Melting Permafrost Releases Deadly, Long-Dormant Anthrax in Siberia

“This week’s anthrax outbreak signals that global warming is transforming Siberia’s lonely wilderness into a feverish nightmarescape”
— by Deirdre Fulton, staff writer

The cause of the anthrax outbreak could have been infected human remains from a local Nenets burial ground. (Photo: Siberian Times)

A Russian heatwave has activated long-dormant anthrax bacteria in Siberia, sickening at least 13 people and killing one boy and more than 2,300 reindeer.

According to the Siberian Times on Monday:

A total of 72 people are now in hospital, a rise of 32 since Friday, under close observation amid fears of a major outbreak. 41 of those hospitalized are children as Russia copes with a full scale health emergency above the polar circle which has also killed thousands of reindeer.

A state of emergency has been imposed throughout the region in western Siberia, and reindeer herding communities have been quarantined.

While NBC News last week pinned the blame for the outbreak on “[t]he carcass of a reindeer thought to have died from anthrax decades ago,” new reports suggest an old burial ground could be the source.

Nadezhda Noskova, press secretary of the Yamalo-Nenets Autonomous Region government, told the Siberian Times:

We are working out all the versions of what has happened. The first version is that due to the very hot weather permafrost thawed and bared the carcass of an animal which died from anthrax long ago.

The other version is that it could have been a human body. The point is that Nenets and Khanty peoples do not bury their dead in the ground.

They put them into the wooden coffins—they resemble boxes—and place them on a stand or hillock.

The old cemetery could be also the source of the disease.

But regardless of the precise culprit, there’s little doubt that climate change is exacerbating the health crisis.

The Washington Post noted last week, “Temperatures have soared in western Russia’s Yamal tundra this summer,” with several regions seeing record heat. Indeed, temperatures in the Yamal tundra above the Arctic Circle have hit highs of 95°F this summer, compared to an average of 77°F.

The Post quoted two Russian researchers, who warned in 2011: “As a consequence of permafrost melting, the vectors of deadly infections of the 18th and 19th centuries may come back…especially near the cemeteries where the victims of these infections were buried.”

“The extreme heat has triggered a seemingly endless rash of freak weather, natural disasters, and signs of ecological malaise, including enormous wildfires, record flooding, and natural moon bounces [methane bubbles] that might be explosive,” staff writer Maddie Stone reported at Gizmodo. “But above all else, this week’s anthrax outbreak—the first to hit the region since 1941—signals that global warming is transforming Siberia’s lonely wilderness into a feverish nightmarescape.”

Or, as Charles Pierce wrote at Esquire on Monday, “an anthrax strain that has spent 75 years resting, sleeping a lot, going a few times a week to the Bacteria Gym, and generally muscling up, gets another chance at sickening reindeer and people because the Great Climate Change Hoax has thawed the permafrost, so it gets its shot at the reindeer and people that didn’t die in the record wildfires. I would point out that one of our two major political parties doesn’t believe that any of this is happening, and that the party’s candidate for president thinks it all might be a hoax thought up by the Chinese.”


src=”https://humboldtdems.files.wordpress.com/2013/10/creativecommons.png” alt=”CreativeCommons” width=”66″ height=”23″ />This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 License

Betting the Farm on Free Trade?

The White House is gambling with our health, jobs, and environment by embracing the Trans-Pacific Partnership.

— by

Janet RedmanFrom her home in Berks County, Pennsylvania, Karen Feridun is helping stage a growing citizen pushback against the expansion of natural gas extraction. But a far-reaching global deal recently signed halfway around the world may make her job much harder.

Feridun got involved in this fight over concerns that fracking waste, laden with toxic chemicals, could end up in the sewage sludge that some Pennsylvania towns spread on local farm fields.

Figuring her best bet for keeping the state’s water, food, and communities safe was putting a stop to fracking, Feridun founded Berks Gas Truth. The group is now part of a statewide coalition calling for a halt to fracking in Pennsylvania.

no-TPP-trans-pacific-partnership-protests
AFGE / Flickr

The campaign got a boost when the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, after hearing a case brought by the Delaware Riverkeeper Network, ruled that local governments have the right to protect the public trust. The court also found that oil and gas companies must abide by municipal zoning and planning laws.

