One of the great tragedies of failing to act boldly to restrict greenhouse gases is that it will turn the great abundance humanity has known into scarcity. As part of our series on climate change and food insecurity, our Climate Progress Intern, Tyce Herrman, takes a look at some predictions on the rising price of food.
The international aid and development organization Oxfam has released some startling figures: Food prices may jump by as much as 180% by 2030, driven by poor policies and a changing climate. Already, the FAO estimates 1 billion people are starving and another 2.5 billion are malnourished. With food prices climbing, yield productivity flat lining, and the global population on track to hit 9 billion by 2050, it appears we are on the brink of major catastrophe.
Ironically, current agriculture and food delivery practices – which are touted as the only way to feed a rapidly-expanding population – are actually preventing people from accessing food, while also exacerbating climate change.
As renowned author Frances Moore Lappé declared at an event yesterday to unveil Oxfam’s latest report, current policies “are turning abundance into scarcity.”
Oxfam was founded in 1942 to bring food relief to communities victimized by World War II. The organization calls the current crisis a “product of a grotesque global injustice” caused by bad energy and agriculture practices, inefficient food aid and poor government oversight. Here are some specific problems highlighted in Oxfam’s report:
Center for American Progress Intern Stewart Boss writes on why neighborhoods with better transportation options have far more discretionary income than the average American family or those who live in the outer, “auto-dependent” suburbs.
Source: Arthur C. Nelson.
A report released today by the House Democratic Livable Communities Task Force recognized that families living in auto dependent neighborhoods spend significantly more money on transportation, with fewer dollars available health care, food, and other family expenses. In response, these two dozen representatives proposed a “Freedom from Oil” agenda that would reduce oil use by providing families with more transportation choices, including cars that get 60 miles per gallon by 2025.
Today, the House Oversight Committee held a hearing on the recovery efforts after the BP oil spill last April, focusing on the Obama administration’s response. Gov. Haley Barbour (R-MS) testified, standing in as an able replacement for an official company spokesman. In his opening statement, Barbour blamed the economic devastation in Mississippi and the Gulf Coast not on BP, Halliburton, or Transocean, the companies responsible for poisoning the region, but on the news media, for showing a “chocolate pelican“:
So people saw on TV the same brown pelican coated with looked like 3 inches of oil, I mean, looked like a chocolate pelican. And they showed it every hour, every day, 24 hours a day for weeks and weeks and weeks. And the news media, particularly 24-hour cable TV, gave citizens the impression the whole Gulf Coast was coated in oil. People deduced from that that it was unsafe, unpleasant, don’t want to go there. They canceled their reservations, they canceled their contracts to buy condominium and not just in Mississippi, but all across the gulf coast.
The President, to his credit, actually it got so bad that the president came to Mississippi, Alabama and Florida and held news conferences on the beach to say, look, the beaches are clean, the water is clear, it’s beautiful down here, come on down here. But that one news day can’t compete with what was being seen every day, every hour for weeks.
This isn’t the first time Barbour tried to downplay the effects of the oil spill and blame the media for loss of tourism. Just last year, Barbour said that “the news coverage is killing our tourist business,” despite the fact that oil was washing onto the shores of his state.
Additionally, at today’s hearing, Barbour once again tried to blame the Obama administration for deliberately driving up the price of oil and gas to spur investments in clean energy. While Barbour places the blame on Obama for higher gas prices, the statistics actually show that domestic oil production has actually risen to its highest level since 2003. Yet, at the same time, gas prices are hovering just below $4 a gallon and oil at $100 a barrel.
Barbour’s inability to blame oil companies for their crimes comes as no surprise. The Huffington Post wrote in March 2011 that Barbour’s past as an energy lobbyist and politician who raked in millions in oil industry campaign contributions “complicate” his comments on energy policy. And a Think Progress report on Haley Barbour’s ties to Big Oil revealed that the RGA raked in $5 million in campaign contributions from the oil and gas industry in 2010 with Barbour at the helm.
The Center for American Progress Action Fund, a sister organization of CAP, is leading a campaign to curb asthma and other harmful health effects from coal-fired power plants. This campaign is already underway and it will continue until July 2, 2011.
Jorge Madrid, research associate for CAP’s energy policy team, reports on the impact of coal on communities close to these power plants.
