Stop Arguing. Rebuild America

"We are called to be architects of the future, not its victims.” – Buckminster Fuller By William S. Becker Let’s assume for the sake of discussion that our politics is a mess right now. Thanks to Donald Trump, Republicans have become the Party of Fear and Division, with allies like Alex Jones and David Duke. Democrats do not seem to have a coherent vision for the country, except that it should not include Donald Trump. Some are afraid that our divisions are so deep and emotional that they could lead to armed conflict. Last year, Foreign Policy magazine asked several national security experts to evaluate the risks of a second civil war. Their responses ranged from a 5% chance to a 95% chance.  The consensus was 35%. The reasons ranged from weak institutions, tribalism, echo chambers, acrimonious public dialogue and the acceptance of violence as a form of protest, to social media trolling, entrenched polarization and the number of hate groups in America (917 last year including 623 antigovernment groups and 165 armed militias). Yet there is much on which we

November 12th, 2018|home, Uncategorized|

The Hope at the Heart of the Apocalyptic Climate Change Report

Along with their latest dire predictions, the world’s leading climate scientists offered a new path forward—but will anyone take it? BY JASON HICKELReposted from Foreign Policy When the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) published a new special report last week, it came with both good news and bad. The good news is that the carbon budget for staying under 1.5 degrees Celsius of warming is larger than we thought, so we have a bit more time to act. The bad news is that the consequences of overshooting that threshold are very, very bad. The catastrophes that we once believed would be triggered by only 2 degrees of warming are likely to occur at this lower threshold, including widespread collapse of food yields and extreme levels of human displacement. The IPCC has issued a clear and trenchant call for action—its most urgent yet. It says we need to cut annual global emissions by half in the next 12 years and hit net zero by the middle of the century. It would be difficult to overstate how dramatic this trajectory is. It requires nothing

October 26th, 2018|home, Uncategorized|

New Study: Energy Efficiency Gains Must Speed Up

By Steven Nadel Energy-saving efforts continue to deliver vast gains, but their progress is slowing and will need at least a doubling of investment in order to reach global sustainability goals, according to the International Energy Agency’s new Energy Efficiency 2018 market report, released last week. The sixth annual report by the IEA, a Paris-based organization formed and led by 30 developed countries, includes striking data on the value of energy efficiency. While global energy use has grown by a third since 2000, the figure below shows that the increase would have been more than 50% greater without efficiency. However, while efficiency savings are substantial, the IEA finds that the rate of improvement is slowing. The chart below shows that global energy intensity (energy use per unit GDP) fell by 2.5% in 2011, but that the rate of improvement slowed to 1.7% in 2017, and would have dipped even more, to 1.2%, if the 3.9% improvement in China were not included. The IEA shows the importance of energy efficiency actions to meeting the global sustainability goals of the Paris Agreement.  It provides

October 25th, 2018|home, Uncategorized|

What Rick Perry Isn’t Saying

Politics would not be politics without some propaganda camouflaged as fact. But there are some topics on which we need straight talk. One of them is how we should keep our lights on and industries humming in the modern world.  The formula for energy security today is not the same as it was just a few decades ago. Unfortunately, we’re still waiting for straight talk from our current Energy Secretary, Rick Perry. Parroting his boss, Perry recites ideas that might have made sense in the last century, but that have little relevance now. In fact, the Trump Administration’s energy policies are so retrograde, they are holding the United States back from the largest global market opportunity in history. That is badly out of sync with the President’s rhetoric about creating more jobs in manufacturing. I’ll elaborate on that, but first let’s fact-check a talk (video here) that Perry gave recently during a conference in New York. His topic was the future of energy: 1. “Rather than punishing fossil fuels by regulation,” Perry said, “we support making them cleaner through innovation.”

April 23rd, 2018|Uncategorized|

Wrong Driver, Wrong Road

Donald Trump has acquired several nicknames since he decided to run for president, but the one he most deserves today is “President Pollution”. With the help of a willing Congress, he is presiding over the biggest rollback of federal regulations in a generation. This week's rollback involves the tailpipe emissions from our cars and pickups. During Trump’s first year in office, his Administration scaled back, reversed or attempted to reverse more than 60 environmental rules ranging from protection for whales to anti-dumping regulations for coal companies. Whether killing a regulation is good or bad depends on the benefits and costs of the regulation. But Trump’s criteria seem to be whether a) the Obama Administration developed the rule or b) oil industry CEOs and shareholders might lose money. To understand the consequences of this week's decision, a little background is in order. Tailpipe emissions from today’s vehicles include particulates that can cause illness or death from heart disease, asthma or lung cancer. They also include CO2, the pollutant most responsible for global climate change, a crisis that is no less real because

Human Rights in the Anthropocene

This article was originally published on Huffington Post, on November 8, 2015, by William S Becker.   Idealism got a bad name somewhere along the way. Google on it and one of the definitions that pops up is "the practice of forming or pursuing ideals, especially unrealistically." The psychologist Carl Jung called it as bad an addiction as narcotics and alcohol -- "the tendency of high-minded people to avoid facing the reality of evil," as one Jungian put it. True, it is difficult to remain idealistic in a world that produced Hitler, Pol Pot and ISIS. Idealism is less fashionable, less street-smart. There are advantages to cynicism. When we expect the worst, we are not disappointed when we get it. Cynicism is perverse evidence that a person must have standards, since he expects the world to fall short of them. The debate about cynicism and idealism runs through our literature. Victorian novelist George Meredith noted that cynics "are only happy in making the world as barren for others as they have made it for themselves." Oscar Wilde observed that a

November 8th, 2015|Uncategorized|

A Weather Report on the Road to Paris

This article was originally published on Huffington Post, on September 15, 2015, by William S Becker.    When TIME magazine published the "Top 10 Geopolitical Risks of 2015" at the beginning of this year, foreign affairs columnist Ian Bremmer listed friction in the European Union, Russia's ambitions in Ukraine, China's slowing economy, ISIS and assorted other "geopolitical trends we consider most likely to change our world in the coming year". Remarkably, climate change and the movement toward an international agreement to combat it did not make the list. Assuming the agreement is achieved and short of nuclear war, it is hard to imagine a more consequential development. Photo: A NASA satellite captured this image of smoke from just one of the fires that burned earlier this year in California, this one near the San Bernardino National Forest. Mr. Bremmer published his list so we could track "market-moving surprises in international politics". There could be some debate about whether a climate treaty 20 years in the making would be a surprise this December when nearly 200 nations meet in

September 15th, 2015|Uncategorized|

The Most Important Elections in 2016

This article was originally published on Huffington Post, on September 14, 2015, by William S Becker.    When historians evaluate the presidency of Barack Obama, they will conclude that he and his administration did a remarkable job combatting climate change, given the limits of his legal authorities and the active opposition from the wholly owned subsidiary of the fossil energy sector, better known as Congress. Unless there is a radical change in Congress's direction, the same historians will reach the verdict that America's highest lawmaking body was part of a conspiracy with polluters in crimes against humanity. The crimes in question were Congress's persistent work to block any effort to prevent global warming. Scholars will note the result: Enormous suffering among the world's people including those Congress was elected to serve. In short, history's chroniclers will conclude that nation that held itself up as humanity's greatest hope turned out to be humanity's greatest disappointment. The United States Congress succumbed to greed -- the greed of politicians for power and the greed of energy barons to profit as much and as

September 14th, 2015|Uncategorized|