The decision was celebrated as a huge victory for local control. But, Feridun told me, “the Trans-Pacific Partnership could turn over the apple cart entirely.”

The day after we spoke, U.S. Trade Representative Michael Frohman joined top officials from eleven other Pacific Rim nations in a New Zealand casino to sign the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) — a sweeping “free trade” agreement aimed at opening national borders to the flow of goods, services, and finance.

The location couldn’t have been more symbolic. By entering into this deal, the Obama administration is playing roulette with America’s future.

The White House hopes to win greater access to raw materials, cheap labor, and burgeoning consumer markets in Asia for U.S. companies. What do we stand to lose? Nothing less than the ability to set rules and regulations that protect our families’ health, our jobs, and our environment.

The provision at the heart of this wager is something called an “investor-state” clause. It would let companies based in TPP partner countries sue governments over laws or regulations that curtail their profit-making potential.

It’s a risky bet. Here’s the White House’s simplistic calculus: The U.S. government has never lost an investor-state case.

The more we win, it seems, the bigger our next gamble. The TPP would be the largest free trade agreement in history, covering about 40 percent of the global economy and giving additional countries the option to “dock” to the treaty later. It also adds thousands of companies that could potentially sue the United States in trade court.

Back in Berks County, the demand from newly opened overseas markets for U.S. gas may increase local pressure to frack. The TPP’s investor-state provisions would let foreign-owned gas companies challenge any statewide limits on the practice standing in their way.

If this sounds unlikely, look no further than our neighbors to the north. U.S. oil and gas company Lone Pine Resources sued Canada using a similar clause in the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) when Quebec passed a moratorium to halt fracking under the St. Lawrence River. And Lone Pine won.

Now, TransCanada — the Canadian company behind the hugely unpopular Keystone XL pipeline — is bringing a $15 billion claim against the United States for denying permits to build it. That’s exactly the kind of legal action that makes people like Karen Feridun fighting oil and gas projects nervous.

Even if Washington wins the TransCanada suit under NAFTA, the fear of spending millions of dollars fending off litigation under the much larger TPP could have a chilling effect on future efforts to keep oil, gas, and coal in the ground.

Luckily, as Feridun and her neighbors know, Congress hasn’t approved the Trans-Pacific Partnership yet. If lawmakers care about protecting good jobs, clean skies, safe water, and a stable climate in this hotly contested election year, they’d be wise not to gamble against the public interest.


Janet Redman directs the Climate Policy Program at the Institute for Policy Studies. IPS-dc.org
Distributed by OtherWords.org. 

6 Things Every American Should Know About the Clean Power Plan

By EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy

Gina McCarthyToday, President Obama will unveil the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA’s) Clean Power Plan—a historic step to cut the carbon pollution driving climate change. Here are six key things every American should know:

  1. IT SLASHES THE CARBON POLLUTION FUELING CLIMATE CHANGE.
    Carbon pollution from power plants is our nation’s biggest driver of climate change—and it threatens what matters most – the health of our kids, the safety of our neighborhoods, and the ability of Americans to earn a living. The Clean Power Plan sets common sense, achievable state-by-state goals to cut carbon pollution from power plants across the country. Building on proven local and state efforts, the Plan puts our nation on track to cut carbon pollution from the power sector 32 percent below 2005 levels by 2030, all while keeping energy reliable and affordable.
  2. IT PROTECTS FAMILIES’ HEALTH.
    The transition to clean energy is happening even faster than we expected—and that’s a good thing. It means carbon and air pollution are already decreasing, improving public health each and every year. The Clean Power Plan accelerates this momentum, putting us on pace to cut this dangerous pollution to historically low levels. Our transition to cleaner energy will better protect Americans from other kinds of harmful air pollution, too. By 2030, we’ll see major reductions of pollutants that can create dangerous soot and smog, translating to significant health benefits for the American people. In 2030, we’ll avoid up to 3,600 fewer premature deaths; 90,000 fewer asthma attacks in children; 1,700 fewer hospital admissions; and avoid 300,000 missed days of school and work. The Clean Power Plan is a historic step forward to give our kids and grandkids the cleaner, safer future they deserve.
  3. IT PUTS STATES IN THE DRIVER’S SEAT.
    The Clean Power Plan sets uniform carbon pollution standards for power plants across the country—but sets individual state goals based on states’ current energy mix and where they have opportunities to cut pollution. States then customize plans to meet their goals in ways that make sense for their communities, businesses, and utilities. States can run their more efficient plants more often, switch to cleaner fuels, use more renewable energy, and take advantage of emissions trading and energy efficiency options.Because states requested it, EPA is also proposing a model rule states can adopt right away–one that’s cost-effective, guarantees they meet EPA’s requirements, and will let their power plants use interstate trading right away. But states don’t have to use our plan—they can cut carbon pollution in whatever way makes the most sense for them.