Asthma affects all Americans. But communities of color are particularly vulnerable to respiratory diseases such as asthma. A recent report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows that African American children have the highest number of asthma attacks among all ethnic groups, and Latino children are 60 percent more likely to suffer from asthma attacks than white children. Likewise, more than 71 percent of African Americans and 66 percent of Latinos live in areas that fail to meet one or more of the Environmental Protection Agency’s air quality standards.
These crippling health disparities are made worse by the fact that communities of color are the least likely to have health insurance and access to treatment and preventive care.
Global Warming Tied To Cholera Threat |
As cholera outbreaks hit Nigeria, Chad, Haiti, and the Ukraine, a new report finds that increases in temperature and rainfall associated with global warming precipitate cholera risk. “We found that when temperature goes up by 1 degree Celsius, there is a chance of cholera cases doubling in four months’ time and if rainfall goes up by 200 millimeters, then in two months’ time, cholera cases will go up by 1.6 fold,” Mohammad Ali, a senior scientist at the International Vaccine Institute told Reuters.
Long-time Climate Progress Guest blogger John Cook has a post at The Drum that examines the difference between real skeptics and the climate science deniers, who claim to be ones. Cook is the founder of the must-read site Skeptical Science and co-author of Climate Change Denial.
In the charged discussions about climate, the words skeptic and denier are often thrown around. But what do these words mean?
Consider the following definitions. Genuine skeptics consider all the evidence in their search for the truth. Deniers, on the other hand, refuse to accept any evidence that conflicts with their pre-determined views.
So here’s one way to tell if you’re a genuine skeptic or a climate denier.
When trying to understand what’s happening to our climate, do you consider the full body of evidence? Or do you find the denial instinct kicking in when confronted with inconvenient evidence?
For example, let’s look at the question of whether global warming is happening. Do you acknowledge sea level rise, a key indicator of a warming planet, tripling over the last century? Do you factor in the warming oceans, which since 1970 have been building up heat at a rate of two-and-a-half Hiroshima bombs every second? Glaciers are retreating all over the world, threatening the water supply of hundreds of millions of people. Ice sheets from Greenland in the north to Antarctica in the south are losing hundreds of billions of tonnes of ice every year. Seasons are shifting, flowers are opening earlier each year and animals are migrating towards the poles. The very structure of our atmosphere is changing.
We have tens of thousands of lines of evidence that global warming is happening. A genuine skeptic surveys the full body of evidence coming in from all over our planet and concludes that global warming is unequivocal. A climate denier, on the other hand, reacts to this array of evidence in several possible ways.
The most extreme form of climate denier won’t even go near the evidence. They avoid the issue altogether by indulging in conspiracy theories. They’ll pull a quote out of context from a stolen ‘Climategate‘ email as proof that climate change is just a huge hoax. I have yet to hear how the ice sheets, glaciers and thousands of migrating animal species are in on the conspiracy, but I’m sure there’s a creative explanation floating around on the Internet.
House Republicans unveiled a scaled-back $30.6 billion energy and water budget Wednesday that makes deep cuts from energy efficiency and renewable energy programs while trying to stabilize science and defense investments within tighter spending caps.
Our guest blogger is Kiley Kroh, Associate Director for Ocean Communications at the Center for American Progress.
In yet another alarming glimpse at the long-term effects of the BP disaster, the preliminary findings of two new studies show that the nearly two million gallons of toxic dispersants applied to the more than 200 million gallons of oil that gushed from its exploded rig may have been more damaging to the ecosystem as a whole than the oil alone.
The government approved application of the dispersants in an attempt to prevent oil and tar mats from washing into the marshes along the coast. BP maintained the dispersants would break down the oil and allow more of it to be eaten by bacteria that would consume some of the most harmful products in the oil -– “just like dish soap on grease.” But initial experiments conducted by Wade Jeffrey, a biologist with the University of West Florida’s Center for Environmental Diagnostics and Bioremediation, point to the opposite. After adding BP oil to seawater and combining with Corexit, Jeffrey found that the chemicals did not have their intended effect:
The way we’re doing the experiment, the Corexit does not seem to facilitate the degradation of the oil.
In fact, Jeffrey found that the combination of Corexit and oil was more toxic to phytoplankton in the sample than oil alone and did not prompt the oil-eating bacteria to consume the oil any faster.
