Thousands More Heat Deaths from Record Heat Wave in Pakistan on top of Neighboring India’s nearly 2,200 heat deaths.
Hot and humid weather came to Karachi Pakistan just weeks after torrid temperatures caused nearly 2,200 deaths in neighboring India, raising fears that South Asia could be seeing some of the devastating effects of human-caused climate change, the Associated Press reported. The worst of the heat peaked Saturday, when the high temperature hit 112.6 degrees in Karachi; the heat index topping out at a dangerously high 121 degrees.
“The deadly heat wave that has killed several hundred people in Karachi, Pakistan, is clearly a harbinger of things to come with the changing climate,” Saleemul Huq, director of the International Center for Climate Change and Development in Bangladesh and a prominent climate scientist, told the Associated Press earlier this week.
The death toll in Pakistan’s deadliest heat wave on record now topped 1,100, causing morgues to overflow, Reuters reported Friday.
“By Friday, at least 1,150 people have died in the government-run hospitals,” said Anwar Kazmi of the Edhi Foundation, a private charity that runs a network of ambulances and morgues.
The New York Times reported the heat wave has sent more than 14,000 people into government and private hospitals in Karachi, the nation’s largest city.
The hot weather comes just weeks after torrid temperatures caused nearly 2,200 deaths in neighboring India, raising fears that South Asia could be seeing some of the devastating effects of human-caused climate change, the Associated Press reported.
Pakistan’s previous deadliest heat wave was in 1991, when 523 people died, EM-DAT, the International Disaster Database, reported.
The worst of the heat peaked Saturday, when the high temperature hit 112.6 degrees in Karachi; the heat index topping out at a dangerously high 121 degrees.
“Since the monsoon has been slower to get into northwestern India, Karachi has been tremendously dry with intense heat,” stated AccuWeather meteorologist Anthony Sagliani.
Cooling monsoon rains are likely to arrive in Pakistan by mid-July, which should mean the region won’t see any more temperatures this summer as high as were recorded last weekend, meteorologist Jeff Masters of the Weather Underground said.
The Pakistan heat wave will join this year’s heat wave in India as one of the 10 deadliest in world history.
“The deadly heat wave that has killed several hundred people in Karachi, Pakistan, is clearly a harbinger of things to come with the changing climate,” Saleemul Huq, director of the International Center for Climate Change and Development in Bangladesh and a prominent climate scientist, told the Associated Press earlier this week.
“Even if this particular event cannot be unequivocally attributed to human-induced climate change, we can certainly expect such heat waves with greater frequency in future,” he said.
There is widespread scientific consensus that climate change generally makes extreme weather events such as flooding, droughts, and heat waves much more frequent and more intense.
A major report this week from The Lancet finds that climate change significantly increases the fatal risks of these types of events. The report, which was backed by the World Health Organization, diagnosed climate change as “a medical emergency” with the power to undo 50 years of progress in global health. In a landmark document released last week, Pope Francis aimed to focus the world’s attention on the matter of how climate change impacts the poor. “Climate change is a global problem with grave implications: environmental, social, economic, political and for the distribution of goods,” he wrote. According to NOAA and NASA, this year is on track to supplant last year as the warmest year on record.
Extremly High Temperatures Along with High DewPoint Temperatures Leading to Higher Death Tolls from Heat Waves
Climate change is literally killing us. According to the Natural Resources Defense Council’s [NRDC’s] “Killer Summer Heat” report, more than 150,000 Americans could die by the end of this century due to the excessive heat caused by climate change. And that estimate only covers America’s top 40 cities.
Why will climate change cause so many casualties? Illnesses that are caused or made worse by extreme heat — including heat exhaustion, heat stroke, cardiovascular disease, and kidney disease — currently lead to hundreds of deaths each year.
As carbon pollution continues to rise, the number of dangerously hot days each summer will increase even further, leading to a dramatic increase in the number of lives lost.
While everyone in these urban areas is at risk, children and the elderly are the most vulnerable.
Scientists expect that average temperatures in North America will rise by another 4°F -11°F this century. The risks to public health are greatest when high temperatures mix with other weather conditions to cause what’s known as an “Excessive Heat Event,” or EHE. EHE days occur when a location’s temperature, dew point temperature, cloud cover, wind speed and surface atmospheric pressure throughout the day combine to cause or contribute to heat-related deaths in that location. [NRDC]
Health impacts spike during excessive heat events. For example, when California was hit by deadly heat waves in 2006, the heat caused during a two-week period 655 deaths, 1,620 excess hospitalizations, and more than 16,000 additional emergency room visits, resulting in nearly $5.4 billion in costs. During a 1995 record-setting heat wave in Chicago, over 700 people died due to the excessive heat.
EHE days vary by region and location. Factors such as geography, green space, local warning and preventive measures affect how much impact the weather will actually have on health.
Climate change is one of the most fiercely debated scientific issues of the past 20 years. Although a steady contingent of global warming deniers have remained insistent that climate change does not pose a threat, there is an overwhelming consensus among the worldwide scientific community that our planet is undergoing significant, highly problematic shifts. Experts point to rising sea levels, record-breaking temperatures across the globe, declining air quality and erratic weather patterns as different manifestations of climate change. Today, doctors, nurses and other medical personnel are drawing attention to the negative effects on human health caused by an increasingly warm, more heavily polluted environment.
According to a 2009 article in Scientific American, a team of climate change researchers from the World Health Organization (WHO) found that “global warming is [responsible] for some 150,000 deaths each year around the world”; they feared this number would double by the year 2030.
Egypt is the latest country outside the U.S. reporting a deadly heat wave occurring this year. At least 93 people have died during a heat wave in Egypt this week that sent air temperatures soaring to as high as 115 degrees Fahrenheit in southern parts of the country, the nation’s official Middle East News Agency (MENA) reported Friday. With high temperatures in the forecast for this weekend, authorities fear the death toll from the high heat may continue to mount.
Earlier this summer, record heat wave death tolls were reported to have occurred in India and Pakistan. France reported hundreds of death from a severe heat wave that occurred in July from 11th to 28th. About 2,065 excess deaths occurred in France during that spell that were attributable to the extreme weather.
To limit the health impacts of climate change, we need to reduce carbon pollution from top sources like power plants and refineries. The EPA has taken its first big step toward setting limits for industrial carbon sources by proposing limits on carbon pollution from new power plants. EPA should take the next step by setting limits on carbon from other sources as well, a government at the federal, state and local level should adopt laws and programs that offer all members of the public positive financial incentives ($) for for burning fewer and fewer amounts of fossil fuels over the year. This would reduce further additions being added to the accumulating carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases in the environment, which is increasing the potential for more severe and deadly heat waves around the planet.
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.
Why Have Our Commercial and Public Media (TV, Radio, Newspapers, Magazines, Online Sources) and Officials in Federal and State Government in the United States Not Sounded the ALARM Yet on Continued Global Warming and Climate Change?
The following is a summary of a 2008 international conference entitled: “ENVIRONMENT: FROM GLOBAL WARNINGS TO MEDIA ALERT” that was held October 10 and 11, 2008, in Venice, Italy. The purpose of the conference was to challenge the international media to improve public understanding of the impact of climate change. Journalists and news executives from 29 countries representing six continents attended the conference which was held by the international World Political Forum (WPF).
Unfortunately, now almost five years after this conference was held, commercial and corporation funded TV and radio media in these United States continue to purposefully ignore said challenge by not sounding the alarm on the global warming world catastrophe in the making, as do many U.S. publicly elected government officials in federal and state government, leaving the at large public in the U.S. as confused as ever over whether human activities such as fossil fuel burning: in power plants that produce electricity; in home and business heating (natural gas; oil; propane; electric baseboard); in motor vehicle travel and product shipping, via trucks, ships, pipelines (fueling lift stations), in airplanes and in trains; and in cement making and paving the landscape (fuel burning in earth moving equipment). Another significant contributor to the growing global warming crisis is continued deforestation, worldwide, and especially the deforestation of the tropics, where previously large reductions in of carbon dioxide (CO2) were being taken out of the air by the vegetation there – through the process of photosynthesis. Less green vegetation on Earth means increasing buildup of CO2 in the atmosphere and oceans, adding to warmer global temperatures. Methane gas (unburned natural gas) that is released from oil wells, livestock, and rotting biological matter (permafrost thawing) compound the problem that is resulting in what the scientific community has called “a potentially very dangerous situation for all humanity and life on Earth and lasting far into the future. Reason is that many positive (lead to more warming) feedbacks . One such warming feedback is the loss of Earth’s albedo, where a reduction in the area of snow-covered land, ice caps, glaciers or sea ice has a compounding effect on the initial warming. As the loss of “white” snow and ice cover (the albedo) continues, the amount of solar energy absorbed by the ocean increases, leading to more warming, which reduces the albedo on the planet even more, which causes more warming, and so on. A small amount of snow melt exposes darker ground which absorbs more radiation, leading to more snowmelt.
