Saturday, March 31, 2007

The Greening of Palm Sunday

The New York Times has an article on churches moving toward purchasing eco-friendy palms for Palm Sunday.

Slightly more expensive than the average palm, eco-palms are the rage in churches across the United States because of the social and environmental benefits they represent. They are collected in a way that helps preserve the forest, and more of the sale price ends up in the pockets of the people who cut them.
“We want to be a green congregation,” said the Rev. David C. Parsons, pastor of St. John-St. Matthew-Emanuel Lutheran Church in Brooklyn, which purchased eco-palms for the second straight year. “We are conscious of our footprint on the earth. There is a biblical mandate to do that.”
Now operating in a handful of palm-producing areas in southern Mexico and northern
Guatemala, the eco-palm project is similar to programs for certified coffee, chocolate or diamonds. But the consumers in this case are churches, and many say that the religious significance of the plant compels them to buy the most wholesome palm possible.
“Jesus’ entrance into Jerusalem was accented by the jubilant waving of palm branches,” Lutheran World Relief, one of the groups endorsing the project, says on its Web site. “Unfortunately, for the communities where these palms are harvested, palm fronds do not always represent the same jubilation they do for us.”
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Friday, March 30, 2007

Low Carbon Diet Challenge

Cool America

Empower Your Community to go on a Low Carbon Diet

Host a Global Warming Café workshop this spring and be part of a catalytic movement to seed the grassroots and mobilize the political will for change!

Dear friend,

Imagine for a moment that for the next three months, Americans came together to do something about global warming. Imagine small and large groups gathering in our places of worship, town halls and community centers, to speak their minds and hearts about the global crisis facing us, and commit to taking action to turn it around. Imagine them being given the tools they need to reduce their own carbon footprints and the strategies to empower their communities to do the same. Imagine all of this leading to a collective pledge of millions of pounds of carbon reduction – and a powerful call to our elected officials to create bold carbon reduction legislation.

Now imagine you are a part of it!

This spring promises to go down in history as the three months that America leapt into action on global warming. Between April 14 and July 7, 2007 a series of four major events have created the backdrop for an unprecedented response to the climate crisis that threatens our future.

April 14: Step It Up 2007’s “National Day of Climate Action” is organizing over a thousand local actions to send a message to Congress to cut carbon 80% by 2050.

April 22: Earth Day 2007’s “A Call for Action on Climate Change” is organizing thousands of events worldwide promoting education and advocacy for carbon reduction on all levels.

June 5: United Nations’ World Environment Day 2007’s: “Melting Ice: A Hot Topic” is a call to individuals and communities worldwide to seek solutions to climate change.

July 7: Al Gore’s Live Earth “Concerts for a Climate in Crisis” on all seven continents is reaching out to 2 billion people with the message that the future is in our hands. It is time to act.

Each of these major events has the potential to be catalytic all on its own. But imagine what could happen if they were all linked together. We did. The result is our Cool America Campaign. We’re inviting you to join us in setting the course for our future.

In partnership with Step It Up 2007’s “National Day of Climate Action,” and in celebration of Earth Day, World Environment Day, and Live Earth, Empowerment Institute invites you to put your community on a Low Carbon Diet by hosting a “Global Warming Café” between April 14th and July 7th.

Based on the successful World Café large-group dialogue format, the Global Warming Café is a 4-hour participatory workshop that anyone can host to empower their community to become part of the global warming solution. Its easy-to-implement design engages participants in a heartfelt conversation about global warming, and then invites them to take personal action to reduce their carbon footprint through the Low Carbon Diet program. For those who are inspired to take action beyond their own household, it also provides the tools to launch a “Cool Community Campaign” to mobilize their community to reduce its CO2 footprint 20% by 2010.

We’ve put together a Café Organizers’ Toolkit on our website, where you can find everything you need to make your Café hosting experience almost effortless: a Café leader’s script, Low Carbon Diet slide show, a customizable event flier and press release, and reports and media coverage from recent Cafés. We’ll also be hosting free “Cool Community Tele-trainings” on April 4th, May 2, May 29 and June 26, which will include training in hosting a Global Warming Café.

Our Cool America Campaign goal is 1,000 Global Warming Cafés between April 14th and July 7th. You are invited to host one on any day during that time period, but we’re encouraging as many people as possible to host their Café on or around one of the four big days: 4/14, 4/22, 6/5 or 7/7. This will help you to generate participation, and will draw more media coverage.

At the end of each Café, we’ll invite everyone who is attending to make a personal CO2 reduction pledge. We’ll collect the CO2 reduction pledges made at Cafe's around the country, and enter the pledge totals from each Café on our website. If we’re successful in hitting our goal of 1,000 Cafés, this should result in a collective pledge of over 250 million pounds of carbon reduction.

This pledge will then be delivered to our local, state and national elected officials with the message: “As Americans, we have collectively committed to reduce our individual carbon footprints by 250 million pounds. We’ve begun doing our part for the planet and we need your help to take this all the way. Be bold. Create ambitious carbon reduction legislation. Together we will change the world.”

Make this spring a turning point for climate action in your household, in your community, and with your elected representatives – host or participate in a Global Warming Café. Visit to learn more and register your Café. And please help us spread the word by passing this message on to your friends and colleagues. Be the solution!