    The uniform national rates in the Clean Power Plan are reasonable and achievable, because no plant has to meet them alone or all at once. Instead, they have to meet them as part of the grid and over time. In short, the Clean Power Plan puts states in the driver’s seat.

  4. IT’S BUILT ON INPUT FROM MILLIONS OF AMERICANS.
    The Clean Power Plan reflects unprecedented input from the American people, including 4.3 million comments on the draft plan and input from hundreds of meetings with states, utilities, communities, and others. When folks raised questions about equity and fairness, we listened. That’s why EPA is setting uniform standards to make sure similar plants are treated the same across the country.
    When states and utilities expressed concern about how fast states would need to cut emissions under the draft Plan, we listened. That’s why the Clean Power Plan extends the timeframe for mandatory emissions reductions to begin by two years, until 2022, so utilities will have time to make the upgrades and investments they need to.

    But to encourage states to stay ahead of the curve and not delay planned investments, or delay starting programs that need time to pay off, we’re creating a Clean Energy Incentive Program to help states transition to clean energy faster.

    It’s a voluntary matching fund program states can use to encourage early investment in wind and solar power projects, as well as energy efficiency projects in low-income communities. Thanks to the valuable input we heard from the public, the final rule is even more fair and more flexible, while cutting more pollution.

  5. IT WILL SAVE US BILLIONS OF DOLLARS EVERY YEAR.
    With the Clean Power Plan, America is leading by example—showing the world that climate action is an incredible economic opportunity. By 2030, the net public health and climate-related benefits from the Clean Power Plan are estimated to be worth $45 billion every year. And, by design, the Clean Power Plan is projected to cut the average American’s monthly electricity bill by 7% in 2030. We’ll get these savings by cutting energy waste and beefing up energy efficiency across the board—steps that make sense for our health, our future, and our wallets.
  6. IT PUTS THE U.S. IN A POSITION TO LEAD ON CLIMATE ACTION.
    Today, the U.S. is generating three times more wind energy and 20 times more solar power than when President Obama took office. And the solar industry is adding jobs 10 times faster than the rest of the economy. For the first time in nearly three decades, we’re importing less foreign oil than we’re producing domesticallyand using less overall.Our country’s clean energy transition is happening faster than anyone anticipated—even as of last year when we proposed this rule. The accelerating trend toward clean power, and the growing success of energy efficiency efforts, mean carbon emissions are already going down, and the pace is picking up. The Clean Power Plan will secure and accelerate these trends, building momentum for a cleaner energy future.


    Climate change is a global problem that demands a global solution. With the Clean Power Plan, we’re putting America in a position to lead. Since the Plan was proposed last year, the U.S., China and Brazil – three of the world’s largest economies – have announced commitments to significantly reduce carbon pollution. We’re confident other nations will come to the table ready to reach an international climate agreement in Paris later this year.


Editor’s Note: The views expressed here are intended to explain EPA policy. They do not change anyone’s rights or obligations.

Please share this post. However, please don’t change the title or the content. If you do make changes, don’t attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.


One Simple Chart Explains The Climate Plans Of Hillary Clinton And Bernie Sanders

— by Emily Atkin

Credit:  AP Photos / Charlie Neibergall / Dennis Van Tin

From left to right: Former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT). All three have different plans to fight climate change if elected to the presidency.

When Hillary Clinton released a fact sheet detailing her plan to fight climate change on Sunday night, her presidential campaign characterized it as “bold.” Indeed, the goals outlined in the plan are significant — a 700 percent increase in solar installations by the end of her first term, and enough renewable energy to power every home in the country within 10 years.

But not everyone thought Clinton’s plan was as bold as her campaign made it out to be. That seemingly included the campaign of her Democratic rival, former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley, which sent an email to reporters titled “What Real Climate Leadership Looks Like” about an hour before Clinton’s plan was scheduled to be released.

What does real climate leadership look like? According to the O’Malley campaign’s email, it looks like having a definitive position on every controversial policy in the environmental space. Arctic drilling, fracking, the Keystone XL pipeline — O’Malley’s climate plan details strong stances on all of those topics. The plan Clinton released on Sunday does not.

Clinton’s plan does include ways to achieve her stated goals in solar energy production, including awarding competitive grants to states that reduce emissions, extending tax breaks to renewable industries like solar and wind, and investing in transmission lines that can take renewable power from where it’s produced to where it’s needed for electricity. She also proposed cutting some tax breaks to fossil fuel companies to pay for her plan, though she hasn’t proposed eliminating them completely like Sanders and O’Malley have. Vox’s Brad Plumer called Clinton’s goals “certainly feasible in principle, but the gritty details will matter a lot.”

Of course, many presidential candidates haven’t fully fleshed out their policy strategies yet — Clinton, for her part, has acknowledged that Sunday’s release represented only the “first pillar” of announcements about climate and energy. By contrast, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) — her main contender for the Democratic nomination — hasn’t formally released a climate policy plan yet. But he has publicly stated his positions on many of the most hot-button environmental issues, including some that Clinton has not yet addressed.

With all that in mind, here’s a look at what voters can expect from each of those three Democratic presidential candidates when it comes to tackling climate change, based on their public statements and official plans so far.

climate-goals

Credit:  Graphic by Dylan Petrohilos

It’s worth noting that this checklist isn’t definitive. Just because Sanders has said he supports many of these policies doesn’t necessarily mean he will include them in his official climate plan when and if he releases one. And just because Clinton hasn’t included some of these issues in her current plan doesn’t mean she won’t (or will) in the future.

It’s also worth mentioning that just because O’Malley has included all of these things in his climate plan doesn’t mean he’ll be able to achieve them. His plan leans steeply to the left of even the Obama administration’s climate strategy, which the Republican-led Congress is fighting tooth-and-nail to dismantle.

That a Democratic presidential nominee might have a difficult time achieving their climate goals, however, can be said about any of the candidates — especially considering the fact that more than 56 percent of current congressional Republicans don’t believe climate change exists at all. For environmentalists and climate hawks, that may mean that the candidate with the most aggressive goals represents the safest option.


This material [the article above] was created by the Center for American Progress Action Fund. It was created for the Progress Report, the daily e-mail publication of the Center for American Progress Action Fund. Click here to subscribe.

Hillary Clinton’s Plan to Combat Climate Change

“Climate change is one of the most urgent problems facing our nation and our world. I’m proud to announce the first steps of an ambitious plan to combat it and help make America a clean energy superpower.  Too many Republicans in this race deny the very existence of this global threat by reminding you that they’re not scientists. Well, I may not be a scientist, but I’m a grandmother with two eyes and a brain. That’s all it takes to know that we must immediately address climate change, one of the defining challenges of our time. I hope you’ll stand with me to do just that.” — Hillary Clinton

Hillary for Nevada Facebook Page 

Hillary on Economics

Hillary on defending America and our core values 

Hagar: Clinton’s ‘gender card’ campaign picks up steamRGJ // Ray Hagar

Clinton campaign stops in Ely on Nev. tourEly Times// Garrett Estrada

Clinton’s grassroots tour stops in FallonLahontan Valley News // Steve Ranson

Clinton staffers make local stopThe Humboldt Sun // Joyce Sheen

Why were they in Gardnerville—Let’s Talk Nevada // Andrew Davey (video)

Big Oil Knew—Big Oil Lied—And Planet Earth Got Fried

— by Jon Queally, staff writer at Common Dreams
New report exposes why fossil fuel companies didn’t need the warning from the public scientific community to start a decades-long campaign of denial. They already knew their business model was a threat.

not_science

A new report, The Climate Deception Dossiers, chronicles how Exxon and other major fossil fuel companies did not take action to disclose or reduce climate risks in the ensuing years, but instead actively misled the public and policymakers about them.

They knew. They lied. And the planet and its people are now paying the ultimate price.

It’s no secret that the fossil fuel industry—the set of companies and corporate interests which profit most from the burning of coal, oil, and gas—have been the largest purveyors and funders of climate change denialism in the world.

Now, a new set of documents and a report released by the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) answers the age-old question always asked when it comes to crimes of corruption, cover-up, and moral defiance: What did they know and when did they know it?

As it turns out, “The Climate Deception Dossiers” shows that leading oil giants such as ExxonMobil, BP, and Shell—just like tobacco companies who buried and denied the threat of cancer for smokers—knew about the dangers of global warming and the role of carbon and other greenhouse gas emissions long before the public received warning from the broader scientific community. And what’s worse, of course, is not only that they knew—but how they have spent the last nearly thirty years actively denying the damage they were causing to the planet and its inhabitants.

The new report, explains UCS president Ken Kimmell, “is a sobering exposé of how major fossil fuel companies have … neither been honest about, nor taken responsibility for, the harms they have caused by extracting and putting into commerce the fossil fuels that now place our climate in grave danger. Instead, either directly or indirectly, through trade and industry groups, they have sown doubt about the science of climate change and repeatedly fought efforts to cut the emissions of dangerous heat-trapping gases.”

And as this video shows:

The new report reviews internal documents from some of the world’s largest fossil fuel companies—including BP, Chevron, Conoco, ExxonMobil, Peabody Energy, Phillips, and Shell—spanning the course of 27 years. UCS obtained and reviewed memos that have either been leaked to the public, come to light through lawsuits, or been disclosed through Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests.

The documents show that:

  • Companies have directly or indirectly spread climate disinformation for decades;
  • Corporate leaders knew the realities of climate science—that their products were harmful to people and the planet—but still actively deceived the public and denied this harm;
  • The campaign of deception continues, with some of the documents having surfaced as recently as in 2014 and 2015.

UCS has made the complete collection of 85 internal memos—totaling more than 330 pages—available online.

As part of its research, UCS discovered that as early as 1981—nearly seven years before NASA scientist James Hansen made his famous testimony before Congress about the dangers of human-caused global warming—internal discussions about the reality of the threat were already occurring inside the corporate offices of ExxonMobil and others.

In the case of Exxon, an email by one of the companies key scientists explains that, “Exxon first got interested in climate change in 1981 because it was seeking to develop the Natuna gas field off Indonesia.” The email explains that the company knew the field was rich in carbon dioxide and that it could become the “largest point source of CO2 in the world,” accounting for 1 percent of projected global CO2 emissions.

The email in question was written in response to an inquiry on business ethics from the Institute for Applied and Professional Ethics at Ohio University.

Speaking with the Guardian newspaper, director of the Institute Alyssa Bernstein said the email makes it clear “that Exxon knew years earlier than James Hansen’s testimony to Congress that climate change was a reality; that it accepted the reality, instead of denying the reality as they have done publicly, and to such an extent that it took it into account in their decision making, in making their economic calculation.”

Though stating she did not want to appear “melodramatic,” Bernstein told the Guardian that Exxon’s behavior amounts to a supremely larger moral offense than even the tobacco industry’s obfuscations on smoking “because what is at stake is the fate of the planet, humanity, and the future of civilization.”

Given the scale of their crime, UCS says the “time is ripe to hold these companies accountable for their actions and responsible for the harm they have caused.”

Offering recommendations for what the industry should be doing, the group said companies must:

  • Stop disseminating misinformation about climate change. It is unacceptable for fossil fuel companies to deny established climate science. It is also unacceptable for companies to publicly accept the science while funding climate contrarian scientists or front groups that distort or deny the science.
  • Support fair and cost-effective policies to reduce global warming emissions. It is time for the industry to identify and publicly support policies that will lead to the reduction of emissions at a scale needed to reduce the worst effects of global warming.
  • Reduce emissions from current operations and update their business models to prepare for future global limits on emissions. Companies should take immediate action to cut emissions from their current operations, update their business models to reflect the risks of unabated burning of fossil fuels, and map out the pathway they plan to take in the next 20 years to ensure we achieve a low-carbon energy future.
  • Pay for their share of the costs of climate damages and preparedness. Communities around the world are already facing and paying for damages from rising seas, extreme heat, more frequent droughts, and other climate-related impacts. Today and in the future, fossil fuel companies should pay a fair share of the costs.
  • Fully disclose the financial and physical risks of climate change to their business operations. As is required by law, fossil fuel companies are required to discuss risks—including climate change—that might materially affect their business in their annual SEC filings. Today, compliance with this requirement is not consistent.