The effect is most vividly demonstrated by the decline in Arctic sea ice in recent decades.
As humans are continuing to do things that add more heat-trapping greenhouse gases (GHGs) to the Earth’s atmosphere, the result is that climates all around Earth have been measurably and significantly changing, mostly to the detriment of humans and animal life.
The global warming that has already taken place has caused Earth’s ocean levels to rise – due to thermal expansion from increasing water temperatures and from melting glaciers on Greenland, Antarctica, and Earth’s numerous mountain ranges.
Ocean water acidification has already taken place (a 33% increase) which has already lead to significant environmental, economic, and social cost. These effects of expected to continue unabated which is expected to worsen in time, with projected increases in monetary losses, damage, and loss of human and animal life due to worse and worse “natural” disasters.
As examples of recent catastrophes suspected to have been made worse as a likely direct consequence of rising average global temperatures (global warming): in 2015 heat waves in India and Pakistan killed 1,400 and 2,500 people; in 2013, the thirtieth named storm of the 2013 Pacific typhoon season, Typhoon Haiyan — known as Typhoon Yolanda in the Philippines – with an estimated one-minute sustained winds of 315 km/h (196 mph; 170 kn), making the typhoon the strongest tropical cyclone ever observed based on one-minute sustained wind speed and the deadliest typhoon hitting the Philippines in recorded modern history, killing 6,300 people in that country alone (dozens of fatalities from the storm were also reported in Taiwan, China and Vietnam) and according to United Nation’s officials, about 11 million people were adversely impacted by the storm with many left homeless and an economic cost in the billions of dollars; in 2012, Hurricane Sandy, which remains the largest Atlantic hurricane on record (as measured by diameter, with winds spanning 1,100 miles (1,800 km)) is estimated to have caused monetary damages of over $68 billion and killed at least 233 people along its path on the eastern U S. seaboard including New Jersey and New York; and in 2005, Hurricane Katrina, the fifth hurricane of the 2005 Atlantic hurricane season, was not only the costliest “natural” disaster in the history of the United States. Total property damage from Hurricane Katrina was estimated at $108 billion; the hurricane and subsequent flooding took 1,833 human lives and an undetermined number of domesticated and wild animal lives.
Yet today, incredibly – almost six years later – there remain deniers of human-caused global warming and climate change, including our State of Wisconsin’s own U.S. Senator Ron Johnson, as well as announced U.S. presidential candidate and our current governor, Scott Walker, who continue to spread the false message that Earth’s climates have not been shown to have changed as a result of human activities, to the delight of corporations that are financially benefiting from continued and more fossil fuel burning, which releases carbon dioxide gas, the most abundant of the greenhouse gases, which compounds from year to year in the atmosphere and Earth’s oceans, leading to monumental negative consequences for humanity and other life forms on Earth.
WPF’s President Mikhail Gorbachev, the eighth and last leader of the Soviet Union and General Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union from 1985 until 1991 when the party was dissolved, chaired the conference at which participants reached a consensus that the problem of climate change is “URGENT”.
“Time is running out,” Mr. Gorbachev said in his closing remarks. “The most efficient way to tackle the urgent environmental problems facing our planet is transparency, in which the media have a vital role to play. This means global glasnost.”
Climate experts and media delegates approved a declaration calling for higher standards of reporting on strategic options to avert irreversible damage to the Earth’s eco-systems.
Stressing the importance of well-informed public opinion, the declaration set out the following main recommendations:
– The media have the central role in ensuring that politicians, corporations, non-governmental organisations and scientists keep the general public informed about the latest facts and policy options regarding climate change. Civil society formation and action are essential components in deliberation on this issue.
– Journalists have a responsibility to improve their knowledge and skills in order to be able effectively to question government policy-makers, to distinguish facts from opinion or advocacy, and to evaluate scientific arguments from an independent viewpoint.
– Journalists and civil society should redouble their efforts to combat restrictive measures by governments on journalists reporting on their deficiencies in fighting environmental degradation or in informing the public about the dangers of climate change.
– Journalists should avail themselves of existing international databanks of validated statistics and scientific research on climate change.
– Scientists need to acquire improved communications skills to explain their findings in accessible terms and to build relationships of trust with the media.
– Media proprietors should be prepared to invest more resources in investigative reporting to allow specialist journalists to carry out serious and objective coverage of complex issues, based on a thorough understanding of good science.
– Editors should provide more space for in-depth treatment of environmental issues, not just on-line but in print and on air, and encourage innovative approaches that will grab the attention of the audience in a responsible, independent and non-sensational manner.
– Journalism training organisations should develop ever more sophisticated exercises to improve reporters’ skills in explaining complex scientific arguments. An international network should be created to share information about the availability of training courses and the development of new training models.
The Conference concluded on a positive note, declaring: “There is, however, cause for optimism if we act now. Numerous positive solutions to the global environmental change proposed by science and made possible by innovations in technology, the potential inherent in global civil society organization and by citizens’ groups everywhere in the world; and contributions from socially responsible business leaders can make it possible for us to provide for a decent and full life for all, and for generations to come, within the limits of our planet’s resources.”
Global Warming Deniers and All Fossil Fuel Users: You Are Collectively Putting Us All in Very Grave Danger!
2015 Still On Pace as Hottest Year On Record
The first five months of 2015 topped the warmest such period on record for the globe, according to a pair of recently released independent analyses from government scientists. Meanwhile, a third, separate analysis from the Japanese Meteorological Agency similarly found May 2015 to be the globe’s hottest May, topping May 2014 in records dating to 1891.
Global temperatures January-May 2015 exceeded 2010’s as the warmest first five months of any year, according to the National Aeronautics and Space Administration’s (NASA’s) Goddard Institute for Space Studies.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA’s) National Climatic Data Center noted that the first five months of 2015 nudged ahead of January-May 2010 by 0.09 degrees Celsius.
Record warm sea-surface temperatures in the northeast and equatorial Pacific Ocean, as well as areas of the western North Atlantic Ocean and Barents Sea north of Scandinavia contributed to the record warm January-May 2015, according to a recently released NOAA data set. The record global average warmth in the first five months of 2015 follows the record annual average global temperatures of all of 2014.
NASA’s analysis found the most pronounced warm anomalies in May 2015 were over the higher latitudes of the northern hemisphere in two zones. One stretched from northern and central Russia into the Kara Sea, Barents Sea, northern Scandinavia westward toward northeast Greenland. Another was centered over northeast Alaska, and Canada’s Yukon and Northwest Territories stretching into the Beaufort Sea.
Record May warmth was also observed in parts of equatorial South America, southern Africa and The Middle East, according to NOAA. Spain tallied its second warmest May on record. Meanwhile, the heat wave death toll in India in the latter part of May topped 2,300, as was reported in a blog posting here last month that also reported on the death toll of Pakistan’s heat wave last month.
In fact, no U.S. corporation-funded major public media (T.V. or radio, including ABC, NBC, CBS, FOX and NPR) devoted any of their prime time broadcasting in Madison, WI to this story. This is not surprising, of course, knowing that all the major media networks in the U.S., both public and private, as well as many U.S. politicians who claim they represent the public, depend heavily on monetary sources from the major automobile, trucking, airline and fossil fuel providers/refiners/distributors and fossil fuel related industries.
Nine of the ten warmest years in NASA’s 134-year database have occurred this century, with the exception of 1998, which featured the tail end of one of the strongest El Ninos on record.