David Gershon
President, Empowerment Institute
Author, Low Carbon Diet

P.S. For information on partnering with this campaign, contact:

Time on Climate Change

Time Magazine has a long piece on how to combat climate change. Check out their ambitious "51 Ways to Save the Environment."
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Thar's Gold in Them Thar Ears

Welcome to the corn rush of 07 (pronounced ot-7, of course.) According to the New York Times, US farmers plan on planting the most corn since 1944, hoping to cash in on the increasing popularity of ethanol.
The rush to plant corn comes at the cost of other crops, particularly soybeans and cotton. The Department of Agriculture said that if farmers followed through with their stated intentions, soybean acreage would drop 11 percent and cotton acreage would fall 20 percent.
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Greening Family Life

Today's Washington Post has an article that includes tips for teaching kids about an eco-friendly lifestyle. (Registration required.)
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Dude, Where's My Climate?

Computer models of climate trends show the potential disappearance of entire climate zones and significant, unprecedented changes in remaining climate zones, according to the German publication Innovations Report.
In general, the models show that existing climate zones will shift toward higher latitudes and higher elevations, squeezing out the climates at the extremes--tropical mountaintops and the poles--and leaving room for unfamiliar climes and new ecological niches around the equator.

The work, by researchers at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and the University of Wyoming, appears online in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) during the week of March 26. The National Science Foundation (NSF) funded the research.The most severely affected parts of the world span both heavily populated regions, including the southeastern United States, southeastern Asia, and parts of Africa, and known hotspots of biodiversity, such as the Amazonian rainforest and African and South American mountain ranges.

The patterns of change foreshadow significant impacts on ecosystems and conservation. "There is a close correspondence between disappearing climates and areas of biodiversity," says University of Wisconsin at Madison geographer Jack Williams, primary author of the paper, which could increase risk of extinction in the affected areas.

For example, the Andes, Central America, South Africa and the Indonesian Archipelago are all hotspots of biological diversity. The projected disappearance of the climates unique to these regions places some species at risk of extinction."

As this research shows, studies integrating paleoclimate data, mathematical modeling and ecological principles provide insights into climate cause-and-effect that are of great practical consequence," says David Verardo, program director for paleoclimate at NSF,Williams and his colleagues foresee the appearance of novel climate zones on up to 39 percent of the world's land surface area by 2100, if current rates of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gas emissions continue, and the global disappearance of up to 48 percent of current land climates.

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Conserve to Combat Climate Change

According to, a new report by the UN Environmental Program says that energy conservation and switching to energy efficient lightbulbs would be a significant factor in combatting future climate change.

The report, Buildings and Climate Change, by the UN Environment Programme (UNEP)says many opportunities exist for governments, industry and consumers to take appropriate actions during the life span of buildings that will help mitigate the impacts of global warming.
Achim Steiner, UNEP Executive Director, said:“ Energy efficiency, along with cleaner and renewable forms of energy generation, is one of the pillars upon which a de-carbonized world will stand or fall. The savings that can be made right now are potentially huge and the costs to implement them relatively low if sufficient numbers of governments, industries, businesses and consumers act”.
By some conservative estimates, he said, the building sector alone could deliver emission reductions of 1.8 billion tonnes of C02 around the world. "A more aggressive energy efficiency policy might deliver over two billion tonnes or close to three times the amount scheduled to be reduced under the Kyoto Protocol,” he added.

“There is more low hanging fruit to be harvested. Several countries, including Australia, Cuba and the European Union are looking to phase out or ban the traditional incandescent light bulb that has been around forwell over a century in various forms. The International Energy Agency estimates that a total global switch to compact fluorescent bulbs would, in 2010 deliver C02 savings of 470 million tonnes or slightly over half of theKyoto reductions.

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Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Danger for Endangered Species Act

According to ABC News, the US Department of the Interior is developing a plan that could gut the Endangered Species Act, putting endangered species in, well, danger.
Jan Hasselman, an attorney in Seattle with Earthjustice who is involved in a number of lawsuits involving endangered species, said if the proposed changes are implemented "it will make it more difficult to list species and fundamentally weaken the protection the act offers."
Some of the proposals would make obscure changes in how the law is implemented while others would be more direct, said Hasselman, who has analyzed the documents. Together they would "fundamentally gut the intent" of the law protecting species in danger of extinction.

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Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Connecticut Increases Clean Power Sources

According to the Hartford Courant, The Connecticut Clean Energy Fund has greenlighted eleven clean power projects that if built would generate enough electricity to power 140,000 homes. Some of the eleven chosen are likely to drop out before they are built for a variety of reasons.
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Bill McKibben: Momentum is Building

In Alternet, Bill McKibben says that sees signs of hope that the momentum to solve the climate crisis is building. Here is his editorial in its entirety:

When we started Step It Up 2007, all of 10 weeks ago, 80 percent cuts in carbon emissions by 2050 seemed at the very outer edge of the politically possible. A week ago, youth climate activist Courtney Fryxell, who is helping organize one of the Washington rallies for April 14, asked John Edwards point blank if he'd commit to 80 percent carbon cuts by 2050. "Yes," he said -- and with that earned himself real respect as the first of the major contenders out of the gate on this issue.
He won't, I think, be the last. Because what he was responding to was a surge in grassroots political activism all around this country. For instance, a few hours before Edwards talked, a group of intrepid religious climate activists in Massachusetts set off for a 10-day march to Boston -- it was enormous fun to applaud them as they left the church to start their journey because they symbolized the way that faith communities have come to this cause in the last year.
The next night in D.C., 800 people gathered for an evening organized by Mike Tidwell and Ted Glick, tireless activists from the Chesapeake Climate Action Network, who for five years have been holding much smaller gatherings, slowly building the movement. The huge throng, cheered by the music of Emma's Revolution, clearly sensed the turn in the weather. Meanwhile, Laurie David and Sheryl Crow are circling the country putting on shows; Al Gore just testified before Congress; everywhere the force is building.
For many years, speaking at one college or church or library after another, I'd tell people about global warming and they'd say: we can't break through the wall of special interest and inertia that keeps the solutions bottled up. And I'd say, that's right, we can't. Not yet. But eventually the day will come when events -- Hurricane Katrina -- provide an opening. And when that opening comes, we'll need every network, every plan, every small model to build on. So we'll be able to seize the moment.
That's what's happening. Across the country, people who have been working for years and people who have just started worrying about global warming are quickly joining forces. Step It Up is only the most dramatic example -- earlier this week we went past the 1,000-rally mark; April 14 is going to be one of the most dramatic days in American environmental history. People in every state will be raising their voices, and when that happens the power will help speed this new consensus into being.
The battle won't be easy, of course. But finally Exxon has some opponents they can't ignore. Momentum counts, and momentum all of a sudden is squarely on our side.

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How the West Was Warmed

A disturbing warming trend is taking hold in the American West, according to a New York Times article.
“A lot of people think climate change and the ecological repercussions are 50 years away,” said Thomas W. Swetnam, director of the Laboratory of Tree-Ring Research at the University of Arizona in Tucson. “But it’s happening now in the West. The data is telling us that we are in the middle of one of the first big indicators of climate change impacts in the continental United States.”
And it comes at a time when millions of Americans are moving to these places. Since 1990, more than eight million homes have been built in Western areas that foresters call “the urban-wild land” interface, also the focus of recent federal firefighting efforts.

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Monday, March 26, 2007

Bush Pushes Flex Fuels

US President George W. Bush is endorsing "flex-fuel" vehicles in development at the Big Three US Automakers. He is promoting the idea that the US should reduce gas consumption by 20% in the next ten years, according to MSNBC.
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Climate Change Skeptics Explained?

In the Huffington Post, blogger Chris Moon tries to get away from scorched-earth debates about Climate Change and offers a plausible explanation for skepticism on climate change, which has been most pronounced in the US Government amid members of the GOP. He argues that it goes deeper than a dislike for prominent climate change activist Al Gore.
I'd like to suggest that we consider some other factors:
1. The broad and longstanding conservative distrust of academia and "leftwing" campus intellectuals, including scientists. This allows many Republicans to dismiss large bodies of scientific research as essentially politicized and therefore safe to ignore.
2. The growth of ideological think tanks which provide alternative "facts" and alternative "knowledge" tailor-made for conservatives. It's not just that many Republicans reject mainline "science"; they actually have their own.
3. The growth of a rightwing media that quotes the think-tank "experts" and puts them on the air regularly--so that the sealed off alternative knowledge environment becomes complete and very hard for mainstream science to penetrate (especially when scientists themselves do not speak in a language designed to appeal to political conservatives).

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Will China Change on Climate?

China, Norway and the UN Development Program signed an agreement on Monday to develop programs to combat the effects of climate change in China's rural areas, including the melting of glaciers in Tibet.
The programs will help provincial governments assess potential risks caused by climate change and develop ways to respond, the UNDP said in a statement.
The signing ceremony was witnessed by Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao and visiting Norwegian Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg.
"The presence of the two top leaders shows the strong commitments of both governments to responding to the global challenge of climate change," Khalid Malik, the UNDP representative in China, was quoted as saying in the statement.

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Friday, March 23, 2007

Climate Change Debate

Climate change activists, time to get your game on or face losing momentum. Debaters tackled the proposition "Global Warming Is Not a Crisis" in a traditional Oxford-style debate. Participants include Michael Crichton (novelist) along with a group of prominent scientists. The anti-climate change side actually made some headway in the debate, according to polls of the audience.

Listen to the full debate, an edited version, or excerpts here.

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The Year of Living TP-lessly

The New York Times published a profile of New Yorkers Colin Beavan, 43, a writer of historical nonfiction, and Michelle Conlin, 39, a senior writer at Business Week, who are four months into a yearlong lifestyle experiment they call No Impact.
Its rules are evolving, as Mr. Beavan will tell you, but to date include eating only food (organically) grown within a 250-mile radius of Manhattan; (mostly) no shopping for anything except said food; producing no trash (except compost, see above); using no paper; and, most intriguingly, using no carbon-fueled transportation.

Perhaps even more interesting than the article is the related forum in which readers confess what they would give up for the sake of the environment.
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Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Mr. Gore Goes to Washington

“A day will come when our children and grandchildren will look back and they’ll ask one of two questions.” Either, “they will ask: what in God’s name were they doing?” or “they may look back and say: how did they find the uncommon moral courage to rise above politics and redeem the promise of American democracy?”
Al Gore made his long-anticipated trek back to Washington to testify before Congress on climate change. This was his first appearance on the Hill since leaving the office of Vice President in 2001. According to the Minneapolis Star-Tribune,
Gore advised lawmakers to cut carbon dioxide and other warming gases 90 percent by 2050 to avert a crisis. Doing that, he said, will require a ban on any new coal-burning power plants — a major source of industrial carbon dioxide — that lack state-of-the-art controls to capture the gases.
He said he foresees a revolution in small-scale electricity producers for replacing coal, likening the development to what the Internet has done for the exchange of information. He also advocated tougher fuel-economy standards for cars and trucks.
"There is a sense of hope in this country that this United States Congress will rise to the occasion and present meaningful solutions to this crisis," he said. "Our world faces a true planetary emergency. I know the phrase sounds shrill, and I know it's a challenge to the moral imagination."
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CT DEP Commish on WNPR

Connecticut's Department of Environmental Protection Commissioner Gina McCarthy appeared on the radio program "Where We Live" yesterday, talking about climate change, sprawl and other issues. If you missed it, you can listen here.

