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Is Climate Change Real? (Poll)

The U.S. Congress, in an attempt to get enough votes to override a Presidential veto of the Keystone XL bill is opening their proposal up to all kinds of amendments.

Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT), plans to add an amendment asking Senators to confirm that climate change is real.

Even though 95% of scientists agree that climate change is real, we thought Congress might need to know your thoughts on the subject. So here’s our poll for you to vote on the question and share your thoughts.

[Tweet “Congress might not know if climate change is real, but I do & I just took the poll at http://wp.me/p52oCj-QY”]

Related: Climate Change Happening Now

Nous Sommes Tous Charlie!

The acts of terror in Paris over the past few days and the resultant groundswell of defiance by the citizens not only on the streets of the capital but in Toulouse, Nantes, Marseilles, Nice and many others all over France have emphasised the values that this nation holds above all else – equality, fraternity and liberty. In fact, one could say they are France’s greatest export, a special gift to the world.

Part of these values is the right to question, to challenge ideas, concepts and beliefs and to object to anything, as long as it’s in a non-violent manner. The freedom of speech, to express one’s thoughts with pen, crayon or keyboard is an essential tonic that prevents the plague of institutional oppression and violence from overwhelming a just society. Satire is possibly the greatest weapon of all.

By allowing a free flow of ideas from all angles, a society paradoxically generates a tolerance of others and of differences of opinion. Obvious religious, gender and class disparities and opposing convictions are deferred from their traditional face-offs and the lines become smudged. In a free society such as France opposing notions of Us and Them, Male and Female, Old and Young, Black or White, Pro- or Anti-, Christian or Muslim are not important.  Making them important, however, kills the health of a society and submerges it into the hellish dystopia that Syria, Iraq, Libya and Somalia currently find themselves drowning in.

Therefore, as free-thinking individuals, it is our duty to stand up to the repression of otherness, and the consequential violence it perpetrates. We all need to pull those pens from our shirt pockets and put ink to paper. We will not hide from the terror. We will fight by being thunderously vociferous. We will shout from the rooftops and mountain peaks that ‘We Are All Charlie!!’

Congress Snubs Climate Change Policy in Budget Bill

Washington, D.C. – The $1.1 trillion 2015 Fiscal Year Omnibus Appropriations Bill passed by the U.S. Senate Saturday to keep the U.S. government running for another year has all kinds of riders snuck into it including some that compromise environmental policy especially impacting efforts to reduce global climate change.

Prior to the opening of the G-20 Summit in Brisbane, Australia earlier this year, President Obama pledged $3 billion support to the Green Climate Fund. According to Christiana Figueres, Executive Secretary of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, investments from the UNFCCC help developing nations to “leapfrog some of the dirty industries that powered our development” and move straight to a clean-energy economy.”

President Obama took the lead among developed nations in making his pledge in November, hoping to spur other countries to respond to global warming. However Congress is not allowing this pledge to be fulfilled.

The Sierra Club calls the budget “a direct attack” on clean air, clean water and safe communities. In a statement issued Tuesday, Sierra Club Federal Policy Director Melinda Pierce said, “This budget rolls back the Obama Administration’s climate action plan and their vital efforts to end taxpayer financing of coal plants overseas, opening up the door for American dollars to once again be wasted on dirty fuels abroad that contaminate our climate and threaten our safety at home.

According to the EPA, “globally, the agriculture sector is the primary source” of methane emissions, a major greenhouse gas contributor. However, the bill prohibits the EPA from requiring farmers to report on “greenhouse gas emissions from manure management systems.” In addition, it strips the EPA’s ability to require ranchers to obtain permits for “methane emissions” produced by bovine flatulence and belching.

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Additional ways the budget bill impacts efforts to reduce climate change include:

  • Reverses a ban on loans for the construction of overseas coal-fired power plants.
  • Prevents the Department of Energy from enforcing new standards for energy-efficient lightbulbs.
  • Derails most of the current light-rail projects of the Department of Transportation.
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    The bill makes a $60 million cut from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) budget bringing it down to its smallest budget since 1989. According to the Center for Effective Government, these cuts will result in “the lowest EPA staffing levels since 1989, at a time when the president’s climate change initiative is entering a critical stage.”