A similar study, conducted by Susan Laramore of Florida Atlantic University’s Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute and also released last week, looked at the effects of the oil-Corexit mixture on slightly larger species, including conch, oysters and shrimp. Early results point to the same conclusion – that the oil and dispersant mixture is more toxic than the oil alone. Laramore notes that her study runs directly counter to the assurances BP and others presented to the public when making the case for dispersant use:
These results are backwards of what the oil companies are reporting.
In the immediate aftermath of the spill, BP quickly stockpiled and deployed massive quantities of Corexit with the aim of keeping the oil from fragile marshlands – and out of the public eye. As E&E News uncovered, the chemical is manufactured by “a company that was once part of Exxon Mobil Corp. and whose current leadership includes executives at both BP and Exxon.” According to EPA data, “Corexit ranks far above dispersants made by competitors in toxicity and far below them in effectiveness in handling southern Louisiana crude.”
The oil giant simultaneously worked to convince an uneasy public that the chemicals, previously untested at such depths, would naturally biodegrade. In an official statement last year, BP called the chemical “one of the most well-studied dispersants” and asserted that it would rapidly biodegrade, in many cases in a matter of days. Even when it became clear the company was using the chemicals in “unprecedented volumes” and the EPA demanded BP find a less toxic alternative, the oil giant refused to comply, calling Corexit “the best option for subsea application.”
Both the Jeffrey and Laramore studies, however, clearly debunk BP’s claims that the materials would prove benign. Frustrated by the lack of federal response to their requests for a less-toxic alternative and no longer willing to subject its coasts and citizens to the harmful chemicals, the state of Louisiana has taken matters into its own hands – the senate is moving forward this week with a bill that would effectively ban the use of dispersants in responding to oil spills in Louisiana waters.
The federal agency that ensures the stability of the electricity system has been shut down for two days due to a power outage in Washington.
The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission’s mission statement is to “assist consumers in obtaining reliable, efficient and sustainable energy services.” But Pepco, the utility serving FERC, is known as one of the most unreliable power providers in the U.S., according to a 2010 investigation by the Washington Post:
Pepco’s reliability problems are more pervasive. Some of Pepco’s most disturbing failures come quietly on days with no violent weather, according to The Post’s analysis of industry data, interviews with experts and a review of thousands of pages of documents.
For the second day in a row, FERC employees have been told not to come into work because Pepco has been unable to restore power.
By Jessica Goad, Manager of Research and Outreach, Public Lands Project, Center for American Progress.
Yesterday, House Republicans called a hearing on renewable energy in the Natural Resources Committee to review roadblocks to wind and solar development, which had been postponed twice. Witnesses from the solar and wind industries testified on obstacles to development on public lands, and all unanimously agreed that financing and budget cuts were the major impediments. When asked by Ranking Member Ed Markey (D-MA) whether they would like to see clean energy programs restored after severe budget cuts, every witness answered “yes”:
MARKEY: Would you like to see the loan guarantees for renewables restored?
WITNESS #1: From an industry perspective, yes
WITNESS #2: Yes we would, we think that a level playing field could tremendously help.
WITNESS #3: Absolutely yes.
WITNESS #4: In bold 72-font underlined yes.
WITNESS #5: Absolutely, critical program.
WITNESS #6: Yes.
WITNESS #7: Yes, the incentives do make a big difference.
WITNESS #8: Loan guarantees, with credit subsidies, absolutely.
The witnesses were Roby Roberts, Co-Chairman, Legislative Committee, American Wind Energy Association; Susan Reilly, President & CEO, Renewable Energy Systems Americas Inc.; James S. Gordon, President, Cape Wind Associates, LLC; Jim Lanard, President, Offshore Wind Development Coalition; Rhone Resch, President and CEO, Solar Energy Industries Association; Dr. Martin Piszczalski, Industry Analyst, Sextant Research; and Dan Reicher, Executive Director, Steyer-Taylor Center for Energy Policy and Finance, Stanford University.
Rather than addressing this challenge, the GOP continually votes to slash funding to renewable programs. For example, House Republicans’ H.R. 1 would have almost completely eliminated the Department of Energy’s Loan Guarantee program, which one witness called “essential to support job creation and economic development opportunities in many states.”
