Warner-Lieberman Climate Bill Annouced Today! Thanks but no thanks Senator Warner.

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Today is the big day. Senators Warner and Lieberman announced their climate bill (The Climate Security Act of 2007) which may be the only “passable” climate bill to come out Congress this year or next year for that matter. CCAN, as a key climate organization in Virginia, would like to thank Senator Warner for his efforts on drafting climate legislation and doing a 180 on this issue in Congress. HOWEVER, after assessing the meat of the bill, it is clear that there is no true LEADER in Congress pushing an AGGRESSIVE climate pollution reduction bill. We are staring in the face of a true climate crisis, and there is no movement on the only piece of climate legislation that will really make a difference (Sanders-Boxer Bill or the Safe Climate Act in the House). Here are our concerns and critiques of the Warner-Lieberman bill in a nutshell (with help from our friends at USPIRG and Friends of the Earth):

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Our enormous carbon footprint – and what you can do about it.

The Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments has taken a stab at quantifying our region’s contribution to global warming, and the result is not pretty. A whopping 65.6 million metric tons of carbon dioxide were emitted here in 2005. That was more than in all of Hungary, Finland, Sweden, Denmark or Switzerland, each of which has more people.

It’s not a surprise that we compete with entire countries in Scandinavia,” said Mike Tidwell. “What this data does is point out just how huge America’s contribution to climate change is…if our one capital region is emitting on par with other industrialized countries.

What’s to blame? According to the Washington Post, it’s our crawling traffic and our reliance on dirty coal-fired power plants.

So, as Arctic ice vanishes and scientists scream of a coming climate catastrophe, the DC region needs to step up up and address its spiraling carbon emissions.

First, there are things that you personally can do. There are a number of options for individuals–you can buy green power, either through Pepco Energy Services (where applicable) or from a group like Clean Currents. There are many ways to reduce carbon and save money. Use only compact fluorescent light bulbs, make sure any new appliances you buy are Energy Star certified and try to limit how much meat you eat. There are also incentives in your state to invest in renewable energy.

But — and I’m sorry to say this — voluntary personal actions just aren’t going to cut it. We’ll never solve the climate crisis one light bulb at a time. What we need, instead of the generic list of “ten things you can do,” are ten historic statutes that ban abusive and violent practices like the manufacture of gas-guzzling cars and inefficient light bulbs. That’s the kind of change we need. And we need it now.

So, after you’re done changing your light bulbs and switching over to wind energy, get involved in a CCAN campaign and demand that your state pass a law that will take a big chunk out of our runaway pollution.

In Virginia, we’re working to persuade the state to stop the construction of a new coal-fired power plant in Wise County and instead invest in clean, renewable energy. Learn more here.

In Maryland, we’re working to make sure that Gov. O’Malley commits to reducing Maryland’s global warming pollution 20% by 2020 and at least 80% by 2050. Get involved here.

And in D.C. we’re working hard to make sure the City Council passes a “Clean Cars Act,” which will strengthen the pollution controls on all new cars registered in the District. We aim to see the law passed in January and we need all the help we can get! Learn more here.

A Bit of Relief

Forget the Petraeus report — what historians will note about September 2007 is that the Northwest Passage was free of ice for the first time since humans started keeping track.” — Bill McKibben, Washington Post, Sept 29, 2007

If there is one good thing that came out of the administration’s “Climate Summit” this week it was that it solidified, for those who needed further proof anyway, that President Bush will do anything he can to avoid providing any leadership on climate change. This week’s solution to the mounting public pressure accumulating in Washington was to create a parallel reality, one where mock conferences are more important than international negotiations, and false solutions take precedent over real action.

Even the Washington Post seems to be picking up on this:

President Bust assured the rest of the world yesterday that he takes the threat of climate change seriously and vowed that the United States “will do its part” to reduce the greenhouse gases that are warming the planet, but he proposed no concrete new initiatives to reach that goal.

As if that’s a surprise.

In a seeming rebuttal to this embarrassing turn of events, the Post also published a powerful op-ed by Bill McKibben — who chooses in dramatic fashion to not only confront the reality that Washington ignores, but highlight the competing realities between science and politics that has placed us in our current predicament.

Consider the news from the real world, the one where change is measured with satellites and thermometers, not focus groups: Arctic ice is melting on an unbelievable scale — an area the size of Britain disappeared each week in late summer as the record for minimum ice cover, set in 2005, was shattered by more than 400,000 square miles, meaning about a 27 percent loss.