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Monday, March 19, 2007

US Just Says No to G-8 Climate Change Ideas

According to the AP, the United States is still resisting getting onto the climate change action bandwagon.
The United States objected to key parts of a discussion on climate change at a meeting between G-8 environmental officials and representatives from five influential developing nations, Germany's environment minister said.
The conference ended with consensus on several points, including a general acceptance of the scientific explanation for the causes of global warming and that industrialized nations need to reduce carbon dioxide emissions more than mandated by current agreements, said German Environment Minister Sigmar Gabriel, who hosted the meeting Saturday.
Officials also agreed that industrialized countries have been responsible for most greenhouse gas emissions in the past and for the need to help developing countries control their emissions today, Gabriel said.
But the U.S. spoke out against a global carbon emissions trading plan and recognizing reforestation programs in developing nations as part of the fight against global warming, he said.
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Saturday, March 17, 2007

Rockin' in the Green World

Rock bands are increasingly greening their tours, with the help of organizations like Reverb, a consulting firm, according to the New York Times.
The organization, based in Portland, Me., was founded in 2004 by Adam Gardner, a guitarist for the indie rock band Guster, and his wife, Lauren Sullivan, who worked for the Rainforest Action Network. Reverb charges acts a fee for its consulting services and is also sponsored by green companies and other fund-raisers.

A prominent for-profit organization in the field is MusicMatters, a marketing company in Minneapolis. It works with environment-minded clients, produces events and consults with artists like the Dave Matthews Band and Jack Johnson on a wide range of green touring practices, down to the use of nonpetroleum-based cosmetics onstage.
“We like to consider ourselves an eco-SWAT team,” said Mr. Gardner, 33, explaining Reverb’s approach. Indeed, under its stern eye, promoters are shamed into ditching Styrofoam coffee cups from catering spreads backstage, and crew members are instructed to collect partially spent nine-volt batteries from musicians’ distortion boxes and wireless microphones.

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Friday, March 16, 2007

London Calling

According to Christian Today, London's Chrisians are receiving a call to combat climate change in the form of a booklet "For Creed and Creation: A simple guidebook for running a greener church. " The book offers priests and pastors practical tips on energy efficiency and advising them on preaching the green message.

"Working together, London's churches have a pivotal role to play in tackling the stark reality of climate change," said the Bishop of London, Dr Richard Chartres, as he launched the guide on Wednesday.
"London's churches reach out to hundreds of thousands of people every week and, according to the last census, 58 per cent of the capital's population is Christian. We should be making our presence felt on the crucial issue of the environment," he said.
The guide, which will be distributed free to over 4000 of the capital's churches, proposes car-sharing schemes for the Sunday service and recycling programmes.
Christian church leaders hope to expand its scope to other religions and set up a green church telephone advice line to support the faithful in their green endeavours.

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My Planet. I Think I'll Keep It.

If some, er, creative thinkers have their way, we could be hearing that slogan soon to push the "Geritol Solution" to climate change, which involves dumping a tremendous amount of iron into the ocean. Only time will tell, but according to the Burlington (VT) Free Press, offbeat ideas like these are getting a second look from the US Government, which is apparently leaving no stone unturned in trying to solve the problem of climate change due to the Greenhouse Effect.
There's the man-made "volcano" that shoots gigatons of sulfur high into the air. The space "sun shade" made of trillions of little reflectors between Earth and sun, slightly lowering the planet's temperature. The forest of ugly artificial "trees" that suck carbon dioxide out of the air. And the "Geritol solution" in which iron dust is dumped into the ocean.

"Of course it's desperation," said Stanford University professor Stephen Schneider. "It's planetary methadone for our planetary heroin addiction. It does come out of the pessimism of any realist that says this planet can't be trusted to do the right thing."
NASA is putting the finishing touches on a report summing up some of these ideas and has spent $75,000 to map out rough details of the sun shade concept. One of the premier climate modeling centers in the United States, the National Center for Atmospheric Research, has spent the last six weeks running computer simulations of the man-made volcano scenario and will soon turn its attention to the space umbrella idea.

And last month, billionaire Richard Branson offered a $25 million prize to the first feasible technology to reduce carbon dioxide levels in the air. Simon "Pete" Worden, who heads NASA's Ames Research Center in Moffett Field, Calif., says some of these proposals, which represent a field called geoengineering, have been characterized as anywhere from "great" to "idiotic."

As if to distance NASA from the issue a bit, Worden said the agency's report won't do much more than explain the range of possibilities.
Related Links:
Planktos Inc. (of the Geritol Solution.)
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The UK's Low Carbon Diet

The UK's tough new climate bill is designed to move the nation to a low-carbon economy. According to Nuclear Engineering, key points of the draft bill include:
• Legally binding targets of a 26 to 32% reduction in carbon dioxide emissions by 2020 and a 60% reduction by 2050.
• Legally binding five year "carbon budgets", set at least 15 years ahead, to provide long-term clarity for investment in low-carbon technologies.
• New powers to enable the government to more easily implement emissions reduction policies.
• A new statutory body, the Committee on Climate Change, to provide independent advice to government.
• Annual reporting to parliament with a Climate Committee progress report to which the government must respond.
• A requirement for government report at least every five years on current and predicted impacts of climate change.

