Ousted Maldives president Mohamed Nasheed, the subject of the new climate documentary “Island President,” told MSNBC’s Andrea Mitchell about the challenge of saving his nation from extinction by the effects of greenhouse pollution. “Climate change is a very real issue to the Maldives. It’s not something in the future. We already have 16 islands where we have to relocate people.” The entire nation lies below 1.5 meters above sea level. By 2100, sea levels are likely to rise by at least that amount unless immediate action is taken to reduce the amount of fossil-fuel pollution in the atmosphere. “What happens to the Maldives today will definitely happen the same to everyone else,” Nasheed said. “Maldives today, Manhattan tomorrow,” Mitchell agreed.
“The Island President” opens this weekend in New York City, San Francisco, and Los Angeles, and next week in Washington DC and San Diego.
2010 outside spending from non-disclosing groups, according to the Center for Responsive Politics
Chevron contributed $500,000 to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, and the American Petroleum Institute gave $25,500 to the Koch brothers’ Americans for Prosperity, both of which ran vicious right-wing attack ads in the 2010 midterm elections:
The American Petroleum Institute, which advocates for the oil and gas industry, gave $25,500 to Americans for Prosperity, IRS disclosures show. Americans for Prosperity, based in Arlington, Virginia, spent more than $1.2 million in 2010 to help elect Republicans to Congress, according to FEC records.
The petroleum institute also gave $25,000 to the Alexandria, Virginia-based 60 Plus Association, which favors privatizing Social Security and spent more than $7 million in 2010 in support of Republicans, IRS and FEC records show.
Of course, Republicans picked up seats in both the House and Senate in 2010, when spending from these groups favored Republicans 10-to-1.
Groups like Chevron have seen billions in returns for their 2010 contributions. Chevron’s profits jumped 23.3 percent since 2010, and the company earned $3 million every hour last year. However, the company only paid an effective 19 percent income tax in 2011. Exxon, the most profitable oil company, paid a lowly 13 percent.
In 2012, undisclosed donations will play an even larger role, since interest group spending is up 1600 percent from the 2008 cycle.
As BP reaps billions in profits from rising gasoline prices, the Gulf of Mexico is dying from its uncleaned pollution. “After months of laboratory work, scientists say they can definitively finger oil from BP’s blown-out well as the culprit for the slow death of a once brightly colored deep-sea coral community in the Gulf of Mexico that is now brown and dull,” the AP reports. Tarballs that washed up on the beaches were “teeming with bacteria.” Oil from the killer Deepwater Horizon blowout “has contaminated zooplankton, one of the first links in the oceanic food chain,” scientists found. And Louisiana state officials have found their coastline soaked in toxic oil, where the Coast Guard and BP have declared victory and abandoned monitoring:
Wetland areas in north Barataria Bay and the Pass a Loutre Wildlife Management Area at the mouth of the Mississippi River continue to show signs of oil that state officials say is from the BP oil spill, according to photos posted on Flickr by the state Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority.
In February, the oil giant BP reported reported $7.7 billion in profit for the fourth quarter of 2011, a 38 percent increase from a year earlier.
Climate change could fuel a giant ‘compost bomb’ … as decaying vegetation stuck under under the ice or in peat bogs starts to heat up and tips the world into dangerous global warming.
“Scientists fear that if temperatures warm up too fast peatland soils will heat up like a compost heap and release billions of tonnes of carbon into the atmosphere.” Photo: GETTY IMAGES
The Planet Under Pressure conference began with an urgent warning of fast-approaching tipping points like the “compost bomb.” It ended with a plea by the conference leaders for urgent and large-scale action.
The conference website reports, “Scientists issue first ‘State of the Planet’ declaration at the world’s largest gathering of experts on global environmental and social issues in advance of the major UN Summit Rio+20 in June.”
Research now demonstrates that the continued functioning of the Earth system as it has supported the well-being of human civilization in recent centuries is at risk. Without urgent action, we could face threats to water, food, biodiversity and other critical resources: these threats risk intensifying economic, ecological and social crises, creating the potential for a humanitarian emergency on a global scale….
The defining challenge of our age is to safeguard Earth’s natural processes to ensure the well-being of civilization while eradicating poverty, reducing conflict over resources, and supporting human and ecosystem health….
As consumption accelerates everywhere and world population rises, it is no longer sufficient to work towards a distant ideal of sustainable development. Global sustainability must become a foundation of society. It can and must be part of the bedrock of nation states and the fabric of societies.
While some bloggers have tried to suggest that this statement endorses a do-little, R&D-centric approach, in fact the reverse is true. The statement makes clear, “Society is taking substantial risks by delaying urgent and large-scale action.”
Further, the Conference’s Board of Patrons — 18 leading figures including scientists, CEOs, and major politicians — took the unusual step of endorsing the entire statement and adding their own blunt assessment:
The Board of Patrons welcomes and endorses the Conference statement.
The human species is degrading the environment at all spatial scales, from local to global. Scientific understanding of environmental deterioration has improved and deepened since the Rio Earth Summit in 1992, but society has failed to address environmental degradation at a scale the problems require. We have to manage the planet as the biophysical system that it is and for all the promise that it holds. The survival of our societies, our civilization and our cultures are dependent on a stable climate, natural resources and ecosystem services. We have become a force of nature, but individually we continue to be vulnerable. Business-as-usual is not an option. The time for action is now.
By Climate Guest Blogger on Mar 30, 2012 at 3:14 pm
Boehner's absurd investigation is enough to make a grown man cry.
by Richard W. Caperton
Here we go again.
After spending the last year investigating the scandal-free DOE Loan Guarantee Program, House Republicans have thrown in the towel. Instead of getting down to serious business, though (like, extending the Production Tax Credit), they’ve decided to waste more time and taxpayer money investigating another clean energy incentive: the Section 1603 tax credit reimbursement program.
Here’s what Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-OH) had to say on this topic yesterday:
“You know, I made clear earlier this year that oversight of the Obama administration’s policies on jobs, on the economy, and its spending taxpayer dollars was going to be a priority. Two weeks ago, Chairman Upton at the Energy & Commerce Committee began looking into the Department of Energy’s Section 1603 grant program, a Solyndra-style ‘stimulus’ program that offers cash payments to renewable energy companies. More than $10 billion – that’s with a ‘b’ — $10 billion has been spent on this, and Secretary Chu said it created ‘tens of thousands of jobs,’ except there’s no evidence to support that.
“The Energy & Commerce Committee set a deadline for today for the Energy Department & Treasury Department to produce documents or information about what taxpayers got for their $10 billion. The administration thus far has failed to provide the committee with any information to justify this claim.
“Listen, the American people continue to ask the question ‘Where are the jobs?’ They deserve answers and they deserve the truth.”
Fair enough. Americans deserve to know the truth, and here it is: the 1603 program led to thousands of clean energy jobs, leveraged billions of dollars in private investment, and helped clean energy industries grow despite tough economic times.
You know how you can tell that Boehner is not interested in the truth? The entire premise of this investigation is based on a misleading statement, that the 1603 program is a “Solyndra-style” program.
Yesterday, 47 United States Senators voted to kill 37,000 American jobs, while giving $24 billion in tax breaks to big oil companies. It’s clear where these Senators’ loyalties lie: They would rather give handouts to the dirty energy of the past rather than invest in the clean energy of the future.
In a largely party-line 51-47 vote (four Democrats side with Big Oil, and two Republicans side with clean energy), the Senate failed to reach the 60 votes necessary to move forward on the Repeal Big Oil Tax Subsidies Act, sponsored by Senator Robert Menendez (D-NJ).
This bill would do two things: End several egregious subsidies to big oil companies, while extending industry-supporting incentives for clean energy. Among those incentives is the critical Production Tax Credit, which encourages investment in wind energy. As we’ve reported before, raising taxes on the emerging wind power industry by failing to extend this credit will kill 37,000 jobs. Indeed, we’ve already seen layoffs as manufacturing companies prepare for the worst.
Of course, you don’t have to take my word for it. Here’s Senator Charles Grassley (R-IA), giving a perfect description of why the PTC should be extended, from a floor speech on Wednesday:
In 2007, New York City began to soften the harsh environmental effects of its many parking lots by adopting an innovative amendment to its zoning code. My New York colleague Larry Levine reports that for most new and expanded lots it requires the use of planted areas both around the perimeter and inside the facility, with the paved areas graded so as to drain stormwater into the planted areas (and away from overburdened sewers). It also requires shade trees, bicycle parking, and the screening of trash receptacles. The city’s planning office says that the changes are intended to reduce the urban heat island effect, achieve cleaner air quality through the planting of shade trees, promote efficient management of stormwater runoff, and to improve visual aesthetics.
These are important changes for the environment, given what a huge part of our land area is given over to parking. (The portion ceded to parking way is too large, actually, and I’ll get to that in a minute.) In the case of the New York ordinance, Larry reports that the measure led to other, broader reforms for green infrastructure under New York’s rightly celebrated PlaNYC. (See, for example, what the city has done for complete, green streets.)
Beyond impacts on the natural environment, parking facilities also have a huge impact on the community environment. For example, a couple of years ago I posted a series of photos and a narrative illustrating the unfortunate (and, perversely, sometimes required) practice of placing parking lots in front of businesses, civic institutions and apartment/condo buildings, separating the buildings from sidewalks and streets. This creates longer and more dangerous walking routes for pedestrians as well as a visual incoherence that is, in my opinion, inherently anti-community. It also makes public transit less attractive and viable, since the transit user’s journey from the bus stop to the store or apartment must take place through a sometimes-large and dicey parking lot instead of simply to a door on a sidewalk.
One in a series of posts about the Heartland Institute’s inner workings, from internal documents acquired by ThinkProgress Green. ThinkProgress is among several publications to have published documents attributed to the Heartland Institute and sent to us from an anonymous and then unknown source. The source later revealed himself. Heartland Institute has issued several press releases claiming that one document (“2012 Climate Strategy”) is fake and asserting other claims regarding the other documents. ThinkProgress has taken down the “2012 Climate Strategy” document as it determines the document’s authenticity.
