Will We Ever Break Our Oil Addiction?

By William S. Becker The bombing of oil production facilities in Saudi Arabia this week brings to mind two critical questions about America’s “addiction to oil”. We’ve been asking the first question since the Arab oil embargoes stunned the United States in the 1970s: If we are addicted to oil – a judgment first voiced by President George W. Bush – then why do we keep subsidizing the drug? The answer is simple: Congress and the White House are wholly owned subsidiaries of the oil industry. They do whatever Big Oil tells them to do. What Big Oil wants is to keep making money from petroleum until it fracks the last drop out of the ground or climate change ends life as we know it, whichever comes first. If that sounds harsh, then re-read the disclosures by Inside Climate News, confirmed by a peer-reviewed study out of Harvard University, that ExxonMobil knew its products were changing the climate as far back as 1977, but misled the public, consumers and its own shareholders about it for years. The second question is

September 17th, 2019|home, Uncategorized|

Why We Should Listen to Our Children, Part II

At age 9, Severn Cullis-Suzuki founded the Environmental Children's Organization with a group of friends who, like her, were committed to learning about global climate change and teaching others about it.  In 1992 at age 12, Severn addressed the world's first Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro where she gave a speech that became known as "Six Minutes that Silenced the World".  She won a standing ovation and international attention. Twenty years later, she returned to Rio to address the United Nations' International Conference on Sustainable Development, nicknamed Rio+20. You can see videos of her talks here and here.  The following are the transcript of her 1992 speech and excerpts from an interview at Rio+20 with Amy Goodman and Juan Gonzalez of Democracy Now. Earth Summit, Rio de Janeiro (1992) -- Hello, I am Severn Suzuki speaking for E.C.O – the Environmental Children’s Organization. We are a group of 12 and 13 year-olds trying to make a difference, Vanessa Suttie, Morgan Geisler, Michelle Quigg and me. We’ve raised all the money to come here ourselves, to come 5,000 miles to

September 11th, 2019|home|

Why We Should Listen to Our Children, Part 1

Greta Thunberg is the teenager who launched a global student strike for climate action. She is one of several young people around the world who have defended their future by chastising us adults for doing too little about global warming. Here are transcripts of two addresses by Greta, one during international climate negotiations at COP 24 in Poland, the other at a TedX event in Stockholm. If you prefer, you can watch the videos of her talks here and here. Katowice, Poland (Dec. 2018) -- “My name is Greta Thunberg. I am 15 years old. I am from Sweden. I speak on behalf of Climate Justice Now. Many people say that Sweden is just a small country and it doesn’t matter what we do. But I’ve learned you are never too small to make a difference. And if a few children can get headlines all over the world just by not going to school, then imagine what we could all do together if we really wanted to. But to do that, we have to speak clearly, no matter how uncomfortable that

September 11th, 2019|home|

Time flies. Principles Don’t

By William S. Becker Thirteen years ago, George W. Bush was president. He was no friend of climate action or of sustainable development. I worked at the U.S. Department of Energy at the time, where we were "discouraged" from talking about these things, just as federal employees are now. So, I took a two-year sabbatical from DOE and organized a series of conferences at the Wingspread Conference Center in Racine, WI.  I called them the National Leadership Summits for a Sustainable America, and I invited some of the nation's best known thought leaders. Several of you reading this were there. Among other things, we developed a set of principles that we believed should guide the United States' role in dealing with global climate change. We circulated them. Several hundred activists and concerned citizens signed on.  I dusted them off recently and re-read them. They've held up pretty well all these years, except that "effective action" today means net-zero carbon by mid-century. They remind me how little progress we in the United States have made on this incredibly dangerous crisis. Now,

September 10th, 2019|home, Uncategorized|

Latest Poll: U.S. Voters Want Climate Action

Seven in 10 registered voters in the U.S. want the government to do something about climate change. About the same number agree that climate action will be good for business, jobs, and the economy. Those are among the findings from a new survey of voters taken by ClimateNexus, the Yale Project on Climate Change Communication and Georgetown University's Center for Climate Change Communication. The survey precedes two candidate forums on climate change and the United Nations Climate Summit later this month. Full survey results with additional charts are here. This post also contains a new graphic from PoliticoPro, summarizing the climate positions of the current field of Democratic presidential candidates. A full-size version of the chart is here.  

September 4th, 2019|home|

The Democrats’ Answer to MAGA?

By William S. Becker Student Greta Thunberg, humanity's latest gift from Sweden, is correct of course. After crossing the Atlantic Ocean in a solar-powered ship, she told the Guardian “I want a concrete plan, not just nice words” about confronting global heating. We do need a concrete plan, not just the unenforceable promises that nations are making under the 2015 Paris climate accord. In many countries, think tanks (including the Presidential Climate Action Project), policy wonks, academia and foundations have been developing concrete ideas for decades. The lofty goals of the Green New Deal are backed by hundreds, perhaps thousands, of actionable ideas, including scores from the Democrats running for president. It often is said that we have the technologies we need to create a zero-carbon world, but we lack political will. Many of those technologies such as electric vehicles, solar arrays, and wind turbines are already giving us clean energy, although not nearly enough. As essayist William Gibson points out, “The future is already here – it’s just not evenly distributed.” In an ideal (i.e, survivable) world, the next