    [dropshadowbox align=”none” effect=”lifted-both” width=”920px” height=”” background_color=”#ffffff” border_width=”1″ border_color=”#dddddd” ]
    More Ways the Appropriations Bill Impacts Environmental Issues:

  • Dismantles a provision of the Clean Water Act to limited the amount of waste released into waterways.
  • Prevents the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service from taking steps to prevent the extinction of the declining Gunnison sage grouse, including steps to regulate fracking in their habitats.
  • Cuts $40 million in funding for cleanup of long-term radioactive and hazardous waste at Los Alamos.
  • Reduce regulations on the trucking industry, including truck weight limits, limits on the number of consecutive hours truck drivers can work, and the transportation of hazardous materials.
  • Requires the Department of Agriculture to speed up permits for companies to develop genetically modified organisms such as disease-resistant rice and soybeans.
  • Requires the option to substitute white potatoes for fruites and green vegetables in the USDA supplemental nutrition program for women, infants and children (WIC), while cutting funding for program by $93 million..
  • Prohibit the federal government from requiring less salt in school lunches.
  • Michelle Obama’s inititive for healthier school lunches can no longer require that schools serve whole grains.
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    Campaign to Protect the EU’s Dogs and Cats

    Istanbul, Turkey – At the Annual International Companion Animal Welfare Conference (ICAWC) in Istanbul, Turkey last week Dogs Trust, the UK’s largest dog welfare charity, launched the EU Dog and Cat Alliance amid concerns that the European Union’s 61 million owned dogs and 66 million owned cats benefit from very little legislation protecting their health and welfare.

    “We hope that the Alliance will bring greater cohesion on commercial breeding, trade and movements across member states and promote better standards for all EU based dogs and cats” announced Dogs Trust Chief Executive and founder, Clarissa Baldwin OBE at the conference now in its 16th year. ICAWC is the leading conference of its kind with an attendance 241 delegates from 41 countries working in the field of animal welfare. Over the course of the conference last week workshops and talks were given on subjects ranging from shelter building, stress in cats, tackling rabies and stray animal issues.

    Yet, the most important development at this year’s conference was the creation of the EU Dog and Cat Alliance whose main task will be to lobby the European Union in introducing and improving legislation for the welfare of dogs and cats in areas such as consumer protection, public health and internal markets as well as to provide a forum for the sharing of information and gathering of evidence of various related issues. Such issues will include:

    Commercial Breeding and Trade

    Puppies and kittens are bred for commercial purposes but welfare standards vary widely among member states, which can result in serious welfare difficulties and contraventions.

    Movements Across Borders

    The main aim here will be to provide more efficient monitoring and managing of movements of animals for trade across EU borders, and from third party countries, especially from the East.

    Veterinary Medicines and Medicated Feed

    Even though the current licensing system for veterinary medicines in Europe is rigorous it is also complex and there is a lack of cohesion between member states, which has led to inefficiencies. The EU therefore cannot be described as having a ‘single market’ for veterinary medicines. According to the Alliance website “this is of concern because the availability of safe, efficacious veterinary medicines across all EU Member States is vital to protecting both animal health and public health.” The Alliance proposes the introduction of a true single market. This will not only improve the availability to protect animals but contribute also to public health.

    In a post-conference press release, Baldwin stated that she “is overwhelmed by the positive response to the EU Dog and Cat Alliance” and is thrilled to report that already 14 organizations have signed up as members… “and we look forward to welcoming further members on board.” Dogs Trust European Policy Advisor, Claire Calder, informed this reporter that since the conference more organizations have signed on.

