows.”

The playbook: a national network of utility interest groups and fossil fuel industry-funded think tanks provides funding, model legislation and political cover for anti-solar campaigns. The report examines five of these major national players — Edison Electric Institute, American Legislative Exchange Council, the Koch brothers and their front group Americans for Prosperity, the Heartland Institute, and the Consumer Energy Alliance.

Then, in state after state, electric utilities use the support provided by these national anti-solar interests, supplemented by their own ample resources, to attack key solar energy policies. The report features seven utilities — Arizona Public Service, Duke Energy, American Electric Power, Berkshire Hathaway Industries, Salt River Project, FirstEnergy, and We Energies.

“We found that most attacks on solar energy happen behind closed doors in utility agencies, or in dense regulatory filings — away from public view,” said Gideon Weissman of the Frontier Group, co-author of the report. “That’s probably because they’re aimed at very popular policies that give regular consumers the chance to go solar.”

Charles and David Koch have an enormous financial stake in the fossil fuel industry through their company Koch Industries and its many subsidiaries. Koch Industries alone operates around 4,000 miles of pipeline, along with oil refineries in Alaska, Minnesota, and Texas.

Through its front group Americans for Prosperity and funding to other like-minded entities, the Koch brothers have attacked solar laws in several states including Florida, Georgia, Kansas, North Carolina, Arizona, Minnesota, Ohio, South Carolina, and Washington state.

Utilities like Arizona Public Service augment resources from interests like the Kochs to forward an anti-solar agenda. APS admitted to funding anti-solar ads by 60 plus, a national Koch-backed front group that purports to represent seniors, and it has been accused of improper influence with the Arizona Corporation Commission.

“I’ve seen first-hand how some energy monopolies have used money in campaigns to intimidate and manipulate policy makers and elected officials,” said Rep. Ken Clark, a state representative from Arizona who has pushed APS to disclose its political spending. “Aside from the question of renewable energy, this activity has become a threat to our electoral system.”

APS’s latest stealth move against solar has been to withdraw its request to raise fees on solar owners until the commission completes a study that would only examine costs, and not benefits, of the resource.

In Florida, where solar capacity is far beneath its potential, Koch-backed Americans for Prosperity and Duke Energy, the largest utility in the U.S., have teamed up to block pro-solar policies. Duke Energy spent heavily to help re-elect Gov. Rick Scott, who campaigned against a state renewable electricity standard. AFP has mobilized its members and waged an aggressive ad campaign against a ballot initiative to expand rooftop solar by allowing third-party sales of panels. Duke Energy has also contributed to that effort.

The anti-solar coalition Consumers for Smart Solar, backed by AFP, Duke Energy, and others, has now put forward a competing ballot measure in Florida to undermine the rooftop solar amendment and is spreading misinformation about both measures.

“By wide margins, Americans support pro-solar policies,” said Fanshaw. “That’s why fossil fuel interests and their front groups have resorted to shady and deceptive tactics to undermine them. Ultimately it’s up to state leaders to reject these attacks and support a clean energy future.”

Stop Oil Development in Coastal Habitat

Red_Knot_TimBoyerPhotography_340x300

One oil spill or accident in Grays Harbor could wipe out a significant portion of the Red Knot population in the Pacific Flyway. Speak out against the development of oil terminals in Grays Harbor.

Critical coastal estuaries could face devastating consequences for birds if the oil industry is successful in expanding its operations in Grays Harbor in Washington state—a site visited by hundreds of thousands of migrating shorebirds every year. Three proposed new oil terminals would store roughly 91 million gallons of toxic crude, most of it for export to China. Our birds rely on this Pacific coast estuary to rest and refuel during migration. One oil spill would devastate this fragile marine ecosystem.

Write the Washington Department of Ecology and the City of Hoquiam today and tell them to reject the oil terminals.

Located on Washington’s outer coast, Grays Harbor is a critical spring migration stop-over site for Red Knots in the Pacific Flyway. A climate-endangered bird, the Red Knot uses the North Bay of Grays Harbor almost exclusively during the month of May to feed on rich marine food sources before flying non-stop to northwestern Alaska and Wrangel Island, Russia to nest and raise their young. One oil spill or accident could wipe out a significant portion of the Red Knot population in the Pacific Flyway.

Oil extraction, transport, and export across our country contributes to greenhouse gas emissions responsible for global warming. If the terminals are built, as much as 126,860 barrels of crude would arrive by train every day, another enormous source of risk. Oil trains have a bad safety record—in 2014 there were 141 oil train spills across the United States.

The deadline to speak out against two of the proposed terminals in Grays Harbor is October 29. Please add your voice in support of our birds. Tell the State of Washington that Grays Harbor is important to all of us who care about birds. We can’t afford to turn over our best coastal habitat to an industry that has shown it cannot prevent or contain oil spills. We’ve seen the devastating effects of oil spills in Alaska and the Gulf Coast—let’s keep that from happening in Washington.
Tell the Washington Department of Ecology and City of Hoquiam not to allow the development of oil terminals in Grays Harbor.

For your information and use, I am including a reproduction of the message I sent to the State of Washington’s Department of Ecology and the City of Hoquiam, Washington, on October 16, 2015, requesting that they NOT allow the development of the proposed crude oil terminals in Gray’s Harbor, Washington:

“Critical coastal estuaries could face devastating consequences for birds if the oil industry is successful in expanding its operations in Grays Harbor in Washington state–a site visited by hundreds of thousands of migrating shorebirds every year. Three proposed new oil terminals would store roughly 91 million gallons of toxic crude, most of it for export to China. Our birds rely on this Pacific coast estuary to rest and refuel during migration. One oil spill would devastate this fragile marine ecosystem.”

“Due to the enormous environmental degradation and very real risk of an oil spill occurring at the proposed Westway and Imperium oil terminals, and the significant negative impacts that would result to marine habitat, wildlife, the economy and the people who who care about our environment, and the fact that such monumental damages to our natural resources could never be adequately mitigated, I therefore respectfully request and plead that the Washington Department of Ecology and the City of Hoquiam not allow the development of these economically and environmentally unwise crude oil terminals in Grays Harbor.”
“Enabling and relying on the burning of fossil fuels as a way to satisfy society’s energy needs in this day and age of global warming and harmful climate change is dangerously wrong and unethical. This is particularly true in light of the fact hat today’s youth and future children, everywhere, will have no choice but to live their lives on a planet we here today are making less livable, and ultimately less survivable, by those who will come after us. It is therefore essential that we drastically reduce our individual and collective burning of fossil fuels, which we are presently doing now to a excess in practically everything we do (driving, flying, using electricity derived from fuel burning, heating our homes, businesses and institutions via burning fossil and other fuels), and by doing so, causing irreversible and dangerous harm to the atmosphere, oceans, wildlife and landscape that sustain us all, including so many other species of the world (the Red Knot population, …) as well as our future human and animal populations that will have to call Earth their home in the future, regardless of its condition.”
“Because of these reasons, I strongly support the protection of Grays Harbor, its marine life, and its people, and I therefore strongly urge that you reject the development of the proposed Westway and Imperium oil terminals because their ultimate impact will be too great.”
Please join me in sending public comments to oppose the development of oil terminals in this vital coastal habitat. It’s quick and easy to send your own comments at Audubon’s Action Center: