Wednesday, February 13, 2013
QUOTE OF THE WEEK
“It’s awful hard to reconcile wanting to reduce greenhouse gas emissions with [approving] the dirtiest oil project in the country. The president gets this, he understands this challenge, and we’re here to ensure his ambitions rise to the level of the challenge.”
~ Michael Brune, executive director of the Sierra Club, after being arrested at the White House
Less than 24 hours after President Barack Obama said “we must do more to combat climate change … and act before it’s too late” in his State of the Union speech, 48 Americans were arrested at the gates of the White House to remind him what is at stake.
“We have reached a fork in the road,” said James Hansen, head of the NASA Goddard Institute of Space Studies and one of those arrested, “and the politicians have to understand we either go down this road of exploiting every fossil fuel we have — tar sands, tar shale, off-shore drilling in the Arctic — but the science tells us we can’t do that without creating a situation where our children and grandchildren will have no control over, which is the climate system.”
Other notable community leaders involved in the civil disobedience were Michael Brune, executive director of the Sierra Club; Bill McKibben, best-selling author and founder of 350.org; Julian Bond, former president of the NAACP; Danny Kennedy, CEO of Sungevity; Robert F. Kennedy Jr., founder of WaterKeepers, and Connor Kennedy, and Daryl Hannah, American actress.
Although Obama reiterated the need to combat climate change, he also championed more oil and gas exploration and failed to mention the controversial Keystone XL pipeline, which needs his approval if it is to go ahead. The act of civil disobedience on Wednesday was simply a hint of a much larger Forward on Climate rally that will see tens of thousands of people descend on the national mall and the White House to encourage Obama to just say no Keystone XL.
“It’s awful hard to reconcile wanting to reduce greenhouse gas emissions with [approving] the dirtiest oil project in the country,” said Brune, who recently announced that the Sierra Club reversed its policy and now endorses nonviolent civil disobedience as a legitimate form of climate action. “The president gets this, he understands this challenge, and we’re here to ensure his ambitions rise to the level of the challenge.”
According to a National Resource Defense Council blog post, the protests at the White House are a snapshot of the growing public concern around America. A national poll conducted immediately after last night’s State of the Union speech for NRDC found that 65 percent of Americans think climate change is a serious problem and a substantial majority support President Obama using his authority to reduce its main cause, dangerous carbon pollution. And that includes turning down TransCanada’s application to build the Keystone XL pipeline, which the EPA increase greenhouse gas emissions by 23 million metric tons year, to transport dirty tar sands oil to the Gulf Coast for export to Asia.
The movement against KXL has grown exponentially over the last year. Even the Financial Post recognizes the potency of well-organized groups and the tens of thousands of people that have coalesced around their efforts to reduce our reliance on climate-warming fossil fuels. “They are uncompromising, empowered and feel good about their progress in capping the growth of fossil fuels — particularly those from Canada,” the Post wrote, and “have wreaked havoc in the oil sands industry by trashing its practices and shutting it out of new markets by stalling proposed pipelines such as Keystone XL.”
“This is not an issue of borders anymore,” Susan Casey-Lefkowitz, director of NRDC’s international program, told the Post in reference to their concern about Canada’s rapidly expanding tar sands development. “And we are seeing that with a lot of our environmental work. Most of the environmental problems are global challenges. And that is why we work so closely with colleagues in Canada.”
The next tactical move in the battle over KXL will take place on Sunday, when more than 30,000 people have pledged to attend the Forward on Climate rally at the White House, slated to be the largest rally of its kind in U.S. history. Thirty notable entertainment and environmental leaders have signed a letter supporting the rally and calling on Obama to cement his legacy by addressing climate disruption during his second term.
“Your legacy as 44th president of the United States rests firmly on your leadership on climate disruption,” read the letter signed by Alec Baldwin, Bonnie Raitt, Edward Norton, Edward James Olmos, Elle Macpherson, Jack Johnson, Michael Franti, Morgan Freeman, Susan Sarandon, Woody Harrelson and Yoko Ono, among others. “Only the president has the power to lead an effort on the scale and with the urgency we need to phase out fossil fuels and lead America, and the world, in a clean energy revolution.”
CLEANING UP DIRTY OIL
Generals entrusted with protecting America’s national interests by force take their job seriously, which is why they worry about climate change as much or more than environmentalists.
“As retired general officers with more than 65 years of combined service, we believe President Obama must lead efforts to tackle runaway climate change,” wrote retired Lt. Gen. Norman R. Seip and retired Brigadier General Steven M. Anderson recently in Huff Po. “The Department of Defense and many current and former military leaders have warned climate change and its effects will increase economic and political instability worldwide.”