    Membership is open to registered charities and not-for-profit organisations from across the EU, which are involved in the rescue/rehoming of dogs and cats, or working to protect their welfare. To find out more about the EU Dog and Cat Alliance and its work, see www.dogandcatwelfare.eu or tweet them at @EUdogsandcats. The Alliance is funded by the UK charity and founding member, Dogs Trust. Members will not be asked to contribute a membership fee to join the Alliance but may, on occasion, be asked to help sponsor or fund specific research, events or initiatives if they so wish.

     

     

     

     

    Thumbs Down & No Stars For ALEC as Facebook and Yelp Leave

    San Francisco, CA – Facebook and Yelp have become the latest technology companies to leave the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) over concerns about the special interest group’s reputation of denying climate change and their influence on the democratic process in the United States.

    The Sierra Club has announced today that Facebook and Yelp have joined other high tech firms in which have recently departed from ALEC. The Sierra Club describes ALEC as “a right-wing clearinghouse for dangerous legislation pushed on the state and local level to attack worker’s rights, civil rights, voting rights, and clean energy solutions across the country.”

    The news of the Facebook and Yelp rejection of ALEC comes on the heels of an announcement by Google on Monday that it would also be leaving ALEC due to pressure from a coalition of groups.

    [dropshadowbox align=”none” effect=”lifted-both” width=”400px” height=”” background_color=”#ffffff” border_width=”1″ border_color=”#dddddd” ]”Fossil-fuel backed groups like ALEC are on the wrong side of nearly every effort to tackle the climate crisis and on the wrong side of history.” ~ Sierra Club Executive Director Michael Brune[/dropshadowbox]

    A coalition of 50 labor, environmental, religion, free speech, civil rights and other groups said in a letter addressed early this month to Google executives, “Over the last year, hundreds of thousands of Americans have signed petitions asking Google to end its ALEC membership because of their concerns about the harmful role ALEC has played in our democratic process.”

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    Thank green activists for asking Google to leave ALEC
    [Tweet “TY @LCVoters @energyaction @MTEIC for asking Google to leave ALEC http://bit.ly/reALECty”]
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    According to the Center for Media and Democracy, ALEC works behind closed doors with no press or public allowed to see the votes or deliberations in order to push legislation templates benefiting corporate profits at the expense of our environment and our health by making it easier for polluters to spoil water and air.

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    The web site Alecexposed.org describes the following examples of ALEC legislation:

    • ALEC’s “Resolution in Opposition to EPA’s Regulation of Greenhouse Gases from Mobile Sources” opposes a Supreme Court decision that allowed the EPA to regulate carbon dioxide and greenhouse gases as pollutants.
    • ALEC’s “Resolution in Support of the Regulations from the Executive In Need of Scrutiny (REINS) Act” supports the REINS Act, legislation that would give Congress the authority to block the enforcement of numerous federal protections, including clean air and water laws, safeguards for mine workers, rules that prohibit the sale of tobacco to children, and even protection from discrimination.
    • ALEC’s “Resolution in Opposition to EPA’s Regulation of Greenhouse Gases from Mobile Sources” opposes a Supreme Court decision that allowed the EPA to regulate carbon dioxide and greenhouse gases as pollutants. The resolution dismisses climate change concerns through misleading rhetoric.
    • ALEC’s “Resolution in Support of the Regulations from the Executive In Need of Scrutiny (REINS) Act” supports the REINS Act, legislation that would give Congress the authority to block the enforcement of numerous federal protections, including clean air and water laws, safeguards for mine workers, rules that prohibit the sale of tobacco to children, and even protection from discrimination. [/color-box]

    In response to Google’s announcement of their intention to also depart, ALEC CEO Lisa B. Nelson, said in a press release Monday, ““It is unfortunate to learn Google has ended its membership in the American Legislative Exchange Council as a result of public pressure from left-leaning individuals and organizations who intentionally confuse free market policy perspectives for climate change denial.”