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Warmest. Winter. Ever.

This winter was the warmest since records began over 100 years ago, according to a Reuters article.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) said the combined global land and ocean surface temperature from December through February was at its highest since records began in 1880.
A record-warm January was responsible for pushing up the combined winter temperature, according to the
agency's Web site.

"Contributing factors were the long-term trend toward warmer temperatures as well as a moderate El Nino in the Pacific," Jay Lawrimore of NOAA's National Climatic Data Center said in a telephone interview from Asheville, North Carolina.

The next-warmest winter on record was in 2004, and the third warmest winter was in 1998, Lawrimore said.
The ten warmest years on record have occurred since 1995.
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Thursday, March 15, 2007

Just Say No To Coal

That's what renowned NASA climate scientist James Hanson is suggesting, according to an article in Grist--that we should have a moratorium on building coal plants until the emerging technology for making coal a carbon-neutral energy source is a reality.
Coal currently supplies nearly half the electricity in the U.S., and is responsible for more greenhouse-gas emissions than any other electricity source. The Department of Energy reported last month that 159 new coal-fired power plants are scheduled to be built in the U.S. in the coming decade, intended to generate enough juice for nearly 100 million homes. "If you build a new coal plant, you're making a 60-year commitment -- that's how long these plants are generally in use," explains David Doniger, policy director for the Natural Resources Defense Council's climate center. "So we really need to avoid building a whole new generation of coal plants that use the old technology."Industry boosters tout the prospect of so-called "clean coal," but right now there is simply no such thing. Zero-carbon coal plants -- ones that will gasify coal, filter carbon dioxide from the vapor, then stow the CO2 underground -- are a long way off from commercial application. A handful of coal-gasification plants are in development, and could eventually be retrofitted with carbon-capture and -sequestration capabilities, but for now this pollution-storage technology is years away from even a working pilot phase. "Until we have that clean coal power plant, we should not be building them," Hansen told his D.C. audience. "It is as clear as a bell."

Then the esteemed scientist raised even more eyebrows by declaring that, come mid-century, any old dinosaur coal plants that still aren't sequestering CO2 ought to be "bulldozed."

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Gore Defended

Grist's David Robert's has struck back against the New York Times article about the backlash against the film "An Inconvenient Truth," analyzing the meandering article point by point.
His conclusion?
Bill Broad took to the pages of the paper of record to establish that there is significant concern in the scientific community about the accuracy of Gore's movie. To do so, he trotted out scientific outliers, non-scientists, and hacks with discredited arguments. In at least two cases (Pielke Jr. being a scientist and the NAS report contradicting Gore) he made gross factual errors. As for the rest, it's a classic case of journalistic "false balance" -- something I thought we were done with on global warming. I guess when it comes to Al Gore, the press still thinks it can get by on smear, suggestion, and innuendo.

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Walking for the Climate

The Interfaith Walk for Climate Rescue begins tomorrow, March 16, 2007, in Northampton, Mass., according to this article in the Worcester Telegram. The March will end on March 24, 2007 in Boston, Mass.

The Rev. Margaret Bullitt-Jonas of Grace Church in Amherst is organizing the interfaith prayer service planned March 24 at Old South Church in Boston. The service will include representation from the Roman Catholic, Jewish, Hindu, Buddhist, Muslim and other faiths, she said yesterday. “I would say that each faith tradition says creation has been entrusted to our care,” she said.

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Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Keep Stepping it Up

That's the message Bill McKibben is putting out through this New York Times puff piece about his Step it Up 2007 local demonstrations on Saturday, April 14.

“We don’t have a movement,” [Bill McKibben wrote in a recent article on]. “The largest rally yet held in the U.S. about global warming drew a thousand people. If we’re going to make the kind of change we need in the short time left us, we need something that looks like the civil rights movement, and we need it now. Changing light bulbs just isn’t enough.”

All the scattered “actions,” as Mr. McKibben and Company are calling them, are to be photographed, with the results put up on the Web on the evening of April 14.

On March 14 Bill was also a guest on "On Point," an NPR show produced by WBUR in Boston. He participated in a debate about switching to a local, sustainable economy, based on his new book Deep Economy.

Learn more about Step it Up 07, join or create a local action at

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Tuesday, March 13, 2007

An Inconvenient Backlash

In a backlash that was perhaps inevitable, some scientists charge that "An Inconvenient Truth" overhypes effects of climate change and fails to explain nuances adequately.
According to the New York Times,
Kevin Vranes, a climatologist at the Center for Science and Technology Policy Research at the University of Colorado, said he sensed a growing backlash against exaggeration. While praising Mr. Gore for “getting the message out,” Dr. Vranes questioned whether his presentations were “overselling our certainty about knowing the future.”

Michael Oppenheimer, a professor of geosciences and international affairs at Princeton who advised Mr. Gore on the book and movie, said that reasonable scientists disagreed on the malaria issue and other points that the critics had raised. In general, he said, Mr. Gore had distinguished himself for integrity.

“On balance, he did quite well — a credible and entertaining job on a difficult subject,” Dr. Oppenheimer said. “For that, he deserves a lot of credit. If you rake him over the coals, you’re going to find people who disagree. But in terms of the big picture, he got it right.”