Historically this tactic is not always a popular one. People don’t like to hear scary stories about what tomorrow may bring, and this reality is part of the reason why our politicians and even some of our fellow citizens have been so slow to acknowledge what civilization is facing.

But McKibben isn’t looking for a message that resonates, he — like many of us — is begging for an inkling of leadership, a shred of bravery from someone who isn’t discouraged by seemingly insurmountable obstacles, but willing to believe that we can confront and defeat our adversary. We’ve had such leaders before.

What we need to know, and soon, is: What does reality look like to you? Can you close the gap between science and politics? Who will lead on the great issue of our day?

After 20 years of inaction the race is finally underway. Global warming has a huge head start; the sprint to catch up is the story of our time.

Story of our time indeed Mr. McKibben. Sounds to me like our search for a “leader” is over. Now we simply must convince those in Washington to follow.

MD and VA Governors talk "climate crisis" to Congress, but actions speak louder than words!

I attended the Senate committee hearing on Global Warming and the Chesapeake Bay yesterday on Capital Hill. A distinguised set of panelists addressed Chairwoman Boxer, and Senators Warner, Inhofe, Cardin and Mikulski. Both Governors from Maryland and Virgina sat side by side, discussing the impacts of global warming on their respective states.

Governor O’Malley addressed solutions to this crisis affecting our beloved Chesapeake Bay. He was proud to state that in his short time as Governor, he has signed into law the Maryland Clean Cars bill, RGGI implementation and is overseeing the recommendations outlined by his Commission on Climate Change, slated to come out with a report in November. No mention of the Global Warming Solutions Act though, and whether he would support an “California AB 32” style bill this year. It is yet to be seen how aggressive Governor O’Malley intends to be on this issue, but I must say, he is making climate change HIS administration’s environmental issue. Read his testimony here.
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Stepping It Up to a Second Line in New Orleans

I spent all afternoon at the New Orleans Police Department for climate organizing. I didn’t even get too close to Central Lock-Up so I can’t say I’ve gone to jail for an activist event…yet. I went downtown to the temporary police headquarters that are still housed in trailors because of the flooding during Hurricane Katrina over 2 years ago to apply for parade permits for Step It Up 2. Our event, on Saturday, November 3rd, will be extra special because along with a speaker’s forum and educational presentations, we will have a traditional New Orleans Second Line Parade in the heart of the city. Our main goals for the event are to educate the citizens
and students about the green organizations within the city that promote
clean energy and a more sustainable rebuilding process and to build a
relationship between students and citizens to extend the support network for
all the organizations involved in event. I’m excited to see all the details come together and know the event will be a wonderful success! I just wanted to thank everyone at CCAN and USCEC for all of the inspiration and experience you gave me this summer. This event would not be possible without ya’ll!!
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"Design for the Other 90%" … a global imperative

“The majority of the
world’s designers
focus all their efforts
on developing products and services
exclusively for the
richest 10% of the world’s customers.

Nothing less than
a revolution in design is needed
to reach the other 90%.”

We focus our resources (time, money) too often on solving problems and doing things for those who already have the resources
leaving out, literally, billions of people from the equation.

Just a few days remain for getting to the Design for the Other 90% exhibit at the Cooper-Hewitt museum in New York City … an exhibit that helps show how it does not have to be this way.

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Another climate victory from the courts!

A federal judge in Vermont just rejected an attempt by automakers to block individual states from adopting their own standards for limiting greenhouse gas emissions from cars and trucks. This just goes to show us all that the argument that the states are making is a no brainer. Regulating greenhouse gases from cars has NOTHING to do with federal fuel economy standards. Way to go District court of Vermont!

California’s efforts to combat global warming with tough restrictions on tailpipe emissions got a boost Wednesday from a federal judge, who upheld states’ right to require that vehicles emit far fewer pollutants.

The complete article can be viewed here.

What’s next? Since the Supreme Court has already ruled in favor of the states, the ball is in the EPA’s court. The Clean Air Act allows California to set its own emissions standards, provided that it gets a routine waiver from the EPA. EPA’s granting of a federal waiver to California is thus the next step in the regulatory process. California has never been denied a waiver in past instances of other regulatory action, but in this case has still not been granted one even though they applied for it in December of 2005!