H.R. 1 also contained massive cuts to the Department of Energy and the Department of the Interior, such as slashing research, development, and innovation programs by 28 percent, which are critical to helping new technologies come to scale and get built. It also made tens of millions of dollars in cuts to programs at the Bureau of Land Management and the Fish and Wildlife Service that would put efficient permitting of renewable energy projects on public lands at risk.
On the flip side, the GOP has voted almost unanimously at least three times to protect subsidies to oil companies. In February, the House GOP defeated an amendment that would have ended loopholes enjoyed by the oil industry. In March, House Democrats offered a Motion to Recommit on a spending bill that would have cut subsidies to the five largest oil companies, but not one Republican voted for the bill. And in May, House Republicans rejected told an effort to bring up a bill that would end one of the major take breaks to oil companies.
Any real attempt to overcome roadblocks for wind and solar development will need to address the issue of funding, as both the wind and solar industries testified to. That means extending the Production and Investment Tax Credits, supporting a green bank, and extending the Loan Guarantee Program. These are the policies that will spur solar and wind projects on public lands and lead to strong, responsible renewable energy development.
“In such a 4°C world, the limits for human adaptation are likely to be exceeded in many parts of the world, while the limits for adaptation for natural systems would largely be exceeded throughout the world.”
“Projections of global warming relative to pre-industrial for the A1FI emissions scenario” — the one we’re currently on. “Dark shading shows the mean ±1 s.d. [standard deviation] for the tunings to 19 AR4 GCMs [IPCC Fourth Assessment General Circulation Models] and the light shading shows the change in the uncertainty range when … climate-carbon-cycle feedbacks … are included.”
Note: I am reposting and updating my most important articles. I will put them in an accessible place soon.
One of the greatest failings of the climate science community (and the media) is not spelling out as clearly as possible the risks we face on our current emissions path, as well as the plausible worst-case scenario, which includes massive ecosystem collapse. So much of what the public and policymakers think is coming is a combination of
The low end of the expected range of warming and impacts based on aggressive policies to reduce emissions (and no serious carbon-cycle feedbacks)
Analyses of a few selected impacts, but not an integrated examination of multiple impacts
Disinformation pushed by the anti-science, pro-pollution crowd
Welcome to Clean Start, ThinkProgress Green’s morning round-up of the latest in climate and clean energy. Here is what we’re reading, what are you?
Rep. Darrell Issa’s oil spill oversight witness Craig Taffaro, president of St. Bernard Parish, is an ethics nightmare. [Political Correction]
“The Republican-led New Hampshire House of Representatives voted for a second time to withdraw the state from the U.S. Northeast’s cap-and-trade program for power plants.” [Bloomberg]
“With continuing spill problems on the Keystone pipeline carrying oil extracted from Canada’s tar sands to the U.S., there are growing demands for a broader review before any approval of a second Keystone XL pipeline, proposed to carry the controversial product across the U.S. heartland to Texas.” [LA Times]
U.S. Sen. David Vitter (R-LA) lifted his hold Wednesday on President Barack Obama’s nominee to head the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service after federal regulators approved the 15th permit for deepwater drilling in the Gulf of Mexico after the BP disaster, Vitter’s prescribed criterion. [NOLA.com]
“An oil and gas trade group has taken the rare step of challenging a U.S. EPA information request, saying the agency is seeking too much data as it revisits a George W. Bush-era analysis of refineries’ cancer-causing emissions.” [Greenwire]
“Residents of Springfield began cleaning up Thursday after the first tornadoes to hit Massachusetts in three years killed four people, destroyed buildings and stirred fear among residents of a region far more accustomed to snowstorms.” [New York Times]
The Earth says events like this should have made it “pretty obvious” what it’s been driving at.
EARTH—According to a statement released to the press Tuesday, the planet Earth has “just about run out of ways” to let its roughly 6.9 billion human inhabitants know it wants them all to leave.
Following a recent series of disastrous floods along the Mississippi River and destructive tornadoes across much of the United States—as well as a year of even deadlier natural catastrophes all over the world—the Earth said its options for strongly implying that it no longer wants human beings living on it have basically been exhausted. Read more
Edited by Joe Romm, we cover climate science, solutions and politics. Columnist Tom Friedman calls us "the indispensable blog" and Time magazine named us one of the 25 "Best Blogs of 2010." Newcomers, start here.