The last year NASA’s data set of global average temperatures was cooler than average global was 1976.
- The last cooler-than-average month was over 21 years ago, February 1994. In the 449 months from January 1978 through May 2015, only 11 months have been cooler than average, according to the NASA data set.
NOAA says nine of 10 warmest 12-month periods have taken place over the past two years. This 12-month record for the globe has been either tied or broken each month from January to April 2015.
France to see worse heat wave than occurred in 2003 when thousands of people died. France’s southwestern Gironde region sweltered under 107-degree F. heat a day after Cordoba in Southern Spain recorded nearlt 111 degree temperatures.
In the wake of island nation Vanuatu’s devastation by Cyclone Pam, in which 320 mile-per-hour winds killed dozens of people and destroyed 90 percent of the buildings in the capital city of Port Vila, public health experts fear that the country’s ruined infrastructure will result in mass starvation and epidemics of disease.
An aerial view of the destruction after Cyclone Pam hit Port Vila, capital city of the Pacific island nation of Vanuatu, on March 17, 2015. EDGAR SU/REUTERS
As the rate of global climate change continues to increase, such tragedies will become more and more common around the world. Vanuatu is not alone. New Yorkers, for example, received a dire warning recently from the New York City Panel on Climate Change: Sea levels and temperatures have risen dramatically over the past few decades, and that rise will only accelerate more rapidly in the coming years, putting the city at serious risk for flooding.
According to the report, mean annual temperatures have increased 3.4 degrees Fahrenheit in the past century, precipitation has increased 8 inches over the same time period, and sea levels in New York City have risen over a foot, which is twice the global rate of rising.
While these changes in temperature may seem insubstantial—none of us might notice, for example, if room temperature changed by a few degrees Fahrenheit—these changes have enormous implications for the environment and its inhabitants, particularly humans.
Take a look. Temperatures are projected to increase by nearly 6 degrees by 2050; heat waves will be more common; precipitation will increase up to 11 percent by 2050; and sea levels will rise up to 21 inches by 2050, up to 39 inches by 2080 and a worst-case situation of six feet by 2100.
As a result of climate change that has already occurred, we are now experiencing more powerful storms, resulting in more city damage. In Brooklyn, thousands of families were displaced by Hurricane Sandy, which flooded entire neighborhoods and ruined many homes, some of which have not been rebuilt. Worryingly, many experts now believe that a worse storm could occur within the next few years.
We cannot allow this to continue. The problem of global climate change requires a global solution. We must work with other nations and their people to support the development of renewable energy and to reduce emissions of carbon dioxide that contribute to drastic changes in our climate.
We already have much of the technology we will need. We have electric cars, commercially available in the United States at prices that decrease every year. We have wind turbines and solar panels, which continue to increase in capacity. None of these policies will, by itself, reverse the effects of climate change. But a flexible approach to the problem, in which we consider all of the possibilities, offers us considerable hope for the future.
This flexible approach to climate change is not a Republican or a Democratic idea. Regardless of our partisan affiliation, we all have a responsibility to protect our earth and its people, as well as a profound concern for the generations that will follow us.
Yet today there are still dinosaurs roaming the halls of Congress, who insist that we burn fossil fuels, and nothing other than fossil fuels, to produce our energy, a policy that will only exacerbate the problem.
Despite the challenges that exist, we remain optimistic. The women and men determining national policy on renewable energy and climate change are ultimately elected. If we raise our voices and organize on behalf of the broad interests of society as a whole, rather than the narrow interests of fossil fuel producers, we will influence the debate of climate change and elect leaders who are committed to this effort.
As the United Nations this year brings together representatives from every country to work toward a solution that accounts for the different needs of nations, we have a real opportunity to lead that process. President Barack Obama’s historic agreement with Taiwan and his recent trip to India, to emphasize and commit to greenhouse gas emission reductions, have the potential to provide a model for the entire world. This is an all-hands-on-deck approach to developing policies that reduce our dependence on fossil fuels and expand our capacity to create energy from renewable resources. No one is exempt.
We cannot afford delay, especially as Vanuatu-type storms become more common. With each year, the problem becomes more serious, and the range of potential solutions more limited.
We encourage you to demand action from your elected officials on this issue. We have the ability to mitigate the effects of climate change. We need only the resolve to act. Now is the time.
Yvette Clarke represents the 9th Congressional District of New York and serves on the House Energy and Commerce Committee. Dr. Michael Shank is director of media strategy at Climate Nexus and an adjunct faculty member at George Mason University’s School for Conflict Analysis and Resolution.
BY YVETTE CLARKE AND DR. MICHAEL SHANK 3/19/15
By Lee Bergquist of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Nov. 23, 2014
Experts thought the endangered Poweshiekskipperling would disappear in places like Wisconsin but survive in historic strongholds of western Minnesota, Iowa and the Dakotas.
Just the opposite happened.
Wisconsin is one of the last remaining places where the little brown butterfly can be found. But even here it lives a tenuous existence.
One — maybe two — sites in Wisconsin are inhabited by the prairie butterfly. It is also found in Oakland County, Mich., and one location in Manitoba.
All are on the periphery of the native range of a butterfly named for a Fox Indian chief. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service estimates that 90% of the butterfly’s population in nearby states has been wiped out.
“The Poweshiek skipperling is currently in danger of extinction throughout its entire range,” the agency said last month in announcing it would be listed as a federal endangered species. The protections go into effect this week.
The state listed the species in 1989. Both the state and federal listings prevent private landowners from destroying the insect. In Wisconsin’s case, the Poweshiek (pronounced pow-a-sheek) is believed today to inhabit only public-owned land.
“It’s been a very dramatic decline, and the frustrating thing is that I don’t think that anyone really knows what caused it,” said Owen Boyle, section chief of species management at the Department of Natural Resources.
Susan Borkin of the Milwaukee Public Museum is a local expert on the Poweshiek. She could not find the butterfly in Scuppernong Prairie State Natural Area in Waukesha County in 2013 and 2014.
In 2011, she counted 63 a day during peak flight periods on 20 acres of butterfly habitat.
In the spring of 2012, the DNR conducted prescribed burns of Poweshiek habitat at Scuppernong overBorkin’s objections. She found 45 on peak days that summer.
Based on her counts going back to the early 1990s, Scuppernong had more Poweshieks than any place in the state.
Then after 2012, she found nothing.
The only known sighting in 2014 came from independent researchers Scott and Ann Swengel of Baraboo, who found four last summer in Green Lake County in the Puchyan Prairie State Natural Area.
The conversion of tall grass and mixed-grass prairies to farming across the Midwest, beginning in 1830, was probably the biggest factor, according to the Fish and Wildlife Service.
But this wouldn’t account for the large-scale decline in the last 10 or 15 years.
“It was not the classic extinction due to ‘destruction of habitat’ for most of the sites,” said Borkin, curator of invertebrate zoology at the museum who has studied the butterfly since the early 1990s.
“It was really surprising how quickly they went out. It caught us all a little by surprise.”
Other possibilities: Borkin said that it could have been the introduction of new pesticides, extreme weather changes such as drought, heat waves, bitterly cold winter or flooding, or a combination of factors.
The Fish and Wildlife Service says the restorative powers of natural fire activity, which has been lacking on many prairies, may have hurt the species by harming the grasses. However, the Swengels, who have studied the butterfly across the Midwest, believe the benefits of fire for the Poweshiek are overblown.
And then there is the Poweshiek itself. Unlike the monarch butterfly, whose populations are also plummeting, the Poweshiek is not capable of long migrations.
It pretty well lives in one spot, regardless of changes in local habitat. Rapid, erratic fliers, they live in their butterfly stage for no more than a week. It can fly about a mile, according to the Fish and Wildlife Service.
In the winter, in a larval form, it clings to a blade of grass and is guarded by antifreeze-type protection in its body.
Borkin opposed the DNR’s decision to conduct a burn at Scuppernong on about 20% of the butterfly’s habitat.
In a July 2011 letter to the DNR, she recommended against burning the prairie, “primarily because we don’t know what’s causing the wide-range species decline, this is the only population in WI that can be considered reasonably viable…”
She also said the Poweshiek is “well known to have a negative response to fire.”
In spring of 2012, shortly before the burn, a letter from the agency’s Bureau of Endangered Resources to Borkin and the Fish and Wildlife Service said the agency was going ahead.
The prairie hadn’t been burned in 15 years and only a portion of the butterfly’s habitat would be affected, the agency said.
Also, the property contained the prairie white-fringed orchid, a federal threatened species that would benefit from fire since it is “profoundly shade-sensitive in critical life stages,” an agency official wrote. Burning would remove woody debris that crowds out the orchid.
“I’d argue that we acted very responsibly,” Boyle said. “A lot of what the DNR has to do is balance the needs of many species.”
Both Borkin and the Swengels didn’t blame the DNR for the disappearance of Poweshiek at Scupperong.
“We are disappointed,” said Scott Swengel. “But we realize we don’t control everything — it’s not all about the butterflies.”
The summer of 2012 was extremely hot and dry. That year, Milwaukee set a record as being the warmest on record. The following spring was unseasonably wet.
“Weather played a huge role in knocking out the populations,” Borkin said. “It was a combination of factors that worked against this species.”
What happens if the Poweshiek becomes extinct?
“The Poweshiek is insignificant in the bigger picture,” Ann Swengel said in an email.
“But it’s a huge warning that we don’t understand nature as well as we think we do.”
As part of an organizing action of Global Climate Convergence and Wisconsin Wave, University of Wisconsin students, professors, teachers and other members of Madison area community marched down Madison’s State Street on the 44th Earth Day, Tuesday, April 22, 2014, with the purpose being to add to the public’s growing awareness and concern regarding the grave environmental threats and social injustices going on around them. The continuing and reckless mining and overuse of the earth’s valuable natural resources, often primarily for the profit of a few, was a common theme expressed at the march in posters and verbal forms. There was an overriding concern about the overuse of fossil fuels, metals, sand and gravel, to the great harm being inflicted upon the earth’s clean water and limited atmosphere, which are showing signs everywhere that they have reached the limit of sustainability for all of the earth’s future populations.
As reported in a April 23 article by Dana Kampa in The Daily Cardinal, titled “Madison environmental, social justice advocates converged on Earth Day” to “Protect our Water–Reject the Mines and Pipelines!”, mining in Wisconsin was cited as one of several significant environmental issues the protesters voiced concerned about.
Wisconsin used to be an environmental leader. It was the home of naturalist and writer Aldo Leopold; it was the first state in the country to ban the use of DDT as a pesticide on farmland; and it was the birthplace and home of U.S. Senator Gaylord Nelson, who founded Earth Day in 1970 and was instrumental in waking up the nation’s awareness of the damaging ecological, health and economic costs of air and water pollution and the need for tough federal and state laws and regulations to minimize it. The State of Wisconsin did just that in the decades that followed, maintaining and protecting its natural resources throughout the decades that followed.
But natural resource protection in Wisconsin took an about face in Wisconsin in November 2010 with the election of Republican Governor Scott Walker. After passage of a bill into law that allows for significant environmental degradation from ore mining in the state, an environmentally sensitive area of northern Wisconsin could ultimately become the home of the world’s largest open-pit iron ore mine. Wisconsin’s once strong environmental laws and regulations have been weakened, and environmentally conscious people throughout the state are rising up and taking notice.
The mine is proposed to be built by Gogebic Taconite and is currently undergoing review for development in the Penokee Hills, despite the fact that the mine would destroy a vast, water-rich ecosystem that President John F. Kennedy in 1963 called “a central and significant portion of the freshwater assets of this country” after his visit there.
The $1.5 billion mine would initially be close to four miles long, up to a half-mile wide and nearly 1,000 feet deep, but it could be extended as long as 21 miles. It lies in the headwaters of the Bad River, which flows into Lake Superior, the largest freshwater lake in the world. Six miles downstream from the site is the reservation of the Bad River Band of Lake Superior Chippewa, whose livelihood is threatened by the mine. Environmentally conscious citizens of Wisconsin are protesting, as evidenced by the Earth Day march in Madison.
The protesters also voiced strong concerns for the overall degradation being inflicted on Wisconsin’s landscape by frac sand mining, as well as the human health concerns which occur over time when people breath in silica sand fragments, and the noise and dust from the various digging, processing and trucking of the sand from the mining sites to drilling sites, located out-of-state, mostly in North Dakota. But student marchers also expressed major concerns about the overall future and well-being of the entire planet earth, as its oceans are warming, becoming more acid, while sea levels are arising, from melting ice and snow on land masses and due to the thermal expansion that occurs when water warms, and as the air at the surface continues its record warming. The adverse effects on people and animals from the increasing weather extremes associated with the warming (longer and more dangerous heat waves, worse flooding in some areas and larger areas of drought in others; more and higher coastal flooding with stronger and stronger storms); in other words, more devastation of human and animal life and real estate as the earth continues to heat up. Property and life insurance rates the world over are rising as a result.
The protesters began the march at Madion’s Monona Terrace building, which is Madison’s Convention Center (designed by architect Frank Lloyd Wright), and marched past the Wisconsin’s State Capitol Building, and then down State Street, where they convened at the UW campus Library Mall.
At the mall, several speakers referenced the latest projections made by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), citing numerous examples of recent environmentally injurious governmental decisions of late, not just by our own state senators and representatives in the Wisconsin Legislature, but by current Wisconsin Republican Governor Scott Walker.
As most Wisconsinites know, Wisconsin has tens of thousands of individual and families living in poverty in the state, most who have been been able to just barely get by on the low income jobs they’ve been working up to now. Yet just this last November, the U.S. Congress voted to end the 2009 Recovery Act’s modest monetary increase in food share benefits (food stamps), by its failing to continue funding the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits for poor individuals and families, cutting the funding source of the food budget for many thousands of Wisconsin individuals, families and their children on November 1, 2013. This action by our Congress resulted in a benefit cut for nearly every household receiving food share benefits. For families of three, the cuts amounted to $29 a month — November 2013 through September 2014, totaling a $319 for families of three for that period.
The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities said that the cut amounted to “a serious loss, especially in light of the very low amount of basic SNAP benefits available”, and that “without the Recovery Act’s boost, SNAP benefits will average less than $1.40 per person per meal in 2014”. Unfortunately, it is individuals and families eligible for receiving SNAP funding – a large percentage who are Blacks of African and American descent who live in Milwaukee or Dane (Madison area) counties, as well as many thousands of rural preschool age children, and minority families who have children enrolled in public elementary, middle or high schools throughout Wisconsin – who were hurt the most by the November 2013 federal SNAP program cut. Studies show these are the times of human life that are most essential for the child to receive proper nutrition – when their bodies demand the largest amount of good food to grow properly and function well while in school as well as play. When children of any race are deprived of good, nutritious food in their preschool and school age years they are more likely to be more anxious and distracted in school and elsewhere, and they are thus more prone to act in ways get them into trouble in school and elsewhere.
Studies show that when deprived of good, nutritious food at a very young age (2 – 6 years of age), any child, regardless of their race or ethnicity, will be impaired for life as those years are key in proper brain development. When family poverty results in these young children being fed less than nutritious food, or not enough food, during the ages of 2 to 6 years of age, it saddles these young children with impaired mental capabilities, making it more difficult for them to succeed when they enter school, and ultimately reduces their ability to compete for good grades and reduces their chances of succeeding in school and the work place, which can increase their risk of getting into trouble with the authorities and land in prison. To generate this sequence of events for children of families having limited income, in a country as wealthy as the U.S., is an American tragedy of intolerable proportions. Yet, inflationary food pricing brought on by likely global-warming-caused drought in large portions of the western United States, southwestern California in particular, over the past 3 years, and the harsh political decisions affecting Wisconsin’s poor families by our Wisconsin political representative have made this situation worse, especially for the large African-American and Latino populations living in and around Wisconsin’s two largest urban areas – Milwaukee and Dane Counties in particular.
