Posts Tagged ‘climate change’ have a powerful new tool to take on the fossil fuel industry and level the energy playing field.

Last week, new legislation was introduced by Sen. Bernie Sanders and Rep. Keith Ellison that would repeal $113 billion of tax-breaks, handouts and subsidies for the fossil fuel industry over the next 10 years.

View the list of subsidies the End Welfare Pollution Act, if passed, would repeal.

Federal subsidies and tax credits can be beneficial for short-term support of emerging technologies that help society as a whole.

Unfortunately, the mature fossil fuel industry is subsidized at nearly six times the rate of renewable energy. And unlike renewable energy incentives, which periodically expire and require Congress to approve extending, the fossil fuel industry has dozens of subsidies permanently engrained in the tax code from decades of successful lobbying.

With the burning of fossil fuels increasingly destabilizing our climate, why do we keep subsidizing the problem?

Eliminating fossil fuel handouts will go a long way toward advancing solutions like new innovations in the clean energy sector.

We can’t afford to keep throwing gobs of money at the fossil fuel industry.  Support the effort to end welfare to polluting industries.


Today, the Interior Department released a draft plan on climate change adaptation for fish, wildlife and plants, including goals on reducing climate change vulnerability and strategies available to the energy and transportation industries to help species adapt.

The main purpose of the report is not to prove the reality of climate change, but rather to demonstrate the ways climate change is already impacting our natural resources and environment and provide a strategy for responding and adapting to these impacts.

View the National Fish, Wildlife and Plants Climate Adaptation Strategy

In a statement accompanying the draft plan release, U.S. Interior Department Deputy Secretary David Hayes said rising sea levels, warming temperatures and other climate issues are having an effect on everything from wildlife to natural resources.

“The impacts of climate change are already here and those who manage our landscapes are already dealing with them.”

The report also makes clear that we can longer just focus on curbing climate change.

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On Friday, hundreds of activists turned out for a rally held during the final State Department public hearing on the TransCanada Keystone XL pipeline project. Among these activists were folks that traveled from states that will bear the brunt of the impact from the proposed pipeline. They came to Washington D.C., on their own dime. They were joined by activists that just a month earlier were arrested as part of a two-week sustained demonstration in protest of the pipeline. Others in the crowd had spent the entire night outside of the hearing room just to ensure an early spot on the speaking list in an attempt to thwart line holders hired by industry.

I read in one account of the public hearing and the accompanying activities that supporters of the pipeline held a counterrally at the same time as the opposition rally. I didn’t witness the counterrally, but I can imagine what it looked like.

In addition to paying folks to stand in line to register pro-industry speakers, the oil industry also bused in employees and sympathetic union members. You could tell who they were because they all were sporting the same bright T-shirt. The numbers the industry turns out are impressive, but the enthusiasm for the cause usually is lacking. The directive is for them to be in the room. Often only a few provide public comments. And the message is honed: Jobs, Jobs, and Jobs.

In this case, the erroneous jobs statistic that is echoed by proponents is that 20,000 direct jobs and thousands more indirect jobs will be created by the Keystone XL project. But the job creation numbers were supplied by TransCanada, the corporation seeking approval to build the pipeline. In fact, the State Department’s own study suggests that far fewer jobs – no more than 6,000 direct jobs – will be created, and most of them will be non-local and temporary.

Fuzzy math, like bright T-shirts, is becoming another hallmark of the oil industry.

According to a recent article in The Washington Post, for more than a year, the American Petrolem Institute (API) has been highlighting the number of jobs it says are linked to the oil and gas industry.

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1) Climate Change is politically contested – not scientifically contested.

There is overwhelming scientific consensus that climate change is happening, it is a result of human activity, and its impacts are and will be increasingly devastating to the land, air and water we depend on for survival.

The existence of climate change has been endorsed by every national academy of science of every major country on the planet, every major professional scientific society related to the study of global warming and 98 percent of climate scientists throughout the world. In the latest and most authoritative study by 3,000 of the very best scientific experts in the world, the evidence was judged “unequivocal.”

2) Denying climate change is a business decision.

Those that have lead the effort to cast doubt on the existence of climate change are party to a conscious and calculated strategy to maintain the status quo.  Denying climate change is a business decision made by industries that profit from pollution and is carried out by these industries’ political beneficiaries. In fact the seeds of doubt can often be traced directly to those who have the most to lose if carbon emissions were capped.  A report by the Union of Concerned Scientists shows that ExxonMobil funded 29 climate change denial groups in 2004 alone and since 1990, the company has spent more than $19 million funding groups that promote their views through publications and Web sites that are not peer reviewed by the scientific community.

In 1991, The New York Times offered a peak behind the climate denial curtain by exposing an internal document drawn up by a consortium of the largest global-warming polluters. It spelled out their principal strategy: “Reposition global warming as theory, rather than fact.”