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Monday, March 12, 2007

EU: Agrees World Should Reduce Emissions 60-80%

The EU has agreed in principle that the developed world should reduce emissions of greenhouse gases 30% by 2020 and 60-80% by 2050, according to UK publication Nuclear Engineering.
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Dems Need White House Support for Climate Bill

So says Sen. Jeff Bingaman, D-N.M., chairman of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, according to the North County Times.
"If the administration wants to continue ... to oppose any and all mandatory limits of greenhouse gas emissions, it's going to be very difficult to get anything."

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Friday, March 9, 2007


That stands for "What Would Jesus Drive?" and the New York Times has an article about the guy who originated that slogan, The Rev. Jim Ball, the executive director of the nonprofit Evangelical Environmental Network.

Four years ago Mr. Ball and his wife, Kara, drove the Prius from Texas east across the Bible Belt in a provocative stunt that, in keeping with the core mission of his organization, awakened evangelical churches to the threat of global warming. It also awakened Americans to the existence of the human hybrid known as a Green Evangelical.

It turns out that Jim and Kara Ball spend a lot of time thinking not just about what Jesus would drive, but also about how his people should wash their clothes, light their bathrooms, clean their windows, shop for groceries and furnish their living rooms — the day-to-day elements of what some Christian environmentalists call “creation care.”

Mr. and Mrs. Ball recounted what they called their “creation-care romance.” They met in 2000 at a loud Christian music festival in Pennsylvania, called “Creation Fest,” where she was the chaperone for her church youth group and he was manning the table for the Evangelical Environmental Network, which he took over that year.
At the time, she was living on 70 acres in central Pennsylvania with a flock of chickens and two rare six-horned Jacob sheep and organizing churches and farmers in a watershed conservancy program. On one of their first dates, the sheep escaped to the woods. The Balls were engaged in three months, married in a year.
One of the first things he told her when they met was that he was devoted to the global warming issue, and probably would be for the rest of his life. In the seminary, he had dismissed environmentalism as unimportant compared to poverty and oppression and war. But while studying for a Ph.D. in theological ethics at Drew University, he was challenged by another student to reread what the Bible had to say about care for God’s creation.
“Colossians, chapter 1, verses 15 to 20 is the touchstone text for me,” he said. “ ‘All things have been created by Him and for Him. All things have been reconciled by His blood on the cross.’ The Apostle Paul tells us we are called to be ministers of reconciliation, and that means caring for all things.”
He read everything he could on energy policy, climate science and the history of environmentalism, but said one book in particular made him realize the connections between global warming and poverty. Asked what book, he said: “I’ll cop to it. It was ‘Earth in the Balance,’ ” the 1992 bestseller by
Al Gore. “That might get me in some trouble,” he said. “I’m a great admirer of the vice president, but some people in my community aren’t.”
Read the rest of the article.
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EU Pledges Emissions Cuts

The EU has ratified its proposal to cut greenhouse gas emissions 20% by 2020, even if other countries (like the US and China) don't agree to similar cuts.

According to Bloomberg,

EU leaders rejected warnings from business groups that tougher climate regulations would push jobs and investment out of Europe, shackling an economy that has lagged behind the U.S. for most of the past decade.
Europe is opening ``the door into a whole new dimension of European cooperation in the area of energy and combating climate change,'' German Chancellor Angela Merkel told reporters today after chairing an EU summit in Brussels.
Europe's economy notched the fastest growth in six years in 2006, and the political leaders said the climate-change package will give the 27-nation bloc a ``first mover'' advantage in developing energy-saving technologies.
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Thursday, March 8, 2007

Climate Change Security Issue?

That's the contention of Britain, which is taking over the presidency of the UN Security Council. According to Earth Times,
Normally, the Security Council takes up issues relating to international peace and security and climate change is largely seen as an issue outside the ambit of the council's mandate. However, according to news reports, British leaders, including prime minister Tony Blair and environment secretary David Miliband, are increasingly coming to hold the view that climate change could be a matter within the ambit of international security as droughts, famines and increasing sea levels could lead to large scale migration of people and contribute to international disputes relating to borders and use of resources.

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All Quiet on the Polar Bear Front

According to the New York Times,

Internal memorandums circulated in the Alaskan division of the Federal Fish and Wildlife Service appear to require government biologists or other employees traveling in countries around the Arctic not to discuss climate change, polar bears or sea ice if they are not designated to do so.

In December, the Bush administration, facing a deadline under a suit by environmental groups, proposed listing polar bears throughout their range as threatened under the Endangered Species Act because the warming climate is causing a summertime retreat of sea ice that the bears use for seal hunting.
Environmentalists are trying to use such a listing to force the United States to restrict heat-trapping gases that scientists have linked to global warming as a way of limiting risks to the 22,000 or so bears in the far north.
It remains unclear whether such a listing will be issued. The Fish and Wildlife Service this week held the first of several hearings in Alaska and Washington on the question.

Over the past week, biologists and wildlife officials received a cover note and two sample memorandums to be used as a guide in preparing travel requests. Under the heading “Foreign Travel — New Requirement — Please Review and Comply, Importance: High,” the cover note said:
“Please be advised that all foreign travel requests (SF 1175 requests) and any future travel requests involving or potentially involving climate change, sea ice and/or polar bears will also require a memorandum from the regional director to the director indicating who’ll be the official spokesman on the trip and the one responding to questions on these issues, particularly polar bears.”

The sample memorandums, described as to be used in writing travel requests, indicate that the employee seeking permission to travel “understands the administration’s position on climate change, polar bears, and sea ice and will not be speaking on or responding to these issues.”