The problem, they argue, is that climate change will create hardships and conflicts that threaten America’s security and result in preventable deaths of many U.S. soldiers and civilians. Droughts and sea-level rise will force
Which is why they are hosting a solutions-focused climate summit, followed by action-focused planning meetings in U.S. communities nationwide. These meetings, they hope, will identify pragmatic solutions to end the political paralysis and so-called scientific "debate" that have prevented action to slow climate change thus far, and will give our Armed Forces colleagues, faith and labor group leaders, farmers' unions, insurance and other industry executives an opportunity to join our Commander-in-Chief in implementing proven solutions to this crisis.
Go get ‘em generals! Stay tuned for details.
The problem with the fossil fuel industry, writes Cameron Fenton, is not simply a flaw in their business plan. It is their business plan.
Fenton is the national director of the Canadian Youth Climate Coalition. In an op-ed in the Toronto Star, he argues that unlike past struggles to change a specific industrial practice, like ending sweatshop labour, we need to wean ourselves off the climate-changing hydrocarbons that are the bread-and-butter of the oil and coal industries. It’s not enough to reform how we get the oil or the coal out of the ground. We need to leave it there and make our profits creating other kinds of energy.
Which is why he is a leader in an emerging movement calling on universities and colleges to sell off their shares in fossil fuel companies. “Students in Canada are gearing up to join more than 200 schools in the United States in a campaign that The Nation magazine says is “engaging more students than any similar campaign in the past 20 years.”
“Divestment alone will not stop climate change,” Fenton wrote, “but by going after the economic power and social licence of the industry that is fuelling the climate crisis, we might have a chance to build a more just and sustainable future.”
What else are universities for?
PREVENTING EXPANSION OF DIRTY PIPELINES
To mark the anniversary of its admission to the union as the 14th state in 1791, Vermont has an annual Town Meeting Day the first Tuesday of every March. This year, tar sands crude will be the biggest issue on the public’s agenda.
At least 23 Vermont towns will ask their residents to vote on a petition to keep dirty and corrosive tar sands oil out of the Green Mountain State. According to the Vermont branch of 350.org, those are the towns where at least five percent of registered voters have agreed to consider the issue on March 5. Grand Isle’s select board already passed the resolution, and more are sure to follow.
In November, Canada’s Enbridge Oil filed an application with the Canadian government to reverse the flow its Line 9 pipeline between Ontario and Montreal to transport tar sands crude to central Canada and the Maritimes. Although Enbridge representatives have repeatedly denied plans to pipe tar sands oil from Montreal to Vermont, Larry Wilson, CEO of the Portland Pipe Line Corp. that owns the Portland-Montreal Pipe Line, said he would like to. But that sentiment is not universally shared.
Vermont legislators have already introduced two bills aimed at regulating the piping of tar sands oil through the Northern Kingdom, and environmental groups and residents have asked a state land-use commission to determine whether such a proposal would fall under its jurisdiction.
Next week, Vermont citizens will have their say on Town Meeting Day.
Globe and Mail columnist Gary Mason doesn’t think environmentalists are radical extremists. Instead, he challenged federal and B.C. government’s “do everything possible to meet the challenges being issued by environmental watchdogs rightfully highlighting the risks” of new pipeline proposals and the increased oil tanker traffic that threatens the West Coast.
“When the government fails on this front,” he argues, “it undermines its case for taking advantage of new resource opportunities.”
And it is failing. Canada’s Environment Commissioner Scott Vaughan’s latest report indicates that environmental protection is not keeping pace with intensive natural resource-based economic development.
According to Vaughn, the federal government’s capacity to identify the cumulative effects of large-scale tar sands projects and to enforce compliance is lacking, and inspections of industrial activity in Canada’s North are inadequate. The government does not know the actual cost of its support to the fossil fuel sector, even as offshore drilling rapidly expands without adequate measures to establish marine protected areas.
Perhaps most troubling as the National Energy Board considers Enbridge’s application to build the Northern Gateway pipeline, which would significantly increase oil tanker traffic on the dangerously wild West Coast, is that petroleum boards and their federal partners “are not adequately prepared to respond to a major oil spill should they need to step in.”
“That bit of news was the last thing Ottawa, or the Alberta government for that matter, needed to hear,” writes Mason. “It was simply more ammunition for the forces fighting to kill the project and any like it.”
If truth is ammunition, then we need more of it. Thank you Mr. Vaughn for your contribution!
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