Corporate polluters are willfully attempting to cover up the threat of manmade climate change, and because of their clout in Congress, no comprehensive climate change legislation has been enacted. In fact, not only have decision-makers failed to pass climate legislation, but a full court press assault has been waged to roll back existing safeguards aimed at protecting the public and environment from corporate polluters.

An analysis undertaken by Reps. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) and Edward Markey (D-Mass.) determined that the Republican-led House has voted to “stop,” “block” or “undermine” efforts to protect the environment 110 times since January.

3) Blasting environmental protections wasn’t always a GOP litmus test.

GOP presidential hopefuls appear to view past support of climate change-curbing measures as a political liability. With the exception of former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, candidates are back-peddling on any votes or political statements they have made in the past that suggest they agree with environmental protections or restraints on greenhouse gas emissions.

And while some, like Tim Pawlenty, are apologizing for supporting cap-and-trade legislation, others are stepping up their rhetoric against rules designed to curb pollutants. In a June speech, Michele Bachmann pledged to abolish the Environmental Protection Agency. More recently she vowed to lock its doors and turn off the lights, concluding, “It will be a new day and a new sheriff in Washington, D.C.” if she is elected.

Not to be out done, potential candidate Sarah Palin claims to love the smell of emissions.

It hasn’t always been this way. According to recent Time article, the surprising truth is that the extreme political polarization of environmental and energy issues is a relatively recent phenomenon. There have long been prominent conservatives who proudly called themselves conservationists back in the days when Republicans for Environmental Protection – an actual political group, founded in 1995 – wasn’t an oxymoron. Theodore Roosevelt – who has a strong claim as the greenest president in U.S. history – helped create major national parks and launched the U.S. Forest Service. Richard Nixon created the EPA and signed the Clean Air and Clean Water Acts. George H.W. Bush signed the landmark 1990 amendment to the Clean Air Act and supported a cap-and-trade program that successfully fought acid rain.

4) Creative actions and nonviolent civil disobedience are necessary to challenge political inaction.

Perhaps predictable, the anti-environmental agenda is becoming more zealous as climate change impacts become more visible and our dependency on dirty fuel becomes more of a liability.  All of the evident indicators that should demand action -from the worst oil spill in U.S. history to the frightening severity of dangerous weather – have failed to ignite a sense of urgency.  Many who have attempted to fight climate change through legal and political action feel that the time for incremental change and small victories has long since passed.

In response, thought leaders within the climate movement like founder, Bill McKibben have issued a new clarion call for action. On the heels of a spring that brought 10,000 activists to Washington, D.C., for the Powershift conference and a summer that sent many of those same people to West Virginia to march against mountain top removal, climate leaders are calling for sustained acts of civil disobedience against the proposed expansion of the Keystone tar sands oil pipeline. Already, thousands of citizens from throughout the country have pledged to participate in the two weeks of action at the White House.

The climate movement’s new attitude might best be reflected in the words of activist Tim DeChristopher, who was arrested after bidding for land at a public auction to save it from oil interests; at the time, he didn’t have the money to buy the land.  At his sentencing hearing in July, he said, “I do not want mercy, I want you to join me.”


The Heartland Institute held the 6th International Conference on Climate Change (ICCC) in Washington, D.C. last week.  The official theme of the conference was “restoring the scientific method,” but the message, loud and clear, was that we should not take action to address global warming, regardless of whether it is happening, threatening, neither, or both.  Although the Heartland Institute’s self-declared mission is to “discover, develop, and promote free-market solutions to social and economic problems,” the ICCC did not address a social or economic problem at all, but instead denied the existence of one of the world’s largest social, environmental, and economic problems; Anthropogenic Global Warming (AGW).

The Heartland Institute and others who deny that the Earth is warming and that human actions are a central cause, often claim that politics are motivating science when it comes to the theory of AGW, instead of the other way around.  The hypocrisy here is that Heartland is an ideological player, free-market economics being the ideology, trying to use science as a tool to advance policy.  The ICCC mixed cheers for small government, scientific skepticism, and free market economics with attacks on the IPCC, the Obama administration and “environmentalists,” most of which were manifestations of ideology, not science.

Those who refute the theory of AGW are often referred to as “skeptics,” and while skepticism and debate are essential in science, “skeptic” becomes a misnomer when one deliberately introduces confusion and doubt for political and ideological reasons.

The Playbook to Thwarting Climate Change

Regardless of what they may be called, their method is threefold.  First, they do whatever they can to refute or cast doubt on the science that supports AGW.  This usually consists of very narrow attacks on specific models and research methods which in turn lead the AGW deniers to broad conclusions about the validity of AGW.  In many ways,

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