Obama Rejects Keystone XL: This Is Big … And Just the Beginning

— by May Boeve

‘The win against Keystone XL is just the beginning, because this fight has helped inspire resistance to a thousand other projects.’ (Photo: AP)

This is a big win. President Obama’s decision to reject Keystone XL because of its impact on the climate is nothing short of historic — and sets an important precedent that should send shockwaves through the fossil fuel industry.

Just a few years ago, insiders and experts wrote us off and assured the world Keystone XL would be built by the end of 2011. Together, ranchers, tribal nations, and everyday people beat this project back, reminding the world that Big Oil isn’t invincible–and that organized people can win over organized money.

But the win against Keystone XL is just the beginning, because this fight has helped inspire resistance to a thousand other projects. Everywhere you look, people are shutting down fracking wells, stopping coal export facilities, and challenging new pipelines. If Big Oil thinks that after Keystone XL the protesters are going home, they’re going to be sorely surprised. Today in Canada, dozens of people are risking arrest at Prime Minister Trudeau’s residence as part of the ‘Climate Welcome’ action to urge him to put an immediate freeze to tar sand expansion.

More than anything, though, today’s decision affirms the power of social movements to enact political change, and a clear sign that our movement is stronger than ever. We’re looking to build on this victory, and show that if it’s wrong to build Keystone XL because of its impact on our climate, it’s wrong to build any new fossil fuel infrastructure, period. With the same broad coalition that stood up against this pipeline and took to the streets during the People’s Climate March, we’re better positioned than ever before to make real climate policy a top priority for the U.S. government and achieve meaningful progress in this year’s climate talks. Our movement simply will not rest until our economy shifts away from the dirty fossil fuels of yesterday to the clean renewables of tomorrow.

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May Boeve is the Executive Director of 350.org.

UN Report Shows World’s Pledges for Paris Are Recipe for Climate ‘Disaster’

— by Nadia Prupis, Common Dreams Staff Writer

New analysis by UNFCCC finds wealthiest countries must step up efforts to decrease greenhouse gas emissions to stave off extreme warming

Developing nations are first in line to experience extreme weather events like drought, floods, and rising sea levels. (Photo: World Bank Photo Collection/flickr/cc)

The latest United Nations (UN) analysis of the climate pledges of world governments reveals the commitments are not enough to avert “climate catastrophe,” green groups warned on Friday.

UN climate chief Christiana Figueres and German State Secretary Jochen Flasbarth presented in Berlin on Friday their report (pdf) on the effects of 146 participating countries’ Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs)—representing 86 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions—submitted ahead of the UN’s upcoming COP21 climate talks in Paris.

“While this round of pledges is a step in the right direction, they only take us from a 4°C catastrophe to a 3°C disaster.”
—Tim Gore, Oxfam

Their conclusion: the pledges will not be sufficient “to reverse by 2025 and 2030 the upward trend of global emissions. Furthermore, estimated annual aggregate emission levels resulting from their implementation do not fall within least-cost 2°C scenarios levels.”

“The INDCs have the capability of limiting the forecast temperature rise to around 2.7°C by 2100, by no means enough but a lot lower than the estimated four, five, or more degrees of warming projected by many prior to the INDCs,” Figueres said.

In fact, if emissions continue to go unchecked, current trends indicate that the global temperature rise could be by as much as 4.5°C by 2100, the UN reported—well above the threshold climate experts say would bring catastrophic floods, droughts, and other extreme weather events.

A 2°C goal is still within reach, the report said. But climate activists warned that meeting such a goal will require much more aggressive action by wealthy nations, many of which have recently come under fire for their lackluster pledges and attempts to evade financial obligations to developing countries.

“We’re going to need to see more ambition in Paris,” 350.org strategy and communications director Jamie Henn said on Friday. “The targets currently on the table still aren’t enough to prevent climate catastrophe. To close the gap, politicians must settle on a clear mechanism to increase ambition, make real financial commitments, and agree to a unifying goal of completely decarbonizing the global economy.”

However, the current inadequate pledges are “still enough to send a clear signal to investors that the age of fossil fuels is over—there’s no way to meet these targets, let alone the stronger ones necessary, without a full scale transition to renewable energy,” Henn said.

Tim Gore, head of food and climate policy at humanitarian aid group Oxfam, added, “The UN’s verdict reveals that, while the world is making progress, much more needs to be done. While this round of pledges is a step in the right direction, they only take us from a 4°C catastrophe to a 3°C disaster.”

“The targets currently on the table still aren’t enough to prevent climate catastrophe.”
—Jamie Henn, 350

The Least Developed Countries (LDC), a coalition of frontline nations taking part in the climate talks, were even more critical of the findings, which come just days after preliminary negotiations in Bonn ended without a concrete plan for rich countries to step up their part.

“Today’s analysis shows the urgent need to address the lack of ambition within the INDCs,” said LDC chair and Angolan diplomat Giza Gaspar-Martins. “Governments must do more in Paris, but the work does not end there. For the INDCs to succeed they must be adjusted before 2020 and reviewed in five year cycles from 2020 to ensure national actions quickly and rapidly progresses, or we all face a grim and uncertain future.”

Small island nations are particularly vulnerable to rising sea levels, Gaspar-Martins continued. “For 48 of the world’s poorest and most vulnerable countries, economic development, regional food security and ecosystems are at risk in this 2°C ‘safe zone’. So we once again call on the world to grow its ambition for a 1.5°C target,” he said.