Many who marched this Earth Day (Tuesday) in Madison claimed that they were totally outraged by the fact our own U.S. Representatives and Senators in the Congress have hugely shirked their responsibilities as government employees and public office holders by their continued refusal to initiate or act on legislation to significantly bring down annual U.S. emissions of greenhouse gases (GHG) to the atmosphere, both by each individual state, as well as the country as a whole, and fund the development of community strategies to adapt existing and needed infrastructure to handle higher flood waters and drier and hotter condition affecting water supply and air conditioning during heat waves for those who can’t afford it; while creating alert systems and emergency response networking as extreme weather events become more extreme and potentially deadly,as is predicted in the coming decades due to human-caused global warming.
Not only is there now clear evidence of global warming, nearly everywhere, but studies also show the warming is likely to accelerate, the longer countries, such as the high carbon dioxide emitting, or those projected to become high annual greenhouse gas emitters: United States, Canada, China; India; Australia; European counties; Southeast Asia countries, Brazil, and many of the more prosperous South and Central American countries that rely heavily on the tremendous greenhouse gas emitting aviation industry, as well as the many countries having large numbers of military transport vehicles, ships and aircraft and who them on a regular basis, for training purposes and in war, and the very lucrative cruise and airline tourist industries, all who continue to fail at drastically cutting their annual GHG emissions, to the detriment of future decades.
Scientists the world over have already essentially issued a RED ALERT and sounded the alarm bells on the looming state, national and worldwide threats that are now becoming reality as rapid global warming becomes reality. Economists have reported that major industries which depend greatly on a stable climate are unlikely to prosper when they begin to experience heavy losses as they already have because of increasingly severe droughts, unusually fast and heavy rainfalls causing terrible flooding.
It is a fact that every time someone on the planet burns fossil fuels, whether the fuel is gasoline that gets burned up in a car or a lawn mower, ATV, boat jet ski, snowmobile; or if its diesel fuel for running a truck, train, bus or generator, or whether its aviation (jet) fuel from a plane; or natural gas, oil, propane or any other fuel source burned in one’s furnace; more carbon dioxide is emitted into the atmosphere, where it mixes with the other GHG’s already present in the atmosphere.
During their march down State Street in Madison, participants chanted phrases such as “keep the oil in the soil, keep the coal in the hole,” “people power, not corporate power” and “beat back the frack attack, we’re gonna say no mine, GTAC” to promote their individual and collective goals.
Trudi Jenny, a 350 Madison member, said she thought the main message of the march was to “protect our waters.” She said she opposes climate disruption and pipelines.
“We hope that [people attending the rally] learn to become active in the climate change arena,” Jenny said.
Jenny also said she hopes people will write to their congresspeople about creating legislation to keep the planet healthy, promote a carbon tax and oppose a pipeline coming through Minnesota, and support divestment from fossil fuel industries.
Madison Action for Mining Alternatives member Carol Buelow said frack sand mines need more regulation, and bills altering iron mining regulation need to be repealed.
“I think people need to pay attention to the threats to our environment and do what they can to stop them,” Buelow said. “[Iron and frack sand mining] are very destructive to the environment, and they’re very poorly regulated, if at all. The state is doing a totally inadequate job of protecting the environment.”
Environmental advocate Brandi Browskowski-Durow, a public school teacher and University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Education graduate student, said she wants to see more environmental education in schools.
Browskowski-Durow added one of her biggest concerns about the frack sand mining industry is the development of silicosis, which is the accumulation of fine sand in the lungs.
“Right now, [the government is] allowing permits to be more lenient, especially in Wisconsin, and that’s not going to be good for future generations,” Browskowski-Durow said.
Self-described “raging granny” Rebecca Alwin said she thought the rally was a convergence of issues and uniting of progressive groups.
“Raging grannies typically don’t like walking this far, but I’ve got my good walking shoes on,” Alwin said.
Multiple peace marshals walked with the group to help the large group comply with the law and stay safe around traffic.
After the march, several speakers voiced their environmental concerns in a rally.
Federation of United Tribes spokesperson Larry Littlegeorge said he would like to see a complete stop to sand mine construction. He said he got involved when he heard about the potential creation of a 5,000-acre sand mine.
Littlegeorge connected his current concerns to Andrew Jackson’s Indian Removal Act moving all Native Americans west of the Mississippi River.
“Now in 2014, we have another forced removal,” Littlegeorge said. “The Federation of United Tribes is commissioned by the elders and their beliefs to stand up and be accountable for the rights of Mother Earth and for the people who are not in harmony and balance with one another.”
Speakers then led a traditional Native American dance, encouraging people to join hands in a line that eventually converged in the center of Library Mall.
350 Madison spokesperson Beth Esser addressed climate change policy for future generations, specifically her children at the rally.
“Like every parent out there, I want so many wonderful things for their future, but most importantly, I want a healthy, vibrant planet for them to live on,” Esser said. “The time has come to move beyond changing light bulbs.”
Esser also spoke of the fossil fuel divestment program on UW-Madison campus.
“If it is wrong to wreck the planet, surely it is wrong to benefit financially from doing so,” Esser said. “Together, we can put people, planet and peace over profit.”
Finally, Carl Whiting spoke of the No Keystone XL Pledge of Resistance’s opposition to building a pipeline through the Midwest to transport crude oil with civil disobedience.
“It’s high time we all got together, celebrating our collective vision for a healthy planet and flexing our collective muscle,” Whiting said. “All of us here are deeply concerned about the future, and rightly so.”
A rally coordinator said despite the smaller-than-expected turnout, the positive energy of the crowd was encouraging and empowering.
For more information about the Global Climate Convergence in Wisconsin, go to https://wisconsinwave.org/global-climate-convergence-wisconsin-0
Regarding Earth Day news in Washington DC, USA Today journalist Paul Singer, who gives weekly reports to Wisconsin Public Radio’s “Central Times” show on Congressional activities, said nothing special for Earth Day was happening there, and that Earth Day is seldom celebrated in the nation’s capital, as it is perceived mostly as an celebration only by Democrats.
Transcript of President Barack Obama’s June 25, 2013 speech at Georgetown University, Washington, DC, unveiling his new policies to confront global warming:
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you! (Applause.) Thank you, Georgetown! Thank you so much. Everybody, please be seated. And my first announcement today is that you should all take off your jackets. (Laughter.) I’m going to do the same. (Applause.) It’s not that sexy, now. (Laughter.)
It is good to be back on campus, and it is a great privilege to speak from the steps of this historic hall that welcomed Presidents going back to George Washington.
I want to thank your president, President DeGioia, who’s here today. (Applause.) I want to thank him for hosting us. I want to thank the many members of my Cabinet and my administration. I want to thank Leader Pelosi and the members of Congress who are here. We are very grateful for their support.
And I want to say thank you to the Hoyas in the house for having me back. (Applause.) It was important for me to speak directly to your generation, because the decisions that we make now and in the years ahead will have a profound impact on the world that all of you inherit.
On Christmas Eve, 1968, the astronauts of Apollo 8 did a live broadcast from lunar orbit. So Frank Borman, Jim Lovell, William Anders — the first humans to orbit the moon — described what they saw, and they read Scripture from the Book of Genesis to the rest of us back here. And later that night, they took a photo that would change the way we see and think about our world.
It was an image of Earth — beautiful; breathtaking; a glowing marble of blue oceans, and green forests, and brown mountains brushed with white clouds, rising over the surface of the moon.
And while the sight of our planet from space might seem routine today, imagine what it looked like to those of us seeing our home, our planet, for the first time. Imagine what it looked like to children like me. Even the astronauts were amazed. “It makes you realize,” Lovell would say, “just what you have back there on Earth.”
And around the same time we began exploring space, scientists were studying changes taking place in the Earth’s atmosphere. Now, scientists had known since the 1800s that greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide trap heat, and that burning fossil fuels release those gases into the air. That wasn’t news. But in the late 1950s, the National Weather Service began measuring the levels of carbon dioxide in our atmosphere, with the worry that rising levels might someday disrupt the fragile balance that makes our planet so hospitable. And what they’ve found, year after year, is that the levels of carbon pollution in our atmosphere have increased dramatically.
That science, accumulated and reviewed over decades, tells us that our planet is changing in ways that will have profound impacts on all of humankind.
The 12 warmest years in recorded history have all come in the last 15 years. Last year, temperatures in some areas of the ocean reached record highs, and ice in the Arctic shrank to its smallest size on record — faster than most models had predicted it would. These are facts.