September 3rd, 2019|home|

A “Managed Retreat” from Disasters

By William Becker People everywhere are drawn to the beauty of nature. Tens of millions of us are finding, however, that getting too close can be dangerous. Take floods, for example. More than 40 million Americans, roughly the same as the population of California, live in places at risk of flooding. More specifically, they live where there is at least a one in one-hundred chance of flooding in any given year. That doesn’t mean there will be only one flood every century. Rivers can, and often do, flood several times over a decade or two. Because of global climate change, mega-floods are more common. These are disasters with a one-in-500 or one-in-1,000 probability of happening any year. Houston had three 500-year floods between 2015 and 2017. The United States has experienced several 1,000-year rain events in just the past three years. In March, federal officials warned that the 2019 flood season could be the worst on record in the United States, with more than 200 million people at risk in 25 states. By mid-August, floods had caused $3 billion in

September 2nd, 2019|home, Uncategorized|

The Throwback

By William S. Becker As the culling process continues among democrat presidential hopefuls, voters would do well to compare each candidate's environmental record against Donald Trump's. Trump's has been abhorrent. What would his opponents do differently? We don't yet know how big an issue environmental stewardship will be in next year's election. Three of four Americans accept that global warming is a thing. It is our largest existential threat and it should be at the top of every candidate's priority list. Less clear are the candidates' views on environmental stewardship overall including environmental justice, the loss of biodiversity, the health of our air and water, and so on. True to his habit of giving himself unearned credit while trying to cover up the uglier parts of his record, Trump boasted from the White House in July (the hottest month ever recorded) that "my administration has made it a top priority to ensure that America has among the very cleanest air and cleanest water on the planet." Trump claimed that unlike himself, the Obama Administration of "waged a relentless war on

August 28th, 2019|home, Uncategorized|

Trump’s Bubble Machine, Part 1

By William S. Becker A long time ago on the Greek island of Crete (or so the story goes), a young man named Icarus attempted to escape imprisonment by flying away on wings made of feathers and wax. His father warned him not to fly too close to the sun, but Icarus ignored him. The sun melted the wax. Icarus fell into the sea and drowned. It seems as though this story is being played out by Donald Trump. Except, and stay with me here, he is being buoyed by bubbles instead of wings; the heat that threatens to pop them also comes from the sun, but via global warming. Trump said this about the U.S. economy when he announced in June that he is running for reelection: “Our economy is the envy of the world, perhaps the greatest economy we have had in the history of our country…Our country is now thriving, prospering and booming and, frankly, it’s soaring to incredible new heights.” There are several reasons to question whether it will stay there much longer. A “bubble” develops

August 12th, 2019|home, Uncategorized|

Trump’s Bubble Machine, Part 2

By William S. Becker If you’ve followed climate-change litigation in recent years, you are aware that the case with the most potential consequence involves 21 young Americans who sued the government for promoting and enabling the use of fossil fuels. They’ve been slugging it out with government lawyers in the federal court system ever since. Since filing their lawsuit in 2015, the young plaintiffs have dodged a barrage of legal maneuvers by the Obama and Trump Justice Departments, which both have wanted the courts to dismiss the lawsuit. If the young people are successful, they will force the Trump government to face them in open court, where its representatives would have to testify under threat of perjury. There is an interesting wrinkle in the case, however – one that may not be known by people who haven’t followed the case closely. The government’s lawyers have already admitted that almost everything the young litigants say about climate change is true. The Obama Administration’s attorneys filed their response to the lawsuit the day before Trump was inaugurated in January 2017, acknowledging that

August 12th, 2019|home|

New Carbon-Fee Bills Unveiled in Congress

Reprinted from The Hill Members of Congress on both sides of the aisle are introducing competing bills that aim to put a tax on carbon. The push to regulate greenhouse gas emissions comes as both Democrats and Republicans face pressure from their constituents, and in some cases, the fossil fuel industry itself, to regulate carbon emissions that lead to climate change. Sen. Christopher Coons (D-Del.), Rep. Francis Rooney (R-Fla.) and Rep. Dan Lipinski (D-Ill.) all introduced carbon tax bills on Thursday that each take a shot at cementing the long tossed-around idea of a carbon fee. Those three bills join two other bipartisan measures proposing a carbon tax introduced earlier this year in the House and the Senate. The influx of legislation is surprising some observers who have long called for action on climate change. They say they wouldn’t have believed a year ago that there would have been such a push. “I can tell you from what I know is that we are worlds apart from the Congress that I left at the beginning of this year,” said Carlos Curbelo, a former Republican

July 26th, 2019|home|

See You in Court, Mr. Trump (Part 1)

By William S. Becker The rising number of Americans who want the government to do something about climate change should be thankful that there are three branches of government in the United States. That’s because the Legislative Branch has not done anything since October 1992, and the hard work done by the previous Executive Branch is being trashed by Donald Trump. So, climate action groups have turned to the courts, not only in the U.S. but worldwide. In the first 2.5 years of his presidency, Donald Trump and his team have tried to undermine or reverse federal climate policies 94 times. Analyzing the first two years of Trump’s tenure, the Sabin Center for Climate Change Law at Columbia University reviewed 159 legal cases involving federal policies related to climate change. Cases filed by the good guys outnumbered the bad guys 4 to 1. The Trump Administration’s batting average is not good. Not once during 2017 and 2018 have the courts ruled in favor of the Administration. Thanks largely to the legal eagles at organizations pressing for climate action, the cases

July 19th, 2019|home, Uncategorized|