General Motors has decided to discontinue funding of the Heartland Institute, an organization that downplays the risks of climate disruption, three weeks after GM Chairman and CEO Dan Akerson was asked about it during a Climate One radio interview. GM spokesman Dave Barthmuss confirmed the move today.
Hours before Mr. Akerson went on stage March 7th at The Commonwealth Club in San Francisco to record the interview before a live audience of about 200 people, several questions were submitted via Facebook about GM’s financial support of the Heartland Institute, a Chicago-based group that advocates free market ideas. Climate One is the sustainability project of The Commonwealth Club of California, a non-profit and non-partisan public forum.
This question was posted from Bruce:
“Please ask Mr. Akerson why GM funds the Heartland Institute, a group that has tried to push misinformation about climate change into our public schools. Is this funding consistent with their company’s message in marketing of the Chevy Volt?”
That sounded fair game. So during the hour-long conversation I posed that question to Mr. Akerson. His response made it clear he accepts the scientific consensus that rising concentrations of carbon dioxide and other pollutants are increasing the Earth’s average temperatures.
“The first time I was interviewed by the press, I was stunned with the following reaction,” Akerson said. “Some guy says, ‘Do you believe in global warming?’ And I said, ‘Well yeah, I do.’ Several GM executives said, ‘You don’t say that in public. Well this may surprise you, my underwear doesn’t have GM stamped on it and I am an individual and I do have my own convictions and it may sometimes they — they agree and sometimes they don’t. I think it’s actually healthy to have different points of view and perspectives around the table.”
He went on to address the funding question more directly. “This is $15,000 that was committed to before I came in. I also think the Heartland Institute, I’m told, does other things and I find this interesting. I won’t go any further but I’m going to take another look at it when I get back to Detroit. I’ll leave it at that.” Disclosure: General Motors is also a corporate funder of Climate One.
As the saying goes, “you can’t manage what you can’t measure.”
And if you can’t measure it, you can’t make money from it.
If we want to get serious about making this country more energy efficient, we need better measurement tools to help us understand how much our buildings are consuming. After all, buildings account for 40% of energy use in the U.S.
One of the simplest tools is the energy disclosure law — a requirement that all buildings over a certain size make their energy consumption public. The law may also include a rating system for ranking the performance of buildings online or in real estate dealings.
By making the information public and setting up a rating system, it provides an additional incentive for building owners to make efficiency upgrades.
There are currently five cities and two states that have passed such laws for commercial and multi-tenant buildings. Around four billion square feet of buildings are covered under these areas — double the number of LEED buildings in the U.S.
However, there’s still no serious push for the policy on a national level. And that could be preventing building owners from saving tens of billions of dollars in energy costs.
Two new reports from the Institute for Market Transformation illustrate how this straightforward policy could break the energy efficiency retrofit market wide open, potentially unlocking $18 billion in energy savings and 59,000 jobs by 2020.
The energy disclosure laws covered in the report would cover commercial buildings 25,000 square feet and greater. It would also cover multifamily residential buildings 20 units and greater.
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?
The Obama administration and five states have agreed to speed up approval of offshore wind farms in the Great Lakes. [WSJ]
Two years after the BP disaster, fourth generation oysterman Nick Collins said there is nothing but dead shells in the Louisiana oyster beds that produced 60 to 80 sacks of oysters a day before the BP spill. [Food Safety News]
Wetland areas in north Barataria Bay and the Pass a Loutre Wildlife Management Area at the mouth of the Mississippi River continue to show signs of oil that state officials say is from the BP oil spill, according to photos posted on Flickr by the state Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority. [NOLA.com]
Two U.S. clean tech companies plan to go public on Friday, as executives and bankers increasingly bet on high energy prices and more proven technology. [Reuters]
In 2010, nearly 80,000 Michiganders or 2.1% of the state’s total employment worked at businesses that produced goods or provided services that benefited the environment or conserved natural resources, according to new data recently released by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. [Detroit Free Pess]
Gas prices would fall if U.S. leaders “unleashed” the country’s fuel resources, says former U.S. Sen. George Allen. [North Virginia Daily]
France’s Total sent firefighting ships close to the scene of a gas leak from its North Sea Elgin platform on Thursday, as a large gas cloud led to fears of an explosion. [Montreal Gazette]
Hundreds of elite firefighters from across the West will be climbing the steep ridges and scaling the deep ravines of Jefferson County today in a race to get ahead of high weekend winds that could cause the Lower North Fork fire to flare. [Denver Post]
The group launching a $3.6 million ad campaign hitting President Barack Obama on gasoline prices has deep ties to the billionaire libertarian industrialists Charles and David Koch.
The American Energy Alliance is the political arm of the Institute for Energy Research, and sources tell POLITICO that both groups are funded partly by the Koch brothers and their donor network.
The groups are run by Tom Pyle, a former lobbyist for Koch Industries. Pyle regularly attends the mega-donor summits organized by the Koch brothers, including the 2012 winter summit in Indian Wells, Calif., where the Kochs raised more than $150 million to be directed to groups ahead of the general election.
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.