Now, we know that no single weather event is caused solely by climate change. Droughts and fires and floods, they go back to ancient times. But we also know that in a world that’s warmer than it used to be, all weather events are affected by a warming planet. The fact that sea level in New York, in New York Harbor, are now a foot higher than a century ago — that didn’t cause Hurricane Sandy, but it certainly contributed to the destruction that left large parts of our mightiest city dark and underwater.
The potential impacts go beyond rising sea levels. Here at home, 2012 was the warmest year in our history. Midwest farms were parched by the worst drought since the Dust Bowl, and then drenched by the wettest spring on record. Western wildfires scorched an area larger than the state of Maryland. Just last week, a heat wave in Alaska shot temperatures into the 90s.
And we know that the costs of these events can be measured in lost lives and lost livelihoods, lost homes, lost businesses, hundreds of billions of dollars in emergency services and disaster relief. In fact, those who are already feeling the effects of climate change don’t have time to deny it — they’re busy dealing with it. Firefighters are braving longer wildfire seasons, and states and federal governments have to figure out how to budget for that. I had to sit on a meeting with the Department of Interior and Agriculture and some of the rest of my team just to figure out how we’re going to pay for more and more expensive fire seasons.
Farmers see crops wilted one year, washed away the next; and the higher food prices get passed on to you, the American consumer. Mountain communities worry about what smaller snowpacks will mean for tourism — and then, families at the bottom of the mountains wonder what it will mean for their drinking water. Americans across the country are already paying the price of inaction in insurance premiums, state and local taxes, and the costs of rebuilding and disaster relief.
So the question is not whether we need to act. The overwhelming judgment of science — of chemistry and physics and millions of measurements — has put all that to rest. Ninety-seven percent of scientists, including, by the way, some who originally disputed the data, have now put that to rest. They’ve acknowledged the planet is warming and human activity is contributing to it.
So the question now is whether we will have the courage to act before it’s too late. And how we answer will have a profound impact on the world that we leave behind not just to you, but to your children and to your grandchildren.
As a President, as a father, and as an American, I’m here to say we need to act.
I refuse to condemn your generation and future generations to a planet that’s beyond fixing. And that’s why, today, I’m announcing a new national climate action plan, and I’m here to enlist your generation’s help in keeping the United States of America a leader — a global leader — in the fight against climate change.
This plan builds on progress that we’ve already made. Last year, I took office — the year that I took office, my administration pledged to reduce America’s greenhouse gas emissions by about 17 percent from their 2005 levels by the end of this decade. And we rolled up our sleeves and we got to work. We doubled the electricity we generated from wind and the sun. We doubled the mileage our cars will get on a gallon of gas by the middle of the next decade.
Here at Georgetown, I unveiled my strategy for a secure energy future. And thanks to the ingenuity of our businesses, we’re starting to produce much more of our own energy. We’re building the first nuclear power plants in more than three decades — in Georgia and South Carolina. For the first time in 18 years, America is poised to produce more of our own oil than we buy from other nations. And today, we produce more natural gas than anybody else. So we’re producing energy. And these advances have grown our economy, they’ve created new jobs, they can’t be shipped overseas — and, by the way, they’ve also helped drive our carbon pollution to its lowest levels in nearly 20 years. Since 2006, no country on Earth has reduced its total carbon pollution by as much as the United States of America.
So it’s a good start. But the reason we’re all here in the heat today is because we know we’ve got more to do.
In my State of the Union address, I urged Congress to come up with a bipartisan, market-based solution to climate change, like the one that Republican and Democratic senators worked on together a few years ago. And I still want to see that happen. I’m willing to work with anyone to make that happen.
But this is a challenge that does not pause for partisan gridlock. It demands our attention now. And this is my plan to meet it — a plan to cut carbon pollution; a plan to protect our country from the impacts of climate change; and a plan to lead the world in a coordinated assault on a changing climate.
This plan begins with cutting carbon pollution by changing the way we use energy — using less dirty energy, using more clean energy, wasting less energy throughout our economy.
Forty-three years ago, Congress passed a law called the Clean Air Act of 1970. It was a good law. The reasoning behind it was simple: New technology can protect our health by protecting the air we breathe from harmful pollution. And that law passed the Senate unanimously. Think about that — it passed the Senate unanimously. It passed the House of Representatives 375 to 1. I don’t know who the one guy was — I haven’t looked that up. You can barely get that many votes to name a post office these days.
It was signed into law by a Republican President. It was later strengthened by another Republican President. This used to be a bipartisan issue.
Six years ago, the Supreme Court ruled that greenhouse gases are pollutants covered by that same Clean Air Act. And they required the Environmental Protection Agency, the EPA, to determine whether they’re a threat to our health and welfare. In 2009, the EPA determined that they are a threat to both our health and our welfare in many different ways — from dirtier air to more common heat waves — and, therefore, subject to regulation.
Today, about 40 percent of America’s carbon pollution comes from our power plants. But here’s the thing: Right now, there are no federal limits to the amount of carbon pollution that those plants can pump into our air. None. Zero. We limit the amount of toxic chemicals like mercury and sulfur and arsenic in our air or our water, but power plants can still dump unlimited amounts of carbon pollution into the air for free. That’s not right, that’s not safe, and it needs to stop.
So today, for the sake of our children, and the health and safety of all Americans, I’m directing the Environmental Protection Agency to put an end to the limitless dumping of carbon pollution from our power plants, and complete new pollution standards for both new and existing power plants.
I’m also directing the EPA to develop these standards in an open and transparent way, to provide flexibility to different states with different needs, and build on the leadership that many states, and cities, and companies have already shown. In fact, many power companies have already begun modernizing their plants, and creating new jobs in the process. Others have shifted to burning cleaner natural gas instead of dirtier fuel sources.
Nearly a dozen states have already implemented or are implementing their own market-based programs to reduce carbon pollution. More than 25 have set energy efficiency targets. More than 35 have set renewable energy targets. Over 1,000 mayors have signed agreements to cut carbon pollution. So the idea of setting higher pollution standards for our power plants is not new. It’s just time for Washington to catch up with the rest of the country. And that’s what we intend to do.
Now, what you’ll hear from the special interests and their allies in Congress is that this will kill jobs and crush the economy, and basically end American free enterprise as we know it. And the reason I know you’ll hear those things is because that’s what they said every time America sets clear rules and better standards for our air and our water and our children’s health. And every time, they’ve been wrong.
For example, in 1970, when we decided through the Clean Air Act to do something about the smog that was choking our cities — and, by the way, most young people here aren’t old enough to remember what it was like, but when I was going to school in 1979-1980 in Los Angeles, there were days where folks couldn’t go outside. And the sunsets were spectacular because of all the pollution in the air.
But at the time when we passed the Clean Air Act to try to get rid of some of this smog, some of the same doomsayers were saying new pollution standards will decimate the auto industry.
Guess what — it didn’t happen. Our air got cleaner.
In 1990, when we decided to do something about acid rain, they said our electricity bills would go up, the lights would go off, businesses around the country would suffer — I quote — “a quiet death.” None of it happened, except we cut acid rain dramatically.
See, the problem with all these tired excuses for inaction is that it suggests a fundamental lack of faith in American business and American ingenuity. These critics seem to think that when we ask our businesses to innovate and reduce pollution and lead, they can’t or they won’t do it. They’ll just kind of give up and quit. But in America, we know that’s not true. Look at our history.
When we restricted cancer-causing chemicals in plastics and leaded fuel in our cars, it didn’t end the plastics industry or the oil industry. American chemists came up with better substitutes. When we phased out CFCs — the gases that were depleting the ozone layer — it didn’t kill off refrigerators or air-conditioners or deodorant. American workers and businesses figured out how to do it better without harming the environment as much.
The fuel standards that we put in place just a few years ago didn’t cripple automakers. The American auto industry retooled, and today, our automakers are selling the best cars in the world at a faster rate than they have in five years — with more hybrid, more plug-in, more fuel-efficient cars for everybody to choose from.
So the point is, if you look at our history, don’t bet against American industry. Don’t bet against American workers. Don’t tell folks that we have to choose between the health of our children or the health of our economy.