Electronic copies of the memorandums and cover note were forwarded to The New York Times by Deborah Williams, an environmental campaigner in Alaska and a former
Interior Department official in the Clinton administration.
“This sure sounds like a Soviet-style directive to me,” Ms. Williams said.

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Wednesday, March 7, 2007

Green Business

That's the topic of a special New York Times section. If you haven't become a registered user of the Times yet, this section is worth the time it takes for you to register. Topics covered include renewable energy on an industrial scale, carbon offsets sold at retail outlets, greening the food industry (how do you deal with the waste, an analysis of supposed green paradise Denmark and much, much more.

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Tuesday, March 6, 2007

Climate Change Fiction Reviewed

Salon features Andrew Leonard's glowing review of the third volume of Kim Stanley Robinson's trilogy about global warming, "Sixty Days and Counting," which arrived in bookstores last week. He notes that the books have been so effective at predicting the results of climate change so far that
Perhaps the best way to put it is that these novels are not fiction, even if the characters are all made up and the action scenes cry out for some state-of-the-art Hollywood treatment. But then again, who needs a movie to tell this story? Just look outside!

Perhaps the most fantastic aspect of Robinson's trilogy is that a president gets elected in the United States who intends to actually do something about climate change, and makes some headway. There's also a charming Buddhist subplot that takes reincarnation very seriously and gives some quality time to the Dalai Lama. Oh, and there are some bad guys intent on manipulating election results through computerized voting machines. Wait, didn't that already happen? Or did it?

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Connecticut Environmental Justice Breakfast

Congregations United for Racial Equity and Justice (CUREJ) will hold a Prayer Breakfast and Press Conference on Thursday, March 22, from 10am to 12pm in the Capitol Building, room 310 (the Old Appropriations Room). At this time, religious and community leaders from across the state will have the opportunity to meet and discuss environmental justice in Connecticut and pending legislation in the 2007 session. Save the date for now: a formal invitation will follow. Please feel free to pass this notice on to members and leaders in your own worship communities.

For more information, please contact Reverend Josh Pawelek at, or (860) 646-5151.

Religious Leaders on Climate Change

In this radio interview, a number of religious leaders discuss climate change. The group includes:

-Cassandra Carmichael, Director of the Eco-Justice Program for the National Council of Churches.

Eileen Claussen, President of the Pew Center on Global Climate Change and Strategies for the Global Environment, and former Assistant Secretary of State for Oceans and International Environmental and Scientific Affairs in the Clinton Administration.

Rabbi Fred Scherlinder Dobb, Jewish environmental educator and activist, and rabbi of Adat Shalom Reconstructionist Synagogue in Washington, DC.

Ned Stowe, Senior Legislative Secretary for the Friends Committee on National Legislation who leads Quaker efforts to address global climate change.

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Monday, March 5, 2007

UK Christians to Discuss Climate Change

According to Christian Today,

The Ecumenical World Development Consultation 2007 will take place at the Hayes Conference Centre from 21 to 23 March 2007 under the theme “Lifestyles”. Delegates will discuss the impact of the lifestyle choices of those living in affluent countries like the UK on the lives of those living in the Global South.

The conference is aimed to educate Christians of all levels of knowledge on climate change and sustainable living and a number of workshops will be led by eco experts including Paula Clifford from Christian Aid, David Pickering from Operation Noah, Jo Rathbone from Eco-Congregations, and Benedict Southworth of the World Development Movement.

They will also address the impact of our lifestyle choices on climate change and explore the possibility of Gospel-based alternative lifestyles.
“This year’s theme emerges from the growing awareness within the churches of our choices’ impact on the world, and addresses the relationship between care for creation and care for humanity,” said organisers.

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Aussie Coal Lobby Fights Spoof Site

A coal lobby in Australia has twice shut down "Rising Tide," a website satirizing the Australian coal industry. The website makes fun of NSW Minerals Council's big-budget campaign to promote the coal industry. According to the Perth Independent Media Center, "Australia does not have adequate ‘fair use’ exemptions in copyright law nor has a Bill of Rights protecting freedom of speech, limiting civil lawsuits alleging a private citizen or corporation has violated the civil rights of a protester or satirist."

"Rising Tide" has set up shop offshore.

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US Emissions Increasing

US President Bush's program of encouraging voluntary emissions reductions isn't working. According to the Earth Times,
The United States Climate Action Report says that the climate policy followed by the administration would result in an 11 percent growth in emissions in 2012 from 2002. This rate is marginally less than the 11.6 percent growth in emissions recorded over the previous decade; the newspaper reported quoting the Environmental Protection Agency.

The White House had a different spin on the report:

Kristen Hellmer, a spokeswoman for the White House said the report was a testimony to the success in controlling emissions that cause global warming, "The Climate Action Report will show that the president's portfolio of actions addressing climate change and his unparalleled financial commitments are working," she added.
Time for mandatory reductions?
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Friday, March 2, 2007

Time of Use Electric Power Comes to Connecticut

This story from WNPR gives an overview of so-called "Time of Use" electric rates in Connecticut. You can listen to the MP3 here. What is "Time of Use"? This blurb that appears on their website does a pretty good job of explaining it:

HARTFORD, CT (2007-02-27) Consumers know they pay less if they use their cell phones at night. Someone looking for a good deal on a vacation in the Caribbean knows it's cheaper in the summer than the winter. But people aren't used to thinking about what time of day they switch on the dishwasher.
Soon more people will be billed on a time-of-use electric rate, designed to get people to use electricity during the time of day when there's less demand for it. WNPR's Nancy Cohen reports it could also help people suffering from soaring electric rates save money.

