Addressing the United Nations climate summit in New York City, President Barack Obama called climate change a ‘global threat’ that has ‘moved firmly into the present.’ Hobbled by a deadlocked Congress, the president offered no new major policy initiatives.
“Our citizens keep marching,” Obama said in reference to Sunday’s historic People’s Climate March. “We cannot pretend we do not hear them. We have to answer the call.”
He also commented on the rise of extreme weather disasters around the globe, including flooding in Miami, drought and floods in the heartland, the West’s year-long wildfire season, and the catastrophic damage of Superstorm Sandy. “No nation is immune,” he said, recognizing that “some nations already live with far worse.”
Obama did not directly mention fossil fuel production or his “all-of-the-above” approach to energy policy, unlike recent speeches on climate change to domestic audiences, in which he has celebrated the rise in domestic production of oil and natural gas. In fact, the speech did not include the words “coal,” “oil,” “fossil fuels,” or “natural gas.”
Hobbled by a legislative branch stymied by Republican opposition to climate action or international climate funding, Obama made no new grand pledges on behalf of the United States, instead highlighting the coming EPA regulation of carbon pollution from power plants, voluntary actions by corporate America, and a reduction in HFCs under the Montreal Protocol.
“I believe, in the words of Dr. King, that there is such a thing as being too late,” Obama said near the end of his speech. As the United States is not currently leading the way in rapidly decarbonizing the global economy, that statement may serve to summarize his presidential legacy.
On Monday, Google chairman Eric Schmidt announced that his company has ended its support for the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) because of its persistent climate-change denial. The decision came after a Schmidt made the announcement in response to a listener question on the Diane Rehm radio show.
“I think the consensus within the company was that that was some sort of mistake,” Schmidt said of Google’s support for ALEC, “and so we’re trying to not do that in the future.”
Pressed to explain further, Schmidt harshly described the conservative lobbying organization’s opposition to climate action as “really hurting our children” and “making the world a much worse place” by “literally lying.”
Well, the company has a very strong view that we should make decisions in politics based on facts — what a shock. And the facts of climate change are not in question anymore. Everyone understands climate change is occurring and the people who oppose it are really hurting our children and our grandchildren and making the world a much worse place. And so we should not be aligned with such people — they’re just, they’re just literally lying.Listen here:
ALEC president Lisa B. Nelson issued an angry press release following Schmidt’s announcement, blaming the decision on “public pressure from left-leaning individuals and organizations who intentionally confuse free market policy perspectives for climate change denial.”
Disclosure: As the campaign manager for Forecast the Facts, I founded the “Don’t Fund Evil” campaign in June 2013 challenging Google to stop funding climate-denial groups such as the Competitive Enterprise Institute and ALEC, and climate-denial politicians such as Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.) and Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas).
For over a year, Google representatives stonewalled over the company’s conflicting stand on climate change and its political support for climate deniers. Google’s clean-energy lead Gray Demasi had no answer for why his company supported ALEC, when I asked him at a November 2013 Greenpeace green tech event.Now, Schmidt’s words echo an opinion piece I wrote in December 2013 on the eve of ALEC’s annual DC conference, which featured a keynote by Cruz:
Unlike ALEC and Cruz, Google employees support scientific facts. Unlike ALEC and Cruz, Google employees are investing in a future powered by 100 percent renewable energy.
The “Don’t Fund Evil” call to drop ALEC was joined in December 2013 by the Sierra Club, SumOfUs, RootsAction and the Center for Media and Democracy. The coalition of climate, corporate, and good-government organizations mobilized over 230,000 citizens to petition the search giant. In addition, Google was the target of a shareholder resolution brought by Walden Asset Management challenging Google’s support for the anti-climate group.
Added pressure came in August when Google competitor Microsoft left ALEC. At the beginning of September, over 50 organizations, including several labor unions, environmental organizations, racial justice groups, and other progressive organizations signed on to a public letter asking Google to follow suit.
Google’s decision to drop ALEC is an important first step in restoring the integrity of its ‘don’t be evil’ motto. Unfortunately, the company is still financing extremist groups like the ‘CO2 Is Life’ Competitive Enterprise Institute and dozens of denier politicians. If Eric Schmidt wants to be taken seriously, he has to do a lot more cleaning up. It’s time for Susan Molinari, who pushed Google into this situation, to go.
Forecast the Facts and SumOfUs have since expanded the Don’t Fund Evil campaign into the Disrupt Denial campaign, which calls on all corporations to stop financing climate-denial politicians.
Transcript of the Diane Rehm Show:
The following are the planned livestreams for viewing the People’s Climate March in New York City:
- PeoplesClimate.tv from Act.tv, with reporting from Hill Heat’s Brad Johnson, starting at 9:30 am
- official People’s Climate March feed, starting at 10:30 am
- Democracy Now feed from 10:30 am to 1:30 pm
- StopMotionSolo, Occupy livestreamer
- Columbus Circle overhead webcam
The march is scheduled to begin at 11:30 am. Pre-march rallies begin at 9 am.
Presidential spouse and contender Hillary Clinton has a busy agenda at the Clinton Global Initiative this year. She will open the conference on Monday and close it on Wednesday, with several appearances in between. Below is her public agenda:Sunday, September 21
- 6-8 PM Clinton Global Citizen Awards
- 12 PM Opening Plenary: opening conversation with Jim Yong Kim, President, World Bank Group and Ginni Rometty, Chairman, President, and CEO, IBM
- 5 PM Plenary on job training: remarks on the commitment announcements
- 8:45 AM Plenary on equality for girls on women: opening conversation with Bill Gates’ wife Melinda Gates
- 1:30 PM Breakout session: Filmed conversation with Sanjay Gupta on “investing in babies’ minds” with John McCain’s wife Cindy McCain, Dr. Nadine Burke Harris, Children Television Workshop’s Rosemarie T. Truglio, Harlem Children’s Zone’s Geoffrey Canada
- 3:30 PM Closing Plenary: with Bill Clinton, astronauts Cady Coleman and Reid Wiseman, X PRIZE billionaire Peter H. Diamandis, Nelson Mandela widow Graça Machel
(President Barack Obama is scheduled to deliver brief remarks at approximately 2 PM on Tuesday, the day of the UN Climate Summit.)
Occupy Wall Street activists are planning to “occupy” the United Nations Climate Summit.
According to Popular Resistance, a website associated with some members of the Occupy Wall Street collective in New York City, activists meeting in Zucotti Park agreed to attempt an occupation of the Dag Hammerskold Plaza in front of UN headquarters.
The civil disobedience assembly is scheduled to begin during the People’s Climate March taking place several blocks west on Sunday, September 21, and continue until the conclusion of the UN Climate Summit on Wednesday.
The text of the press release is below:
Below is a partial list of People’s Climate March blocs meeting before the march begins Sunday.
Indigenous People’s Gathering In Central Park next to Heckscher Playground, starting at 6:30 am
Labor Rally On Broadway, sound system at 57th Street Begins at 11 am.
Interfaith Religious Service On 58th Street, between 8th and 9th Ave. Begins at 11 am.
Food Justice On CPW at 71 St., north side of the intersection
Nuclear Free, Carbon Free On CPW at 73rd St., north side of the intersection
Sierra Club Solutions Rally On CPW at 75th St., north side of the intersection
Peace and Justice On CPW at 77 St., north side of the intersection
Anti-Fracking On CPW at 80th St., north side of the intersection
Science Stands At Hayden Planetarium, American Museum of Natural History (CPW & 81st)
Bike Bloc On CPW at 74th St, 10:30 am
For more information:
firstname.lastname@example.org (914) 719-6672
“Certainly, nobody can deny that we’ve had several years of warmer temperatures. If that signals just a routine change that is manmade or not, I don’t think anybody can say definitely.”
In reality, the carbon-dioxide greenhouse effect is a physical fact known since the 1800s. The only scientifically plausible systematic explanation for the rapid and continuing warming of the planetary climate since 1950 is industrial greenhouse pollution. WIthout global policy to end the combustion of fossil fuels, concentrations are expected to double from current levels within decades.
Flake’s position on global warming and climate policy represents a retreat for the conservative politician and former mining lobbyist, who co-sponsored a bipartisan carbon-tax legislative proposal as a member of the House of Representatives in 2009. He disavowed the plan immediately upon election to the U.S. Senate in November 2012. In March 2013, Flake voted for an amendment introduced by Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.) prohibiting further greenhouse gas regulations for the purposes of addressing climate change, and voted for Sen. Roy Blunt’s amendment to create a point of order against legislation that would create a federal tax or fee on carbon emissions.
Computing giant Microsoft has left the American Legislative Exchange Council, a conservative lobbying group that promotes climate change denial and opposes renewable energy, a coalition of climate-activist investors announced today. The Sustainability Group and Walden Asset Management released a press release announcing that Microsoft left ALEC in July 2014:
Last year, The Sustainability Group of Loring, Wolcott and Coolidge and Walden Asset Management engaged Microsoft over its affiliation with the controversial model legislation group American Legislative Exchange Council, or ALEC. Microsoft is a leader on carbon issues – in 2012, it committed to becoming carbon neutral, and is one of the largest corporate purchasers of renewable energy. Thus, we believe that its affiliation with ALEC, which is actively fighting policies that promote renewable energy, was incongruous. In addition, there were numerous other ALEC actions that conflicted directly with Microsoft’s values.
We are pleased to report Microsoft is no longer a member of ALEC and is not financially supporting the organization in any way.
In emails dated June 30 and July 14 2014, Microsoft confirmed this decision:
“As we discussed, in 2014 Microsoft decided to no longer participate in the American Legislative Exchange Council’s Communications and Technology Task Force, which had been our only previous involvement with ALEC. With this decision, we no longer contribute any dues to ALEC.
