Up4Climate#: Senators pull all nighter to talk reality

March 10, 2014

In a frontal assault on the ecosystem of denial, at least 28 Senators will be up all night tonight, talking about climate.

Up4Climate

Up4Climate

Yakkity-yak, you say, why don’t they do something about it?  Because too many Democrats and all the Republicans are afraid.   On the D side, they’re afraid of Big Fossil’s money, which is poised to pin them on the wrong side of jobs if they act on climate.  On the R side, a few of them are proud climate deniers, but most of them know better.  They too are afraid of Big Fossil, and the prospect that talking like anything but a nut about climate will win them an oil-funded primary challenge from the Tea Party.

So they won’t act on climate.  And if you can’t act, why talk?  And since everybody stopped talking, it reduced the pressure to act.  And so on, til we’re toast.

The Senators are breaking that vicious cycle of silence and denial and inaction.  They are talking.  And the more they talk — the more they spend time and words on the unimaginably grave consequences of doing nothing — the harder it becomes to sit still.The ecosystem of denial cannot, ultimately, withstand direct daylight.

Encourage them here.


Here comes…: solar was second largest source of new electric capacity in 2013

March 5, 2014

It’s on.  The clean energy revolution, that is.

In a preview of a big report due out tomorrow, the Solar Energy Industries Association reports that solar electricity was the second largest source of new electric capacity in the U.S. in 2013.  In 6 states in DC, solar accounted for 100% of new capacity.

solar states SEIA

Check here for the big news tomorrow.


Obsoleting Bertha: Viaduct traffic plummets

March 4, 2014

Sightline’s Clark Williams-Derry has a terrific post on the astounding decline in traffic on the Alaskan Way Viaduct since Seattle’s Big Dig II began.  Trip volumes are down 40% in just 3 years!  Clark analyzes the remarkable trend and concludes:

At this point, nobody knows if [tunnel-boring machine] Bertha will ever get moving again, let alone complete her job. But given these figures, maybe it doesn’t matter. Seattle has seamlessly adapted to losing the first 48,000 trips on the Viaduct. No one even noticed. No one even noticed that 40 percent of the Viaduct’s traffic just disappeared! Could accommodating the loss of another 62,000 be that hard if we, I don’t know, tried even a little?Stop digging

Every day it seems clearer:  if we can stop the momentum of expanding-fossil-fuel-infrastructure-as-usual, we can figure out better ways to make energy and better ways to get our butts from point A to point B (and maybe make point A so awesome that our butts will be happier there.)

Of course, none of this is painless or automatic.  Car trips on the viaduct are down in part because of long-term investment in transit and increased congestion in spots.  Some who don’t have convenient alternatives are facing longer commutes.  A planned transition from a freeway on the waterfront to better mobility strategies surely would have been more efficient and effective.  But the point is, it’s doable, and much of it is being done essentially by accident.

Even if it causes some inconvenience — big changes always do — we must immediately stop making long-term capital investments that lock us in to chaotic, irreversible climate disruption.  This isn’t an “environmental agenda,” it’s a survival imperative, an existential thing, supported by the most exhaustive body of peer-reviewed science in the history of peer-reviewed science.  It is what our minds know we must do.  It is the Keystone Principle, the reason 398 people were arrested at the White House last Sunday.  And for every one of them, 200 more have pledged civil disobedience if necessary.

Mathematically and morally, we simply can’t afford more big, capital-intensive steps backward on climate….especially as it becomes increasingly clear that they’re unnecessary, wasteful, obsolete!  This may seem like reading too much into our little tunnel saga, but no single decision looks big in the context of the whole climate challenge.  These are exactly the kind of choices that must now be made in the full light of climate consequences.

Is there really any doubt what they should name the mammoth whose tusk was found buried under Downtown Seattle?  Whoever writes this stuff is slathering on the irony:  we just happened to discover an enormous, perfect fossil of an extinct beast — its spectacular, ostentatious digging tool — buried under downtown Seattle while the tunnel-boring, fossil-fuel-dependence-perpetuating machine ground to a halt nearby.

That mammoth has got to be named Bertha, if only to remind us again that we can still choose a better fate.

Here’s Clark’s amazing-but-true chart:

viaduct traffic

Thank you Clark and Sightline Daily, for being so gritty and brainy at the same time!


Rise. Shine. Truth. Jail.