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There’s only one right answer on Keystone XL: NO

— OpEd by Bernie Sanders, Candidate for U.S. President and sitting Senator from VT

Climate change is an unprecedented planetary emergency. If we don’t act aggressively now to combat it, there will be major and painful consequences in store later: rising oceans that inundate coastal areas, bigger superstorms like Hurricane Sandy, worsening droughts, out-of-control wildfires, historic floods that come year after year, rising food prices, and millions of people displaced by climate disasters. It’s not a future any of us wants to imagine.

But despite how difficult the problem is, the basics of how we should respond to it are actually not that complicated: we need to keep fossil fuels in the ground, and move to 100 percent renewable energy — and we need to act immediately.

That’s why I cannot understand why some Democratic presidential candidates have refused to take a stand against the Keystone XL Pipeline. Keystone XL would transport millions of gallons of some of the dirtiest oil on the planet — oil that scientists tell us we simply cannot burn if we want to stop the worst impacts of climate change. As former NASA scientist James Hansen has said, building Keystone XL would mean “game over” for the climate.

A decision on Keystone XL could come at any moment, and that’s why it’s so important you make your voice heard through our campaign today.

It’s no big surprise that in recent years, most major Republican politicians have chosen to deny that climate change even exists. Republicans in Congress have collectively received millions of dollars in campaign contributions from fossil fuel interests who directly profit from stonewalling action on climate, at the expense of the climate and of humanity. Politicians who deny climate change is real, despite an overwhelming scientific consensus, are as morally bankrupt as those who helped Big Tobacco conceal the truth about the health effects of smoking, evading responsibility for years.

But in some ways, it’s even more disappointing to see Democratic politicians, who understand that climate change is real and profess to care about action on climate, equivocate on an issue as clear-cut as Keystone XL.

A study released by the scientific journal Nature just a few months ago found that if we want to keep global warming below the internationally agreed-upon safe upper limit of two degrees Celsius, we need to reduce all production of the Canadian tar sands — the kind of oil that Keystone XL would transport — to “negligible” levels. In other words, there is simply no scenario where we can address climate change in a real way and also allow this pipeline to go forward.

Stopping the Keystone XL pipeline is not the only thing we must do to address climate change. Ultimately, we need to leave all fossil fuels in the ground and move to a 100 percent renewable energy economy.

That’s why I also oppose oil drilling in the Arctic, support the fossil fuel divestment movement, and have sponsored legislation in Congress to bring solar energy to ten million rooftops in America. As a result of these positions, and my long record in support of the environment, I was recently honored to receive the endorsement of Friends of the Earth.

To win the important environmental victories we so urgently need, it will take a coordinated grassroots movement fighting to take our country and our climate back from the fossil fuel industry billionaires. It was a grassroots movement — of Nebraska ranchers, Native American communities, and climate change activists — that managed to hold off Keystone XL for years, despite the conventional wisdom that the pipeline was a done deal. I’m proud to have stood with those activists in their fight from the very beginning.

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 saidthe 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’.”


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Shell Annual Report Delivers A Fossil-Fueled Bombshell

Believe it or not, Shell — of all companies — gets it.

— By Brett Fleishman

Brett_Fleischman

Royal Dutch Shell buried a bombshell in its recently released 2013 annual report.

Amid 200 pages of predictably and mind-numbingly dry text, the world’s seventh-largest oil company foreshadowed something big. Here are the exact words, which Shell buried in the  report’s “risk factors” section:

If we are unable to find economically viable, as well as publicly acceptable, solutions that reduce our CO2 emissions for new and existing projects or products, we may experience additional costs, delayed projects, reduced production and reduced demand for hydrocarbons.”

Believe it or not, Shell — of all companies — gets it.

Shell gets that unless things change quickly, another big financial market bubble has the potential to bring people to their knees.

It’s called the “Carbon Bubble,” and it’s a very simple equation.

Fossil-fuel companies already hold more coal, oil, and gas reserves than people and industry can possibly use before climate change reaches the point where life as we know it can’t continue.

Simply put, these companies have more product than they can sell. And their value is based on their total reserves. That means fossil-fuel assets are significantly overvalued.

Why hasn’t Wall Street imploded over this yet? Well, remember how “nobody” could see the housing bubble coming?

The truth is, Wall Street is still profiting from fossil fuels. And when economists and analysts tried to warn people about the housing bubble, just like some of them are now attempting to do about the carbon bubble, their foresight fell on deaf ears.

And if memories of the last economic crisis or even the phrase “market bubble” give you goose bumps, ask yourself how exposed you are to investments in oil, gas, and coal — the three kinds of fossil fuels. Does your pension plan, retirement plan, or family nest egg invest in the likes of Shell Oil?

As a senior analyst for 350.org, an activist organization that fights climate change, my job is to help persuade college endowments, city pension funds, and foundations to divest from fossil fuels.

In my conversations (really they’re debates) with boards of trustees and treasurers of multibillion-dollar pension funds and endowments, the biggest concern is always risk and return.

People charged with these investment decisions want to maximize returns.

Well, as our ability to burn carbon safely diminishes and the reserves of fossil-fuel companies increase, those investments will continue to become riskier and less profitable.

The logic is so clear, even Shell doesn’t think they are a good investment. The oil giant is looking for “viable solutions to reduce” its own CO2 emissions.

Shell’s not the only oil giant reckoning with this reality. Bowing to shareholder pressure, ExxonMobil just announced plans to produce a first-of-its-kind report showing how the growing trend in climate change activism is destabilizing their financial security.

“The deal is a big victory for the relatively new movement by some investors to get energy companies to consider how climate change policies will affect the bottom line,” according to Politico Morning Energy.

If you do one thing for your future, consider divesting from fossil fuels. It’s a great way to minimize your vulnerability to a serious financial crisis while investing in a more hospitable future for your children.

Brett Fleishman is a senior analyst for 350.org.  Distributed via OtherWords. OtherWords.org