“These companies aren’t just trying to block new polices, they’re trying to roll back clean energy and climate laws that are working and are widely supported by the public,” said Nancy Cole, a report author and UCS’s campaign director for climate and energy. “Climate change is already underway – and many communities are struggling to protect their residents and prepare for future changes. The deception simply must stop. It’s time for major carbon companies to become part of the solution.”


CC-BY-SAThis work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 License

Naomi Klein Makes Moral Case for World Beyond Fossil Fuels

Activist and author, Naomi Klein, praises ‘courageous’ invitation by Pope in face of fossil fuel industry’s power

by Nadia Prupis, staff writer

Author and activist Naomi Klein spoke at the Vatican on Wednesday, calling climate change a “moral crisis” that should unite all people. (Photo: Adolfo Lujan/flickr/cc)

Naomi Klein—activist, author, and self-described “secular Jewish feminist”—spoke at the Vatican on Wednesday where she championed the Pope’s message for global action on climate change and made the case for “the beautiful world” beyond fossil fuel addiction.

Klein, who was invited to speak by the Vatican, gave her speech ahead of a two-day conference to discuss the Pope’s recent encyclical, Laudato Si’, on the environment and the threat of the global economic system—subjects that the author of This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. the Climate knows well.

The encyclical has garnered praise from environmental campaigners like Greenpeace International’s Kumi Naidoo, who called it a “clarion call for bold, urgent action.”

“Pope Francis writes early on that Laudato Si’ is not only a teaching for the Catholic world but for ‘every person living on this planet.’ And I can say that as a secular Jewish feminist who was rather surprised to be invited to the Vatican, it certainly spoke to me,” Klein told reporters ahead of the conference, which is called People and Planet First: the Imperative to Change Course.

She praised what she described as “the core message of interconnection at the heart of the encyclical.”

Klein also expanded on what may appear to be an unlikely alliance with the leader of the Catholic Church.

“Given the attacks that are coming from the Republican party around this and also the fossil fuel interests in the United States, it was a particularly courageous decision to invite me here,” she said, according to the Associated Press. “I think it indicates that the Holy See is not being intimidated, and knows that when you say powerful truths, you make some powerful enemies and that’s part of what this is about.”

“In a world where profit is consistently put before both people and the planet, climate economics has everything to do with ethics and morality.”  — Naomi Klein

“I have noticed a common theme among the critiques. Pope Francis may be right on the science, we hear, and even on the morality, but he should leave the economics and policy to the experts,” Klein said in her speech. “They are the ones who know about carbon trading and water privatization, we are told, and how effectively markets can solve any problem. I forcefully disagree.

“The truth is that we have arrived at this dangerous place partly because many of those economic experts have failed us badly, wielding their powerful technocratic skills without wisdom,” she said. “In a world where profit is consistently put before both people and the planet, climate economics has everything to do with ethics and morality. Because if we agree that endangering life on earth is a moral crisis, then it is incumbent on us to act like it.”

Echoing the Pope’s message to address inequities, Klein said that “our current system is also fueling ever widening inequality.”

But Klein stressed that her appearance at the Vatican did not mean that any one world view was “being subsumed by anyone else’s.”

“This is an alliance on a specific issue. It’s not a merger,” Klein said. “But when you are faced with a crisis of this magnitude, people have to get out of their comfort zones.”

Despite the magnitude of the crisis, Klein stressed: “We can save ourselves.”

“Around the world, the climate justice movement is saying: See the beautiful world that lies on the other side of courageous policy, the seeds of which are already bearing ample fruit for any who care to look.

“Then, stop making the difficult the enemy of the possible.

“And join us in making the possible real,” she said.