March 3, 2014

1. 398 young people were arrested yesterday at the White House, protesting the Keystone XL pipeline.  Jamie Henn of 350.org has a quick dispatch here.

“An entire movement has thrown itself into in this Keystone fight, from local frontline groups to big national green organizations,” 350.org co-founder Bill McKibben wrote in an email. “But this weekend shows the power and bravery of some of the most crucial elements: young people, and activists who understand the centrality of environmental justice.”KXL protestors

2. Joe Romm has an important, Oscar-inspired post on climate communications today.  He argues:

The two greatest myths about global warming communications are 1) constant repetition of doomsday messages has been a major, ongoing strategy and 2) that strategy doesn’t work and indeed is actually counterproductive!

These two items are related.  Nothing can break through the fog of denial about the scale of the problem like the courage and resolve of young people going to jail to make the case.  Especially when it’s so difficult to get a reliable read from the news media, one of the best ways to calibrate a threat is by observing the level of urgency with which people respond.  By that measure, we’ve got a long, long way to go to close the gap between what we know about the climate threat and how we’re acting.

We owe a debt of gratitude to the protestors for jumping into the breach.


“The Petro States of America” in Businessweek

February 27, 2014

Are we still living in a democracy?  Or an oilgarchy, a petrocracy?  The Keystone XL decision will be a pretty good indication.

Mark Hertsgaard makes the case powerfully today in BusinessWeek, describing why it’s tough for the President to do the right thing on the pipeline:

…[T]here’s a deeper explanation for Obama’s caution on Keystone that rarely gets acknowledged. He is the president of a petro state, a country that ranks as an OPEC nation in all but name. And in a petro state, saying no to Big Oil is never easy.

The whole piece is well worth a read, here.Saving democracy

Over the long haul, delivering climate solutions will turn out to be one of the most effective things we can do to restore democracy.  We can build a powerful, virtuous circle:   implementing solutions, reducing fossil fuel dependence, eroding the concentrated economic and political power of fossil fuel interests, and opening the door for more and better solutions.

But first we have to make it through the short haul.  We have to prevent near-term investments like KXL that would lock in fossil fuel dependence and dangerous emission levels – betraying the promise of a clean energy economy that’s rapidly dispelling fossil-funded doubts about its viability.

And to do that, we can’t wait for a patient virtuous circle of solutions and democracy.  We have to assert some democracy.  Like this.

Candidate Obama said it’s time to “end the tyranny of oil.”  The pivotal question now is whether President Obama will use his sole discretion to stand up to that tyranny, or submit to it.

_______________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________ Further thoughts on oil and democracy here:  All Oil is Foreign,

…and on fossil fuels and American values here:  What’s American Energy?  Consult the Constitution, not the atlas

And Climate Solutions offers a new marketing tagline for the Nissan Leaf:  Pull up at the gas station.  Pump up your tires.  Clean your windshield.  And Leaf!


Seeing red: temperature change over time and by region

February 25, 2014

Yap yap yap, it’s what a blog is for I guess.  But a good climate science picture is worth at least 997 more yaps. And an animated longitudinal data set, well, there just aren’t enough yaps to compare.

This one from NASA packs a wallop.   It’s data, but it’s alive.  53 seconds of eerie, scorching silence.


Renewables: 99% of new generating capacity in January

February 24, 2014

Here comes 6Kenneth Bossong at the SUN DAY campaign reports:

According to the latest “Energy Infrastructure Update” report from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission’s Office of Energy Projects, non-hydro renewable energy sources (i.e., biomass, geothermal, solar, wind) accounted for more than 99% of all new domestic electrical generating capacity installed during January 2014 for a total of 324 MW.

No, it’s not a huge number in absolute terms.  No, it won’t hold up in percentage terms.  But yes, it is a glimpse into the future if we’re going to leave a recognizable one.

Every day brings more reasons for confidence that we can make it better, more confirmation that continuing to make it worse is as unnecessary as it is wrong.

With due exception for some geothermal, the future is not, as Van Jones says, down those holes.  It’s up!

_____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Source:  The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission released its most recent 4-page “Energy Infrastructure Update,” with data through January 31, 2014, on February 20, 2014. See the tables titled “New Generation In-Service (New Build and Expansion)” and “Total Installed Operating Generating Capacity” at http://www.ferc.gov/legal/staff-reports/2014/jan-infrastructure.pdf


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