The old rules may say we can’t protect our environment and promote economic growth at the same time, but in America, we’ve always used new technologies — we’ve used science; we’ve used research and development and discovery to make the old rules obsolete.
Today, we use more clean energy — more renewables and natural gas — which is supporting hundreds of thousands of good jobs. We waste less energy, which saves you money at the pump and in your pocketbooks. And guess what — our economy is 60 percent bigger than it was 20 years ago, while our carbon emissions are roughly back to where they were 20 years ago.
So, obviously, we can figure this out. It’s not an either/or; it’s a both/and. We’ve got to look after our children; we have to look after our future; and we have to grow the economy and create jobs. We can do all of that as long as we don’t fear the future; instead we seize it.
And, by the way, don’t take my word for it — recently, more than 500 businesses, including giants like GM and Nike, issued a Climate Declaration, calling action on climate change “one of the great economic opportunities of the 21st century.” Walmart is working to cut its carbon pollution by 20 percent and transition completely to renewable energy. Walmart deserves a cheer for that. But think about it. Would the biggest company, the biggest retailer in America — would they really do that if it weren’t good for business, if it weren’t good for their shareholders?
A low-carbon, clean energy economy can be an engine of growth for decades to come. And I want America to build that engine. I want America to build that future — right here in the United States of America. That’s our task.
Now, one thing I want to make sure everybody understands — this does not mean that we’re going to suddenly stop producing fossil fuels. Our economy wouldn’t run very well if it did. And transitioning to a clean energy economy takes time. But when the doomsayers trot out the old warnings that these ambitions will somehow hurt our energy supply, just remind them that America produced more oil than we have in 15 years. What is true is that we can’t just drill our way out of the energy and climate challenge that we face. That’s not possible.
I put forward in the past an all-of-the-above energy strategy, but our energy strategy must be about more than just producing more oil. And, by the way, it’s certainly got to be about more than just building one pipeline.
Now, I know there’s been, for example, a lot of controversy surrounding the proposal to build a pipeline, the Keystone pipeline, that would carry oil from Canadian tar sands down to refineries in the Gulf. And the State Department is going through the final stages of evaluating the proposal. That’s how it’s always been done. But I do want to be clear: Allowing the Keystone pipeline to be built requires a finding that doing so would be in our nation’s interest. And our national interest will be served only if this project does not significantly exacerbate the problem of carbon pollution. The net effects of the pipeline’s impact on our climate will be absolutely critical to determining whether this project is allowed to go forward. It’s relevant.
Now, even as we’re producing more domestic oil, we’re also producing more cleaner-burning natural gas than any other country on Earth. And, again, sometimes there are disputes about natural gas, but let me say this: We should strengthen our position as the top natural gas producer because, in the medium term at least, it not only can provide safe, cheap power, but it can also help reduce our carbon emissions.
Federally supported technology has helped our businesses drill more effectively and extract more gas. And now, we’ll keep working with the industry to make drilling safer and cleaner, to make sure that we’re not seeing methane emissions, and to put people to work modernizing our natural gas infrastructure so that we can power more homes and businesses with cleaner energy.
The bottom line is natural gas is creating jobs. It’s lowering many families’ heat and power bills. And it’s the transition fuel that can power our economy with less carbon pollution even as our businesses work to develop and then deploy more of the technology required for the even cleaner energy economy of the future.
And that brings me to the second way that we’re going to reduce carbon pollution — by using more clean energy. Over the past four years, we’ve doubled the electricity that we generate from zero-carbon wind and solar power. And that means jobs — jobs manufacturing the wind turbines that now generate enough electricity to power nearly 15 million homes; jobs installing the solar panels that now generate more than four times the power at less cost than just a few years ago.
I know some Republicans in Washington dismiss these jobs, but those who do need to call home — because 75 percent of all wind energy in this country is generated in Republican districts. And that may explain why last year, Republican governors in Kansas and Oklahoma and Iowa — Iowa, by the way, a state that harnesses almost 25 percent of its electricity from the wind — helped us in the fight to extend tax credits for wind energy manufacturers and producers. Tens of thousands good jobs were on the line, and those jobs were worth the fight.
And countries like China and Germany are going all in in the race for clean energy. I believe Americans build things better than anybody else. I want America to win that race, but we can’t win it if we’re not in it.
So the plan I’m announcing today will help us double again our energy from wind and sun. Today, I’m directing the Interior Department to green light enough private, renewable energy capacity on public lands to power more than 6 million homes by 2020.
The Department of Defense — the biggest energy consumer in America — will install 3 gigawatts of renewable power on its bases, generating about the same amount of electricity each year as you’d get from burning 3 million tons of coal.
And because billions of your tax dollars continue to still subsidize some of the most profitable corporations in the history of the world, my budget once again calls for Congress to end the tax breaks for big oil companies, and invest in the clean-energy companies that will fuel our future.
Now, the third way to reduce carbon pollution is to waste less energy — in our cars, our homes, our businesses. The fuel standards we set over the past few years mean that by the middle of the next decade, the cars and trucks we buy will go twice as far on a gallon of gas. That means you’ll have to fill up half as often; we’ll all reduce carbon pollution. And we built on that success by setting the first-ever standards for heavy-duty trucks and buses and vans. And in the coming months, we’ll partner with truck makers to do it again for the next generation of vehicles.
Meanwhile, the energy we use in our homes and our businesses and our factories, our schools, our hospitals — that’s responsible for about one-third of our greenhouse gases. The good news is simple upgrades don’t just cut that pollution; they put people to work — manufacturing and installing smarter lights and windows and sensors and appliances. And the savings show up in our electricity bills every month — forever. That’s why we’ve set new energy standards for appliances like refrigerators and dishwashers. And today, our businesses are building better ones that will also cut carbon pollution and cut consumers’ electricity bills by hundreds of billions of dollars.
That means, by the way, that our federal government also has to lead by example. I’m proud that federal agencies have reduced their greenhouse gas emissions by more than 15 percent since I took office. But we can do even better than that. So today, I’m setting a new goal: Your federal government will consume 20 percent of its electricity from renewable sources within the next seven years. We are going to set that goal.
We’ll also encourage private capital to get off the sidelines and get into these energy-saving investments. And by the end of the next decade, these combined efficiency standards for appliances and federal buildings will reduce carbon pollution by at least three billion tons. That’s an amount equal to what our entire energy sector emits in nearly half a year.
So I know these standards don’t sound all that sexy, but think of it this way: That’s the equivalent of planting 7.6 billion trees and letting them grow for 10 years — all while doing the dishes. It is a great deal and we need to be doing it.
So using less dirty energy, transitioning to cleaner sources of energy, wasting less energy through our economy is where we need to go. And this plan will get us there faster. But I want to be honest — this will not get us there overnight. The hard truth is carbon pollution has built up in our atmosphere for decades now. And even if we Americans do our part, the planet will slowly keep warming for some time to come. The seas will slowly keep rising and storms will get more severe, based on the science. It’s like tapping the brakes of a car before you come to a complete stop and then can shift into reverse. It’s going to take time for carbon emissions to stabilize.
So in the meantime, we’re going to need to get prepared. And that’s why this plan will also protect critical sectors of our economy and prepare the United States for the impacts of climate change that we cannot avoid. States and cities across the country are already taking it upon themselves to get ready. Miami Beach is hardening its water supply against seeping saltwater. We’re partnering with the state of Florida to restore Florida’s natural clean water delivery system — the Everglades.
The overwhelmingly Republican legislature in Texas voted to spend money on a new water development bank as a long-running drought cost jobs and forced a town to truck in water from the outside.
New York City is fortifying its 520 miles of coastline as an insurance policy against more frequent and costly storms. And what we’ve learned from Hurricane Sandy and other disasters is that we’ve got to build smarter, more resilient infrastructure that can protect our homes and businesses, and withstand more powerful storms. That means stronger seawalls, natural barriers, hardened power grids, hardened water systems, hardened fuel supplies.
So the budget I sent Congress includes funding to support communities that build these projects, and this plan directs federal agencies to make sure that any new project funded with taxpayer dollars is built to withstand increased flood risks.
And we’ll partner with communities seeking help to prepare for droughts and floods, reduce the risk of wildfires, protect the dunes and wetlands that pull double duty as green space and as natural storm barriers. And we’ll also open our climate data and NASA climate imagery to the public, to make sure that cities and states assess risk under different climate scenarios, so that we don’t waste money building structures that don’t withstand the next storm.