The two-day conference, which comes in the lead-up to the COP21 international climate talks in Paris later this year, is being coordinated by the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace and the International Cooperation for Development and Solidarity (CIDSE), an alliance of Catholic development agencies. Alongside Klein, other speakers include Ottmar Edenhofer, co-chair of the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, pontifical council president H.E. Cardinal Peter Turkson, and CIDSE secretary general Bernard Nils.


CC-BY-SA  This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 License

Anti-Science GOP ‘Eviscerates’ NASA Spending on Climate Change Research

NASA administrator says proposal ‘guts’ crucial  Earth science program and ‘threatens to set back generations worth of progress in better understanding our changing climate’

Among the critical aspects of NASA’s earth science mission: weather prediction, monitoring ice in the Arctic, and tracking wildfires. (Photo: NASA Goddard Space Flight Center/flickr/cc)

Reinforcing the GOP’s reputation as anti-science, Republicans in the U.S. House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology on Thursday voted to slash NASA spending on the branch that studies climate change issues.

According to news reports, the NASA authorization proposal, passed along party lines, would cut between $300-500 million in funding to NASA’s Earth Sciences division, which researches the planet’s natural systems and processes—including climate change, severe weather, and glaciers. The bill will now go to the full House for a vote.

“When you vote for people who publicly and loudly spout nonsense about science, and go against the overwhelming 97 percent consensus among climate scientists, what do you expect?”
—Phil Plait, Slate

As Ars Technica notes, “This vote follows the committee’s decision to cut the [National Science Foundation]’s geoscience budget and comes after a prominent attack on NASA’s Earth sciences work during a Senate hearing, all of which suggests a concerted campaign against the researchers who, among other things, are telling us that climate change is a reality.”

Unsurprisingly, NASA pushed back against this latest attempt to stymie climate research.

In a statement released Thursday, the space agency’s administrator Charles Bolden said the proposal “guts our Earth science program and threatens to set back generations worth of progress in better understanding our changing climate, and our ability to prepare for and respond to earthquakes, droughts, and storm events.”

And other scientists added their own criticisms to the mix. In a letter (pdf) to the committee, the head of the American Geophysical Union (AGU) said that group is “extremely concerned” about the funding cuts.

“The research performed and supported by the [NASA] division helps us understand the world we live in and provide a basis for knowledge and understanding of natural hazards, weather forecasting, air quality, and water availability, among other concerns,” wrote AGU executive director Christine W. McEntee. “The applicability of these missions cannot be overstated given their impact on your constituents.”

Astronomer and journalist Phil Plait, writing at Slate, agreed that “the evisceration of Earth sciences means this bill is seriously, critically flawed.” But, Plait said, U.S. voters only have themselves to blame for such short-sighted policy decisions:

When you vote for people who publicly and loudly spout nonsense about science, and go against the overwhelming 97 percent consensus among climate scientists, what do you expect?

We sowed this Congress, and this is what we reap. Potentially huge cuts to critical science, care of the GOP. Remember that in November 2016.

Several Democratic lawmakers have also expressed their opposition to the spending cuts.

In an op-ed published this week at The Hill, U.S. Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-Tex.), the House committee’s ranking member, wrote:

In addition to other problems in the bill, it cuts earth science funding by more than $320 million. Earth science, of course, includes climate science. Despite the fact that in January NASA announced 2014 was likely the warmest year since 1880, it should come as no surprise that the majority wants to cut funding for climate science. Embarrassingly, just last week, every single Republican member of this committee present voted against the notion that climate change might be caused by people.

Of course, there would be implications beyond a potential dearth of climate research.

In an analysis published Friday at the Washington Post, Dr. Marshall Shepherd, professor of atmospheric sciences and geography at the University of Georgia and 2013 president of the American Meteorological Society, wrote:

As the former deputy project scientist for the Global Precipitation Measurement mission, I assure you that the level of cuts proposed for NASA’s earth sciences  program would not only harm but end many programs and jeopardize many federal and private sector jobs. The engineering, ground systems, science, and support work of NASA earth science missions is supported by some of the most vibrant private aerospace and science-technology companies in the world.  And they are U.S. companies.