    [color-box]

    Thank green activists for asking Google to leave ALEC
    [Tweet “TY @NewEnergyNM @sierraclub for asking Google to leave ALEC http://bit.ly/reALECty”] [/color-box]

    ALEC has not made a press statement about the departure of Yelp and Facebook as of yet.

    Nelson said, “The conversations held in Dallas were intended to build understanding and pioneer future policy approaches where organizations could find common ground on issues of climate change, energy generation and government mandates.”

    However the coalition which put pressure on Google to leave ALEC stated that, “During their recent meetings in Dallas, ALEC officers and corporate lobbyists held training seminars to teach legislators how to block legislation that encourages clean energy solutions.”

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    Thank green activists for asking Google to leave ALEC
    [Tweet “TY @climateparents @ForecastFacts for asking Google to leave ALEC http://bit.ly/reALECty”] [/color-box]

    In response to the recent ALEC departures of Facebook and Yelp, Sierra Club Executive Director Michael Brune released the following statement:

    “Climate deniers are the new tobacco executives — nobody wants to be seen with them. With Google, Facebook, Yelp, and Microsoft all dumping ALEC, it’s increasingly obvious that you can not run a successful 21st century company while associating with ideologues from the stone age. Fossil-fuel backed groups like ALEC are on the wrong side of nearly every effort to tackle the climate crisis and on the wrong side of history. That’s why the Sierra Club and our coalition partners will continue to pressure those in the technology industry and elsewhere who fund ALEC and stand in the way of healthy communities and a prosperous economy powered by clean energy.”

    [color-box color=”grey”]The coalition includes: American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO), American Family Voices, American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees (AFSCME), American Federation of Teachers (AFT), Americans for Democratic Action (ADA), Americans United for Change, Alliance for Retired Americans, Center for Effective Government, Center for Media and Democracy/ALECExposed, Christopher Reynolds Foundation, Citizens for Responsible Ethics in Washington (CREW), Climate Parents, ColorofChange.org, Common Cause, Communication Workers of America (CWA), Courage Campaign, CREDO Action, Democracy for America, Demos, Energy Action Coalition, Forecast the Facts, Free Press, Friends Fiduciary Corporation, Good Jobs First, Holy Spirit Missionary Sisters, U.S.A., In the Public Interest, International Brotherhood of Teamsters (IBT), Jobs With Justice, League of Conservation Voters, Money Out Voters In (MOVI), Montana Environmental Information Center, MoveOn, New Energy Economy, Northwest Coalition for Responsible Investment, People For the American Way, Progress Now, Progress Florida, Progress Missouri, Province of St. Joseph of the Capuchin Order Milwaukee, Public Campaign, Public Citizen, RootsAction, Service Employees International Union (SEIU), Sierra Club, Sisters of the Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Share Action, Social Security Works, Stand Up to ALEC, SumOfUs
    United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW), United Steelworkers (USW), USAction and We Act Radio[/color-box]

    Greenpeace Staffers See Red over Director’s Travel Arrangements

    Amsterdam, The Netherlands –  The staff at Amsterdam-based Greenpeace Nederland are calling for their program director, Pascal Husting, to resign after it was revealed that he made his weekly commute from Luxemburg to Amsterdam, a distance of approximately 250 miles, by airplane. Flying generates large amounts of CO2, according to Greenpeace, one of the key causes of climate change, and goes against Greenpeace’s policy on greenhouse gases. Staff are also upset that the deal was apparently approved of by Greenpeace’s international director, Kumi Naidoo, and feel that the pair have done serious damage to the organization’s reputation. Husting’s excuse that “an organization like Greenpeace cannot always operate in accordance with their own ideas” was the final straw, leading staffers to lament: “It will come back on us every time we criticize politicians or organizations. As is already happening, in fact. If Greenpeace cannot do it right, then who can?”

     

    Husting, with his young family, has previously moved twice in as many years while acting as director Greenpeace France and is therefore unwilling to move again, to Amsterdam. Driving by car would still be too polluting, so he now makes the commute by train, a journey of 6 hours each way.