Ice the size of Florida melts – in a week

As we have often said, there are few better barometers of the advance of global warming than the condition of our polar ice caps.

And once again today, we are confronted with dramatic news that ice is melting – and global warming advancing – much faster than previously thought. As was reported today, the summer ice pack in the Arctic – air conditioner to the planet and home of the majestic polar bear and other equally stunning animals – reached a new record low, smashing the old record set in 2005. Incredibly enough, 69,000 square miles of ice – roughly the same size as the state of Florida – has melted… in just the past seven days!

The news by itself is alarming enough. It’s also disturbing to note the mainstream media’s seeming inability to follow the news on this critical issue, since the possibility of an summer ice-free Arctic by 2020 was already predicted in a report by the National Snow and Ice Data Center this past May. Equally disturbing is the idea that nations are now fighting over the “fabled” Northwest Passage through the Arctic that is suddenly opening up, as opposed to redoubling (or quadrupling) their efforts to make sure that climate change is halted and reversed, Northwest Passage be damned.

As the article notes, this dramatic loss of Arctic sea ice will spell doom for the polar bear and other inhabitants of the Arctic, and it will also likely have a dramatic effect on weather patterns for the rest of the planet. It’s not just the polar bears that are threatened with extinction anymore. In the words of Rob Watson, “people see an endangered species every day now when they look in the mirror.”

There is still time left to act, but it is running out. Thanks for joining the Chesapeake Climate Action Network in our campaign to fight global warming. And in particular, please consider joining us as we stand up and speak out for the polar bears in our Third Annual Polar Bear Plunge on December 8th. Check it out, and sign up, at www.keepwintercold.org

Maryland Residential Energy Efficiency Programs

New! Save money, save energy, and save carbon dioxide emissions: The Maryland Energy Administration has announced four new programs “designed to save Maryland residents both energy and money”, reports Southern Maryland Online.

According to the article, the four new “EmPOWER Maryland” Programs include:

  • Maryland Energy Efficient Affordable Housing Development Program – Using a $250,000 grant from MEA, the Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD) will initiate an affordable housing program to increase the energy efficiency of homes receiving funding assistance from DHCD. New homes will have to meet the national EPA ENERGY STAR Qualified New Homes energy saving target of 15 percent more energy efficient than required by code. Existing home rehabilitation projects will have to increase their energy efficiency levels by approximately 15 percent.
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Maryland Citizens Rally for Real Global Warming Solutions

This morning in Annapolis, I was one of over 70 Maryland citizens and students gathered outside the state house to support the Maryland Commission on Climate Change and Governor Martin O’Malley. Backed by a giant yellow banner calling for science-based reductions in global warming pollution of at least 20% by 2020 and 80% by 2050, speakers from the newly formed Alliance for Global Warming Solutions and politicians spoke of the importance of taking real action to prevent the worst impacts of climate change. The Alliance delivered over 5,000 (!!!) postcard petitions to the Governor and Commission members asking the state leaders for a firm commitment and swift action!

The Time to Commit is Now!

Last April, Governor O’Malley created the MD Commission on Climate Change to study the effects of global warming in Maryland and to make an action plan to deal with them. And believe me, Maryland may seem small, but just like in every other place, the effects of global warming will cause massive changes. Maryland, with over 3,100 miles of coastline, is the third most vulnerable state to sea level rise- after Louisiana and Florida. With just a small rise in sea level rise, Maryland’s Chesapeake Bay culture and much of the Eastern Shore will be dramatically impacted. Even Allstate Insurance Company is no longer issuing new flood policies in coastal Maryland.

hourglass

And today before the Commission’s third meeting, we turned out to rally the Commission and the Governor to set firm commitments to science-based reductions of at least 20% by 2020 and 80% by 2050. It was incredible to see how many people had come from out of town, or taken the day off work. Armed with a giant hourglass, Claire Douglass, CCAN’s Maryland Campaign director, showed how with every passing minute and every turn of the hourglass, Marylanders are pumping 350,000 pounds of CO2 into the atmosphere.

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I was inspired by the overwhelming grassroots support and dedicated political leaders (including state Sen. Paul Pinsky and Del. Kumar Barve, who spoke at the rally). Maryland is the position to become a national leader in the fight against climate change. Click here to send an email to Governor O’Malley and the Commissioners to thank them for their support and to encourage them to make a commitment to science-based reductions.

As Claire said, “These are achievable reductions. We can do this, we must do this, but we have to act now.”