“More importantly,” Shepherd continued, “none of us has a ‘vacation planet’ we can go to for the weekend, so I argue that NASA’s mission to study planet Earth should be a ‘no-brainer’.”


CC-BY-SAThis work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 License

Economics As If Future Generations Mattered

Creating a commons ethic for ecological restoration and social justice
by Carolyn Raffensperger, Kaitlin Butler

Photo: Raul Lieberwirth/flickr/cc

What are the principles needed to guarantee that we are fair to future generations?

We have turned a corner on climate change— a wrong turn– and it is happening more rapidly than we have predicted. Climate change is already disrupting society, ecosystems, and national economies. We have altered so much of our Earth that we now threaten our own survival.

We know the catastrophic risks we are passing onto future generations and we wonder, with anxiety and grief, what will become of our planet. We ask ourselves, “what can I do?”

“The message that solutions to climate change and environmental degradation is up to the individual directly conflicts with what people are witnessing.”

One of the key barriers to taking action on the paramount issues of our time is that these problems are the end result of entrenched cultural, economic and social systems. The message that solutions to climate change and environmental degradation is up to the individual directly conflicts with what people are witnessing: the health and well-being of their bodies and their communities coming a distant second to powerful economic interests.

Current economic calculations do not recognize the full cost to the Commons – the cultural and natural heritage we share that is the foundation of our economy.

Yet growing numbers of people are waking up to the reemerging Commons ethic, which holds that human systems must be aligned to match ecological ones. People believe that future generations have the inalienable right to a healthy planet, and many are now seeking ways to withdraw their consent to the politics and policies that lead to a toxic future.

A rights-based approach to human systems like the economy allows us to open our discussion to questions like: What is the economy for? What are the principles needed to guarantee that we are fair to future generations? What tenets make justice and the protection of the Commons more likely?

The  Women’s Congress for Future Generations, to be held Nov. 7-9 in Minneapolis, is joining the groundswell of individuals and organizations calling for the arraignment of our capital-driven, infinite-growth paradigms, and adopting different economic principles which many Indigenous cultures have lived by for centuries. This gathering builds and extends on the first Women’s Congress held in Moab, Utah in September 2012.

Attendees of the Moab Congress drafted a living Declaration of the Rights of Future Generations and corresponding Bill of Responsibilities of Present Generations. The goal of the upcoming Congress in November is to infuse the Declaration with an even deeper analysis of economic and environmental justice.

Participants at the Congress will bring forward ideas to help shift the way we care for and relate to our Earth–ideas such as moving environmental law out of free market private property law into rights law; caring for the Commons, the Precautionary Principle, and Free Prior and Informed Consent. Congress goers– both men and women–will imagine different economic principles that counter dominant but destructive paradigms.

Some of the new principles to be discussed are:

  1. The Earth is the source of our life and our economic activity.
  2. The Commons, the cultural and natural heritage we share, are the foundation of economics, which presupposes: a) a role of government as the trustee of the commons; b) Laws and rules governing economic systems must first protect the commonwealth; c) Concepts such as economic growth, which ignore the cost to the commons are evolutionary dead-ends.
  3. Justice within generations and justice between generations must be linked to economic justice.

This is a conversation about the definition, boundaries, and acceptance of limits. And, these are a few of the tenets that flow from these economic principles:

  1. Measure the right things:  Currently we do not measure the health of the Commons. Pollution and disease count as good for the economic GDP.
  2. Polluter Pays:  The one who pollutes or damages the commons shall be held responsible and pay for restoration.
  3. No Debt to Future Generations without a Corresponding Asset:  We cannot ask future generations to pay for our messes.  We can share with them the costs of assets like parks, art, clean air and water.
  4. Audit, Account for and Fund Commons Assets.

If one accepts the incontestable truth that present generations inherit an Earth left from previous generations, and that we are all eventually ancestors, then our lives are a simultaneously defined by inheriting and bequeathing.

Facing another incontestable truth that our Earth is finite allows us to expand our point of view to include a “bigger picture,” which tells a story with a common goal: It is a story of an incredibly interconnected living systems on which we are dependent, not dominant. The story of human development that has recalibrated its systems to match those of nature itself. The story  of a civilization that thrives on stewardship and care, generation after generation into the far future.


CC-BY-SAThis work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.