     

    Greenpeace Nederland staffers wrote to directors Husting and Naidoo, asking them to reconsider their positions. Read the letter here.

    Banning the sale of ivory in the USA: A Moral Dilemma

    A moral dilemma has emerged following an online debate to an article in Forbes Magazine discussing the US ban on all trade in ivory. The main article by Doug Bandow is palpably against the ban of legal trade, and, somewhat inadequately, the author provides various aesthetic and sentimental reasons for his stance. The article garnered some immediate comments from those, this writer included, who know elephants a little better. We challenged Bandow’s views by arguing that the ban would go a long way to stemming the rampant slaughter of illegal trade and consequently lauded the US government for its bold and decisive act.

    Then there was a comment by Jenny. She is not a talented Forbes correspondent nor an expert on elephants or conservation but simply someone whose parents had bought ‘as an investment’ around US$ 200,000 of carved ivory pieces in the ‘70s and ‘80s. Her father has since passed away and the ailing mother, now suffering from Multiple Sclerosis and ‘declining fast’, is struggling to pay her medical bills. Selling the family heirlooms, says Jenny, will alleviate most of the pressure and provide urgent treatment. That is no longer possible. Because she can’t sell it, the ivory she owns is as valuable as the cheap plastic trinkets found in Chinese 1-dollar stores.

    What makes Jenny’s predicament morally compelling is that she has unwittingly provided a far stronger case against the US government’s ban than the precocious Bandow. Her quandary is a particularly powerful one in that she is essentially asking us to make a basic choice – the life of a human over the lives of other animals. This resonates deeply with most human beings. The vast majority of our species would agree that when it comes to the life of a human versus the life of an animal, human value must take precedence. It’s the morally correct choice. The US government ought to lift the ban on compassionate grounds to allow Jenny’s mother to sell her ivory, which these days would be considerably more than what her and her husband originally paid for them.

    But what about our compassion for the elephants? There are some that question the validity of humans having more value than other animals – and logically they are correct. What makes humans ethically more superior than other animals? Sure, we can reason, drive motorcars and write clever pieces in Forbes but we are also guilty of genocide, torturing and kidnapping children and have dropped nuclear bombs on innocent civilians. Even if that logic doesn’t wash with the obedient citizens of the world, what is the value of an ailing old lady compared to the continued existence of an entire species?

    Jenny may argue that a once off sale of her mother’s ivory will do little to fuel elephant poaching. After all what are a few family heirlooms in the big scheme? But then one could argue for a once-off sale of a big stash of cocaine to pay the medical bills of an ailing relative. In the big scheme it’s not going to make a difference to the global drug trade, but somehow most of us would think it wrong. Again, the human-animal disparity crops ups, and again it makes no logical sense why most of us baulk at selling drugs but not ivory.

    It begs the question, are all sentient animals – including humans – morally equal? In the general sense, they are. Each individual life has an intrinsic worth in that they are valuable to themselves; and if one deploys this logic, no individual can be morally more superior than another.

    However, ethics is not a science, it doesn’t necessarily follow logic. While intrinsic worth of individuals may be accepted, its when placed in relation to others or in different contexts that the equality of sentient beings becomes confused. Animal rights lawyer Gary Francione posed this interesting question: if your beloved pet dog and your child were in a burning house and you could only save one, which would you choose? For most of us it’s a no brainer – your child, of course. Not because it’s a human versus an animal but because it’s an individual sentimentally or compassionately closer. Similarly if I had to choose between my beloved pet dog and a convicted serial child murderer, I would choose my dog. Jenny is choosing her mother over the elephants. She is exercising an accepted moral choice.

    Is the US government, therefore, wrong in denying Jenny her moral right to save her mother? Unfortunately for Jenny, societies have different moral codes to individuals. Morality in the collective realm is far more complex. In many cases governments need to sacrifice the moral requirements of an individual to safeguard the general good of the population. An individual might find it necessary to steal in order to pay for their medical bills, but the general will would counter this by asking ‘what if we were all allowed to steal to pay for our medical bills?’ There would be widespread chaos and consequently, stealing in any form is illegal by universal law. Morally, the government cannot make exceptions because if you allow one, you must allow all.