“we are no longer members of ALEC and do not provide the organization with financial support of any kind.”
We commend Microsoft on its commitment to open dialogue with shareholders, and for making this important decision.
Microsoft’s chief environmental strategist, Rob Bernard, defended his company’s membership in ALEC less than a year ago.
Technology companies that are members of ALEC include Google, Yelp, Yahoo, Uber, AT&T, eBay, and Lyft.
The full text of EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy’s speech introducing the draft rule for greenhouse pollution from existing power plants, June 2, 2014.
About a month ago, I took a trip to the Cleveland Clinic. I met a lot of great people, but one stood out—even if he needed to stand on a chair to do it. Parker Frey is 10 years old. He’s struggled with severe asthma all his life. His mom said despite his challenges, Parker’s a tough, active kid—and a stellar hockey player.
But sometimes, she says, the air is too dangerous for him to play outside. In the United States of America, no parent should ever have that worry.
That’s why EPA exists. Our job, directed by our laws, reaffirmed by our courts, is to protect public health and the environment. Climate change, fueled by carbon pollution, supercharges risks not just to our health, but to our communities, our economy, and our way of life. That’s why EPA is delivering on a vital piece of President Obama’s Climate Action Plan.
I want to thank Janet McCabe, our Acting Assistant Administrator at the Office of Air and Radiation, and the entire EPA team who worked so hard to deliver this proposal. They should be very proud of their work; I know I am.
Today, EPA is proposing a Clean Power Plan that will cut carbon pollution from our power sector, by using cleaner energy sources, and cutting energy waste.
Although we limit pollutants like mercury, sulfur, and arsenic, currently, there are no limits on carbon pollution from power plants, our nation’s largest source. For the sake of our families’ health and our kids’ future, we have a moral obligation to act on climate. When we do, we’ll turn climate risk into business opportunity, we’ll spur innovation and investment, and we’ll build a world-leading clean energy economy.
The science is clear. The risks are clear. And the high costs of climate inaction keep piling up.
The long-awaited Environmental Protection Agency rule for greenhouse pollution from existing power plants will seek a 30 percent reduction from the 2005 peak, the Wall Street Journal’s Amy Harder reports. Half of that reduction has already been achieved in the seven years between 2005 and 2012, where only carbon dioxide emissions are concerned. The draft rule is expected to be unveiled Monday, with a year delay before finalization in 2015. States will be expected to submit compliance plans in June 2016, the final year of the Obama administration.
Because coal-fired power plants emit three-quarters of the greenhouse pollution from electricity generation in the United States, the rule is expected to impact the aging coal-fired fleet of plants, which also cause the lion’s share of traditional air pollution from the country’s power plants.Coral Davenport of the New York Times summarizes the draft rule:
Under the proposal to be unveiled on Monday, states will be given a wide menu of policy options to achieve the pollution cuts. Rather than immediately shutting down coal plants, states will be allowed to reduce emissions by making changes across their electricity systems – by installing new wind and solar generation, energy-efficiency technology and by starting or joining state and regional “cap-and-trade” programs, in which states agree to cap carbon pollution and buy and sell permits to pollute.
The proposed rule calls for most of the reduction to happen by 2020, with a 25 percent cut from 2005 levels (11 percent cut from 2012) by then.
Carbon-dioxide pollution from electricity generation is already down 15 percent from 2005. This reduction has come primarily from a switch to natural gas and renewables. Any reduction in overall greenhouse pollution from a switch from coal to natural gas requires low levels of methane leakage, a requirement that has not been clearly shown.
Interestingly, the reduction in greenhouse pollution from the proposed rule is about one-third greater than the footprint of the proposed Keystone XL pipeline.
Electricity generation is responsible for one-third of U.S. domestic greenhouse pollution. The announced target represents a reduction of 340 million metric tons of CO2 from 2012 levels, five percent of the United States’ total greenhouse pollution that year. That cut is about double the annual 120-200 MMT/yr climate footprint of the proposed Keystone XL pipeline. The total pollution saved over 2016-2030 due to the rule would be thirty percent greater than the footprint of the tar-sands crude carried by the pipeline.
The international benchmark for greenhouse pollution is 1990 levels. Measured against 1990’s pollution levels, the proposed rule represents a one percent reduction in power plant emissions by 2020, and a 7 percent cut by 2030 (a two percent cut from total U.S. 1990 greenhouse pollution).
The process for establishing the rule was begun by the Obama administration in March 2011, years after the 2007 Massachusetts v. EPA decision by the Supreme Court overturning the EPA’s 2003 rejection of greenhouse regulation.
Update: The EPA has released what it’s calling the Clean Power Plan. The EPA estimates the rule will “cut particle pollution, nitrogen oxides, and sulfur dioxide by more than 25 percent as a co-benefit” and “shrink electricity bills roughly 8 percent by increasing energy efficiency and reducing demand in the electricity system.”