So that’s what my administration will do to support the work already underway across America, not only to cut carbon pollution, but also to protect ourselves from climate change. But as I think everybody here understands, no nation can solve this challenge alone — not even one as powerful as ours. And that’s why the final part of our plan calls on America to lead — lead international efforts to combat a changing climate.
And make no mistake — the world still looks to America to lead. When I spoke to young people in Turkey a few years ago, the first question I got wasn’t about the challenges that part of the world faces. It was about the climate challenge that we all face, and America’s role in addressing it. And it was a fair question, because as the world’s largest economy and second-largest carbon emitter, as a country with unsurpassed ability to drive innovation and scientific breakthroughs, as the country that people around the world continue to look to in times of crisis, we’ve got a vital role to play. We can’t stand on the sidelines. We’ve got a unique responsibility. And the steps that I’ve outlined today prove that we’re willing to meet that responsibility.
Though all America’s carbon pollution fell last year, global carbon pollution rose to a record high. That’s a problem. Developing countries are using more and more energy, and tens of millions of people entering a global middle class naturally want to buy cars and air-conditioners of their own, just like us. Can’t blame them for that. And when you have conversations with poor countries, they’ll say, well, you went through these stages of development — why can’t we?
But what we also have to recognize is these same countries are also more vulnerable to the effects of climate change than we are. They don’t just have as much to lose, they probably have more to lose.
Developing nations with some of the fastest-rising levels of carbon pollution are going to have to take action to meet this challenge alongside us. They’re watching what we do, but we’ve got to make sure that they’re stepping up to the plate as well. We compete for business with them, but we also share a planet. And we have to all shoulder the responsibility for keeping the planet habitable, or we’re going to suffer the consequences — together.
So to help more countries transitioning to cleaner sources of energy and to help them do it faster, we’re going to partner with our private sector to apply private sector technological know-how in countries that transition to natural gas. We’ve mobilized billions of dollars in private capital for clean energy projects around the world.
Today, I’m calling for an end of public financing for new coal plants overseas — unless they deploy carbon-capture technologies, or there’s no other viable way for the poorest countries to generate electricity. And I urge other countries to join this effort.
And I’m directing my administration to launch negotiations toward global free trade in environmental goods and services, including clean energy technology, to help more countries skip past the dirty phase of development and join a global low-carbon economy. They don’t have to repeat all the same mistakes that we made.
We’ve also intensified our climate cooperation with major emerging economies like India and Brazil, and China — the world’s largest emitter. So, for example, earlier this month, President Xi of China and I reached an important agreement to jointly phase down our production and consumption of dangerous hydrofluorocarbons, and we intend to take more steps together in the months to come. It will make a difference. It’s a significant step in the reduction of carbon emissions.
And finally, my administration will redouble our efforts to engage our international partners in reaching a new global agreement to reduce carbon pollution through concrete action.
Four years ago, in Copenhagen, every major country agreed, for the first time, to limit carbon pollution by 2020. Two years ago, we decided to forge a new agreement beyond 2020 that would apply to all countries, not just developed countries.
What we need is an agreement that’s ambitious — because that’s what the scale of the challenge demands. We need an inclusive agreement — because every country has to play its part. And we need an agreement that’s flexible — because different nations have different needs. And if we can come together and get this right, we can define a sustainable future for your generation.
So that’s my plan. The actions I’ve announced today should send a strong signal to the world that America intends to take bold action to reduce carbon pollution. We will continue to lead by the power of our example, because that’s what the United States of America has always done.
I am convinced this is the fight America can, and will, lead in the 21st century. And I’m convinced this is a fight that America must lead. But it will require all of us to do our part.
We’ll need scientists to design new fuels, and we’ll need farmers to grow new fuels. We’ll need engineers to devise new technologies, and we’ll need businesses to make and sell those technologies. We’ll need workers to operate assembly lines that hum with high-tech, zero-carbon components, but we’ll also need builders to hammer into place the foundations for a new clean energy era.
We’re going to need to give special care to people and communities that are unsettled by this transition — not just here in the United States but around the world. And those of us in positions of responsibility, we’ll need to be less concerned with the judgment of special interests and well-connected donors, and more concerned with the judgment of posterity. Because you and your children, and your children’s children, will have to live with the consequences of our decisions.
As I said before, climate change has become a partisan issue, but it hasn’t always been. It wasn’t that long ago that Republicans led the way on new and innovative policies to tackle these issues. Richard Nixon opened the EPA. George H.W. Bush declared — first U.S. President to declare — “human activities are changing the atmosphere in unexpected and unprecedented ways.”
Someone who never shies away from a challenge, John McCain, introduced a market-based cap-and-trade bill to slow carbon pollution.
The woman that I’ve chosen to head up the EPA, Gina McCarthy, she’s worked — she’s terrific. Gina has worked for the EPA in my administration, but she’s also worked for five Republican governors. She’s got a long track record of working with industry and business leaders to forge common-sense solutions. Unfortunately, she’s being held up in the Senate. She’s been held up for months, forced to jump through hoops no Cabinet nominee should ever have to — not because she lacks qualifications, but because there are too many in the Republican Party right now who think that the Environmental Protection Agency has no business protecting our environment from carbon pollution. The Senate should confirm her without any further obstruction or delay.
But more broadly, we’ve got to move beyond partisan politics on this issue. I want to be clear — I am willing to work with anybody — Republicans, Democrats, independents, libertarians, greens — anybody — to combat this threat on behalf of our kids. I am open to all sorts of new ideas, maybe better ideas, to make sure that we deal with climate change in a way that promotes jobs and growth.
Nobody has a monopoly on what is a very hard problem, but I don’t have much patience for anyone who denies that this challenge is real. We don’t have time for a meeting of the Flat Earth Society. Sticking your head in the sand might make you feel safer, but it’s not going to protect you from the coming storm. And ultimately, we will be judged as a people, and as a society, and as a country on where we go from here.
Our founders believed that those of us in positions of power are elected not just to serve as custodians of the present, but as caretakers of the future. And they charged us to make decisions with an eye on a longer horizon than the arc of our own political careers. That’s what the American people expect. That’s what they deserve.
And someday, our children, and our children’s children, will look at us in the eye and they’ll ask us, did we do all that we could when we had the chance to deal with this problem and leave them a cleaner, safer, more stable world? And I want to be able to say, yes, we did. Don’t you want that?
Americans are not a people who look backwards; we’re a people who look forward. We’re not a people who fear what the future holds; we shape it. What we need in this fight are citizens who will stand up, and speak up, and compel us to do what this moment demands.
Understand this is not just a job for politicians. So I’m going to need all of you to educate your classmates, your colleagues, your parents, your friends. Tell them what’s at stake. Speak up at town halls, church groups, PTA meetings. Push back on misinformation. Speak up for the facts. Broaden the circle of those who are willing to stand up for our future.
Convince those in power to reduce our carbon pollution. Push your own communities to adopt smarter practices. Invest. Divest. Remind folks there’s no contradiction between a sound environment and strong economic growth. And remind everyone who represents you at every level of government that sheltering future generations against the ravages of climate change is a prerequisite for your vote. Make yourself heard on this issue.
I understand the politics will be tough. The challenge we must accept will not reward us with a clear moment of victory. There’s no gathering army to defeat. There’s no peace treaty to sign. When President Kennedy said we’d go to the moon within the decade, we knew we’d build a spaceship and we’d meet the goal. Our progress here will be measured differently — in crises averted, in a planet preserved. But can we imagine a more worthy goal? For while we may not live to see the full realization of our ambition, we will have the satisfaction of knowing that the world we leave to our children will be better off for what we did.
“It makes you realize,” that astronaut said all those years ago, “just what you have back there on Earth.” And that image in the photograph, that bright blue ball rising over the moon’s surface, containing everything we hold dear — the laughter of children, a quiet sunset, all the hopes and dreams of posterity — that’s what’s at stake. That’s what we’re fighting for. And if we remember that, I’m absolutely sure we’ll succeed.
Thank you. God bless you. God bless the United States of America.