    The universal law approach is precisely the path the US government has taken by banning the trade in ivory. If we all traded in ivory, we wipe out the elephants, and as with the law against stealing, there can be no exceptions.

     

    US DOE Challenge to Drive Down Solar Costs

    Washington, D.C. – Energy Department Tuesday announced SunShot Catalyst, a new prize competition to spur the rapid creation and development of products and solutions that address near-term challenges in the U.S. solar marketplace.

    SunShot Catalyst will leverage the reach and power of online crowdsourcing to generate ideas, spur business innovations and develop prototypes. The competition will also enable American entrepreneurs to launch cutting-edge solar companies

    The SunShot Summit, taking place this week in Anaheim, California, will bring together more than 800 solar energy leaders from across industry, academia, the policymaking community, and the Department’s national laboratories to highlight the recent strides made by the solar industry to significantly reduce costs and deploy solar energy nationwide.

    The Catalyst program consists of four steps with value awarded to all winning contestants totaling $1,000,000, including about $500,000 in cash prizes.

    Details of the event and how solution providers can apply can be found at the U.S. Department of Energy’s SunShot Catalyst website.

    EPA Honors 2014 Clean Air Excellence Awards Winners

    WASHINGTON – The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) today is presenting the 2014 Clean Air Excellence Awards honoring nine projects from across the United States and one individual for their work on clean air and climate initiatives. The award recognizes innovative programs that protect Americans’ health and the environment, educate the public, serve their communities and stimulate the economy.

    “The innovative projects from this year’s Clean Air Excellence Award winners will protect air quality in communities across the country,” said Janet McCabe, EPA Acting Assistant Administrator for the Office of Air and Radiation. “These winners are educating our communities, inspiring organizations to take action and developing cutting-edge programs that will cut harmful pollution, improve public health, and make our cities and towns more sustainable.”

    From improving indoor air quality in Tribal communities in the Northwest to installing solar panels in Tennessee, award winners demonstrate a commitment to improving the air that we breathe and addressing climate change. This year’s winners include:

    Clean Air Technology
    Montgomery County Resource Recovery Facility – Montgomery County Department of Environmental Protection, Northeast Maryland Waste Disposal Authority, and Covanta Energy – Dickerson, MD

    Community Action
    Regional 8-Hour Ozone Flex Planning – Central Texas Clean Air Coalition – Austin, TX

    Ducktown 28-Kilowatt Solar Array – City of Ducktown – Ducktown, TN

    Education Outreach
    Idle Free Louisville – Kentuckiana Air Education – Louisville, KY

    Improving Tribal Indoor Air Quality — Tribal Healthy Homes Northwest – Issaquah, WA

    Regulation/Policy Innovations
    Seaport Air Quality Program – Port of Seattle – Seattle, WA

    Transportation Efficiency Innovations
    Clean School Bus NC: Kids Breathe Here – North Carolina Department of Environment and Natural Resources and Department of Public Instruction – Raleigh, NC

    FPL’s Clean Fleet and Consumer Education Program – Florida Power & Light Company – Juno, FL

    Gregg Cooke Visionary Program Award
    Keep It Clean – Washoe County Health District Air Quality Management Division – Reno, NV

    Thomas W. Zosel Outstanding Individual Achievement Award
    Richard A. Valentinetti – Vermont Agency of Natural Resources

    The awards program, established in 2000 at the recommendation of the Clean Air Act Advisory Committee, recognizes and honors both individuals and organizations that have undertaken the risks of innovation, served as pioneers in their fields, advanced public understanding of air pollution and improved air quality. Entries are judged by EPA and the Clean Air Act Advisory Committee, and winners will be recognized with a certificate at an awards ceremony in Washington D.C. on April 2, 2014.