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Is There a Carbon Tax in Your Future?

A Salon article on a US Congressional hearing on energy reported that,
...if there was a consensus on anything at the hearing, in which testimony was heard on prospects for nuclear, solar, geothermal and wind power, along with biofuels, it was that federal and state governments get by far the most bang for their buck by setting, enforcing and encouraging increased energy efficiency. Changing building codes and requiring ever more efficient performance from new machinery is cheap. As one panelist, energy consultant David Nemtzow, observed, if you treated the energy savings from efficiency as an energy source, you would see that "energy efficiency is the number one energy resource in this country, number one ahead of oil, ahead of gas or coal or nuclear or any of the others."

A second clear imperative to emerge from the hearing was that attacking the nation's energy problems through a myriad of targeted incentives and state and federal programs was likely to be confusing and wasteful. Finding ways to encourage homeowners to install solar powered water heaters, or shifting the U.S. Postal Service fleet to plug-in hybrids is all very well and good, but the best strategy government could take to address both energy security needs and the challenge of climate change would be to impose some kind of carbon tax, perhaps along the lines of California's recently enacted
Low Carbon Fuel Initiative. Only when the external costs of climate change and fossil fuel dependency become shared by individuals filling up their gas tanks and utility companies building coal-fired power plants will there be a real market incentive to deploy new technologies.

The article addresses a number of issues dealt with in the hearing, including switchgrass production, US energy demands, and a hint of news to come about peak oil.

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Florida Faithful Fight Climate Change

An infamous graphic in the Climate Change documentary "An Inconvenient Truth" illustrates how rising global temperatures could put much of Florida under water. According to this article in the South Florida Sun Sentinel, a number of Florida religious communities are trying to prevent that from happening.

Evangelical Christians, Jews, Catholics, Muslims, Unitarians: All are committing time and effort to transforming their buildings and their congregants' mindsets.

David Clark, president of Palm Beach Atlantic University, a Christian college in West Palm Beach, describes himself as a political conservative who believes God created the Earth. But he has become so convinced that the Earth is being destroyed, a year ago he joined 84 other Christian leaders in signing the Evangelical Climate Initiative, which called for federal legislation to reduce carbon dioxide emissions."I didn't want to identify with a group that's way out there," said Clark, who has begun installing energy-efficient lighting and air-conditioning regulators throughout the campus. "I'm not a tree-hugger. But the evidence is overwhelming."
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Thursday, March 1, 2007

A Mighty (Green) Fortress

According to Chips, the student newspaper of Luther College in Iowa, Luther College President Richard Torgerson has joined a new Reformation--he is one of the first College presidents to sign a pledge to become a carbon-neutral institution.
“In the end, of course, it’s important that the president has this commitment,” said [Luther College religion professon Jim] Martin-Schramm. “But the only way this commitment will bear fruit is if more of us, or all of us, also make this commitment — make this a priority and recognize this as a genuine moral challenge that requires investment of time, resources and willingness to change how we do things.”

According to the article, Luther will conduct a comprehensive inventory of its carbon emissions and develop a plan to completely eliminate them. Luther will also work to integrate sustainability into its curriculum.

So far no word on whether the plan will be nailed to a door.

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Canadian Polar Climate Study

The largest research project ever undertaken in the Arctic will study the impact of global warming on the sensitive region's ecosystem next winter, Canadian project leaders said on Thursday.

Researchers will troll a frigid open channel on the Beaufort Sea using a retrofitted icebreaker to study the Arctic environment and its shrinking sea ice.
The C$40 million ($34 million) investigation involving more than 200 researchers from 14 countries is believed to be the largest single study in the International Polar Year program, launched on Thursday in Paris.
It will be the first time a ship has spent the winter in the circumpolar flaw lead -- the cracks that develop between the permanent polar ice and coastal ice -- said David Barber, a Canadian sea ice expert leading the study.
"These cracks are early indicators of what we expect the Arctic to look like as we move into the future, because more and more, the Arctic will be open of sea ice," said Barber, who is based at the University of Manitoba.
Global warming is amplified at the Earth's poles, melting about 70,000 square kilometres (27,000 square miles) of Arctic ice each year, a pace that could see the region seasonally free of ice by 2050, Barber said.
Less ice means the ocean can absorb more sunlight, further heating up the water and the environment, and affecting the entire ecosystem.

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Inuit Activist Speaks In Washington

The Nobel Peace Prize-nominated Canadian Inuit woman Sheila Watt-Cloutier will be appearing before the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, presenting a petition signed by Inuit hunters, elders and women from Alaska and Canada. She will argue that climate change is devastating an ancient way of life and infringing on human rights.
Watt-Cloutier was one of the first to link climate change and the erosion of human rights at a 2003 United Nations conference.

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Again with the Petitions--NRDC Save the Polar Bears

Yeah, I know, this is how organizations collect your email address and then send you tons 'o messages, but who can resist these cute little guys? Here is the petition page.
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Disclaimer: This blogger is the owner of two pampered house rabbits and has a soft spot for furry critters.

Al Gore, You Just Got An Oscar! Where are you going?

If you're Al Gore, apparently you head to Washington--for a visit to Congress, that is. Gore's new initiative is a petition drive to get the US Congress to act quickly on climate change legislation. Here is the link to sign his petition:

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