Finally, A Small But Significant Victory, Courtesy of the Senate

Yes – and it was about bloody time – the Senate finally held up at least a small part of its bargain with the American people: to protect the public health and the environment.

First, a little context: What you see on the left is the flaring of natural gas from oil rigs, in this case in Iraq.  It is a problem all over the world though. Flaring is but one part of the problem of how “fugitive” natural gas greatly exacerbates the climate crisis.   There is an awful lot of anthropogenically produced methane in the world that escapes into the atmosphere every year: about 7.13 billion tons of carbon dioxide equivalent in 2013 according to the excellent Climate Access Indicators Tool (CAIT) of the World Resources Institute.  That was about 15% of the total of all the greenhouse gases produced that year, including those from land use changes like deforestation. Continue reading

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Obama rejects KXL

It’s been a few months since I’ve been on the air.  There is absolutely no better news I could come off my sabbatical with than that the Keystone XL pipeline project is dead. President Obama this morning announced the US rejection of the application.  There is enormous significance in this on several levels: Continue reading

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“Think ahead. Act together.”

G7_Germany_Logo_lang_640_201The G7 members were hosted in Germany this year and made some bold pronouncements relative to the future of energy and the climate system.  I am manifestly not a cynic on the progress the world has been making on climate and energy over the past decade or so.  That is certainly the premise of my book and this blog:  that there are scores of important breakthroughs and initiatives being made every year, most everywhere.  I have, however, taken a cautious approach to the importance of the global approach to mitigating greenhouse gases.  A consensus has been building and continues to build about the need for action.  There is absolutely no doubt about that.  But the speed and depth of commitment from some of the leading actors remains in question. Continue reading

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The President Gets Angry

The annual White House Correspondents’ Association Dinner was the venue for one of the funniest, most totally in-your-face performances I’ve ever seen:  Stephen Colbert just eviscerating nearly everybody in the room in 2006.  (Start at 1:45 to skip the boring introduction.)  There is an extensive Wikipedia page just for this performance. Continue reading

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India Gets On Board


This is a chart of the total GHGs in the world, by country, as of 2011.  This, including greenhouse gases from land-use change, amounts to about 46 billion tons of carbon dioxide equivalent.  (The brilliant folks at the World Resources Institute have made this very valuable “climate data explorer,” CAIT 2.0 available to everyone.)   As you no doubt know – and can see clearly from the chart – China and the US account for 36% of the world’s annual output of GHGs.  India, although much less of a contributor, is still responsible for more than 5% of the problem. Continue reading

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Breakthrough! US – China Climate Targets

11_12_14_BK_TopEmittersin2013_1050_822_s_c1_c_cHere are the world’s four largest emitters of CO2 from fossil fuel combustion and cement production.  In 2013, China accounted for twice of America’s carbon dioxide output.  Collectively, the world blasted 36 billion tons of CO2 into the climate system – nearly ¾ of the total global burden of greenhouse gases. Continue reading

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Decarbonizing Assets

take_climate_action_button-248x300Action This Day.  That’s what Winston Churchill wrote on many of his memos.  It has always worked for me as a call to arms.  Action was the persistent theme of the recent UN Climate Summit.  I had the good fortune to be there last week and I was, after a fair number of years of observing the environmental scene, somewhat in awe of the tone and timbre of the speeches in support of climate action.  Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has been building support for nearly a year for a successful summit, with leaders of governments, business and civil society in abundance coming to speak and to make commitments. Continue reading

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How Funny is Denialism?

db doc and climate stripOnce again Gary Trudeau nails it on the head.  There’s really not a lot to add.  However, if your appetite is whetted, you might like to check out some of what Barack Obama said at a commencement address a little over a week ago in California.

For instance:  “And today’s Congress, though, is full of folks who stubbornly and automatically reject the scientific evidence about climate change. They will tell you it is a hoax, or a fad. One member of Congress actually says the world is cooling. There was one member of Congress who mentioned a theory involving ‘dinosaur flatulence’ — which I won’t get into.” Continue reading

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The Heart of the Matter

powerplantbanner_0The President announced his intention a year ago to cut American greenhouse gases from power plants.  The Climate Action Plan he unveiled in a comprehensive speech on June 25, 2013, was clear about his directive that EPA craft a rule to reduce carbon dioxide from existing power plants.  What’s the burden?  A good one third of our total greenhouse gas emissions come from the electricity sector and 75% of that comes from coal-fired plants.  Nearly one quarter of all American greenhouse gas emissions come from power made from burning coal.  It simply does not have to be that way. Continue reading

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Podesta and Obama

DSCN1813The star attraction at last week’s energy conference at Columbia was, for my money, John Podesta.  He was Bill Clinton’s chief of staff at the White House, founder of the Center for American Progress – an indispensable think tank, director of the Obama-Biden transition team in 2008, and now Counselor to President Obama.  The principal reason he was brought in for the second term was to help the White House realize its critical goals on climate and energy.  Podesta reminded us that the President considers it a “moral imperative” to act on climate change – as should we all. Continue reading

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